Ian Hunter

Bald at the Station

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Released on the eve of the official Ian Hunter anthology, this stands as the essential companion to that set, cramming in a wealth of cuts which never stood an earthly chance of making the Sony set. Two Mott tracks, after all, had already been consigned to the bunkers of oblivion, and even the best will in the world wouldn't consider things like "Easy Money," "Venus in the Bathtub," and "I'm the Teacher" among Hunter's finest achievements. But collectors want all these little odds and ends, like the "England Rocks" original of the much-loved "Cleveland Rocks," written during the ill-starred Overnight Angels period in the hope of currying favor from a homeland which had suddenly started ignoring him; or "Great Expectations," which is a wonderful call-and-response type rocker with dumb grumbly backing vocals and a guitar which chases its tail round the room. "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," a fairly straightforward rocker penned for arch glam metal hogs Hanoi Rocks, is better than you're probably expecting it to be, and a quad mix of Mott's "Golden Age" is utterly fabulous. But the real revelations are the tracks buried away on B-sides during the '80s and '90s, "Fuck It Up," which takes a classic Wildlife-style ballad song, all lonely tears and broken years, then runs it through the pain of real, rather than imagined, heartbreak; and "My Revolution," which has shared more than a few drinks with "All the Young Dudes," but can still stand on its own two feet at the end of the night. Remarkable. For the most part, a clutch of live tracks that probably only matter if you really must hear another stadium-sized version of "Once Bitten Twice Shy" and so on. But the eight minutes which blend "Dudes," "Stone," and "Ships" together are priceless, not least of all because Mick Ronson is in staggering form, and Hunter has to work his balls off just to keep up with him. The lurch into "Roll Away the Stone" is tremendous and, even though you know it's coming, the segue to "Ships" takes your breath away. The CD ends with one song from a 1982 Don Kirshner performance and finds Hunter diving back to his roots, dirging up Dylan's "Love in Vain" and making it his own. If a better-quality recording exists, let's hope it turns up somewhere soon. In the meantime, it's a marvelous end to a surprisingly useful odds 'n' oddities collection, and proof that we were all severely shortchanged when the Ian Hunter anthology turned out to be a mere two discs. He deserved at least four.

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