Luther Grosvenor (aka Ariel Bender)

Band members                             Related acts

- Luther Grosvenor (aka Ariel Bender) -- vocals, guitar, bass,



  backing musicians:

- Paul Bennett -- backing vocals

- Trevor Burton -- bass

- Jim Capaldi -- backing vocals

- Mike Giles -- drums

- John Hawken -- keyboards

- Mike Kellie -- drums, percussion

- Trevor Lucas -- backing vocals

- Mick Ralphs -- backing vocals



- Art

- Blues 92

- Deep Feeling

- Mott the Hoople

- Spooky Tooth 

- Stealers Wheel

- The VIPs

- Wavelength

- Widowmaker





Genre: rock

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Under Open Skies

Company: Island

Catalog: SMAS-9312

Year: 1973

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: US pressing; gatefold sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 6118

Price: $25.00


Guitarist Luther Grovenor (aka Ariel Bender) is a guy who defines the term "journey man musician".  Over the last four decades he's recorded music spanning all types of genres, enjoying massive commercial popularity with some of the world's most commercially successful bands.  In spite of that success, he's all but unknown to most people.


Here's a little bit of biographical information on the man.  Grovesnor was born in Evesham, England.  Interested in music from a young age, by the time he was a teenager he'd been in a number of local bands including Wavelength and Deep Feeling.  The latter included lifelong friend/drummer Jim Capaldi, Gordon Jackson, Dave Mason, Dave Meredith and John Palmer.  In early 1967 Capaldi and Mason left to join Steve Winwood in Traffic.  Grosvenor subsequently joined the VIPs.  Grosvenor's VIP stint was brief.  After two singles 1968 saw the band fell apart with keyboardist Keith Emerson joining The Nice, while Grovsenor, Mike Harrison, Mike Kellie and Greg Ridley regrouped as Art.  Art lasted long enough to complete one LP, before adding singer/guitarist Gary Wright to the line up and metamorphosing into Spooky Tooth.  Between 1968 and 1970, Spooky Tooth churned out a series of four LPs.  Following the release of 1970's "The Last Puff", the band collapsed.


Against this backdrop Island Records owner Chris Blackwell offered Grosvenor a solo deal.  Recognizing most solo efforts simply suck, 1972's "Under Open Skies" is one of those rare exceptions.  Co-produced by Grosveor and Tony Platt, the LP was written and recorded over a three month period in Blackwell's Spanish villa.  The LP certainly sported one of the year's more impressive supporting casts, including The Moves' Trevor Burton, longtime buddy Capaldi, former Spooky Tooth alumnus Mike Kellie, Fairport Convention drummer Trevor Lucas and Mott the Hopple guitarist Mick Ralphs.  In terms of performances most folks won't be shocked to hear that Grosvenor was a competent, if under whelming singer.  That said, on tracks like 'When I Met You' and 'Waiting' his fragile voice occasionally recalled Steve Winwood.  Certainly a bigger surprise, anyone expecting to hear an album of power guitar was probably somewhat disappointed.  'When I Met You' and 'Rocket' found Grosvenor aptly displaying his guitar chops, but the overall feel was quite pastoral and reflective. 


"Under Open Skies" track listing:

(side 1) 

1.) Ride On   (Luther Grovesnor) - 6:27

Anyone who'd heard Grosvenor's work with Spooky Tooth and Mott the Hoople was bound to be surprised by the jazzy moves that characterized the opener 'Ride On'.   Nothing like what I would have expected, yet surprisingly impressive in kind of a Traffic fashion.  At least to my ears, Grosvenor's fragile voice bore more than a passing resemblance of Steve Winwood on this one.   rating: **** stars

2.) Here Comes the Queen  (Luther Grovesnor - Githa Grosvenor) - 3:35

With a catchy, good-timey melody 'Here Comes the Queen' showcased Grosvenor's first rate slide guitar.  It was also one of the album's most commercial efforts.  Easy to see why it was tapped as a single.    rating: **** stars

3.) When I Met You  (Luther Grovesnor) - 5:20

While Grosvenor didn't have the most commercial voice you've ever heard, the rocker 'When I Met You' made it clear he knew how to make the most of his gift.  Catchy tune with a great guitar solo too boot.   My only complaint with this one was the unexpected and abrupt ending ...  the song sounded like it was really kicking into gear and then ...   rating: **** stars

4.) Love the Way  (Luther Grovesnor - Githa Grosvenor) - 3:30

Just Groevenor on acoustic guitar and percussion, 'Love the Way' was a pretty ballad, but was undermined by the fact it was performed in a key that was simply too high for his fragile voice.  The melody was wonderful, but the overall results were a bit screechy.   rating: ** stars


side 2) 

1.) Waiting  (Luther Grovesnor) - 4:15

'Waiting' started out as an atmospheric ballad before morphing into a mid-tempo rocker.  The song highlights came in the form of the gorgeous backing vocals - courtesy of Grosvenor and Trevor Lucas.   rating: *** stars  

2.) Rocket  (Luther Grovesnor) - 4:38

Kicked along by Mike Kellie's rock solid percussion, 'Rocket' was a slinky, blues-rocker with some amazing lead guitar - the performance actually sounded like a backward tape !  One of my favorite tracks on the LP.   rating: **** stars 

3.) Under Open Skies  (Luther Grovesnor - Githa Grosvenor) - 5:20

Ever wonder what Arlo Gurthrie would have sounded like had he decided to record a real rock song?  Well, 'Under Open Skies' is probably a pretty good approximation.  That shouldn't be taken as a criticism since this rocker was one of the album highlights.  rating: **** stars 


The album was also tapped for a pair of UK singles:



- 1972's 'Here Comes the Queen' b/w 'Heavy Day' (Island catalog number WIP 6109)

- 1972's 'All the People' b/w 'Waiting' (Island catalog number WIP 6124)


In case anyone cared, Capaldi's reflective liner notes were quite funny.



With the album vanishing without a trace, plans for a supporting tour and a follow-up LP with longtime friend Jim Capaldi never saw the light of day.  Opting not to participate in a 1972 Spooky Tooth reunion, Grosvenor instead briefly replaced Gerry Rafferty in a late-inning version of Stealers Wheel.  The following year he replaced Mick Ralphs in Mott the Hoople (under the name Ariel Bender).  1976 saw Grosvenor forming the short-lived Widowmaker recording a pair of above average AOR collections.  After a prolonged break from music the late-1980s saw him rejoin a resurrected Spooky Tooth.