Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Classics IV - "Spooky" and "Stormy" (1968)

The Classics IV were thankfully hip to diverse styles of music and that's what made them one of the more distinguished pop acts of the late 60's.

First of all, they had an outstanding production and songwriting team (who went on to work with the Atlanta Rhythm Section) who laid the fluff on lightly, with minimal if ever orchestration. There was some wit to the songwriting ("Spooky" especially had some nice metaphorical touches, suggesting that the narrator will "propose on Halloween"). They incorporated jazzy guitar chords, a little southern R&B, a soulful sax solo on every one of their hits, and an innovative use of the sitar that was riff-supporting as opposed to psychedelic.

As a matter of fact, despite there being a real band, I'm not quite sure of their involvement in the recording except for the unmistakable lead singing of Dennis Yost. There are not many singers who you can spot immediately, but nobody I know is similar to Yost -- sort of a soft Southern smoky tone, covered in wide open reverb.

Musically, "Spooky" and "Stormy" are like brother and sister -- related chord patterns, with the same 7-stroke guitar riff that the producers clearly loved they did it twice. "Spooky" is an E minor 7th ending on the G note, sliding to an A6th, ending on the F#. The chorus of "Stormy" is an E minor 9th ending on the F# going to the A major ending on the E note. Yes, I know this is technical razzmatazz, but to a musician, one can't help but notice the similarities.

Both songs had some notable cover versions -- you can hear Dusty Springfield's version on the soundtrack to the UK gangster flick Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels, Santana added a Latin feel and many of those stratospheric up-the-neck solos on the 1978 Inner Secrets album, and inevitably in a salute to their origins, the Atlanta Rhythm Section did a fine honey-dripping version with octave guitar and electric piano solos on their 1979 Underdog album.

CLASSICS IV PERFORM "STORMY" ON TV


CLASSICS IV - "SPOOKY" (audio)


ATLANTA RHYTHM SECTION - "SPOOKY" (live, October 1989)


SANTANA - "STORMY" (audio)



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