Sunday, March 05, 2006

Now Playing: Mott The Hoople, Remastered

All The Young Dudes
Sony finally released some much-needed domestic remasters of Mott The Hoople's breakthrough albums, 1972's All The Young Dudes and 1973's Mott. The history of this legendary if underappreciated band, one of the great also-rans of the early 70s, is well-documented elsewhere. (Note: calling them "one of the great also-rans"? Yep, stole that from, god love 'em.) In brief, though, after four decent albums merging Dylan-cribbing folkie wordplay and post-Zeppelin, pre-punk hard rock, Mott finally broke open in '72 when David Bowie handed them the sure-fire hit "All The Young Dudes" to record, and helped them produce an album of the same name. The album was their strongest to date (though 1971's lesser-known Brain Capers wasn't bad). The title track is, of course, amazing, and holds up as an essential classic to this day; lesser tracks like "One Of The Boys" and the riff-rockin' "Jerkin' Crocus" are stand-outs as well, as is a punchy if unadventurous cover of the Velvets' "Sweet Jane." The album has a strike against it in the lone contribution from guitarist Mick Ralphs, "Ready For Love" -- the song Ralphs took with him when he quit Mott to join Bad Company. And while the Bad Company remake is better known, the original Mott version is every bit as atrocious. But that classic rock monstrosity aside, Dudes is a decent album. The remastering is pretty good (though there are some sonic limitations in the original master tapes); you also get a bunch of demos and live tracks as bonuses, the real keeper being the original Bowie-sung demo of the title track, which alone makes the disc worth grabbing.

The follow-up, '73's Mott, was undeniably the band's best album, and is a veritable greatest hits album from start to finish. Lead-off track "All The Way From Memphis," with an unforgettable piano line and wonderful sax work from Roxy Music's Andy McKay, is one of the most outstanding songs about the rock & roll life ever, and probably every bit as essential a classic rock masterpiece as "Dudes," maybe even more so for the stick-in-your-head chorus of "It's a mightly long way down rock & roll." "Honaloochie Boogie" and "Drivin' Sister" are also fine examples of glammish-rock, and the two sweeping life-on-the-road epics "Hymn For The Dudes" and "Ballad Of Mott The Hoople" are fine as well. (And, once again, there's another crappy Mick Ralphs track; after this album, he bailed for Bad Company, and the Ian Hunter-helmed Mott soldiered on for one more fine album, 1974's The Hoople -- not yet available as a domestic remaster. After that, Hunter went solo, and the remains of the band nonetheless issued a couple more albums, which may be some of the worst albums ever recorded.)

Of course, while both Dudes and Mott are fine listens, particularly the latter, the fact remains that even their best albums had plenty of weaker moments, and one could do just as well, if not better, by picking up the excellent 2-cd compilation The Ballad Of Mott: A Retrospective, which has pretty much all the Mott you could ever want (though it's a bit thin on the pre-Dudes albums -- for a decent overview of the first four albums, try to track down the now-out-of-print Backsliding Fearlessly).


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