Welcome to the pit and the pendulum....
Released in September 2012
Recorded in New York City
This is my favourite of the later-era Ian Hunter albums, some of which I have to admit, I have found a little bit patchy. This one has a much stronger full compliment of songs. He was 73 when he made this album, which is an achievement in itself (and there has been another one since). Hunter has always been a good songwriter, never quite the Dylan he wanted to be, but one capable of magical moments. He comes up with a few on here too.
2. Fatally Flawed
3. When I'm President
4. What For
5. Black Tears
7. The Way You Look Tonight
8. Wild Bunch
9. Ta Shunka Witco
10. I Don't Know What You Want
"Comfortable" kicks the album off with some rousing piano-led rock. Hunter's voice has aged, obviously, but it still has an appealing growl. He can still ride above the pounding barroom beat of a track like this. It has a "Golden Age Of Rock 'n' Roll", "that's all" ending too. "Fatally Flawed" has Hunter at his most Dylanesque in the verses, and it has a powerful heavy rock chorus. It actually is a bit too crashing, to be honest, and detracts from the subtlety of the verses. As with many Hunter songs over the years, I feel, sometimes they just don't quite get there. They get so damn close and God knows I love the guy, but I have to say it, unfortunately.
One song that doesn't fit into that category, however, is the wonderful title track, a mid-paced pot boiler of a rocker with some evocative verses sung over an insistent guitar. When I hear songs like this, I forgive Ian Hunter anything. It is why I have stuck with him since I was thirteen years old in 1972 and heard "All The Young Dudes" for the first time. "Abraham, Theodore - you're gonna see my ugly mug on Mount Rushmore..." sings Hunter. "How do you wanna buck the system - welcome to the pit and the pendulum....". That is one of Hunter's finest ever lines.
"What For" is a typical Hunter rocker - riffy and taking no prisoners. "I'll give you what for..." he barks, evoking an old fifties/sixties saying. "Black Tears" is a potentially impressive ballad a bit overwhelmed by its chorus, not unlike the way "Fatally Flawed" was also, well, a bit "flawed". "Saint" is a good one, acoustic and electric guitars merging well on this slightly country-ish rocker. "Just The Way You Look Tonight" is up there with the title track in that it gives us one of those magic Hunter moments - "Julie Christie jaw - full of them pearly whites...". Another of those classic lines he keeps coming up with. It has a great hook to it and an anthemic feel all over it.
"Wild Bunch" is a Stonesy, riffy rocker that would have made a good Mott The Hoople track. There is excellent rollicking piano from Hunter here, too. "Ta Shunka Witco" sees Hunter revisit a subject he has dealt before - that of the plight of the Native American. Telling the story of Crazy Horse, it builds up with some pounding tribal drums and is underpinned by some U2-esque guitar. It is a great song, actually. Very evocative. "I Don't Know What You Want" is a tub-thumping abrasive rocker and "Life" is just an emotional closer to the album. "Laugh because it's only life...". Indeed, Ian. Thanks for another album that moved me in places.