Monday, 3 September 2018

Ian Hunter


"It seems to take me about five years to get a record together, which is not a clever idea" - Ian Hunter 

Ian Hunter (1975)

In early 1975, my favourite band, Mott The Hoople, had split the previous October, leaving us with the valedictory anthem of Saturday Gigs as a goodbye. Fans like myself waited eagerly for Ian Hunter's anticipated debut solo album, with Mick Ronson featured heavily on it too. I was not disappointed. If we couldn't have Mott we would have to make do with Hunter and, because of his presence and ability as a songwriter it was not so much having to make do as possibly trading up. 
The opening rocker, the hit single Once Bitten Twice Shy kicked things off well, while Who Do You Love sounded a bit soully, to be honest, but no matter (I love it now). Hunter was possibly following old mate David Bowie's lead from the time and letting soul influences into his work. Lounge Lizard was a full on Mott-style rocker that had originally dated from the sessions for The Hoople album and then came the monumental cornerstone of the album that is Boy. Eight minutes of Hunter heaven. Was it about Bowie? Course it was. A drawn out rock ballad saw Hunter worried about the state of his old mentor (not without good reason, it would seem). I finally saw him perform this epic song live a few years ago, after years of waiting. 

3000 Miles From Here is a short heartbreaking and most entrancing ballad then we get the insistent tour de force of The Truth, The Whole Truth, Nothin' But the Truth with a searing Ronson guitar solo. Despite that, though, it is probably a minute too long and is, when all is said and done a bit of an unremarkable song, if I'm honest. It Ain't Easy When You Fall/Shades Off is another classic Hunter rock ballad-anthem however, with an archetypal Hunter spoken bit at the end (the Shades Off poem) and the original album ends with the frantic, riff-driven rock of I Get So Excited. Great stuff. I was left very satisfied back then in spite of few comparatively ordinary-ish tracks

** The extras give you Colwater High and One Fine Day, both rockers which should have been included on the original album, I have to say. Both are reasonably short, so they should have fitted on with no problems. 
This album still sounds good today, although in other ways it is very much of its time. Maybe it is for that reason that I don't seem to play it much these days. 

** The album has been reviewed interestingly here by the always readable Mark Barry. I have to take issue with Mark on the edited version of Boy, however. Sorry Mark, it just doesn't work for me. Like David Bowie's Young Americans, the track should never be edited.

All American Alien Boy (1976)
This is my favourite Ian Hunter album. Released in the sweltering summer of 1976, Hunter summed up his experiences of America with eight copper-bottomed Hunter classics. Employing some top notch musicians Hunter gathers together his influences and comes up with his finest work. Leaving behind the mix of glam and rock that had populated his debut solo offering, it was not like anything he had done before (or indeed subsequently), though, being very "American" with influences from Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan being very prominent. The sound is a "big production" one dominated by saxophone and vibrant female backing vocals, while the musicians involved make for a pretty impressive list - Aynsley Dunbar on drums, Chris Stanton on piano, Jaco Pastorius on bass, David Sanborn on saxophone are the notable ones. 
The beguiling, understated and slightly funky Letter From Britannia To The Union Jack is a sad, soulful condemnation of his home country from his viewpoint across the Atlantic while the rocking, jazzy All American Alien Boy is a seven minute tale of his arrival and experiences in the USA. It is packed full of great lyrics, standing proud as one of Hunter's finest compositions. Irene Wilde is just gorgeous. A love letter from Hunter to a girl he was in love with back home in Shrewsbury and Barker Street bus station. Apparently, according to Hunter, she was tracked down after the song became well-known and she was distinctly underwhelmed and had "let herself go" somewhat in her appearance. What a disappointment.

Restless Youth is a searing one-paced rocker about the mob. It is possibly the weakest of the eight tracks but it still rocks, though, with considerable muscle and the weakest track on this album would possibly a stronger one on other albums. 
The dramatic Rape is a tragic, shameful tale seen from the points of view of both the victim and the perpetrator. Clever. Hunter was extremely brave to tackle this sensitive subject and he, perhaps surprisingly, manages to carry it off. Hunter's old touring mates from Queen are on backing vocals for the unsurprisingly Queen-esque and overblown pomp of You Nearly Did Me In.  The wordy Apathy 83 is an almost seventies-era Traffic meets Bob Dylan tour de forceThe album concludes with the blatantly Dylanesque God (Take One) that sees Hunter railing at the almighty about their two lives and the conversations they have had. It is full of great lines, beginning with "God said to me 'I'm gonna kick your ass'...".

