In short this is an essential coherent romp though the career of Mott the Hoople, the band who so nearly cracked the big time. Throw in 3 demos and an alternative take and you have 49 reasons why Mott was regarded as such a great band.
Over the last few years Angel Air have released much of the band's live material that was so badly lacking all those years ago This box set perfectly squares the circle and reaffirms Mott The Hoople's reputation as an essential hard hitting rock band.
Painstakingly put together and garnished with 48 pages of
photos and detailed liner notes by Keith Smith who still runs the Mott
Appreciation Society, you don't have to go much further to relive the excitement
in these 4 CD's that capture a brilliant band who once upon a time made rock and
roll so essential.
And if Mott never quite did 'wreck out minds completely and
absolutely' as Andy Dunkley's introduction would have us believe, you can
certainly enjoy a rollercoaster ride (partly chronicled in Ian Hunter's
excellent 'Diary of a Rock & Roll Star'), during which Hunter doesn't mature or
compromise one little bit.
He hits the crowd just as hard in the later years - when armed with his Maltese cross shaped guitar - as when he grumbled from behind his piano. Verden Allen's glorious Hammond makes it debut half way through a cover of Neil Young's 'Ohio' and Mick Ralphs launches the first of many excellent searing solos that pepper the band's early live set.
It's also noticeable that on the intro to 'No Wheels To Ride' there's the first of several references to albums that have yet to be released, a band frustration noted in the liner notes. Mott rock out gloriously on 'Rock & Roll Queen' and this is followed by the magnificent Uriah Heep sounding 'Thunderbuck Ram' on which Verden Allen gloriously fills out the sound on Hammond.
The 1970 September Croydon gig with Free was originally meant to provide the band with a live album and ironically it was a stage invasion by their rabid fans that apparently spoiled the recording. That said the liner notes point to poor recording equipment as the real reason for the failure to capture the band live. Either way the first four tracks find Mott at their early career peak, with 'Keep 'a' Knocking' the only released live track at the time being lifted from the 'Wildlife' album.
Little over a year later the band had glossed over their frustrations and overcome the impetus to break up as their liaison with David Bowie blossomed. Hard to believe that Mott turned down 'Suffragette City' but they did have the sense to cover 'All The Young Dudes'.
Bowie's influence extended to him suggesting a cover of Lou Reed's 'Sweet Jane', which turns out to be only a limited success. For his part Bowie holds the audience in the palm of his hand and gives Mott the perfect intro and the band rock out with the Stonesy 'Jerkin Crocus' and Free influenced 'Sucker' before they hit base with Mick Ralph's' 'Ready For Love'. 'Ready' comes complete with the kind of Bad Company style intro that was to become his forte.
Hunter adds his own take on Dylan with his self penned 'Angeline' and the raucous 'One of the Boys' which is introduced by Ian as 'What we're really all about. By the end of the set Bowie returns to hold court with Hunter on 'All The Young Dudes' and a Stones pastiche.
By CD 3 (1971-73) we find Mott to be a road hardened band with Hunter taking centre stage now the de facto rock & roll star clad in black capes. The band had conjured up some classic rockers like 'Walking With A Mountain' and 'All The Way From Memphis' as well as the epic Ian Hunter ballad 'Angel of Eight Avenue'. The latter was the kind of radio friendly American anthem that helped them break the band to US audiences.
Then there's 'All The Young Dudes' on which Hunter works the crowd on his closing rap. By now Ariel Bender (aka former Spooky Tooth guitarist Luther Grosvenor) had replaced Mick Ralphs and Blue Weaver had replaced Verden Allen on keyboards. In the event Bender added a kick ass rock & roll style full of bluster as evidenced on 'Angeline' and Disc 4's 'The Golden Age of Rock & Roll' on which he adds buzz guitar. The band even gave Bender his own showcase on 'Here Comes The Queen', a country mix with perfunctory buzz guitar solo. Perhaps Mott were still smarting at the reasons for Mick Ralph's departure, namely the lack of an outlet for his own material.
There's a welcome version of both 'Roll Away The Stone' and 'Crash Street Kids' (though not their best) and the mid-set 'Marionette' strains Hunter's voice to the limit while Blue Weaver almost surreptitiously brings back a touch of Verden Allen's big sounding Hammond into the arrangement.
The set wraps with 'Memphis' - on which Hunter snarlingly enquires 'Are we still working, there's a horrible hum, what's that supposed to be'?. The finale comes with a curtailed 'Dudes' on which Hunter's short rap includes 'if your feeling like me your feeling pretty rough'. A suitably ragged ending to a great project chronicling a great rock & roll band!
Review by Pete Feenstra
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