Spooky Tooth: The Island Years 1967-1974

Box set of underground blues-rockers’ seven Island albums, plus their debut as Art and a 1972 live concert.

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Spooky Tooth evolved from British R&B act The VIPs, who released several singles in the mid-60s, including two for Island Records, before changing their name in 1967 to Art for the lysergic Supernatural Fairy Tales album included as disc one on this impressive nine-CD box set.

Though very much of the psychedelic era, Art betrayed their bluesy roots due to Mike Harrison’s emotive vocals and some impressive jamming. Despite being a very promising debut record, its commercial failure convinced Island Records’ head honcho Chris Blackwell to transplant American singer-songwriter Gary Wright into the band’s line-up. With the band renamed Spooky Tooth, Wright took on joint vocals with Harrison for 1968’s Jimmy Miller-produced It’s All About, with Wright on Hammond organ and Harrison playing harpsichord and keyboards. Operating in a similar field of soulful psychedelia to fellow Island Records act Traffic or Ogdens’ era Small Faces, single Sunshine Help Me is a highlight and they venture into heavy blues-rock on a cover of John D Loudermilk’s Tobacco Road.

1969’s Spooky Two, again produced by Miller, is their most cohesive and sees them get heavier and bluesier on Evil Woman, Better By You, Better Than Me and bonus track Blues Town, while I’ve Got Enough Heartaches proves them equally capable of gospel soul. Sadly, Blackwell persuaded the band to work with French electronic composer Pierre Henry for Ceremony: An Electronic Mass, a move that upset both Spooky Tooth’s fans and the band themselves, and Wright left after it.

Harrison recruited members of Joe Cocker’s Grease Band for 1970’s solid The Last Puff, which contained their pulverising cover of The Beatles’ I Am The Walrus, but the band struggled to regain lost momentum. Wright rejoined for three more albums, though by 1974’s The Mirror, Harrison had been replaced by Mike Patto, formerly of Timebox and Patto. Bandmembers found greater success elsewhere (Greg Ridley in Humble Pie, Luther Grosvenor with Mott The Hoople, Mike Kellie in The Only Ones) but with two powerful voices, a unique keyboard-heavy sound and skilled musicianship, Spooky Tooth are ripe for rediscovery.