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Spooky Tooth - Witness

Spooky Tooth - Witness

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Genre: rock
Rating: *** (3 stars)
Title:  Witness
Company: Island
Catalog: 87 332 IT
Year: 1973
Country/State: US/UK
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG
Comments: German pressing; gatefold sleeve
Available: 1
Catalog ID: 251
Price: $50.00

Enduring another round of personnel turmoil, the band saw Bryson Graham and Ian Herbet replaced by Mike Kellie (back for another round) and ex-Grease Band bassist Chris Stewart. Adding to the group's problems, longtime US label A&M dropped the band. As a result 1973's "Witness" found the revamped quintet relocating to New York and recording for Chris Blackwell's Island Records. With Gary Wright responsible for penning most of the nine tracks, the collection was full of mid-tempo rockers that aptly displayed Harrison and Wright's wailing vocals and the group's instantly recognizable over-the-top mixture of keyboards and guitar. While the album did little to expand their musical horizons, all nine tracks were professional, with most of the songs at least modestly enjoyable. Yeah, there were some real turkeys here (the ballads 'Wings on My Heart' and '' were awful), but there were also some real gems including 'Ocean of Power', 'Things Change' and 'As Long As the World Keeps Turning'. Another highlight, Harrison simply killed on the molten-guitar rocker 'Don't Ever Stray Away'. Continuing there gradual loss of audience, the album only reached # 99 on the US charts.

UK gatefold inner sleeve
left to right: Harrison - Ridley - Stewart - Jones - Wright

- If you wanted to be totally honest about it, neither Mike Harrison, or Gary Wright had the greatest voices . At their best the pair sounded strained and uncomfortable and I frequently haev a hard time telling them apart. That said, I think Harrison had the lead o n'Ocean of Power' and his voice was perfectly suited for a dark, mid-tempo rocker like this one'. Kicked along by Harrison's wailing voice, keyboards and Mike Kellie's powerhouse drumming, this was a classic Spooky Tooth effort that had FM radio written all over it. rating: **** stars
- 'Wings on My Heart ' was a bloated ballad that unfortunately underscored Wright's worst vocal characteristics. Plodding and thoroughly dull, the only thing worthwhile on this one was Mick Jones pretty lead guitar solo. Otherwise this was one you could live without. rating: ** stars
- 'As Long as the World Keeps Turning' had an interesting pop edge to it. Nice title track hook with the band unveiling some nice harmony vocals. Wright also turned in a cool little synthesizer solo. rating: *** stars
- I've always liked Mike Harrison's rugged voice and he seldom sounded as good as on the molten rocker 'Don't Ever Stray Away'. Another track with an interesting melody, some chunky Mick Jones guitar, and a nice hook, this one actually sounded like '80s AOR. rating: *** stars
- Side one's most commercial rocker, 'Things Change' featured one of Wright's strongest melodies and one of his best vocals. Another pounding rocker, the difference lay in the fact Wright didn't try too hard. He actually sounded relatively laidback on this one, giving the song some real warmth and appeal. rating: **** stars
- My favorite song, 'All Sewn Up' found a nice middle ground between hard rock and more commercial pop orientation. Island should have tapped the song as a single. rating: **** stars
- Kicked along by a nice Chris Stewart bass line, 'Dream Me a Mountain' was a decent bluesy-rocker that could have been a monster song, but just never fully switched into gear. Nice example of Harrison and Wright's share vocal approach. rating: *** stars
- 'Sunlight of My Mind' found the band upping the energy level and while Wright sounded good on this one, Jones stole the show with his raucous guitar - great solo on this one. rating: *** stars
- 'Pyramids' ended the album with a slow, bluesy jam with Harrison and Wright again sharing lead vocals. With the two of them trying to out shot one another, Mick Jones was left to steal the show with one of his nicest solos. rating: *** stars

So what to make of this late-inning release? Well, it fell short of being a classic Spooky Tooth album, but there were a couple of first-rate performances and it was nice to have the Harrison-Wright team back in place. A bit more variety and giving Jones a little more spotlight time certainly wouldn't have hurt the album, but all told it was solid.

Island catalog number 87 332 IT

For hardcore fans, the original UK pressing sported a gatefold sleeve and different cover art.

"Witness" track listing:
(side 1)
1.) Ocean of Power (Gary Wright)
2.) Wings on My Heart (Gary Wright)
3.) As Long as the World Keeps Turning (Gary Wright)
4.) Don't Ever Stray Away (Chris Stewart - Gary Wright)
5.) Things Change (Gary Wright)

(side 2)
1.) All Sewn Up (Mick Jones - Gary Wright)
2.) Dream Me a Mountain (Gary Wright)
3.) Sunlight of My Mind (Gary Wright)
4.) Pyramids (Mike Kellie - Gary Wright)
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