Ian Hunter

Welcome to the Club: Live

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One of the key double live albums of the late '70s, at a time when the very idea of such things had been ground into disrepute by so many mass-marketed clinkers, Welcome to the Club: Live captures Ian Hunter and lieutenant Mick Ronson back on the road together for the first time in four years, and firing on more cylinders than most bands could even dream of activating. The backing group behind them is solid if a little full of itself -- live footage shot at the same Cleveland show where this was taped reveals a stageful of face-pulling hairies, strutting their stuff like the greatest superstars on earth -- while the superstars themselves are retiring enough to be almost unnoticeable. Still they captivate, however -- Hunter with his unflappable menace, Ronson with his unquenchable cool, and the three sides of vinyl that capture the music echo that calm, at the same time as serving up a set that can't sit still. Opening with a ferocious guitar duel through the oldie "FBI," and roaring past selections from Hunter's latest You're Never Alone with a Schizophrenic (including a positively tumultuous "Bastard"), the band tracks back through the best of his three previous solo sets, then shakes the Mott the Hoople songbook too. The ballads "Irene Wilde" and "I Wish I Was Your Mother" are outstanding, while a so-slow drift into "All the Young Dudes" restates all that song's power to evoke wired emotion. And there's a closing outstanding "Slaughter on 10th Avenue" that sends the audience home like a funeral cortege. But the magic doesn't end there. The concert over, four "new" songs include one more live cut, the marvelously maudlin "Sons and Daughters" plus three studio tracks that, had they only been held over for Hunter's next album, might have saved us all a lot of heartache. The low-key "Silver Needles" and the pounding "Man O'War" highlight the wild extremes of Hunter's best work, while "We Gotta Get Outta This Place" is a churning duet with Ellen Foley that includes one of the best boy- and girlfriend battles ever committed to wax. The line about staying home to watch the Muhammad Ali/Marlene Dietrich fight will keep you intrigued for weeks. The U.K. CD reissue appends three further live tracks, including a great "One of the Boys," plus a studio-made "live medley" previously available only on a British B-side.

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