This remains, for me, one of the 1970s' best albums. I don't believe Hunter ever bettered this. I am probably in the minority with that opinion, as it happens, because many fans and critics alike prefer other albums, finding it too experimental or 'hit and miss' or something like that. Not me, I find it pretty much perfect from beginning to end.

Overnight Angels (1977)

Firstly, let's talk about the mastering. The sound on this, Ian Hunter's third solo album, released at the height of punk in 1977, has always been awful. It was then and it is now. Now remastering appears to have taken place. Hunter's other albums sound fine but Overnight Angels sounds tinny, muffled and decidedly lo-fi. Shame. It is not just the sound but it does play a huge part in the negative vibes the album gives off, along with a general feeling of an overwrought but tired piece of work on which everyone is trying hard to make it gel but failing. For that reason, I find it difficult to write too much about it. 
On to the music. Golden Opportunity has a great extended piano and guitar intro and is a storming rocker which gets the album off to a good start while the Oedipal Shallow Crystals is a classic Hunter rock ballad. The lyrics get a bit overwhelmed by the production, however. Overnight Angels rocks and rocks BIG and is probably the best sounding cut on the album. Unfortunately, it is followed by Broadway, a dramatic Hunter "build-up" ballad ruined by some more dreadful production, the lyrics being overshadowed even more than they had been on Shallow Crystals. It was another crying shame because this was, potentially, a really good song. I would love to hear it re-recorded. 

Justice Of The Peace is a tongue-in-cheek rocker and Miss Silver Dime is the big production power track on the album. While both of them are ok, they certainly don't rise too much higher than that in my estimation. The rest of the album peters out somewhat. No, it really peters out. Hunter tries to show he has his finger on the contemporary music pulse with the supposedly punky Wild And Free. All he does, however, is sound like a (comparatively) ageing rocker trying to play "fast" and spit out lyrics. Hunter didn't need to do this. Nothing like it appeared on his next album, which saw a rise in quality both musically and production-wise. The Ballad Of Little Star has potential but again it doesn't quite get there and To Love A Woman is an eminently forgettable piece of country-ish AOR laid-back rock with vague Bob Dylan hints.

You're Never Alone With A Schizophrenic (1979)

By 1979, the punks who had railed at existing rock bands had calmed down and revealed their pre-existing appreciation for artists like Ian Hunter. This was certainly true of Mick Jones of The Clash, who stated his admiration for this album and duly worked with Hunter on his next one. Also notable is that pianist Roy Bittan, drummer Max Weinberg and bassist Garry Tallent of Bruce Springsteen's E St. Band all appear backing up Hunter on here. Just when Hunter's star was seeming to fade against the brightness of punk-new wave he seemed to gain a new-found credibility with these endorsements and he was becoming something of a "respected elder statesman". Hunter's old mate Mick Ronson was back too, for the first time Hunter's debut album. The result is a polished, appealing and mature album that notably had a far superior sound to its lamentably poor predecessor (sound wise), Overnight Angels.
Hunter’s obsession with all things American - living there and musically-influenced by there - led to US-style mid-paced rockers like Just Another Night and the soul rock of Wild East. These were both fine, vibrant numbers to begin the album with, and I particularly like the latter with its horns and slightly Stax-ish vibe. The former is more guitar-driven and traditionally rock, almost Rolling Stones-esque in its approach. When The Daylight Comes had a similar, almost laid back AOR style and was a bit of an understated gem. The rocking, catchy Cleveland Rocks was a bit more upbeat and punky and Ships was one of those classic Hunter ballads, this time about his relationship with his father. It stands out as the one really great ballad Hunter always seemed to come up with on every album.

Life After Death is a quirky, punchy rocker and Standin' In My Light was a slow burner in similar style to the rest of the album. The chunky and muscular shuffle of Bastard sees Hunter in vengeful mode against someone (unknown, probably in the music industry) against an insistent funky guitar (played, incidentally, by John Cale) and drum backing. The orchestrated piano and strings big ballad. The Outsider ends the album with Hunter in full “Englishman in the USA” character that he used in All American Alien Boy, the title track from his excellent 1976 outing. It is a little bit over-produced for me, however, and would have been better without the huge, bombastic chorus parts - remaining as a more plaintive ballad would have helped to get its point across better. Of its time, undoubtedly, but enjoyable enough every now and again. I loved it back in 1979, as it provided a nice link between my new-found new wave enthusiasm and my old rock-glam past. 

