Tuesday, February 1, 2011
MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: IAN HUNTER
This proudly proclaims on the jacket it's a 30th Anniversary edition of the disc, yet the original came out in 1979. This package had been prepared for release in 2009, but sat until now, a classic move in the long, under-achieving career for Hunter. Like his band, Mott The Hoople, he never quite broke through to the mass audience he deserved. Everybody knows at least a couple of his songs, but he remains, now in his 70's, a cult figure.
Schizophrenic was Hunter's biggest-selling solo album, and he for once seemed poised for success, but the album just didn't have that one necessary ingredient of the day, a hit single. Now, that's a shocker, as it includes Cleveland Rocks and Just Another Night, two giant rockers that could have been and should have been, except once again marketing proved Hunter's downfall. It took the Drew Carey Show to make Cleveland Rocks a hit, twenty years too late.
Oh wait, it did have a hit, just not by Ian Hunter. Of all people, Barry Manilow took the ballad Ships into the Top Ten, one of the least wimpy tunes he ever did. In fact, Hunter's original, written about his relationship with his father, is majestic, plaintive and sentimental.
The album is made up of equal parts big rockers and big ballads. It's anthem rock, bold and brassy or heart tugging, with big story-topics, such as "is there life after death?" Using a core band of three E-Street regulars (Max Weinberg, Roy Bittan, Garry Talent), and his long-time foil, Spiders From Mars guitarist Mick Ronson, this was as outsized as Springsteen at times, yet playful too. He was the thinking man's Meatloaf.
The deluxe part includes several early versions of the tracks, plus a full extra-disc concert from the day, featuring the new tunes and old Mott favourites, including All The Young Dudes. These days, Hunter is considered a grand old man and given his proper due, especially in his English homeland. Appreciate this gem, 30 -- err, 32 years later.