Luther Grosvenor - Under Open Skies, Remastered & Expanded
Luther Grosvenor got his start playing in various bands in England in the sixties including Deep Feeling, which he formed with Jim Capaldi, later of Traffic, and then The VIP’s, featuring Keith Emerson on keys. In 1967, following the departure of Emerson, The VIP’s recorded the album Supernatural Fairy Tales, but then changed their name to Art after Chris Blackwell, the head of Island Records, said he thought their name was dull. After that album’s release, Gary Wright joined the band on keys, they renamed themselves Spooky Tooth, and released four albums before breaking up in 1970 (the band did reunite with a largely new lineup in late 1972, but Grosvenor had moved on). At this point Blackwell asked Grosvenor if he would like to record a solo album for Island. He accepted the opportunity, and since Wright had been the main songwriter for Spooky Tooth, this gave him the chance to write his own songs. The resulting album was Open Under Skies, which has now been remastered from the Island master tapes and includes two bonus tracks that were originally released on singles. In addition to contributing all the songwriting (with Githa Grosvenor contributing on three tracks), Grosvenor also co-produced the album with Tony Platt. Platt was an engineer for Island and while this was his first producing credit, his future production and engineering credits include the likes of Bob Marley, AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Motorhead, Cheap Trick, Dio, Foreigner and many, many more. Grosvenor also played guitar on all the tracks and bass on four, and surrounded himself with some other notable musicians including former Spooky Tooth bandmates Mike Kellie on drums and John Hawken on piano. The original King Crimson drummer Mike Giles played on one track and bassist Trevor Burton from The Move played on two. While there is a nice diversity to the the album, it is still a very cohesive collection. “Ride On” is a great opening track that alternates between an infectious jazz groove with a hint of funk and choruses that are more rock before closing with a great party-like singalong that features harmony vocals from Jim Capaldi and Mick Ralphs, who he ended up replacing in Mott The Hoople a few years later. Rerecorded later on by his band Widowmaker for their Too Late To Cry album, and also performed live by Mott The Hoople during his stint with the band, “Here Comes The Queen” is an extremely catchy, laid-back track with a country rock feel that features some nice slide guitar. Also rerecorded by Widowmaker (this time for their eponymous debut), “When I Met You” is a tasty upbeat rocker with a bit of a bluesy side, a touch of country rock and some stellar guitar work. With Grosvenor playing everything himself, including guitar, tambourine, cymbal, wood scraper and shaker, “Love The Way” is a gorgeous, acoustic love song, while “Waiting” is a really nice, laid-back rootsy track that at times brings to mind The Band. Setting itself apart from the rest of album, “Rocket” is a standout song with a dark, somewhat bluesy, psychedelic swagger and a heavier edge that breaks down into a Hendrix-like acid rock closing. The title track closes the album and is an anthemic cut that is a bit bluesy with a strong rock edge especially in the guitar department. This expanded version also includes a couple of bonus tracks that were originally released on singles. Starting with a horn section and then shifting back and forth between a more pop oriented sound and the horns, “Heavy Day” has some really strong guitar solos, but overall is a little disjointed. The horns also show up on “All The People” an extremely hook-heavy track with an infectious funk beat. Also included is a very comprehensive booklet with an essay on the album and an interview with Grosvener. Under Open Skies is an outstanding release that allowed Grosvenor to showcase his songwriting, musicianship and singing. It would have been interesting to see where he went from here as a solo artist, but instead of going that route he replaced Gerry Rafferty in Stealers Wheel for a short while, joined Mott The Hoople under the stage name Ariel Bender and then formed the band Widowmaker who released two albums. Following Widowmaker, he left the music industry behind for the next nineteen years before releasing his second solo album Floodgates in 1996. Since then he has continued to work as a musician including participating in Spooky Tooth and Mott the Hoople reunions.