Monday, September 10, 2012

Ian Hunter Ruminates Being President

It’s always rare to see a rocker who can age gracefully and still make relevant music. But Ian Hunter is no ordinary rocker. He was the driving force behind legendary glam pioneers Mott the Hoople and has been an influential and much-loved solo artist who has worked with the likes of David Bowie and Mick Ronson.

He's a smart and intelligent songwriter who penned gems such as Once Bitten, Twice Shy and Cleveland Rocks. You might know the bands that covered those songs: Great White and Presidents of the United States.

Ian Hunter still brings an edge to music. Never mind that he is 73.

He might be 73, but the remarkably fit and youthful looking Hunter proves he hasn’t lost his chops. His twentieth album, When I’m President, features Hunter along with his ace backing group, the Rant Band.

The album features 11 original rocking songs laced with Hunter’s wry, intelligent introspection. Just don’t let the album’s title fool you. When I’m President isn’t a political statement. (His previous outings like such as Shrunken Heads and Man Overboard were another story.) Instead, Hunter has found a way to convey his disillusionment and disdain without name dropping. 

"The songs seem to be more upbeat this time round," Hunter said. "The last two albums were pretty political, just because I thought the Bush years were horrible, and thankfully that’s passed. But I don’t go looking for songs; I have to wait for them to come to me."

In the summer of 2011, he says he had a spurt of song ideas that grew into an album. He would literally get up every day with something ringing in his head and then set out to write it down.

"Songwriting's always been a mystery to me in that way," he said. "Now and again you’re nearer the sun, and you have to be ready to capture it."

The album is perfectly timed to curb Hunter’s perpetual restlessness and decision to return to touring. This clever batch of 11 new songs also gives Hunter a chance to engage in some sly double ententres.

The album ranges from tender numbers like Fatally Flawed to the high-flying honky tonk melodies of Comfortable and the emotional and possibly autobiographical Black Tears. The infectious acoustic guitars of Saint are also worth a listen. So is the ethereal Ta Shunka Witco (Crazy Horse), which is told from Crazy Horse’s perspective.

What For is a straight-up rocker that showcases Hunter’s wonderful raspy voice. Wild Bunch, inspired by the movie of the same name, hints at Hunter’s fascination with American history. It represents his strongest swaggering bar band feel on the album. He finds good fun in getting down and dirty.

Helping Hunter to pull it all off is the unquestionably seasoned and first-rate Rant Band, which includes guitarist Andy York (John Mellencamp); drummer/percussionist Steve Holley (Wings, Joe Cocker); bassist Paul Page (Dion); guitarist Jack Petruzelli (Joan Osbourne); guitarist James Mastro (Patti Smith); and keyboardist Andy Burton. They play and perform like true band members and not like backers.

They also assisted when the album's basic tracks were recorded in Pawling, New York. It was co-produced by Hunter and York. In all, they were in and out of the studio in about two weeks.

When I'm President by Ian Hunter & The Rants Rolls In 8.5 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

Hunter sounds just as good today as he did in the 1970s and his lyrics are as smart as ever. It’s nice to see a legendary performer doing much more than a nostalgia-type tour. He'll never need to as long as he is having a good time.

You can find When I'm President by Ian Hunter & the Rant Band on Amazon. You can also order the CD from Barnes & Noble or download the album from iTunes. Hunter & The Rant Band are touring in the United States through September and then are heading for a heavy schedule in Sweden, Norway and the UK.

For tour dates, visit Hunter's website. The cheeky singer also has a section on the site called Horse’s Mouth. Fans can ask questions and often get answers from the man himself. Pretty cool.
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