Mott The Hoople -- named after an obscure Willard Manus novel -- are best remembered for a 1972 hit single that was written and produced by David Bowie. But there was more to Mott than "All The Young Dudes". Many pundits consider Mott to be the musical bridge between the '60's and the punk era. That statement does make sense; Mott claimed myriad '60's artists as influences (their self-titled 1969 debut album paid homage to everyone from the Kinks to Sonny Bono), and, in turn, several late '70's punk bands (including the Clash and the Sex Pistols) claimed Mott as an influence. Lead singer Ian Hunter wanted to be like Bob Dylan, while guitarist Mick Ralphs and bassist Overend Watts wanted to play straight-ahead rock and roll. Their creative contrasts and conflicts kept Mott's music interesting, if not always consistent in quality.
Mad Shadows, the second Mott The Hoople album, was recorded a few years before Mott's prime, when they were still experimenting with different sounds and styles. It was a generally unsuccessful stab at progressive art rock. Five of the seven songs were written by Hunter, who was apparently trying to come off as a serious Dylanesque singer-songwriter. But he didn't have the emotional depth to pull it off; songs like "I Can Feel" and "When My Mind's Gone" miss the mark badly. Still, Mad Shadows does have its moments: "Walkin' With A Mountain" is a quintessential Mott song, and Ralphs' two tracks ("Thunderbuck Ram" and "Threads Of Iron") are likably unpretentious rockers with a Led Zeppelin feel.
1. Thunderbuck Ram
2. No Wheels To Ride
3. You Are One Of Us
4. Walkin' With a Mountain
5. I Can Feel
6. Threads Of Iron
7. When My Mind's Gone
Brain Capers was the band’s fourth album. After three albums of experimentation, Mott finally found themselves on this one, as Hunter’s and Ralphs’ sensibilities finally gelled into a distinctive sound. Hunter perfected his hard-rockin’-Dylan persona on “Sweet Angeline” and “Second Love”, while Ralphs honed his own hard-rock chops on “Darkness, Darkness”. The songs “Death May Be Your Santa Claus” and “Moon Upstairs” showed Mott’s defiant rock and roll attitude and newly-convincing edge; the compelling nine-minute epic “The Journey” fully demonstrated what the band was capable of. At the time of its release, Brain Capers was expected to be the band’s swan song; instead, it was their creative turning point.
1. Death May Be Your Santa Claus
2. Your Own Backyard
3. Darkness, Darkness
5. Sweet Angeline
6. Second Love
7. Moon Upstairs
8. Wheel of the Quivering Meat Conception
Although a number of Mott the Hoople live albums have been issued in this millennium, only one live album was released during the band's existence in the '70's. The 1974 release Live consisted of eight tracks in all: the first side consisted of five tracks recorded at the Uris Theatre on Broadway in May 1974, and the second side contained three tracks recorded at London's Hammersmith Odeon in December of 1973. Both of those shows took place after the departure of Mick Ralphs and Verden Allen. Ralphs was replaced by the pseudonymous Ariel Bender, who was actually Luther Grosvenor from Spooky Tooth. Allen was replaced by pianist Morgan Fisher, who stuck around during Mott's post-Hunter years. In 2004, a 2-CD 30th Anniversary Edition of Live was released in the U.K., containing many more tracks from both concerts. That edition was released in the U.S. in August 2009 as Live - Expanded Deluxe Edition.
In its original single-LP form, Live certainly has some good moments, but they add up to surprisingly little as a whole. The album ultimately fails to illuminate Mott's reputation as one of the great live bands of the early-'70's. And you would think it would succeed, considering that it is culled from two historic concert dates: the Broadway show marked the first time any rock act performed on Broadway, and the Hammersmith date lives in infamy because it ended with a riot. None of that significance is evident on the LP (and neither is the riot). The album was produced by drummer Dale "Buffin" Griffin, who was faced with severely limited choices as to which cuts could be included on the LP. The resulting track list featured as many obscure B-sides ("Rose", "Rest In Peace") as hits ("All The Young Dudes" and "All The Way From Memphis", the latter of which suffers from excessive guitar noise). "Dudes" is rousing enough, but the only track here that really tells the tale is the finale, an entertainingly incoherent 16-minute medley which mixes Mott songs with classic covers. Now that's rock and roll!
The 30th Anniversary Edition of Live -- also known as the Expanded Deluxe Edition -- sought to remedy the shortcomings, and succeeded in ways that weren't possible 30 years earlier. This 2-CD edition contains over 120 minutes of performances from the two concerts. It broadens the scope and illustrates the ambition, irreverence, and ebullience of Hunter and the Hoople. The Broadway disc contains a strong performance of "Marionette", which was left off the original album despite the visibility of related stage props in the cover art. The Hammersmith disc joyfully culminates in Bender's blistering guitar finale to "Walking With A Mountain" -- although we still don't hear the infamous riot that followed it.