Short Back 'n' Sides (1981)    
Having bought this album excitedly upon day of release, back in 1981, I have always had a mixed opinion of it. Some of it is superb, some decidedly ordinary. It is supposed to display Hunter's new-found punkiness and, to an extent, it does, being more edgy, sharp and spiky in places than the previous AOR feel of You're Never Alone With A Schizophrenic. In other ways it never quite gets there, for me, although I can't quite put my finger on exactly why.

Ian Hunter had teamed up with Mick Jones and Topper Headon from The Clash, as well as Mick Ronson on this album. By now ex-punks like Jones and Headon now freely admitted their love for Hunter. Four years earlier they would have been condemning him as being a "has been". I was never convinced by that, anyway, Jones always loved Mott the Hoople and he would never have dared to insult Hunter. 

The album starts with one of my favourite Hunter solo songs of all time - the vibrant, rocking Central Park And West, which has a killer opening riff and some great Hunter vocals. I Need Your Love is a saxophone and guitar-driven, Springsteen-esque singalong number. Lisa Likes Rock 'n' Roll was written for Mick Ronson's then young daughter. It is a fine song for a four-year old, but it doesn't really cut it as a copper-bottomed Hunter rocker. It is ok, I suppose, with its Bo Diddley rhythms, and there are some mildly amusing lyrics. Nobody does an evocative, heart-rending rock ballad like Ian Hunter and he gives us a classic here in Old Records Never Die, written in the wake of John Lennon's death. It does not directly mention him, but when you know the subject matter, it makes a moving song even more poignant. It has a killer sliding guitar riff which makes the song, as well as some fetching violin from Tymon Dogg (who featured on The Clash's Sandinsta!). 

Noises is a strange, experimental track and in many ways it is pretty pointless. It has a funky, rocking beat when it eventually gets going, but it goes on for over five minutes not really getting anywhere, with Hunter griping about noises, often in spoken passages, a bit like Mick Jagger on 1983's Too Much Blood. There is some brief interesting, Mike Garson-ish piano, but not enough to really rescue it. Rain actually follows the same sort of pattern - an extended number with Hunter's vocals semi-spoken over a chugging beat. This one has a slightly more appealing instrumental backing, however, and, due to that, is far more attractive as a track. "Take your washing off the's gonna rain" beseeches Hunter. It is no work of genius, but has an odd appeal. Gun Control is more of the solidly rocking Hunter we have come to expect. A throbbing bass line powers a cynical song about the "gun lobby" movement in the USA. It could be interpreted as Hunter supporting the movement, but in fact he is singing wryly from their point of view.

Theatre Of The Absurd is a favourite of mine. A shuffling cod-dub reggae number with some great dubby guitar lines and some "boing boinging" synth drum sounds back a great Hunter vocal. "There I was stuck in London, part of my history, it was just like being in school again, but I felt something moving in me..". Captivating lines from Hunter and listen carefully you can hear Mick Jones's backing vocals. That was the album's last great point. 
Leave Me Alone is a bit of a strange song, with Hunter putting on an odd croony deep voice over an upbeat, vaguely disco-style backing. It doesn't sound like Ian Hunter at all and the chorus is awful. Keep On Burning starts with a promising organ and guitar slow burn intro and a typical dignified, soulful Hunter vocal and you think "this is going to be a great one", with Hunter in Dylanesque-Steve Harley mode, and, to be fair, is is pretty good, almost anthemic in places. I am sort of reassessing it, it now sounds better than I remember it. It is spoilt by its frenetic, pace-changing, piano-boogie ending, which is completely needless and incongruous. Overall, this was a patchy album, and Hunter would not release any really good material for another fifteen years or so. Next up was a truly dreadful album - Hunter's nadir.

All Of The Good Ones Are Taken (1983)

By 1983, unfortunately, my musical love affair that had begun as a teenager with Mott The Hoople in 1972 was completely on the wane. The previous album had been patchy - half inspired, half poor - and this one was much, much worse. It reflected the absolute worst characteristics of eighties music in its grating, tinny, synthesiser-dominated sound and, to be honest it had nothing going for it at all. I remember hearing it in a record shop and just thinking “oh dear Ian, how has it come to this?”. Time hasn’t softened my stance either. It brings to mind The Clash's 1985 Cut The Crap album. Similar awful albums were put out at the time by The Rolling Stones (Dirty Work), Elton John (Leather Jackets) and Rod Stewart (Body Wishes and several more). 

