Ian Hunter departed from Mott the Hoople in 1974, having guided the band from hard rock to glam through seven studio albums and such hits as "All the Young Dudes," "Honaloochie Boogie," "All the Way from Memphis," "Roll Away the Stone," and "The Golden Age of Rock 'n' Roll." Upon leaving Mott, Hunter jumped into a solo career that continues to this day, having produced nearly two dozen studio and live LPs. Now, Demon Music Group is celebrating one period of Hunter's career with a 2-LP anthology pressed on 140-gram black vinyl. Once Bitten: The CBS Collection draws upon Hunter's first three solo albums, all recorded for CBS Records, and his sixth LP which marked his return to the company after a brief spell at Chrysalis.
Hunter's first, eponymous solo album in 1975 yielded the single that made his name as a solo artist, the original version of "Once Bitten, Twice Shy." Recorded at George Martin's AIR Studios, "Once Bitten" naturally opens this collection. The song boasted Hunter's old cohort Mick Ronson as arranger, guitarist and co-producer, and the track made it all the way to No. 14 on the U.K. chart. (Great White's 1989 cover version belatedly earned Hunter a hit in the U.S. when it reached the Top 5.) Though "Once Bitten" was Hunter's only hit U.K. single as a solo artist, his fellow musicians were taking notice. The CBS Collection dives deeper into Ian Hunter (No. 21 U.K./No. 50 U.S.) with six of its eight tracks; only "I Get So Excited" and the Ronson co-write "Boy" are absent. Co-producer, lead guitarist, and multi-instrumentalist Ronson's stamp is all over Ian Hunter, as he brought his dazzling, pyrotechnic skill and style to such Hunter compositions as "The Truth, The Whole Truth, Nuthin' But the Truth." Underscoring the malleability of Hunter's durable songs, "Who Do You Love" has been covered by artists from Def Leppard to the Pointer Sisters.
Hunter's star-filled next album, 1976's All American Alien Boy, was recorded in the new environs of New York's Electric Lady Studios. While Mick Ronson didn't join in, All American Alien Boy saw producer-artist Hunter accompanied by jazz greats David Sanborn and Jaco Pastorius, as well as Mothers of Invention drummer Aynsley Dunbar, Blood Sweat and Tears' Lew Soloff and Dave Bargeron, and even Freddie Mercury, Brian May and Roger Taylor of Queen. The loose concept album was inspired by Hunter's travels throughout America, and largely embraced a more sophisticated, less overtly aggressive rock sound. Messrs. Mercury, Taylor and May can be heard, along with Sanborn, on "You Nearly Did Me In," one of its five songs reprised here. In Ronson's absence, Chris Stainton was brought onboard as a creative foil for Hunter, and supplied the album's evocative keyboards and organs. Aynsley Dunbar's drums shine on "Apathy 83," and Pastorius' signature bass commands attention throughout. Soloff and Bargeron, of the Blood Sweat and Tears horn section, brought their powerful brass to the epic title track which is heard here in its shorter, unique single version. Though the album failed to chart, it's today recognized one of Hunter's finest hours, as can be clearly heard on the selections here.
1977's Overnight Angels reflected CBS' desire for Hunter to return to the muscular rock for which he was known. Roy Thomas Baker (Queen, Nazareth, and later, Dusty Springfield) was brought in to helm the sessions in Quebec and London, and Earl Slick filled the all-important lead guitar role while Hunter played rhythm guitar and piano. The U.S. arm of CBS, Columbia Records, initially passed on releasing the album despite its commercial mandate. But Hunter couldn't help but make a solid record, even if the sessions' most famous song was relegated to single-only status: "England Rocks," later to become "Cleveland Rocks." That track is included on The CBS Collection along with six of the album's nine songs, most notably "Shallow Crystals," "Broadway," and "(Miss) Silver Dime," all of which are singled out by Hunter in the new collection's liner notes. He also amusingly recollects, "One journalist said the album was like Mantovani trying to produce Johnny Rotten." Baker's expansive production gives Overnight Angels a unique sound in the Hunter discography that's enjoyably sampled here.
After Overnight Angels, with tension in the air, Hunter decamped to Chrysalis Records where he introduced "Cleveland Rocks" and "Ships" (the latter famously covered by Barry Manilow) on You're Never Alone with a Schizophrenic (1979). Mick Ronson returned to the fold while Hunter welcomed Garry Tallent, Roy Bittan, and Max Weinberg of The E Street Band as well as singers Ellen Foley and Rory Dodd from Jim Steinman's orbit. Two more albums - one live and one studio - appeared before he returned to CBS with All of the Good Ones Are Taken in 1983. Mick Ronson only played on one track: "Death 'n' Glory Boys" is one of four songs from the LP heard here. The title track and "Seeing Double" boast the formidable saxophone of The Big Man himself, The E Street Band's Clarence Clemons. The final selection, "Traitor," was co-written with Hunter's bandmates Tommy Mandel (keyboards) and Robbie Alter (guitar).
Though it's missing the prime Chrysalis material right in the middle of the period covered, The CBS Collection is four sides of gutsy, sometimes-political, always-evocative rock from singer-songwriter who's always had a lot to say. Compiler Campbell Devine has provided the liner notes which are printed on one side of the inner sleeves; another is taken with credits while two offer photos of the original album covers and single picture sleeves. The two LPs are housed in a single-pocket jacket. Remastered by Phil Kinrade, this is a classy tribute package to one enduring dude.
Ian Hunter, Once Bitten: The CBS Collection (Demon LP DEMREC1018, 2022) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. / Amazon Canada)
- Once Bitten Twice Shy
- Lounge Lizard
- Who Do You Love
- 3,000 Miles from Here
- The Truth, The Whole Truth, Nuthin' But the Truth
- It Ain't Easy When You Fall/Shades Off
- All American Alien Boy (Single Version)
- You Nearly Did Me In
- Letter to Britannia from the Union Jack
- Irene Wilde
- Apathy 83
- Justice of the Peace
- (Miss) Silver Dime
- Shallow Crystals
- England Rocks
- Wild N' Free
- The Ballad of Little Star
- All of the Good Ones Are Taken
- Death 'n' Glory Boys
- Seeing Double
Side One, Tracks 1-5 and Side Two, Track 1 from Ian Hunter, CBS 80710, 1975
Side Two, Track 2 from CBS single 4268, 1976
Side Two, Tracks 3-5 and Side Three, Track 1 from All American Alien Boy, CBS 81310, 1976
Side Three, Tracks 2-5 and Side Four, Tracks 1-2 from Overnight Angels, CBS 81993, 1977
Side Three, Track 6 from CBS single 5497, 1977
Side Four, Tracks 3-6 from All of the Good Ones Are Taken, CBS 25379, 1983
Leave a Reply