Friday, 6 January 2017

"The Last Puff" by SPOOKY TOOTH featuring MIKE HARRISON (2016 Universal/Island 'Expanded Edition' CD - Paschal Byrne and Ben Wiseman Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...Wrong Time, Wrong Place..." 

Like Mott The Hoople and The Pretty Things - England's SPOOKY TOOTH have never really received the accolades they deserve. Between 1968 and 1974 they produced seven studio albums (six on Island - one on Goodear) as well as a posthumous Island Records 'Best Of' in 1976 - yet I defy even knowledgeable Rock types to name just two of those original LPs.

None of their Rock-Blues albums ever bothered the British LP charts (not even the 'Best Of') and though founder member and songwriter Gary Wright did some commercial welly in the mid Seventies (especially in the USA with his "Dream Weaver" LP) - Luther Grosvenor and Mike Harrison had solo careers also but few noticed. The band is not in Martin C. Strong's stunning 'Great Rock Discography' Books (and almost everyone is in there) and now the final facial slap...

These seven new CD Reissues and Remasters on UMC's Universal/Island resplendent with truly superb Audio and a wad of bonus tracks (only two are the bare album - see list below) have already quietly slipped under the radar only two months after release in September and October 2016. Time to rectify this horrid anomaly on the part of an uncaring and post Christmas flabby public - here are the eerie dental details...

UK released 7 October 2016 - "The Last Puff" by SPOOKY TOOTH featuring MIKE HARRISON on Universal/Island 570 547-5 (Barcode 602557054750) offers the 1970 Island Records album newly Remastered with Six Bonus Tracks and plays out as follows (60:59 minutes):

1. I Am The Walrus
2. The Wrong Time
3. Something To Say
4. Nobody There At All [Side 2]
5. Down River
6. Son Of Your Father
7. The Last Puff
Tracks 1 to 7 are their fourth studio album "The Last Puff" - released July 1970 in the UK on Island ILPS 9117 and August 1970 in the USA on A&M Records SP-4266. Thinking he was going to go solo - Island Records credited the album to SPOOKY TOOTH featuring MIKE HARRISON - the only LP credited as such in their canon of work. Produced by CHRIS BLACKWELL and CHRIS STAINTON - the LP peaked at No. 84 in the USA but didn't chart in the UK.

8. Son Of Your Father (Single Version) - 26 Jun 1969 UK 7" single on Island WIP 6060, A-side
9. I Am The Walrus (Single Version)
10. Hangman Hang My Shell On A Tree (Single Version)
Tracks 9 and 10 were the A&B-sides of 1970 7" singles in Euro Regions (Norway and Netherlands) on Island 6014 023.
The LP cut for "I Am The Walrus" is 6:26 minutes in Stereo - the 7" Single Edit is approximately 5:22 minutes in Mono.
France had an issue of "I Am The Walrus" too with the same catalogue number but used the full LP cut and not the edit.
The LP cut for "Hangman Hang My Shell On A Tree" is 5:15 minutes in Stereo - the 7" Single Version is extended to 5:40 minutes in Mono.
11. Nobody There At All - July 1970 'Promo Only' UK 7" single on Island WIP 6084 (white labels exist)
12. The Wrong Time (First Mix) - Album Outtake recorded 8 May 1970
13. The Weight
Track 13 is a cover version of The Band classic - it replaced the track "Too Much Of Nothing" on the American reissue of their 1968 debut LP "It's All About". Released June 1971 on A&M Records SP 4300 - the LP was renamed "Tobacco Road" and given a different sleeve (pictured on Page 11 of the booklet).

SPOOKY TOOTH was (Tracks 1 to 7):
MIKE HARRISON - Vocals (also on 8, 10 and 13)
LUTHER GROSVENOR - Guitar (also on 8, 10 and 13)
CHRIS STAINTON - Bass Guitar, Piano, Organ and Guitar
ALAN SPENNER - Bass Guitar (also on 8)
MIKE KELLIE - Drums (also on 8, 10 and 13)

Bonus Tracks:
GARY WRIGHT - Vocals, Piano and Organ on "Son Of Your Father", "Hangman Hang My Shell On A Tree" and "The Weight"
GREG RIDLEY - Bass Guitar on "Hangman Hang My Shell On A Tree" and "The Weight"

The 12-page booklet is really well done - researched, coordinated and produced by MARK POWELL of England's much-revered reissue label Esoteric Recordings (have done wads of quality reissues from the Sixties and Seventies). There are several photos of rare Euro 7" singles for "I Am The Walrus" and "Son Of Your Father" - snaps of Harrison - trade adverts and liner notes from Powell detailing the band's history on Island Records (including stuff about The V.I.P's and Art) and not just the "The Last Puff" album. The CD is coloured Pink like the original Island Records album label and there's a close-up photo of the album artwork beneath the see-through CD tray. But the big news is new PASCHAL BYRNE and BEN WISEMAN Remasters from original tapes - wonderful kicking sound - even on the Mono Single Mixes...

