Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Spooky Two

Spooky Tooth/1969

First off, let’s be clear on my definition of “progressive” here. It pertains to more than just bands with mellotrons and synthesizers, or 20-minute, multi-section concept pieces taking up the entire side of an album (back when albums had sides). My definition includes any bands that were creative, fresh, unique, special, strange, different, etc. In other words, bands truly pushing the envelope, sounding like something you never heard before. Which, let’s face it, pretty much includes most any band that came of age in the span between 1965 and 1975. Take England’s Spooky Tooth. I’ve had a few bad toothaches in my time, but never one I would describe as “spooky.” So right off the bat, the band's name gets your attention. Then there’s the music. In 1969, rock music was getting heavy all right, but this stuff was HEAVY – a thick mix of churchy Hammond organ, high-voltage lead guitar, and lead singer Mike Harrison, whose ragged vocal chords out-shredded even those of the legendary, gravel-gargling Joe Cocker (who, BTW, sings background vocals on this album). Harrison’s smooth-as-sandpaper voice was further complimented by organist Gary Wright’s higher-than-helium falsetto vocals. Spooky Two, the band’s second album (not surprisingly), was no sophomore slump – these guys were just hitting their stride. Kicking off with a simple drum pattern that gradually morphs into the heaviest of Hammond organ chords, album opener “Waiting for the Wind” lays down the heavy sonic template that defines Spooky Two. The album centerpiece is the bluesy epic “Evil Woman,” with lyrics Adam could’ve easily sung to Eve after the apple incident: “Woman…when I saw ya comin’…shoulda started runnin’…evil woman…” Erupting smack in the middle of this domestic dispute is an extreme jolt of supercharged guitar pyrotechnics courtesy of Luther Grosvenor – with guitar notes literally exploding off the fret board in all directions like Fourth of July fireworks. “Lost in My Dream” and “Better By You, Better Than Me” further reinforce the dark, ominous, heavy-riffing atmosphere that haunts much of Spooky Two. Sadly, the band seemed to peak a bit too early on only their second outing, and this lineup would soon begin to splinter. There would be more albums, with different players, but Spooky Tooth would never again produce an album this strong. Scary to think what might have been.

Essential Tracks: “Waiting for the Wind” “Feelin’ Bad” “Evil Woman” “Better By You, Better Than Me”


  1. This is still one of my favorite "HEAVY" bands. That Hammond Organ and Grosvenor blasting away on guitar to this day gives me the chills. Man they had a PHAT sound..knocked the bottom out of my speakers. Loved this review because it is so damn right!! WOW

  2. Classic late-60s "HEAVY" English band, absolutely. At their peak on this album.