Ian Hunter

Strings Attached [Video]

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The DVD of Strings Attached could also be called Ian Hunter Lite, a nice bookend to the singer's Just Another Night: Live at the Astoria, London disc. The orchestration here, recorded in Oslo back in January of 2002, doesn't have (or require) the bombast found on Ian Anderson Plays the Orchestral Jethro Tull, but it is fun to see the always serious Hunter actually indulging in a more spirited, humorous, and playful mode. Of course, "Twisted Steel" is all business, and with more distance in time and space from the 9/11 tragedy, how many outside of Hunter's hardcore fans realize that this artist is effectively articulating the insanity of that day? The R.E.M.-style delivery works well in this setting, as does the rise and fall of the accompaniment in "Boy" and the pure pop of "23A Swan Hill." As with the Just Another Night DVD, there are some delicious soundcheck cuts and valuable interview material. And while Rod Stewart is selling millions of "Songbook" albums like a Columbia House special in the 1960s supermarket racks, one might think it parody for Ian Hunter to follow suit. Remarkably, the Mott the Hoople frontman successfully dips into that arena, providing a pleasant diversion from the mission at hand. Brook Benton, Bobby Darin Nat King Cole, Rosemary Clooney, and Bing Crosby have all sung the Eric Maschwitz/Manning Sherwin classic "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square," and that gem provides a nice segue into Hunter's own "Michael Picasso." Def Leppard's Joe Elliott keeps showing up on Hunter's DVDs, and he provides the intro on a collection of orchestrated folk-rock that touches upon key moments in the songwriter's prolific career. The haunting approach to "Roll Away the Stone" breathes new life into a song that has never received the appreciation it deserves. To see this Oslo audience mouthing the words to "Saturday Gigs" provides another clue to what the U.S.A. missed when the song wasn't pushed in America, and when Mott the Hoople couldn't rejuvenate themselves with the addition of Mick Ronson. The insightful interviews add much and the rendition of "All the Young Dudes" is so campy gay that it could be considered politically incorrect in this era of Brokeback Mountain, when gay without the glitter is definitely the trend. Perhaps because Hunter is merely acting the part (where Gyllenhaal and Ledger might not be -- acting, that is), Strings Attached reminds viewers that the times they are a-changing.

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