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Ian Hunter - The Artful Dodger

Review: 219
Date: 19 Mar 05


Rating: 3 Stars

Ian Hunter - Lead Vocals, Harp, Guitar
Robbie Alter - Guitars
Darrell Bath - Guitars
Frode Alves - Guitars
Torstein Flakne - Guitars
Sven Lindvall, Pat Kilbride - Bass
Kjetil Bjerkestrand - Keyboards
Honest Plain John - Vocals

Tracks Listing:
Too Much
Now Is The Time
Something To Believe In
Resurrection Mary
Walk On Water
23A, Swan Hill
Michael Picasso
Open My Yes
The Artful Dodger
Skeletons (In Your Closet)
Still The Same


Since the release of Ian Hunter’s last proper album, YUIORTA (1989), a collaboration with Mick Ronson. Life had not been at its kindest to one of England's leading songwriters. He had to stand silently as his right-hand man in the music world, and best friend in the real world, was eaten away by the dreaded cancer. Mick Ronson worked right up until the illness claimed his life at the tragic age of 46 in April 1993.

For years Ian Hunter was in the wilderness of music, not having to work as past royalties allowed him to live a comfortable life, and writers block settled into the Hunter residence. Fortunately his lethargy was shaken up by Norwegian superstar Casino Steel, who himself had difficulties writing songs for his new album. He called his mentor to leave his abode in New York and travel to the artic of Trondheim, Norway. When Ian Hunter arrived he found that Casino was not having trouble writing songs, the fact was, he had no songs at all, but a twelve day deadline to come up with a complete album. With the help of such friends as Honest John Plain, Darrell Bath, and ex Sex Pistol Glen Matlock, they did actually produce a good pub rock party album, eventually titled Ian Hunter's Dirty Laundry. It was released in Norway in 1995 and slowly released internationally.

It did have the effect of waking the sleeping talents of Ian Hunter. He finally went back into the studio with the same team that recorded Dirty Laundry. Hunter felt comfortable in Norway's relaxed air and brought a few old cohorts for company. These were wonder bassist Pat Kilbride, guitarist Robbie Alter, and for one track long time friend and Foreigner drummer Dennis Elliot.

The results give us one of Ian Hunter’s most emotional albums. On many of the songs Ian turns his pen to matters of the heart, his parents, parenthood, youth, his love of New York, the afterlife, and derides the tabloid press and death, but this can be a little painful at sometimes.

The opening song is a ballad, and to be honest, the pace does not pick up much throughout the album, but the first verse sets the tone.

"Maybe You don't want me - I'm so scared of losing you.
I never miss an Opportunity to miss an opportunity.
Watch me screw up this one, too, It's hard to talk about love.
I'm just leaving now - it's just
All I ever wanted - was you
Is that to much?"

A touching plea from the heart of Ian Hunter's love for his beautiful wife Trudi, but still showing his basic instinct of insecurity.
The title track and 'Skeletons (In Your Closet)’ are both throw away Stones acoustic rockers that do give the album some respite. '23A Swan Hill' gets its title from the address that Hunter spent his formative years living with his parents in a small flat above the police station, where Ian's father worked. But with three other songs dedicated to friends departed, and ‘Resurrection Mary’ about a ghost who haunts the highways of Chicago, there is not much room for any of Ian Hunter’s famous rockers.

'Walk on Water' is a tribute to Guy Stevens who had originally taken the fledgling Mott the Hoople (the band Ian Hunter was in from 1969 to 1974) under his wing when they were first signed to Island records. Ian describs a little flame, tormented soul, lost in rock 'n' roll, that does not come out alive.

'Now is the Time' is actually inspired by Ian playing Wembley Stadium at the Freddie Mercury Tribute concert, which was also the last time Mick Ronson played live before an audience, doing 'All the Young Dudes' with Ian, and 'Heroes' with David Bowie. But the masterpiece of the album is Ian Hunter's tribute to the platinum haired Spider from Hull, the guitarist's guitarist, Mick Ronson, called 'Michael Picasso'. Ian Hunter’s emotional voice glides gently over a sparse arrangement of his acoustic guitar and a simple string quartet. A truly beautiful song for a beautiful person. A great tribute to his former partner, directly from the heart.

So, a satisfactory return to the fray. However, it took another five years for Hunter to return to his classic best with 'Rant' in 2002. It was also noticeable that Ian had to use four guitarists over the album to replace his departed friend.

Pawed by Mott The Dog
Re-chewed by Ella Crew


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