Thursday, September 17, 2009

Ian Hunter -- Man Overboard

Ian Hunter -- Man Overboard (New West): Hunter’s Dylanesque warble has aged quite gracefully (more gracefully than Zimmy’s voice has) and he still has stories to tell and wisdom to impart. So it’s no wonder that he continues to make worthwhile records. This isn’t a classic, but it’s full of enjoyable songs infused with Hunter’s wit and wisdom. The album starts off strong, with two really good mid-tempo rockers near the front. “The Great Escape” offers advice similar to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Gimme Three Steps”: that it’s important to flee “especially if the other guy is bigger than you.” This is a spirited band performance in the tradition of The Faces (as opposed to Mott The Hoople), with James (ex-Bongos) Mastro’s mandolin part really standing out. Meanwhile, “Up and Running” is in the tradition of Hunter rockers like “Just Another Night”, with a nifty piano line hook in the verses and a driving chorus that shows Hunter is still full of piss and vinegar. There are a few killer ballads, a Hunter specialty for over three decades. The best is the title track, a heartbreaking tale of an alcoholic who can’t kick his habit. The song has a brooding yet defiant vibe and Hunter’s voice is a mix of desperation and resignation tinged with the defiance of a survivor who believes that “they ain’t found a cure yet for me.” The light hearted “Girl From the Office” is a swell contrast, with Hunter lamenting that his dalliance with the hottest gal in his workplace makes him the target of everyone’s salacious questions -- “What’s she like...what’s she like in bed?” While not all of the tracks are uniformly strong, Hunter and his band tear into everything, and there are no clunkers here. I hope the Mott reunion doesn’t prevent Hunter from mounting a tour supporting this album in 2010, as this material will shine in a live setting.

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