The opener, All Of The Good Ones Are Taken, is easily one of the better tracks, with a catchy melody and more guitar and drums than synths. Its cheery poppiness harks back slightly to Mott The Hoople's Roll Away The Stone. The song also appears as a bonus track in a slow version, which is ok too. The otherwise riffy and pounding Every Step Of The Way suffers in that it sounds dreadfully muffled and muddy. It is an ok rocker, however, despite that. The sound improves, thankfully, on the chunky and energetic Fun. The song is spoilt, though, by an awful chorus as Hunter enunciates "funnnn" in very hammy fashion and the fact that it just sounds dated, now and back in 1983 as well. 

The new-wavey and honestly quite poor Speechless also suffers from a poor production. The vocals and synthy backing make it something of a relic of its time. One of Hunter's worst songs. It is a bit like The Rolling Stones' Shattered but not nearly as half-good as that one was. Death 'n' Glory Boys is a thoroughly  unremarkable chugger. At times when listening to this album I can't really believe it is Ian Hunter. Its bloody awful in comparison to most of his other work. As for That Girl Is Rock 'n' Roll - oh dear. Sub-T. Rex rhyming lyrics and synths turned up to the max reach another new low. Now the sound quality is down again on the slightly McCartney-esque Something's Goin' On. It doesn't really matter as it's another clunker.

The dreadfully-titled (another T. Rex thing) Captain Void 'n' The Video Jets is eminently forgettable while the once more muffled Seeing Double is a reasonable ballad enhanced by some fine saxophone from The E St. Band's Clarence Clemons. Along with the title track it is probably the album's best song on what was a tragically underpar album. Hunter’s worst by a country mile.

* The bonus track, Traitor, a vaguely funky rock slow-paced number, is better than most of the material on the actual album, although its rap section is pretty dire. 

The Artful Dodger (1997)

This is a relatively good album that suffers from a bit of a muddy production (as quite a few of Hunter's albums have done, unfortunately) but that doesn't disguise the fact that there are some great songs on here. Some really moving ones too. 

Too Much is a brooding, sombre opener with an evocative, quiet vocal. Hunter's voice is starting to sound somewhat old and shaky now, in that sort of adds to the song's pathos. It was an odd choice to begin the album with, I have to say. Now Is The Time is also a low-key, laid-back number with a slow, shuffling backing. Something To Believe In gets Hunter's rock juices flowing a bit on a typical mid-pace organ and guitar-driven Dylanesque number. It is one of the best ones on here. Resurrection Mary is in the same vein too and is also impressive. Laid-back but powerful. Walk On Water is a fine, riffy rocker but it suffers slightly from a muddy production. 

Now come two really good ones - the urgent, oh so typically glorious, uplifting Hunter rock of 23a Swan Hill and the heartbreaking tribute to old mate Mick Ronson, Michael Picasso, a song so sad that I simply can't bear to listen to it. Open Your Eyes is an understated but attractive slow number with Hunter once more sounding very quietly emotional. The Artful Dodger is a muscular Stonesy rocker blighted by some hammy lyrics and vocal delivery. Hunter tries (and fails) to re-create the "'ello" intro to Once Bitten Twice Shy. Skeletons (In Your Closet) has a strange sort of jazzy vibe backing and uses more theatrical cockney-style vocals. In places it is unfortunately quite awful. These latter two have lowered the overall quality of the album. The ballad Still The Same redeems that, however, as does an even better slowie in the moving Fuck It Up, a song that defies its vulgar title and chorus. As I said, there is some good stuff on this album, but mainly in its first half.

Rant (2001)
"England's such a ripoff" Ian Hunter's by now endearing croaky voice growls out, from his tax exile house in the USA. Forgive my cynicism. I can understand his dissatisfaction, but not from someone who hasn't lived there for ages. I agree with his sentiments on the song, though, from my position and it certainly rocks with a fire old Ian hasn't lit under himself for years. 

