Monday, 30 July 2018
Mott - Drive On (1975)
Released in September 1975
Recorded at Clearwell Castle, Gloucestershire
My favourite band in the 1970s was Mott The Hoople. After they had split in October 1974, I stuck with charismatic lead singer Ian Hunter as he put out his solo work, which was, and still is, excellent. Then there was the rest of the band. What should I do about them? They formed the spin-off group, "Mott", no longer containing the by now iconic Hunter, or guitarists Mick Ralphs or Ariel Bender. Only drummer Dale "Buffin" Griffin, bassist Overend Watts and latter-day pianist Morgan Fisher remained. They were joined by guitarist Ray Major and "Spinal-Tap"-esque lead singer Nigel Benjamin, complete with high-pitched "heavy rock" squeal and a harlequin one-piece suit. Oh dear, oh God, oh my-oh.... (check out the Friars Aylesbury website. I was at the gig, in June 1976).
I stuck with them for this 1975 album, out of some sort of loyalty, a bit like watching a favourite footballer at the end of his career, plying his trade in the lower leagues. There were just a couple of moments on this album, but they really were just split seconds, to be honest. The overall sound is one of bombastic sub-heavy rock, characterised by Benjamin's voice, which certainly wasn't to my taste. Ian Hunter's Dylanesque big anthems had gone, and Mott The Hoople's Stonesy rockers too. The influence now were a sort of Deep Purple meets Black Sabbath sort of thing.
1. By Tonight
2. Monte Carlo
3. She Does It
4. I'll Tell You Something
5. Stiff Upper Lip
6. Love Now
8. The Great White Wail
9. Here We Are
10. It Takes One To Know One
11. I Can Show You How It Is
12. Shout It All Out
The opener, "By Tonight" is actually my favourite track, written by Overend Watts, as indeed the whole album is, it has a killer introductory riff, some great guitar and Benjamin's most convincing of his vocals. It would have been ok as an MTH track, to be fair. Some Hunter-esque piano at the end from Fisher. "Monte Carlo" starts with a solid enough trademark rock riff, but soon enough Benjamin begins his high-pitched wailing. It sort of spoils what was an acceptable enough rocker. Sorry, Nigel, your voice just wasn't for me. "She Does It" is a lively and catchy rocker and "I'll Tell You Something" is a competent rock ballad I guess. The problem with this material, though, is that it had just lost the MTH je ne sais quoi, that something that they had, for those great four or five years (particularly the last two). After this, the album goes downhill rapidly. "Stiff Upper Lip" is awful, to be honest, trying to ape MTH's "Pearl'n'Roy" and "Violence" and failing, badly, while "Love Now" employs those hackneyed heavy rock cliches in its lyrics - "I want love, I want it now, not in five minutes, I want it now...". The big heavy riffs are impressive, but it all just made me think "is this what MTH had come to?". Overend Watts had previously contributed only the somewhat laboured "Born Late '58" to Mott The Hoople's body of work. Now he was writing a whole album, and, unfortunately, his limitations showed. Now I loved Overend as part of Mott The Hoople and felt so genuinely sad when I heard of his passing last year, but back to business, this album just doesn't do it.
"The Great White Wail" has another chugging riff and then it descends in to some more cod-heavy rock vocals. The chorus refrain is reasonable enough, but this is very definitely fourth division stuff. admittedly there is some impressive guitar near the end of this track, but I just can't get past this not being anything like Mott The Hoople, really. It is, I know, partly my problem. I know there are some people who love this album. Maybe I just can't see it.
On "Here We Are", Benjamin attempts a lower key, more romantic ballad-ish vocal. It all sounds a bit flat to me, although the backing on the song is vibrant enough, it all goes a bit 'prog rock", with several changes of pace and style. "It Takes One To Know One" is full of cliches and is best left behind. The opening piano to "I Can Show You How It Is" has echoes of Ian Hunter but, unfortunately, that's as good as it got for what was a bit of a dirge, with a dreadful, singalong chorus.
Sorry lads, you know I love you, but this wasn't for me. Funny thing is, though, every now and again I dig this album out and play it!