Original 1974 track listing:
1. All the Way from Memphis
3. Rest in Peace
4. All the Young Dudes
5. Walkin' With a Mountain
6. Sweet Angeline
8. Jerkin' Crocus / One of the Boys / Rock 'n' Roll Queen / Get Back / Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On / Violence
30TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION (Columbia 88697442852) 2004
CD 1 - Broadway
1. Intro - Jupiter from "The Planets"
2. American Pie / The Golden Age
3. Sucker *
4. Roll Away The Stone / Sweet Jane
5. Rest In Peace *
6. All The Way From Memphis *
7. Born Late '58
8. One Of The Boys
9. Hymn For The Dudes
11. Drivin' Sister / Crash Street Kidds / Violence
12. All The Young Dudes *
13. Walking With A Mountain *
CD 2 - Hammersmith
1. Intro - Jupiter from "The Planets"
2. Drivin' Sister
4. Sweet Jane
5. Sweet Angeline *
6. Rose *
7. Roll Away The Stone
8. All The Young Dudes
9. Jerkin' Crocus / One of the Boys / Rock 'n' Roll Queen / Get Back / Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On / Violence *
10. Walking With A Mountain
* -- Remastered from original album masters
In 1974, Mott The Hoople appeared to be on its last legs. By this time, Ralphs had left the band and had gone on to greater commercial success with Bad Company. After the release of their 1974 album The Hoople, Hunter left the band for a solo career. After that bitter departure, only two original members remained in the band: Bassist Overend Watts and drummer Dale "Buffin" Griffin. Along with keyboardist Morgan Fisher (who had joined before The Hoople), the band added two new members: vocalist Nigel Benjamin and guitarist Ray Major. This reconstituted quintet shortened their name to Mott, and recorded two much-maligned albums.
The first of these, 1975's Drive On, showed the once-great Mott reduced to a standard '70's heavy metal outfit. New vocalist Benjamin sounded more like Robert Plant than like Ian Hunter; the only time Mott tries to sound like the Hoople on this record is during "It Takes One To Know One", written by Griffin. The music on Drive On is best described as immature. It may have been tempting to blame this on the newer members, but Watts wrote nearly every song on the album, so he bears most of the blame for the crudity of "She Does It" and "Love Now", and the sappiness of "I'll Tell You Something" and "Here We Are". Although slightly better than its reputation suggests, Drive On was a giant leap backward for this band.
On Shouting And Pointing, Mott still sounded trivial, but they were at least getting better at what they were doing. On most tracks, the band sounds similar to '70's glam-rockers like the Sweet. (Mott The Hoople are often placed in that category as well). They couldn't go wrong with a cover of the Easybeats' "Good Times". The riff from "Hold On, You're Crazy" is borrowed from Deep Purple's "Smoke On The Water". Shouting and Pointing isn't the grand finale that Mott's career deserved, but is at least a moderately enjoyable record. (Note: Drive On and Shouting And Pointing have both been reissued by the Wounded Bird label).
Mott were well-received on their October 1976 tour of the U.K., but Benjamin quit the band just when things were looking up.
1. By Tonight
2. Monte Carlo
3. She Does It
4. I'll Tell You Something
5. Stiff Upper Lip
6. Love Now
8. The Great White Wail
9. Here We Are
10. It Takes One To Know One
11. I Can Show You How It Is
SHOUTING AND POINTING
1. Shouting And Pointing
2. Collision Course
4. Career (No Such Thing As Rock 'N' Roll)
5. Hold On, You're Crazy
6. See You Again
7. Too Short Arms (I Don't Care)
8. Broadside Outcasts
9. Good Times
After Benjamin's departure, the four remaining members of Mott weren't quite ready to throw in the towel just yet. But they did decide to finally retire the Mott name for good. The band replaced Benjamin with vocalist John Fiddler, who had formerly been half of the British blues duo Medicine Head. The name of the band was changed to the British Lions, and their self-titled album was released in 1978.
Fiddler's vocal style was more subtle and low-key than Hunter's or Benjamin's. Surprisingly, he did most of the writing for the British Lions record. Unfortunately, the songs that Fiddler wrote himself aren't very interesting; the album's high points are the songs that Fiddler co-wrote with other members of the band. The bouncy "Booster" recalls Mott's glory days; in fact, it's the only really Mott-like song on the record. The edgy "My Life In Your Hands" acknowledged the then-burgeoning New Wave scene that Mott helped to inspire. Otherwise, British Lions sounds like an innocuous mainstream rock album from its period, easy to listen to and easy to forget.