Yes, Ripoff is undoubtedly a corker of a track. This is also Hunter's most overtly political album, he is indeed having a "rant", although, as often has been the case with Ian Hunter (and I have enjoyed his music since 1972) I am never quite sure where he is coming from politically. He has, for me, always been a bit of a mix of contradictions. His love/hate relationships with both the USA and the UK, for a start. Either way, nevertheless, the albums rocks, big time. His best since 1979, by far. The brooding, menacingly pounding beat of Good Samaritan is another highly convincing number on this vibrant album. Hunter's voice rides confidently over the solid backing. Purgatory has an infectious, funky-ish guitar opening of a track that sounds like The Rolling Stones' late eighties-early nineties material. 

American Sky is full of Tom Petty-style riffs and a classic industrial-strength Hunter vocal. Dead Man Walkin' has a Streets Of Philadelphia-style drum beat and one of those great stately Hunter piano backings and a sad yearning vocal. "All the world's a stage, it's just that I ain't on it anymore...." sings Hunter, with breathtaking honesty. "What am I supposed to do now...sink to the bottom of obscurity..." he asks, on what is a very moving song. It is almost as if Hunter has given up on himself at this point. Thankfully, Wash Us Away sees him lifted up again, although in a very nostalgic mode, thinking back to his childhood in the 1940s. As with many of Hunter's songs, though, as much as the song sounds inspiring, I am always left by wondering exactly what he was on about. It sounds meaningful so therefore it must be. Joe Strummer's solo material has the same effect on me. 

Morons is a bit of a low point on the album, despite its Mott The Hoople-esque, promising piano introduction and convincing first verse, the chorus is pretty awful. Maybe I'm being a bit harsh, it has a Dickensian vigour about it in places. Any doubts I had about Morons are blown away by the wonderful Knees Of My Heart, a pulsating classic Hunter rocker in praise of his long-suffering wife Trudi, still with him after so many years. "I bought you a house with a burglar alarm system.." is a great, typically wry Hunter line. No One is an archetypal Hunter mid-pace rock ballad, full of those characteristic rises and falls and dramatic big chorus. When the guitar solo comes in you almost feel it is Hunter's old mate Mick Ronson. Still Love Rock And Roll does what you would imagine it would - it blows away all the cobwebs and rocks with a huge thump. He even ends with a Golden Age Of Rock And Roll "that's all"Death Of A Nation perfectly exemplifies the dichotomy I find in Hunter's lyrics. Exactly what is he bemoaning as he imagines talking with The QueenPrince Charles and Winston Churchill? He is speaking of a nation dying - what, in 2000, under a Labour government? Things had been much worse, Ian. Despite my misgivings over the lyrics, the song has one hell of an atmosphere to it. It is one of my favourites of his. Actually the song is far more relevant in 2018. "Look what they've done, it's the death of a nation...". Indeed. Soap 'n' Water is a slow burning number with Ian ranting at someone or other about something or other. Not quite sure who or what, but it sounds good in that majestic Hunter fashion, as the whole album has.

Shrunken Heads (2007)

This is a little mentioned album in the canon of Ian Hunter’s work, but it is a really good one, and puts several earlier ones to shame, particularly All Of The Good Ones Are Taken (admittedly that one was from nearly twenty-five years previous).

Words (Big Mouth) is a nice, organ-powered piece of archetypal Dylanesque Hunter. His voice sounds even older, but its croakiness adds to the appeal, rather in the same way that Dylan's did as it aged. This is a really good track, featuring some solid guitar. It is one of those later-era Hunter songs that I like a lot. Fuss About Nothin' rocks in a riffy Tom Petty style and When The World Was Round is an appealing slower song with one of those programmed "contemporary" backings to it. Brainwashed is a somewhat raucous, punky rocker. Hunter has always had the ability to pen a hard-hitting, cynical but attractive ballad and he certainly does this here on the lengthy Shrunken Heads, putting his heart and soul into it, as well as some typical piano-pounding near the end, sounding like Mott The Hoople circa 1971.

Soul Of America is another great later-era Hunter rocker, with pounding drums and infectious harmonica together with lyrics on one of his favourite subjects - the history of America. This really is a corker of a track. Hunter at his best. How’s Your House is a big, clunky heavy piece of granite-hard  rock. Guiding Light is another of those typical Hunter slow rock numbers while Stretch rocks solidly, as also does the country-ish fun of I Am What I Hated When I Was Young. The album ends with the plaintive evocative Read ‘Em And Weep. Hunter does sad songs like this so well.