Stainton, Spenner and Kellie were all part of Joe Cocker's Grease Band. The LP opens with a storming cover version of The Beatles "I Am The Walrus" - 6:26 minutes of Heavy Rock interpretation that works. Someone thought it would make a single so they edited it down to a just-about-manageable 5:22 minutes and issued it in several European countries. Combined with a German Tour - the track made them stars in Europe even if Blighty wasn't really listening. Before departing the band - Gary Wright left them "The Wrong Time" - a brill piece of Rocking Blues riffage which also appears here in a 'First Mix' form from May 1970 as a very cool Bonus Track. I love this guitar-soloing song. Mike Harrison sounds Humble Pie's Steve Marriott throughout grinding his larynx about lady shenanigans and being a poor boy in the 'wrong place' at the 'wrong time' (we never do find out who the lady backing singers are). Before Joe Cocker did his own version on the 1972 LP "Something To Say" on Cube Records (a co-write with his Roadie pal Peter Nichols) - Spooky Tooth were the first to have a go at the song "Something To Say" and I have to say after the high of "The Wrong Time" - the 'get back on the road' ballad is given a very heavy-handed rendition. I've never liked it - and even though the girly chorus and funked up end portion are good - it feels plodding and Harrison's vocals struggling.

Side 2 opens with a Mike Post song called "Nobody There At All" - a tune that first turned up on an obscure American album by Bobby Doyle from 1968 called "The Bobby Doyle Introduction" (Warner Brothers WS 1744) - an LP produced by and featuring lots of Mike Post input. In the hands of Spooky Tooth it feels like The Band on "Songs From Big Pink" or Joe Cocker's second LP on Regal Zonophone "Joe Cocker!" from early 1970 (gorgeous remaster too). "Down River" opened Side 2 of David Ackle's self-titled debut LP in 1968 on Elektra Records (EKS 74022) - another 'why didn't you write Rosie' piano melodrama tune that feels more Elton John than rocking Spooky Tooth. Speaking of which - "Son Of Your Father" turned up on Elton's 3rd studio album "Tumbleweed Connection" but not until October 1970 - months after Spooky got to have a go at it. Their four-minute funked-up guitar-driven rendition made it an ideal single choice and it's not surprising that it made it into several Euro territories with "I've Got Enough Heartache" from the 2nd LP as its B-side. The album ends on another fave of mine - a Piano and Guitar instrumental - a stroller from The Grease Band's Chris Stainton that feels as peace-pipe-mellow as the Indians having a "Last Puff' on the front cover (stunning Keyboard work). The classy extras of Edits and Extended 45s and cool outtake only add to the stew giving the Reissue much more depth (I’d give the album only three stars as a stand alone)...

"The Last Puff" by SPOOKY TOOTH is hardly a masterpiece but it has moments I've been returning to for four and a half decades and in my book - that rocks. Like the recent Free CD Remasters (also September 2016) that came with storming Andy Pearce and Matt Wortham Remasters - I'm going to have to own the lot of these Paschal Byrne and Ben Wiseman efforts.

Well done to everyone involved for giving ST the late dental polish they've deserved for so long...

2016 Reissue Titles for SPOOKY TOOTH in the Universal/Island CD Remaster Series:

1. It's All About (1968 Debut) - 30 Sep 2016 CD release on Universal/Island 570 547-1 (Barcode 602557054712) with 10 Bonus Tracks
2. Spooky Two (1969 2nd LP) - 7 Oct 2016 CD release on Universal/Island 570 547-3 (Barcode 602557054736) with 9 Bonus Tracks
3. Ceremony: An Electronic Mass (1969 3rd LP with Pierre Henry)
- 7 Oct 2016 CD release on Universal/Island 570 547-0 (Barcode 602557054705) with 6 Bonus Tracks
4. The Last Poof (1970 4th LP) - 7 Oct 2016 CD release on Universal/Island 570 547-5 (Barcode 602557054750) with 6 Bonus Tracks
5. You Broke My Heart...So I Busted Your Jaw (1973 5th LP) - 30 Sep 2016 CD release on Universal/Island 570 547-8 (Barcode 602557054781)
6. Witness (1973 6th LP) - 30 Sep 2016 CD release on Universal/Island 570 547-7 (Barcode 602557054774) with 1 Bonus Track
7. The Mirror (1974 7th LP) - 30 Sep 2016 CD release on Universal/Island 570 547-6 (Barcode 602557054767)

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