You know I lost just a little bit on the journey....
Released November 1971
Recorded at Island Studios, London
Running time 37:55
The last of the four “pre-Bowie” Mott The Hoople albums and it is probably the best of the four.
1. Death May Be Your Santa Claus
2. Your Own Back Yard
3. Darkness Darkness
4. The Journey
5. Sweet Angeline
6. Second Love
7. The Moon Upstairs
8. The Wheel Of The Quivering Meat Conception
9. Midnight Lady
10. The Debt
Death May Be Your Santa Claus is a re-write of a track from 1970s Mad Shadows with an almost funky guitar intro but some seriously pounding, bassy heavy rock kicks in, some madcap, swirling organ and a red hot Ian Hunter vocal. A great start after the insipid nature of the previous album, the half-baked Wildlife. This is one of the best rockers from the early albums.
Your Own Back Yard is a fetching, tuneful, Dylanesque rock ballad from Hunter. It is a cover version of a Dion song, but sounds like a Hunter song. Shades of Alice from 1974’s The Hoople album in places. His voice seems to have rediscovered its mojo since Wildlife, where it was uncharacteristically weak. Verden Allen’s organ was also integral to Mott’s sound in this period , no more so than on this underrated track. The band’s sound was a sort of cranked up, heavy rock version of Bob Dylan’s 65-66 “wild mercury sound” at times.
Darkness Darkness, another cover version, highlighted Mick Ralphs' weaker voice, but it is still a refreshingly hard rocker in the chorus, which was good to hear after his lightweight, country-ish contributions to Wildlife. He seemed now to blend his love of a lighter, more melodic song with some harder rocking, which was good to hear. It made here for an impressive number. A bit Free-like in places.
The big, dramatic, “slow build up to rock majesty” Hunter number to close the old “side one” was the mighty nine minutes of The Journey. Nobody really does this sort of moving rock ballad better than Ian Hunter. Nobody. It is a monster of a song. Nice one Ian. Just wonderful from beginning to end. Hunter was back now, make no mistake. In places, this was also Mott at their heaviest.
“Side two” started with another great upbeat rocker in the Status Quo meets The Velvet Underground of Sweet Angeline (although I prefer the live version on 1974’s live album). Hunter was starting to burn with the fire that would make Mott, briefly, one of the best rock bands around over the next two years. This is one of their best early rockers.
Second Love is a piano and organ led mid-pace Hunter rock slow number with another powerful chorus part and some brass used too, unusually. Something of an underrated track. Listening to this album again, it is definitely the best of the first four. Great full, punchy remastered sound on the latest edition too.
The Moon Upstairs is a bluesy, upbeat heavyish rocker with hints of Restless Youth from Ian Hunter’s 1976 All American Alien Boy album. A frenetic, loud, thumping Mad Shadows-style ending too.
The Wheel Of The Quivering Meat Conception continues the fade-out from The Journey and is a waste, to be honest. The bonus track, the single Midnight Lady should have been used in its place, and also Hunter’s The Debt, another Dylan-influenced number.