Man Overboard (2009)

Just as appealing was this one, from two years later. It was an album that ploughs the same sort of furrow, lyrically and sonically, with a bit more of a folky-Americana vibe to it.

The Great Escape is a robust acoustically-driven with a bit of a feel of Bruce Springsteen’s Seeger Sessions about it. It does sort of fizzle out at the end, though. Arms And Legs is the sort of song that has populated Hunter’s albums since 1997 - songs with vague hints of Dylan and Springsteen and a harmonica-driven slow but solid roadhouse-ish sound. You know it when you hear it. Up And Running is more of a thumping rocker with one of those catchy choruses Hunter often comes up with. There are a few moments on every Hunter album that just make me feel warmly affectionate to him and realise why have stuck with him for fifty years. The atmospheric and uplifting Man Overboard is one of those occasions. 

Babylon Blues is another rousing tub-thumper and Girl From The Office is quirkily amusing. Flowers is both catchy and cynical although Feelings is pleasant enough but ultimately less memorable. The same can be said about Win It All, although it is plaintively sad-sounding. The album has tailed off a bit with these few slower numbers, joined by the melodic but low-key Way With Words but it ends on a high point with another of Hunter’s American history songs in the wonderful River Of Tears, a song based around the struggles of Native Americans. This is one of my favourite latter-day Hunter songs. While this was a good album, it was more understated than its predecessor. They both have good points, but overall I prefer the more consistent, rocking Shrunken Heads. 

When I'm President (2012)
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.
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 - something Hunter has used several times). 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 When I'm President, 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.

Fingers Crossed (2016)

Ian Hunter released this album  at 77 years of age, remarkable in itself. That this great man is releasing material at this age is an inspirational thing. I bought my first piece of Ian Hunter's music at fourteen years old, in 1972, and I have stuck with him ever since. His music has been with me for actually most of my life, certainly all my adult life. Viewing his music objectively, it has always been a bit hit and miss in places. Genius and magical, moving moments mixed with some run of the mill stuff. That has always been the way with Ian and I. However, both this and his previous album, When I'm President are the best of his later-era albums. This one is the best of the two. There actually isn't a totally duff track on the album. 

That's When The Trouble Starts kicks the album off with a Stonesy-style riff, grinding rhythm and some gruff, cynical Hunter vocals. The voice is ageing and clearly now has a few limitations, but what the heck, he can still ride with the power of this solid rock chugger. Fair play to him. Dandy is a difficult concept of a song. It was written after the death of David Bowie by Hunter about his old seventies cohort. It could run into maudlin territory, and in places it does, but when you hear that seventies glammy riff kick in and Hunter sings "you turned us into heroes...." and "there ain't no life on Mars.... and then we took the last bus home...." he just nails what was impossible to nail. Then we took the last bus home. That line just sums it all up. 1972-73 in one line. To hear Ian Hunter singing this all these years later make me quite emotional. "I guess I owe you one..." he sings on the fade out. I guess so.

Ghosts is an excellent, bassy, thumping rocker, possibly one of the best cuts on the album. Hunter ruminate on the rock stars lost to drugs. "Standing in a room full of ghosts...". A song that is actually as sad as Dandy in many ways. Fingers Crossed is another good one, a typical Hunter slow burning emotional rock ballad. White House is a great rocker as too is Bow Street Runners - an unusual song about the early London police force. Morpheus is an evocative piano-driven slow number of the type that Hunter always does so well. Listening to the guitar solo on this, it is just so seventies, it is so good that Hunter has not moved with the times at all. He is a creature of the seventies. Good for him. So am I.

Stranded In Reality begins with some very U2-ish guitar and a rhythmic bass line. It has a great backing but the song itself is just a bit so-so. 
You Can't Live In The Past, Ian tells us on the next track, played over a late seventies Police-style white reggae groove. The thing I love about Ian Hunter albums is that they allow me to live totally in the past. "You can never go back.." sings Hunter, as I sit here getting extremely nostalgic just listening to him. His voice, the way he delivers the songs, it just takes me straight back to the mid-seventies. Long Time is a lively, folky romp of a singalong number to end on. Again, it is drenched in nostalgia. Thanks for the great trip, Ian.

Ian Hunter's work with Mott The Hoople is covered here (click on the image to read the reviews) :-

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