Since the release of Ian Hunter’s last proper album,
Yuiorta (1989), a collaboration with Mick Ronson, life had not been at its
kindest to one of England’s leading songwriters. He had to stand silently as
his right-hand man in the music world, and best friend in the real world, was
eaten away by the dreaded cancer. Mick Ronson worked right up until the illness
claimed his life at the tragic age of 46 in April 1993.
For years Ian Hunter was in the wilderness of music, not
having to work as past royalties allowed him to live a comfortable life, and
writers block settled into the Hunter residence. Fortunately his lethargy was
shaken up by Norwegian superstar Casino Steel, who himself had difficulties
writing songs for his new album. He called his mentor to leave his abode in New
York and travel to the artic of Trondheim, Norway.
When Ian Hunter arrived he found that Casino was not having
trouble writing songs, the fact was, he had no songs at all, but a twelve day
deadline to come up with a complete album. With the help of such friends as
Honest John Plain, Darrell Bath, and ex Sex Pistol Glen Matlock, they did
actually that - produce a good pub rock party album, eventually titled Ian
Hunter’s Dirty Laundry. It was released in Norway in 1995 and slowly released
It did have the effect of waking the sleeping talents of Ian
Hunter. He finally went back into the studio with the same team that recorded
Dirty Laundry. Hunter felt comfortable in Norway’s relaxed air and brought a
few old cohorts for company. These were wonder bassist Pat Kilbride, guitarist
Robbie Alter, and for one track long time friend and Foreigner drummer Dennis
The results give us one of Ian Hunter’s most emotional
albums. On many of the songs Ian turns his pen to matters of the heart, his
parents, parenthood, youth, his love of New York, the afterlife, and derides
the tabloid press and death, but this can be a little painful at times.
The opening song is a ballad, and to be honest, the pace
does not pick up much throughout the album, but the first verse sets the tone.
“Maybe you don’t want me - I’m so scared of losing
I never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.
Watch me screw up this one, too, it’s hard to talk about love.
I’m just leaving now - it’s just
All I ever wanted - was you
Is that to much?”
A touching plea from the heart of Ian Hunter’s love for
his beautiful wife Trudi, but still showing his basic instinct of insecurity.
The title track and ‘Skeletons (In Your Closet)’ are
both throw away Stones acoustic rockers that do give the album some respite.
’23A Swan Hill’ gets its title from the address that Hunter spent his
formative years living with his parents in a small flat above the police
station, where Ian’s father worked. But with three other songs dedicated to
friends departed, and ‘Resurrection Mary’ about a ghost who haunts the
highways of Chicago, there is not much room for any of Ian Hunter’s famous
‘Walk on Water’ is a tribute to Guy Stevens who had
originally taken the fledgling Mott the Hoople (the band Ian Hunter was in from
1969 to 1974) under his wing when they were first signed to Island records. Ian
describes a little flame, tormented soul, lost in rock ‘n’ roll that does
not come out alive.
‘Now is the Time’ is actually inspired by Ian playing
Wembley Stadium at the Freddie Mercury Tribute concert, which was also the last
time Mick Ronson played live before an audience, doing ‘All the Young
Dudes’ with Ian, and ‘Heroes’ with David Bowie. But the masterpiece of
the album is Ian Hunter’s tribute to the platinum haired Spider from Hull,
the guitarist’s guitarist, Mick Ronson, called ‘Michael Picasso’. Ian
Hunter’s emotional voice glides gently over a sparse arrangement of his
acoustic guitar and a simple string quartet. A truly beautiful song for a
beautiful person. A great tribute to his former partner, directly from the
So, a satisfactory return to the fray. However, it took
another five years for Hunter to return to his classic best with ‘Rant’ in
2002. It was also noticeable that Ian had to use four guitarists over the album
to replace his departed friend.