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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Mark’s Pick of the Week: The Hoople by Mott the Hoople

            I grew up listening to this album.  When you grow up listening to an album chances are you don’t know too much about it.  It exists in a vacuum and it’s history and context.  Throughout my whole life no one really knew this album.  People knew Mott the Hoople and albums like All the Young Dudes and Mott, but not the follow-up.  I am pretty familiar with post-1972 Hoople, and I always prefer this album to the previous two, so why was this one kind of brushed under the rug?
            The year was 1971, and after not getting anywhere few a few years Mott the Hoople decided to call it quits.  A Pre-Ziggy Stardust David Bowie, who was a big fan of the band, heard they were planning on breaking up and decided to give them a single from his then unreleased album “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” called"Suffragette City."  Well…they turned down that single, and according to David Buckley’s 2005 biography “Strange Fascination – David Bowie: The Definitive Story” he wrote them another one on the spot.  Luckily they took the single, and “All the Young Dudes” is still considered on of the greatest rock songs of all time.  David Bowie also agreed to produce the album because apparently that’s what it took to keep these guys working together.

            Anyway, the newly invigorated Hoople went on to tour and record…for less then 2 years.  They released Mott in ’73 then Mick Ralphs left the band leaving Ian Hunter as the only songwriter in the assemble.  With the splintered line-up, and a waning public interest people kind of figured Mott were on their way out.  Ultimately they were right. Hunter left in ’74, and the band changed their name to Mott (or so I’m told) and made music (or so I’m told.)
            Hunter wrote almost every track on this album (other then “Born Late ‘58” by bassist Overend Watts) and even if that gives it a polarity it manages to be one of their strongest endeavors.  Hunter sticks to his territory of textbook rockabilly, soulful ballads, and pub piano ditties with fantastic results.  Songs like the opening track, "The Golden Age of Rock 'n' Roll" are so hard to find these days, and even harder to find examples this good.

            I always think of Hunter a keyboard player.  Most of my favorite songs by him have a strong piano presence that without it there is something seriously lacking.  No where is this more prevalent then in my favorite track on this album, or any Hunter song for that matter “Alice.”  Every phrase, every note is so perfectly placed that I truly believe that it could only have all fallen that way by accident.  The character that you hear through the strings of the piano gets me each time.
            At only 10 tracks this certainly isn’t a grandiose final show for these guys, but instead it is one of the strongest showings from a band that you may not have heard, but really should. 

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