Header
Spooky Tooth - Witness CD (album) cover

WITNESS

Spooky Tooth

 

Proto-Prog

2.53 | 19 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Chicapah
Prog Reviewer
2 stars Spooky Tooth is one of those groups that just couldn't seem to figure out what they wanted to be when they grew up. They began their existence as a semi-progressive rock outfit but were never able or willing to keep up with the big boys in the demanding prog arena so they veered away from that labeling bit by bit. They're also one of those bands that broke up, reformed, splintered and got back together again several times over the years. They developed a destructive "can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em" scenario that effectively ruined all chances of their building any semblance of continuity into their work. In the process of justifying their fickle comings and goings they misplaced their shaky identity altogether and this album presents the ensemble as a dysfunctional yet talented family of musicians that didn't know what to do with themselves. They come off as a combo of five guys desperate to be "trendy" and few things are as pitiful as a wannabe. There's absolutely no sense of exploration to be detected here and, in the "anything goes" atmosphere that pervaded the music biz in the early 70s, it's inexcusable that they would play it so safe.

They start off with "Ocean of Power," a soulful slice of white dude funk that brings to mind what Joe Cocker and Leon Russell had been so successful in concocting a few years earlier. What has always been the strongest drawing card about Spooky Tooth for me is Mike Harrison's splendid voice. If not for him they wouldn't have ever gotten my attention but he's got a husky, emotional rasp emanating from his gullet that I really like and he displays it expressively on this cut. And, since I've never been much of a fan of Jones' generic guitar style, Mick's absence from the mix in this song is a definite plus. "Wings on my Heart" is next and it's a gospel-tinged tune with a George Harrison slant to it that's especially noticeable on the imitative guitar solo. "As Long as the World Keeps Turning" follows and there's a palpable Three Dog Night air wafting through the number. Mike sings his butt off from beginning to end but the let's-be-commercial composition just isn't memorable.

"Don't Ever Stray Away" sounds like it came right off of a Free album. That's not a bad thing in itself but this sad track lacks the loose, infectious energy that made that group's art so viable and influential. This song plods along like an old, sway-backed mare pulling a wagon of hog manure in comparison. "Things Change" is a dull ditty written around a rawkin' guitar riff, a composition technique that's not all that unusual except that the final outcome of these kinds of things ends up being entirely too predictable more often than not and this one's no exception. On top of that, Gary Wright's anemic voice is featured instead of Harrison's and it makes a poor tune become even more destitute. "All Sewn Up" is a Jones/Wright conglomeration that gives hints as to the brand of vapid macho-man rock that Mick would churn out with Foreigner a few years down the line. It's extremely weak, even by his future band's dubious standards, from the puny guitar ride to the passionless vocal from Gary.

"Dream Me a Mountain" is another chunk of unremarkable Caucasian R&B but the return of Mike to the mike is so welcome at this juncture that it makes the song appear to be better than it really is. He's a singer's singer and he makes a huge difference. "Sunlight of My Mind" is next and it's such a shameful, undisguised rip-off of the Rolling Stones' "Dancing with Mr. D" that they should've all be sent to the principal's office for a hard paddling. Even Harrison's primo voice can't save this uninspired waste of recording tape from being a mangy mutt with a limp. They then stuck the only song with any dynamics, "Pyramids," last and that figures since it's also the only one that possesses even a whiff of progness. Mike and Gary trade off the vocal lines gallantly and if they'd expanded on what they were creating here they might've gone somewhere (dare I say it?) ORIGINAL with it. Wishful thinking, I guess. The tune's repeating refrain goes "I know where I'm going" and, if that was indeed the case, they would've done well to let the listener in on that secret. Perhaps they were dabbling in irony.

A personal anecdote might sum up the overwhelming problem that plagues "Witness" and hordes of albums just like it. Many decades ago I joined an established band of very skilled, dedicated local musicians and helped them finish cutting their debut LP. I was invited into their clan on the strength of one of my songs they'd recorded for the disc (The best one, I might add. Humbly, of course.) and I was expected to contribute more of the same in the months to come. Alas, the self-appointed leader/main songwriter of the troupe and I clashed almost immediately. He was of the opinion that manufacturing a hit single (and thereby generating album sales) was accomplished merely by aping what was currently sitting atop the AM radio charts. I begged defiantly to differ, explaining to the conceited moron that one may as well chase the wind for, by the time a band wrote, arranged, recorded, mastered and distributed said product, whatever trend they so wisely mimicked would be passÚ. Since I didn't kowtow to his obviously-superior intelligence he was an ass to me from that day on, sabotaging every tune I brought into rehearsal, snidely calling them "unmarketable." That incurable idiot's inane formula for success didn't work then and it never will.

Since Gary Wright earned a composer's credit on every track listed I'm pretty sure he was of the same mindset as the mental midget (his name discreetly withheld to protect the guilty) I had to deal and duel with so long ago. Tired of making records that sold only in the thousands instead of in the millions, frustrated Gary set out to replicate "what those crazy kids are buying these days" instead of taking some risks and daring to be true to himself by attempting to explore uncharted territory with his long-haired companions. In other words, the yellow coward stayed as far away from prog as possible and the result was a Spooky Tooth album indistinguishable from oatmeal. Only Mike Harrison's golden throat keeps this project from hitting rock bottom. 1.5 stars and that's being generous.

Chicapah | 2/5 |

MEMBERS LOGIN ZONE

As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Share this SPOOKY TOOTH review

>

Review related links

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | GeoIP Services by MaxMind | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: JazzMusicArchives.com — the ultimate jazz music virtual community | MetalMusicArchives.com — the ultimate metal music virtual community


Server processing time: 0.02 seconds