Tag Archives: Shrunken Heads

New Album! Ian Hunter

As we approach the year end best-of lists, I’ll post reviews of a couple of more contenders for best of 2009. This review ran in the print edition of Bucketful of Brains.

Man Overboard continues the winning collaboration between Ian Hunter and producer/guitarist Andy York. And while a notch below the brilliant Rant and Shrunken Heads – two of the best albums of the decade, mind you – it’s another consistently strong effort that grows with repeated listening.

The album is a juxtaposition of sorts – half angry social observation, half resigned acceptance – with music to match. “Way with Words”, “These Feelings” and “Win It All” find Hunter in his best balladeer mode, sensitive and emotionally naked, sentiment highlighted by supportively organic instrumentation. The closing “River of Tears” uses swelling piano and organ to understate its emotional message. It’s another reminder that Hunter doesn’t get enough credit for his storytelling. Even a tossed-off shanty like “Girl from the Office” is clever enough to hook you beyond the catchy refrain, much like the tale of the leaping lothario in “The Great Escape”.

But even if the musical pyrotechnics are mostly toned down, the emotions aren’t. Railing against hypocrisy, politics and the dumbing down of culture, he asks us “leave me out of this”. His Dylanesque moments used to be blatant, but decades of artistry have reduced them to ingredients rather than recipes. If Sir Bob spewed any vitriol as caustic as “Up and Running” or “Babylon Blues” lately (“don’t try pulling me down to your level / there ain’t nothing worse than a phony ass rebel”) I haven’t heard it.

“Hope I die before I get old”. You were wrong, Pete. There’s no hit single here, but Ian Hunter, at seventy, is at the top of his game. 

Leave a comment

Filed under Music, Reviews

All The (Not So) Young Dudes

 “Just thought you’d like to know the Mott the Hoople reunion IS going to take place on October 2nd & 3rd, 2009 at the HMV Hammersmith Apollo in London. It will be the original members – Mick, Pete, Phally, Buff and me. They’ve asked our esteemed webmaster, Justin, to formulate a Mott the Hoople site which should be up and running in the near future. Why are we doing it? I can’t speak for the others, but I’m doing it just to see what it’s like. Short of war, death, famine etc. …it’s ON.”  – Ian Hunter

 

The Golden Age of Mott The Hoople

The Golden Age of Mott The Hoople

Oh. My. God.

Short of the long-rumored Kinks and Faces reunions, this might be right at the top of my list. And it’s not like Hunter hasn’t carved out a brilliant solo career; his two most recent albums are just about the best music he’s ever recorded – I rated both of them best in their respective years. His studio players and touring bands are top notch. But the subtle injection of Mick Ralphs into Ian’s musical life over the past few years probably stoked some old fires, and here we are ready to roll away the stone all over again. I’m okay with that!

You can keep track of the information (and enjoy some great interaction) with Ian at his website until the Mott site is up and running.

Here are my reviews of RANT and SHRUNKEN HEADS (from Pop Culture Press and Bucketfull of Brains, respectively)…

—–

Ian Hunter

Rant (Fuel 2000)

www.fuel2000.com

 “Now I know what ageism means – you gotta try a little harder”, sings sixty-one year old Ian Hunter, who might just have released the best album of his career. The opening track “Still Love Rock And Roll” is a rocker of anthem-like proportions, weaned from the soul of Mott the Hoople’s “All The Way From Memphis”. And much like the title implies, Hunter pulls no punches with his lyrics. He tears into England’s demise with “Ripoff” and “Death of a Nation”, while “Morons” and “Wash Us Away” are eerily appropriate after the attack on America. Yet Hunter is still vulnerable enough to knock out excellent love songs like “Knees Of My Heart” and “No One” that can stand alongside the classic “Irene Wilde”. The band is tight, the singer is inspired, and the result is the best record of 2001.

 —–

 Ian Hunter

Shrunken Heads (Yep Roc)

www.yeproc.com

The rhythm confidently swaggers, the velvet-and-sand vocals don’t start, they swing into place. Instruments fall in line, each lifting the song up a notch higher in strength and volume. And if “Words (Big Mouth)” wasn’t strong enough already, the sly minor-chord bridge (think Crowded House) is capped by Keef-esque guitar licks. And folks, that’s just the first song. Jeff Tweedy pulls up a chair alongside a crack band featuring James Mastro, Steve Holley, Graham Maby and Andy York, who follows Mick Ralphs and Mick Ronson as the perfect foil for Ian’s sound. What results is an album as dynamic as it is socially acute. The mid-section of the album (“Brainwashed”, “Shrunken Heads”, “Soul of America” and “How’s Your House”) skewer global politics, apathy and the endless contest between the UK and US to see who can mess it up worse. The latter, along with “I Am What I Hated When I Was Young” also boast some of the greasiest guitar since John Hiatt’s “Things Called Love”.

But Hunter has always had a way with the mid-tempo heart tugger, and there are two here that can stand proudly alongside “Irene Wilde”. An older, maybe wiser Hunter looks backwards on “When The World Was Young”, which features one of his strongest recorded vocal performances. But it’s the sparse, soul-baring naked pain of “Read ’em and Weep” that made my jaw drop. Do sixty-plus rockers still write with that much passion? Apparently so.

 Many people foolishly wrote Ian Hunter off after the Ronson era drew to a close. He’s made a few good records since then, but the recent 1-2 punch of Rant and Shrunken Heads might be the apex of his career…so far. See you in the “Best of 2007” list, Mr. Hunter. Brilliant.

3 Comments

Filed under Music, Reviews