Ian Hunter

Once Bitten Twice Shy

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Is this two-CD compilation a career retrospective (covering the years 1975-1996) or a rarities collection? Does it aim to present the best of Ian Hunter, or a selection of representative work from various phases of his solo career, or a combination of crowd-pleasing favorites and things that he or Columbia thinks should be heard? The answers are not clear from Once Bitten Twice Shy, which combines tracks from his solo albums with a dozen previously unreleased cuts and various hard to find items from singles and soundtracks. It has that feeling of a project that's designed to please everyone and ends up satisfying almost no one. While fans will relish some of the unreleased material, particularly a few outtakes and alternates from Ian Hunter, those otherwise unavailable songs are not that great, and it will not amuse many that two of the Ian Hunter outtakes have vocals recorded in 1999. Also, some of the rarities should have remained rare, such as an irrelevant live 1996 version of "All the Young Dudes" with Def Leppard. But the biggest problem with the material, outweighing collector concerns, is that the quality goes steadily downhill the later the years get, particularly from the early '80s onward. The decision to split the package into one "rockers" disc and one "ballads" disc isn't so astute, either. The "ballads" disc is the much inferior component, the production and songwriting venturing into crummy adult contemporary music on the tracks from the 1980s. One does wish it was otherwise, but really there's not much reason to hear Hunter's post-'70s solo work, and it's post-'70s material that comprises about half of this anthology.

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