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Ian Hunter - All American Alien Boy

Review: 100
Date: 4 Nov 02

 


Rating: 3 Stars

Musicians:
Chris Stainton – Piano, organ, mellotron & bass on “Restless Youth”
Jaco Pastorius – Bass & guitar on “God (Take 1)”
Aynsley Dunbar – Drums
Gerry Weems – Lead Guitar
David Sanborn – Alto Saxophone
Dominic Cortese – Accordion
Cornell Dupree – Guitar on “Letter To Brittania From The Union Jack”
Don Alias – Congas
Arnie Lawrence – Clarinet
Dave Bargeron – Trombone
Lewis Soloff – Trumpet
Ian Hunter – Rhythm guitar, piano on “All American Alien Boy” and all lead vocals

Tracks Listing:
1. Letter To Brittania From The Union Jack
2. All American Alien Boy
3. Irene Wilde
4. Restless Youth
5. Rape
6. You Nearly Did Me In
7. Apathy
8. God (Take 1)

 


Bit of a strange one this, catching Ian Hunter in a bit of a flux in his career, having just completed touring the highly successful “Ian Hunter” album all over Europe and America (Ian’s first solo work), and having the hit single “Once Bitten Twice Shy” reaching the upper reaches of the singles charts. Ian Hunter’s side kick for the previous eighteen months, that Rock ‘n’ Roll Gypsy Mick Ronson, decided to take his guitar and production talent off and join Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder tour. (Ronson’s work on that tour can be heard on the fabulous “Hard Rain” album.) So Ian disbanded the band and moved lock, stock, and smoking barrel to America, where he still lives today. Hence the title to this his second solo work.

The completed album was built thematically around Hunter’s move. Recorded over three weeks, several of the tracks were first or second takes, all the material was written, arranged and produced by the man himself. Unusually, most of the lyrics were written in the third person, and it appeared that the move stateside had made him look towards Bob Dylan, Randy Nowman, and possibly another English exile, John Lennon, for some of his inspiration. Hunter had also become infatuated, it seemed, with the mythology of America and the excitement he had discovered there, giving the album new creativity and maturity. He certainly didn’t play safe with the subject matter of this discerning and at times somewhat disturbing record, as Hunter tackled subjects as diverse as Britain, America, Young Love, the Mafia, Rapists, Anti-drugs, Political corruption, Rock ‘n’ Roll life styles and God. All head on. Lyrically this is the most mature and potent record in the Hunter canon, each and every track deserving careful listening.

So 5 stars rating for lyrical content, but the slight stumbling block is that although Hunter had assembled a glittering array of session musicians around him to record the tunes, they never had the chance to become a band or sound like one. And here lies the problem, all the players turn in a polished performance, but that is exactly how it sounds very smooth, but also somewhat clinical and sterile. Most Ian Hunter albums sound as if the band are running through a prospective live set with a beginning, middle, and end, whereas this is just a good set of songs laid down in any old order. Even the only rocker on the album, “Restless Youth” (the only track heavy enough on the album you would dare to request in the famous Tahitian Queen’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Happy Hour on Friday), sounds as if everybody is frighten to actually let rip incase they offend someone.

Nevertheless, the album does have some of Hunter’s classic songs on it. The opening number, “Letter To Brittania From The Union Jack”, a lovely lolloping song that would have been better off as a center piece to the album, was a song Ian addressed to his homeland, sounding a slightly discordant note of national pride and a plea for England to “Get Its Act Together”. He was at the same time critical of the country of his birth, but also sorrowful of the state the country had got itself into.

“Irene Wilde” was a song to a girl from Hunters youth, a poignant fragile ballad of un requited love, which has remained in his live set to this day. His teenage dream girl rejects him in this autobiographical true story of a “Barker Street Station non Affair”, which pushes him on towards ambition and stardom, away from his hometown of Shrewsbry.

Hunters previous band, Mott the Hoople, had done two tours of both the States and U.K with Queen as support, so it is nice to hear them adding backing vocals to the hymnlike “You Nearly Did Me In”.

Ian Hunter’s “All American Alien Boy” was released in June 1976. As Hunter did not tour the album and label C.B.S gave only minimal promotion (no obviously single to promote), the album sunk more or less without trace, although it remains Hunter’s own favorite amongst his solo work.

But just around the corner the “Overnight Angels” were gathering.

 

Pawed by Mott The Dog
Remastered by Ella Crew

E-mail: review@mott-the-dog.com


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