1. One More Chance To Run -- (John Fiddler)
2. Wild In The Streets -- (Garland Jeffries)
3. Break This Fool -- (John Fiddler, Overend Watts)
4. International Heroes -- (Kim Fowley, Kerry Scott)
5. Fork Talking Man -- (Fiddler)
6. My Life In Your Hands -- (John Fiddler, Morgan Fisher, Overend Watts)
7. Big Drift Away -- (Fiddler)
8. Booster -- (Fiddler, Watts)
9. Eat The Rich --(Fiddler)
Two Miles From Heaven, originally released in 1980, is a superb collection of previously unreleased studio tracks recorded between 1969 and early 1972. (It should not be confused with Two Miles From Live Heaven). Two Miles From Heaven was more consistent in quality than Mott’s proper albums from that pre-“Dudes” period, although it’s usually easy to tell the difference between Hunter’s and Ralphs’ compositions. Hunter’s imitation of Bob Dylan is obvious on his tracks, and on “The Road To Birmingham”, it’s almost comical! Meanwhile, Ralphs’ tracks follow a more straightforward rock and roll path, although some of them exhibit Wildlife-era mellowness. “Movin’ On” is more laid-back than the version later recorded by Bad Company; “One Of The Boys” was a prototype of BadCo’s “Can’t Get Enough”. Unlike the version from Mott’s first album, “You Really Got Me” has vocals. As opposed to the Mad Shadows version, the version of “Thunderbuck Ram” featured here puts the keyboards higher in the mix. As if to tie all of the loose ends together, the last two tracks (“Black Scorpio”, “Ill Wind Blowing”) sound the most like songs from Mott’s later peak period. Two Miles From Heaven is essential for any serious Mott collector.
Note: Two Miles From Heaven was reissued on CD in 2003 by the Angel Air label (catalog number SJPCD161). The reissue contained two solid bonus tracks, including a cover of Neil Young's "Downtown".
DARK CARGO SIDE
1. You Really Got Me
2. The Road To Birmingham
3. Thunderbuck Ram
4. Going Home
5. Little Christine
6. Keep-A Knockin'
7. Black Hills
BALD AT THE STATION SIDE
8. Movin' On
9. Ride On the Sun
10. Growin' Man Blues
11. Until I'm Gone
12. One Of The Boys
13. Surfin' UK
14. Black Scorpio
15. (There's an) Ill Wind Blowing
Bonus tracks on 2003 CD reissue
16. The Debt
The British Lions recorded a second album, Trouble With Women, that was rejected by their record labels on both sides of the Atlantic; until recently, it had only briefly seen the light of day on the U.K. indie label Cherry Red in 1982, by which time the band had finally broken up. It sounds as though the band was enthusiastic about these recordings, but the end result comes to nothing more than listenable mainstream rock with little relevance to contemporary listeners. At best, Trouble With Women comes across like a slightly new-wavey Bad Company album. The only songs of any real interest are "Lady, Don't Fall Backwards" and "Waves Of Love", though neither of those songs will make you wish the band had lasted longer. Note: both British Lions albums were reissued on CD in 2000 by the U.K. label Angel Air, and each of them contains eight bonus tracks that are generally more interesting than the proper album tracks.
1. Trouble With Women -- (Fiddler)
2. Any Port In A Storm -- (Fiddler)
3. Lady, Don't Fall Backwards -- (Watts/Fiddler)
4. High Noon -- (Fisher/Fiddler)
5. Lay Down Your Love -- (Watts/Fiddler)
6. Waves Of Love -- (Watts/Fiddler)
7. Electric Chair -- (Fiddler)
8. (Won't You Give Him) One More Chance? -- (Martin/Scott)
World Cruise is a thankfully short six-song, 21-minute EP consisting of studio tracks recorded in 1977 after Nigel Benjamin's departure from Mott. The vocalist on these tracks is Steve Hyams, a longtime friend of the band. These tracks were reportedly intended to be demos for a Hyams solo album, but they do sound like imitations -- pale ones, that is -- of songs from Mott the Hoople's prime. In fact, Hyams does a rather blatant vocal imitation of Ian Hunter, but he lacks Hunter's quirky charisma, and ends up sounding silly and obnoxious. "1,2,3,4 (Kickalong Blues)" comes the closest to recapturing the old Mott magic. Otherwise, World Cruise is only for those who are dying to hear the missing link between Mott and the British Lions.
1. Dear Louise
2. Brother Soul
4. Wild In The Streets
5. 1,2,3,4 (Kickalong Blues)
6. World Cruise