Sony/Columbia 496284 2.
Running time: 78m 58s
Running time: 79m 56s
This 2-CD set has been a long time coming. Once Sony released a 3-CD Mott The Hoople Anthology, it was inevitable they would issue a similar "box set" covering Ian Hunter's solo career. Comparisons with that set are therefore inevitable, although somewhat unfair.
This set attempts to include all the rarities: single A-sides, B-sides, movie soundtracks, a few outttakes and demos as well as the great/classic album tracks. Lovingly put together by Campbell Devine, Ian's input was, I'm told, minimal: recording vocals on two or three otherwise unfinished tracks, a handful of demos, and a request the set be split into "Rockers" and "Ballads".
Colwater High is an early highlight on the Rockers disc. An outtake from Ian's first album, it is very keyboard-oriented since Mick Ronson never laid down a guitar part for it. As such, it would not be out of place on the Hoople album. Common Disease is an outttake from the Alien Boy sessions, and is more up-tempto than other tracks on the album. Otherwise, it is a worthy song and I'm surprised it has taken so long to see the light of day.
Traitor (b-side to the Good Ones single) has never worked for me. It starts strongly, with powerful keyboard playing from Tommy Mandel, then it suddenly changes tempo and just sort of plods along. Three of the four movie soundtracks Ian recorded in the 80's are here (Wake Up Call being the one missing), the highlight for me being Great Expectations which has a good riff and a great chorus. I'd love to see Ian do this live some time.
Ain't No Way To Treat A Lady is an outtake from the Artful Dodger sessions, and takes a couple of listens to appreciate. I'd have put it on the "Ballads" disc, but then what do I know? The "Rockers" disc finishes with a live version of ATYD by Def Leppard (with Ian as special guest, of course).
The "Ballads" disc continues in a similar vein, mixing rare singles with alternate versions and previously-unreleased material. Shades Off is a spoken version of the track on Ian's first album, while Advice To A Friend is an alternate take of God (Take One) from the Alien Boy sessions. Don't ask me to chose which one is the better version, as both work for me.
Bluebirds is the highlight of this disc - an outtake from the Good Ones sessions, it is a power ballad - starts quietly but keeps building. Stylewise it is close to something Meat Loaf would do (when Jim Steinman is producing).
Both Sunshine Eyes and All Is Forgiven are demos, recorded in Ian's home studio and as such are true solo recordings. They are certainly interesting, and demonstrate the breadth of styles Ian is capable of. But demo quality is all they are, and Ian didn't see fit to record them on any of his albums.
The set comes complete with 32-page booklet featuring a short biography, track-by-track notes from Ian, and many rare and previously-unpublished photos.
As a compilation of Ian Hunter solo material, this is certainly the best so far, covering as it does both CBS and Chrysalis material. However, my main complaint concerns the balance of material presented. We get no fewer than six tracks from Schizophrenic, but only one from YUI Orta (heck, there are two tracks from Overnight Angels, Ian's least favourite album), and nothing at all from Dirty Laundry or Artful Dodger.
Ian says (in the sleeve notes) that this compilation will go a long way to answering the question "what have you done since 1975?". This compilation answers the question concerning Ian's 1970's and 1980's work, but the question of Ian's output in the 1990's remains unanswered here.