Ian Hunter – Overnight Angels (1977)

ianhunter_overnightangels4 out of 5 Stars!

Although often maligned for reasons I don’t quite comprehend, Ian Hunter’s third solo release is probably one of my favorites from the ex-Mott The Hoople frontman. Indeed, I find this album one of his most “Hooplesque” when it comes to the songwriting and the song arrangements. Additionally, the sound of the instruments are pure Mott, with the tinkling pianos and the stinging guitars.

The tracks here are a fine mixture of rather bombastic Glam Rock (the opening “Golden Opportunities”—in many ways similar in sound and style to Mott The Hoople’s “Marionette”—along with the more experimental title track, the rollicking “Wild ‘n’ Free” and the silly, tongue-in-cheek “Justice of the Peace”) and piano-driven ballads, of which Ian often excels (“Shallow Crystals,” “Miss Silver Dime,” “The Ballad of Little Star,” and “Broadway,” which rivals my favorite Mott The Hoople ballad, “Rose”). Only the album’s closing track, “To Love a Woman,” stands out among the rest due to its more contemporary style, and therefore, seems quite out of place with the rest of the album’s overall “Mottness.”

Generally speaking, much of this collection brings to mind memories of The Hoople album. And the musicians hired for this release, especially guitarist Earl Slick, also have such a “Mott-feel” when it comes to their performances that it’s a wonder why Slick wasn’t hired in Mott The Hoople instead of Mick Ronson to replace the departing Ariel Bender after The Hoople album. Anyway, it’s a shame Hunter didn’t keep this group of musicians together for at least another album or two.

The only true negative aspect of this album for me is the “over production” from Roy Thomas Baker, but I can easily overlook that flaw since the songs are all quite enjoyable and, through Ian Hunter, the undying spirit of Mott The Hoople once again reared its glorious head.

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Deep Purple – Made in Japan (1972)

deeppurple_madejapan5 out of 5 Stars!

In my eyes, this is probably the finest live albums of all freaking time, in any rock genre, and even today the album holds enormous and undeniable power.

Ian Gillan’s vocal performances are absolutely searing and jaw-dropping (just listen to his ear-piercing screams on “Child in Time,” or the way he vocally counter-punches Ritchie Blackmore’s ad-libbed riffs on “Strange Kind of Woman”), so it’s no wonder why the man was perhaps the biggest influence on my own musical career.

Plus, the other guys in the band ain’t too shabby either…indeed, geniuses, each and every single one of them, no doubt. “Highway Star” is especially driving, thanks to Ian Paice’s frantic drumming and Roger Glover’s thumping bass, and blows the studio version of this classic track out of the water, while the song “Lazy” is anything but, especially when it comes to Jon Lord’s crazy, free-form intro and Blackmore’s bluesy guitar noodling. And the side-long “Space Truckin’, with its wild and extended jamming, shows exactly what these stellar musicians could do when given the freedom to improvise on stage with no time limits. Simply amazing.

Anyone who claims to be a true fan of Hard Rock from the ’70s certainly has this album in their musical collection, and if they don’t, then FOR FREAKING SHAME. Without question, this album is a perfect 5 Stars…sheer brilliance and unrivaled excellence!!!

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Ratt – Ratt (1983)

ratt_14 out of 5 Stars!

When this EP appeared in stores back in ’83, I immediately purchased it based on the cover alone. Although I had also read a few blurbs about the band in Kerrang! and Metal Hammer magazine, I wasn’t expecting to hear a seemingly updated version of Aerosmith, only with a dark and dense, riff-heavy sound and a promising lead guitarist by the name of Warren De Martini. I instantly sensed the band (given the right promotion and solid financial backing) would likely make a big splash on the scene, and I was right.

I must admit, however, that this six-song EP remains my favorite release by the band—I loved the raw, dastardly sound of the instruments and the raucous vibe, as opposed to the slick and sanitized production of Ratt’s full-length albums that followed. Nowhere else in Ratt’s future catalogue of releases did the band have the same thunderous power as displayed on opener “Sweet Cheater,” with Bobby Blotzer’s drums barreling out of the speakers like cannon fire and Warren De Martini’s guitar solo shrieking out of the heavens like a six-string blitzkrieg. That earthshaking power continues through the tracks “You Think You’re Tough,” “Tell The World,” “U Got It,” and “Back For More” (a song the band would later rerecord—and water down, unfortunately—for its upcoming full-length debut album Out of the Cellar). But the track that remains my favorite on this EP is Ratt’s cover version of the Rufus Thomas classic “Walkin’ The Dog,” yes, the very same song Aerosmith covered on its own debut album. Truth be told, however, Ratt’s version is heavier—much, MUCH heavier, actually—and blows Aerosmith’s version to smithereens.

So for me, this EP is a true classic in the Glam genre and I wish Ratt had stayed on this “down and dirty path” instead of veering off onto the road to “slick land.”

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