Short Back 'N' Sides

Ian Hunter

Chrysalis, 1981

REVIEW BY: David Bowling


I am not an aficionado of Mott The Hoople, but I find myself strangely attracted to the solo work of the group’s lead singer, Ian Hunter.

Hunter’s career with Mott The Hoople only spanned five years (1969-1974), but the group’s influence was felt long after its dissolution. Their musical bravado and live reputation went far beyond their popularity. While never a huge commercial success in the United States, Mott were a memorable group nonetheless. (As an aside, the original five members of the group will be reuniting in late 2009 for a series of concerts.)

Short Back ‘N’ Sides was Hunter’s sixth solo release. I have his first seven albums in my collection, and no two are quite the same. He has issued straight rock to highly experimental to everything in between. What I enjoy most about this album is that the tracks vary, and in many ways, it serves as a sampler of his solo career. This may make for somewhat inconsistent listening, but it is still always interesting.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The original LP – coproduced by Mick Jones of the Clash and former David Bowie guitarist Mick Ronson -- came with five tracks per side. If I could have removed the final track from side one and replaced it with the first track on side two, it would have been close to a perfect listening experience.

The album kicks off with “Central Park ‘N’ West,” which features Ronson’s guitar work and almost Springsteen-like phrasing on the vocals from Hunter. It is an exuberant rock ‘n’ roll song with a classic chorus.  “Lisa Likes To Rock ‘N’ Roll,” with its tin can-type percussion, comes the closest to a Mott sound. The staccato phrasing gives it an almost B-52’s flavor as well. “I Need Your Love,” featuring a brass introduction, quickly morphs into a steady groove and includes a brilliant sax solo. “Old Records Never Die” has tremendous clarity on the individual guitar notes. Old records really do never die, even if people and love does. The only cropper on the first side is the experimental “Noises.” It is a track that is just out of place and the cataclysm of sounds grates on the listener.

Side two leads off with the gentle and autobiographical “Rain,” and as previously mentioned, this would have been a nice finisher to side one. “Leave Me Alone” is just a little too smooth for my taste, while “Theatre Of The Absurd” struggles to rise above average. On the other hand,“Gun Control” is humorous, edgy and intelligent, while “Keep On Burning” features a great vocal with Hunter straining to reach some of the notes.

Short Back ‘N’ Sides is in some ways the quintessential Ian Hunter album as it finds him exploring a number of musical directions. There may be a few misses, but overall it is one of the most successful solo releases of his career.

Rating: B+

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