Old Records Never Die: The Mott the Hoople Ian Hunter Anthology
This 32 track collection neatly divides into two concise discs the best tracks from Mott the Hoople and solo work from the band's main brain. By 1971 Ian Hunter and his mates were slogging through four albums and able to generate only middling chart attention and a rabid, vocal but small fan base. The story is oft-told how one such fan (named David Bowie) got wind of the band's imminent demise in 1972 and penned a song that would pull the band up through the narrow glam rock aperture into greatness. "All the Young Dudes" is the 6th track on the first disc, and sets the collection suitably ablaze.
The collection starts with one track from each of Mott's prior four albums, and adds the creepy "Death May Be Your Santa Claus" for good measure. The early tracks give sufficient glimpse into the untapped potential of the original quintet: Hunter on vocals and keyboards, Mick Ralphs on guitars, Verden Allen on organ, Overend Watts on bass and Dale Griffin on drums. But it was 1973's post-"Dudes" Mott that sealed the band's legacy. A self-referential collection of rockers and ballads, it provides the meat of this compilation. Hunter had taken the reins as chief songwriter; his curly locks, raspy talky singing and sunglasses provided more than passing comparisons to Dylan. The inevitably titled follow up The Hoople showed the cracks starting to form. Personnel shifts and muddled songwriting pointed to the band's implosion. The first disc closes with two great songs, both of which look simultaneously inward and outward. "The Golden Age of Rock 'n' Roll" and "Saturday Gigs" are melancholy without being maudlin, each celebratory and triumphant. Both are of a piece with The Who's "Long Live Rock" in that all three songs share the shock and wonder in the explosive combination of band and fan.
"Saturday Gigs" is the perfect transition to the Ian Hunter set, he had met a guitar slinger from Hull named Mick Ronson and brought him along after the end of Mott. Ronson's sterling guitar work provided the bridge to Hunter's solo career.
Just as Mott forms the centerpiece of the first disc, the insanely wonderfully titled You're Never Alone With A Schizophrenic forms the bulk of the second disc. Peppered through the second disc are classics like "Once Bitten Twice Shy" and "Cleveland Rocks" and "Just Another Night." The disc closes with "Words" from 2007's Shrunken Heads, a fine return to form for Hunter.
Although the Bowie-Hunter-Mott nexus is fairly well-known, less well known is how Mott The Hoople (so seemingly locked into the early/mid 1970's) is connected to two of the decade's best bands: The Pretenders and The Clash. When Ronson and Hunter left Mott, several of the remaining members joined with future Pretenders James Honeyman-Scott and Martin Chambers, but never recorded. Far more intriguingly, The Clash's 1979 masterwork London Calling was produced by Guy Stevens, the producer of Mott's first four albums. The Clash lent their credibility two years later to Hunter's sadly overlooked Short Back and Sides, several songs from which appear on this collection.
The remastering renders unlistenable the muddy CD releases of prior releases, effectively making this collection crucial.