In 1971, United Artists Records released a double LP entitled Winwood, which was called off the market almost as quickly as ABKCO's Grand Funk meets Terry Knight & the Pack amalgam, Mark, Don & Terry. Gary Wright's That Was Only Yesterday compilation fares a little better, and should have been much bigger. The late Jimmy Miller, former producer of Spooky Tooth, had put together a production company which boasted Gary Wright, Chrissie Hynde, and others. When the money people fell off the stock market, Miller's company was no more, and he told this writer he had to release Gary Wright prior to The Dream Weaver. Wright made the jump from A & M to Warner Brothers, where he hit big time, resulting in this marvelous collection of 19 tracks for A & M to cash in on their original investment. Credited as a Gary Wright/Spooky Tooth album, the tracks are scattered across four sides with no apparent rhyme or reason (except that they sound pretty good in this order). There's a 20-paragraph essay by the brilliant Ken Barnes, former editor of Radio & Records and Ice Magazine, now at USA TODAY. Barnes neatly wraps up the treasures, the two excellent singles "I Know" and "I Can't See the Reason; four tracks from the Jimmy Miller-produced Spooky Two and one from Tobacco Road; four titles from Footprint, the album that featured George Harrison and Doris Troy; two from Extraction; and only the single from Wonderwheel. There are also tracks from the latter-day Spooky Tooth projects, You Broke My Heart, so I Busted Your Jaw and The Last Puff. So musically, how does this hold up? Incredibly. "Sing a Song," from the Extraction album, is in the same vein as the Elton John/Bernie Taupin composition from The Last Puff, "Son of Your Father." These recordings are classic and every bit as valuable as the work of Steve Winwood. The beauty of all this is it is before Wright went off on his keyboard kick, saturating everything in keys and becoming some astral minstrel. It's bothersome to give a record label credit after they've let an artist move on, but the placement of "Holy Water" with "Stand for Our Rights," from Wright solo to Spooky Tooth, show how influential his contributions were to a band that boasted a future Mott the Hoople guitarist in Luther Grosvenor and future Foreigner with Mick Jones. While Black Sabbath covered Crow's song "Evil Woman," the Spooky Tooth song by Weiss became an underground classic. The dirge-like epic, all nine and a half minutes of it, is included here. As Jethro Tull was able to turn "Living in the Past" into a hit years after it was recorded, it is certainly a statement that A & M couldn't climb the charts with a single from That Was Only Yesterday. Regardless, it is a treat to hear these songs in this context, and a great primer for Gary Wright's pre-The Dream Weaver work.
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