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Posts tagged ‘Ian Hunter’

Politics and Lunch … with Ry and Ian

One of the many great albums that Ry Cooder recorded in the 1970s was Paradise and Lunch. That album included inspired covers of jazz, blues, and country standards such as “Mexican Divorce,” “If Walls Could Talk,” and “Ditty Wah Ditty,” along with some pop and R&B tunes such as Bobby Womack’s “It’s All Over Now.”


Since his early, more folk-influenced recordings in the 1970s, Ry Cooder has veered all over the musical map; witness his various soundtrack projects and world music albums such as his recordings with the Buena Vista Social Club in Cuba. But in recent years he has returned to his roots, recording original material, many of the songs focused on politics and social issues. In fact, he has just released a new album of originals that is his boldest political statement yet. It would have been appropriate to call it Politics and Lunch, but instead Ry settled for Election Special. The album includes tracks such as “Guantanamo”, “The Wall Street Part of Town,” and “Mutt Romney Blues” (yes, that’s “Mutt” not “Mitt” in the song title!). Cooder is an unabashed Democrat and proudly affirms his allegience, along with his views on the state of the nation over the course of this lively album.


Naturally, Cooder has alienated any right-wing fans that he might have had with these politically-charged tunes, but I doubt that he’s losing any sleep over it. Instead, he’s doing interviews to both plug the album and wake up the voting public. He’s pulling no punches, urging voters to choose Barack Obama and not to put up with the crooks on Wall Street, or the creepsters behind these nefarious PAC funds. In a recent issue of Mojo magazine, Cooder urged Obama to “give up the idea of bipartisanship and kick ass now.” In the same interview he declared that “the foundations of society are being dismantled before our very eyes, brought about by four years of think-tank fascism funded by the Koch Brothers.” The Koch Brothers, for those out of the US political loop, are described by the magazine as “billionaire industrialists and right wing propagandists.”

No matter how you feel about Ry Cooder’s music, you have to admire him for speaking his mind and using his music to illuminate various social, financial, and political issues. To my ears, Ry Cooder is a throwback to folk singers like Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, musicians with a strong social conscience and equally strong backbone, guys who were not afraid to take a stance on matters of importance to them. I wish there were more artists like that in this me-my-mine age. Too many of them play it down the middle, wary of voicing an opinion for fear of a backlash from fans with opposing views. Some people seem to think that it’s wrong, or a mistake, for musicians to get involved in politics, but I think such a view is balderdash. Musicians should not only feel free to voice their opinions without getting slammed for it, they should be encouraged to do so.


Meanwhile, at the age of 73, Ian Hunter still continues to amaze with his boundless energy and the high quality of the music he is recording. Hot on the heels of the amazing Man Overboard album, he has released another yet strong group of songs, some with a decidedly political slant, on his new album, When I’m President. Ian, being a Brit, won’t be able to vote in the US election (unless, of course, he managed to become a US citizen in between tours and recording sessions), but he still feels strongly about what’s going on in this crazy world, and ain’t afraid to speak up. In the fist-pumping title track to the album, he sings:

I’m gonna lean on the one percent — when I’m president

I want a 28th amendment — when I’m president

No more bargains in the basement — when I’m president

Everything’s gonna be different — when I’m president

Veto this, veto that — when I’m president I’ll stick it to the fat cats


Politics and music have always been awkward bedfellows but each election year, countless artists either play benefit concerts to help the candidate of their choice or publicly declare their support. I’m reminded of another Ian Hunter venture into American politics, when he toured with Todd Rundgren in 1980, raising money forthe campaign of  John B. Anderson, an independent candidate for president that year. I was fortunate to see the Ian Hunter-Todd Rundgren tour when they stopped in Tampa, Florida for two shows at a small club called the Agora. Ronald Reagan, of course, defeated Jimmy Carter in the November election. Anderson finished far behind with less than 7% of the national vote. I didn’t vote for either Reagan or Carter in that election, but I can’t recall voting for Anderson either. Most likely I stuck to my usual stubborn habit of voting for a write-in candidate such as Bill the Cat.


I forget where on the net last week that I saw the retouched photo above, but it’s just so brilliant, that I had to post it! Kudos to whoever actually created it.  Don’t know what it is, my friend, but something odd is blowing in that wind!


Ian Hunter

Ian Hunter, the iconic shades-wearing singer who gained fame as leader of Mott the Hoople in the 1970s, is still going strong — very strong, in fact — at the ripe age of 70. Listening to the songs on his most recent albums, one can only marvel: Ian Hunter still sounds vibrant and full of vigor. I only hope that I will possess this much energy when I get to be that age!


Although he is most famous for being the face behind Mott, many of his finest music moments have come since he went solo in the mid-1970s. His first solo album, Ian Hunter, received rave reviews and contained the hit “Once Bitten Twice Shy.” I vividly remember hearing that song being played on the radio when I visited New York City in the summer of 1975. Talk about vivid memories: whenever I see a photo of the Statue of Liberty, I still associate it with that Ian Hunter song! Hunter has released over a dozen other albums since then, but the ones he has recorded in the past decade have been particularly impressive. And just last year Hunter reunited with several of his old mates from Mott the Hoople for a critically acclaimed concert in London. Clearly, the sunglassed-one has plenty of energy left to burn, making a remarkable career resurgence in his “senior” years.


His most recent album, last year’s Man Overboard, continues his streak of consistently fine recent recordings (also check out Shrunken Heads and Rant). The highlight on this album is the closing number, the anthem-like “River of Tears.” With the piano banging away, Ian singing and strumming an acoustic guitar, and James Mastro (who used to play with Richard Barone) propelling an electric guitar, the song builds to a glorious climax. Lyrically, it’s also quite powerful, with lines such as:

Waiting on an elevator

In a hotel out in California

Smog clouds up the windows

But there is a plaque up on the wall

That tells of the Agoras

People who were here long before us

Before the covered wagons

Before they lost it all

They were hunters

They were fisherman’

And they often fought each other

But one small tribe was different

Their leader was a peaceful man

They were weavers

They were painters

Trading pelts for pretty colors

Protected by the warriors for the beauty in their hands

Roll back the years

Roll back the years

To the river of tears


If you thought Ian Hunter last made a great album with You’re Never Alone with a Schizophrenic (released in 1979 and included the big hit “Cleveland Rocks”), think again. This guy is on another hot streak, and Man Overboard is a fantastic album. Speaking of the Schizophrenic album, there is now a 30th Anniversary version available as a double-disc CD set. The reissue includes some demos and alternate versions of a few songs, plus live recordings from the 1979 tour.


Hunter also recorded one of my favorite live albums of all time, Welcome to the Club. This was recorded in 1980 when guitarist Mick Ronson was in his band. Hunter performs a varied set that includes solo material and some of his popular Mott the Hoople songs (“All the Way from Memphis”, “All the Young Dudes”, and “Walking with a Mountain”). Whether it is heartfelt ballads (“Irene Wilde”), spirited instrumentals (“F.B.I.”), or flat-out rockers (“Just Another Night”) Hunter and his band put on a passionate and powerful performance that still packs a punch. And after hearing his most recent fine albums, I think it’s maybe time for a new live album.

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