22 March 1975
Ian Hunter LP review by Chris Welch
'ULLO', says Ian Hunter during the opening moments of ' Once Bitten Twice Shy,' the first song, his voice cautious, defensive and world-weary.
But whatever problems and pressures Hunter, that bruised and battered master of superstardom, has undergone during the past few months, he swiftly throws caution to the winds and shouts loud and clear his commitment to rock, during the course of what develops into a fine, meaningful album which succeeds because it obviously comes from the heart and shoulder.
Ian and his new team mate Mick Ronson, are saying: ' Whatever else we've done, we can play good rock.' And by that combination of timing, feel and fortuitous circumstances that make one creative effort stand out from the rest, Ian Hunter is a surprising leap forward, from a team the rock world had begun to despair of and dismiss. Ian has had time to draw breath after the stormy events that finally lead to the dissolution of Mott
And Mick has found a new alter ego, a situation in which he gives his best. While Ronson has had his share of critcism, his guitar playing here is superb. Those elements of romance and drama which can seem pointless out of context, perfectly complement Hunter's protesting, care-worn vocals. Guitar and vocals sing together, the best matched team since Daltrey and Townshend, or Rodgers and Ralphs.
Mick produced the album and plays all the lead, while Ian has written all the songs, except one co-Ronson production, the powerful ' Boy.' The band are capable of delivering either a ballad or a heavy riff, with ease and flair and at times, the music winds up with all the power of Led Zeppelin in full flight.
'Once Bitten,' is a deceptive owner; with a ragged, almost semi-pro feel to proceedings; which hints at the loose threads of interrupted careers being drawn together. And when they knit into 'Who Do You Love,' which has a raunchy, good time beat, it is obvious that the Hunter-Robson magic has been isolated and tapped.
Jeff Appleby's bass boogies with floor shaking drive, as harmonica wails and the band comes alive. Dennis Elliott's drums have a fat, earthy sound that introduces ' Lounge Lizzard ' and although the vocal track becomes a little too wild in the midst of the excitement, Ronson cuts forth a blazing solo.
'Boy' in my interpretation as least; is dedicated to a certain figure who has played a considerable part in the lives of both Hunter and Ronson. The lyrics could be a shade clearer, but such lines as 'put the coke away,' and 'I can see your eyes aching,' seem to form a kind of brotherly advice. A bittersweet song, and eight minutes of conviction. '3,000 Miles From Here,' in contrast, is a brief; acoustic outing Ian singing of lost love, which quickly gives way, before sentiment sets in, to, a remarkable performance, 'The Truth The Whole Truth, Nothin' But The Truth.'
With Ronno at his funkiest, the piece should become one of their best stage numbers. ' It Ain't Easy When You Fall,' is notable for the brief piano interlude by Pete Arnesen, whose keyboards provide a gamut of intelligently wrought settings throughout while the lyrics once again express that awareness of the fragile nature of fame and success, so often sought, and so often regretted.
This segues into 'Shades Off'.
I would have preferred to hear Hunter's thoughts with greater clarity, but the gist is obviously an expression of a rock star's confusion at the drags and drawback of life in a traveling band, while the last joyful and innocent rave up 'I Got So Excited,' strips away any danger of veering towards self-pity, tells of the real kicks from rock 'n' rolling. Boyish fun, that switches off abruptly, and leaves one anxious for another installment, another album. While probably not intended as a concept, there is a thread that runs through ' Hunter,' giving it a cohesion and direction., and the pieces fall into places naturally, without the need for manufactured story line. As a musical documentary, it says a lot more about the musicians and their lives than any amount of interviewing would reveal, while there is still a feeling of accident about it all. The singer is still bemused, but the songs are positive.