Spooky Tooth & Pierre Henry - Ceremony (CD)




Minority Records





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Spooky Tooth and Pierre Henry
Ceremony: An Electronic Mass

UK/France 1969

Pierre Henry, electronics; Gary Wright, vocal, organ; Mike Harrison, vocal; Luther Grosvenor, guitar; Mike Kellie, drums; Andy Leigh, bass

1. Confession — 7:02
2. Have Mercy — 7:51
3. Credo — 8:25
4. Offering — 3:26
5. Hosanna — 7:33
6. Prayer — 10:50

total time 45:31

There are some albums out there that completely defy genre categorization. But every once in a blue moon, an album comes along that manages to completely defy all rational explanation. This would be one of those albums.

Spooky Tooth was one of the heavier hard rock acts of its day, driven by Gary Wright (later of Dream Weaver fame) and Mike Harrison's dual, bluesy wails set against Luther Grosvenor's searing guitar leads. They were on the ascent, having just released Spooky Two, an overlooked classic of late 60s British rock. One day, they were approached in the studio by avant-garde composer Pierre Henry for what they thought would be session work, involving a concept album setting the text of the Catholic liturgy to music. Their record label, however, decided to market this as Spooky Three. And thus endeth the ballgame.

What music lies behind an album cover that would have made Barry Godber proud? Well, imagine Jesus Christ Superstar, with its performers straining to hold together ill-fitting text with music. Now, mix over this foundation, with complete disregard, something like Frank Zappa's The Chrome Plated Megaphone of Destiny and you have yourself a fair approximation. Confession literally sounds like construction workers were not only alongside the band in the studio booth, obliviously hammering and welding away, but even placed nearer to the microphones! Credo, perhaps the ultimate example of artistic incompatibility, literally had me on the floor in spasms of laughter the first time I heard it. And right after that, we get hit with Offering, or... music + panting. The only track that even comes anywhere near successfully merging these two disparate visions is the final Prayer, with acoustic guitar and Wright's delicate vocals set to less intrusive, ghostly wind effects of Henry.

But in the end, I am left with total disbelief that a group of record company people sat down, listened to this, and said Great! Let's get this baby out to the public ASAP! Like Ed Wood or The Shaggs, Ceremony is a failure, but one of those spectacular failures that continues to compel by virtue of its sincerity and sheer incongruity.