YUI Orta

Ian Hunter / Mick Ronson

Polygram, 1989


REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


After delivering four albums in eight years, the off-and-on musical partnership between former Mott The Hoople frontman Ian Hunter and former David Bowie guitarist Mick Ronson went dormant for six years after Hunter’s rather tepid and mostly Ronson-less 1983 outing All Of The Good Ones Are Taken.  In the interim, Hunter contributed individual songs to a few soundtracks and Ronson busied himself with session work.

The next time they joined forces, it would be as full partners -- this album was the one time they were formally billed as Ian Hunter / Mick Ronson -- and the set they produced was a strong one, despite the often-misunderstood title.  Inconceivable as it is to someone with my youthful TV viewing habits, it seems this variation on The Three Stooges’ favorite exclamation (“Why you, I oughta…!”) didn’t necessarily translate to a wide audience.

“American Music” was a reassuringly familiar opener, another in a to-this-day-continuing series of Hunter love letters to the American rock and roll and Motown music that shaped his formative years.  Ronson turns it up a notch for “The Loner,” a stomping, muscular declaration of independence that has more than a little Mott to it.  “Women’s Intuition,” one of three Hunter/Ronson co-writes here, keeps the rock and roll fever going.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

“Livin’ In A Heart” is a trademark Hunter ballad, full of a hard-won wisdom that’s backed up with some of Ronson’s sweetest, gentlest blues licks.  The lyric also gives a clue to where Hunter’s focus had been for the past six years, i.e. the home front -- “How could I turn away love, how could I turn into stone / How could I turn my back on you / I wanted to be a success, but success never leaves you alone.”

“Big Time” is simply one of the Hunter/Ronson partnership’s most joyous offspring, a rollicking number that introduces Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis to Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds and features a classic Hunter “underdog beats the odds” chorus: “You’re never too small to hit the big time.”  On its heels comes the funked-up aggro-soul of “Cool,” another stellar track delivered with all the panache its title demands, and the driving “Beg A Little Love,” complete with both a Motown background chorus and smoldering hot Ronson riffage egging Hunter on.  This one-two-three gut-punch is the heart and soul of YUI Orta.

Things tail off slightly toward the end with a series of pleasant-enough tracks that lack the ferocity of the middle section, with the exception of the closing vocal number “How Much More Can I Take,” which builds up a nice head of steam leading to Ronson’s bluesy, rather elegaic instrumental finale “Sweet Dreamer,” featuring Hunter on piano.  (The CD reissue from Lemon Recordings adds two Ronson solo cuts as bonus tracks, which are interesting historical artifacts, even if they don’t really have much to do with this album.)

The one unfortunate weak element of this album is the production.  With Chic co-founder Bernard Edwards manning the board, every instrument gets buffed to a radio-friendly ’80s sheen here -- even Hunter’s vulnerably rough-edged voice sounds bigger and smoother than before or since.  (No surprise considering that Edwards’ most famous ’80s client was Robert Palmer.)  That slickness inevitably subtracts from the overall experience, but in the end there’s no denying the power of these songs and Ronson and Hunter’s commitment to them. 

This one surely ranks high in both men’s catalogues -- which makes the reality that it was also their last together that much sadder.  After 1991 surgery and a brief remission, Ronson would die of cancer in April 1993.  It would take the rest of the decade for Hunter to rebound fully from that loss.

Rating: B+

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© 2009 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Polygram, and is used for informational purposes only.