30 06 2013

Great post World War II bands are not a rarity. That there are more than five is a luxury the world evidently can afford; any fewer would have made for an entirely different era in music.

The truly great are differentiated from the others by a sizzling hot streak, such as the Grateful Dead’s golden period from ’68 to ’77, by a single outstanding recording that changed everyone’s minds, such as the first Velvet Underground album, or by the sheer force of personality, such as Bob Dylan.Rolling-Stones-at-Glastonbury-Festival-2011729

The Rolling Stones have all this, coupled with longevity. The band’s appearance Saturday night at Glastonbury could have been just another modest night for a group with nothing to prove that it hasn’t already proven. Performing before vast audiences swelling to more than 100,000 is not new for them. Playing extremely well in front of huge crowds isn’t new to them either. But 50 years into a career, playing with deft verve and an enormous swell of brute force is something nearly no one does. Last night upped the ante even for these guys. The energy crackled for two hours and it was tough to look away or think about much else the entire time.

Watch this link to see last night’s show of greatness. It’s the last half of a tightly paced performance by masters.

David Bowie took 10 years off to do some thinking and some child raising. You can tell from the record he released this spring that he’s been waiting for the right songs and the right inspiration to motivate him off the sidelines. The performances by a subtle yet powerful band make The Next Day worth spending another 10 years listening to. Like many of the best recordings, this one takes multiple listenings to make sense of. It’s time well spent and don’t spare the volume.David_Bowie-06

The plight and flight of Edward Snowden will make a great movie one day. But right now it’s an international thriller unfolding in front of a worldwide audience. Today’s Washington Post update about Snowden’s inability to leave Russia is chilling. Big powers can do what they like. It’ll be interesting to see what all the interested parties will decide they can actually do.Snowden-Hideout

Ian Hunter Never Left the Building

14 10 2012

Ian Hunter was the rock guy who had the strength, the wits, and empathy to wrap a listener in his genuine concern for how you were. He was always on your side, and despite an absence that turns out to not be an absence at all, he’s still standing up and in for the normal folks. 

He’s always been a wordy lyricist, a parallel to Bob Dylan who weaves beautiful stories that no one understands. Hunter is very clear about his subject and his allegiances. That’s not changed from the Mott the Hoople explosion of 1972, when David Bowie threw a scrap to a band he liked, something to cash in on in order to stay in a game the band had been slowly losing over four thundering, little known albums.

It didn’t matter because life for Mott actually began with All the Young Dudes.

The Bowie dividend was huge and the band didn’t waste the opportunity to improve itself, slinging three classic rock records in a row. The Hoople was the last great Mott recording. Hunter didn’t waste a moment in bouncing back with a strong self-titled record that made Mott’s passing easier to take.

Hunter still sings in his own accent, reminding everyone that he, and Mott, are English eccentrics who followed the music and did exactly what they wanted at the time. The phoniness level is and was always remarkably low. He genuinely would have liked to have been your mother.

He’s there still, putting out albums quietly, steadily, keeping the pedal on quality since the mid ’90s. The newest is When I’m President, which is as good as anything he’s done. This one’s also getting way more attention anything of his in the past 15 years. He’s the same; it’s just his time. Again.

And he’s still funny. Being 73 hasn’t slowed him much, seemingly. Here he is kicking it back and forth five years ago with fellow Brit expat Craig Ferguson: 

In 2004, a time of relative obscurity for him, was still a time to talk at length. This 2004 interview shows why he’s a great raconteur and would likely be a better memoirist than many of his contemporaries, Pete Townsend included, unfortunately. Part 2 is right here.

Cleveland looms large in Hunter’s legend. In the early ’70s, the gritty port city had as hip of an audience as you would find anywhere, with a stonkin’, no playlists allowed radio station, WMMS, boosting the careers of many non-US bands, including Mott, Bowie,  Brian Eno, Roxy Music, Jim Capaldi, and Jack Bruce. None of this was lost on Hunter, who loved the town and the people. He wrote Cleveland Rocks to prove it. In this 2008 interview in Cleveland, he mentions MMS and why the city truly mattered.

Here’s a  grainy version of All the Way from Memphis by “The Hoople” band, last Mott mach led by Hunter. The change in guitarists made the band louder, loonier, better: It was the final hot tour of a four-year hot streak.

In 2009, Mott reunited for a series of London-only shows, which were well attended and well critiqued. The adoration of the audience is clear in this encore, Roll Away the Stone/All the Young Dudes. The band’s mutual feeling for the song, the audience, the moment is just as clear. Magic. The footage is from a handheld and the audio is dense, but it’s still magic.

The Ian Hunter blog is updated monthly and reverently. Bookmark and read it from here. 

If you haven’t listened in decades, and you’re still in the majority, then open this discography from AllMusic, close your eyes, choose a title, and enjoy knowing you’re getting a winner whether you know the release or not. Your mother would approve.