Ian Hunter may be best known as the former lead vocalist of Mott the Hoople, but he had been a songwriter and musician for more than a decade prior to joining the British glam rockers in 1969. And since his departure from the group in 1974, Hunter has released a fairly steady stream of solo studio albums, including frequent collaborations with Mick Ronson until the untimely death of David Bowie’s former sideman in 1993 at the age of 46. Now, Hunter is out with his 15th and latest album Defiance Part 1, which arrived via Sun Records on April 21 – and, yep, that’s the storied label out of Memphis, Tenn.
According to Hunter’s website, the album first came together in early 2020 when COVID shut down the live music business and many artists took the lockdowns as an opportunity to work on new music. This included Hunter who wrote a series of new songs and recorded bare-bones demos at his home studio in Connecticut with his longtime collaborator, multi-instrumentalist and producer Andy York, who is also guitarist in John Mellencamp’s band.
When quarantine rules prevented Hunter from fleshing out the tunes in the studio with his backing group Rant Band, his manager Mike Kobayashi and Ross Halfin, a renowned music photographer, had a great idea: Reach out to some of his fellow artists who have their own home studios to see whether they would like to contribute to the tracks. Hunter did but evidently wasn’t quite prepared for what happened next.
“Everybody’s sitting around,” Hunter recalls on his website. “It’s Covid. Nobody’s going anywhere. We started sending them out [the demos/ electronic music files – CMM]. Slash started doing something. Robert Trujillo from Metallica. Ringo Starr, Mike Campbell. Joe Elliott [Def Leppard lead vocalist – CMM] is on a few tracks. Johnny Depp said ‘Jeff Beck’s with me and we’d like to do a couple of songs.’ I know Todd Rundgren, I toured with Todd way back, he’s done an amazing job. Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top guitarist – CMM]. Billy Bob Thornton and JD Andrew from The Boxmasters. It’s never ending. I mean, every day we’d get a phone call, this guy wants to do it, that guy wants to do it. It was like, I can’t believe this.”
Time for some music. Let’s get started with the kickass opener and title track Defiance. “There are a lot of reasons for calling this album DEFIANCE,” Hunter notes. “It’s like, people my age shouldn’t be making records, blah, blah, blah. But we’ve still got a bit left.” Hunter who is turning 84 in June certainly leaves no doubt about that. The tune features Slash on electric rhythm and lead guitars and Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo who used the signature fretless bass by the late Jaco Pastorious, the same instrument the virtuoso played on Hunter’s 1976 sophomore solo album All American Alien Boy.
Since I previously covered the excellent Bed of Roses featuring Ringo Starr and Mike Campbell, I’m skipping it here and going to Pavlov’s Dog. The ferocious rocker includes the surviving members of Stone Temple Pilots, brothers Dean DeLeo (guitar) and Robert DeLeo (bass) and Eric Kretz (drums).
One of the lyrical standouts on the album is I Hate Hate.
…I hate hate
It’s tearing us apart
I hate hate
From the bottom of my heart
I hate hate
It’s spreading like an epidemic
Ain’t no jabs
No one is immune
I hate hate
It’s all about the money
I hate hate,
And hate is in bloom…
Sadly, the words remain more relevant than ever!
Angel is one of the slower tunes on the album. It features the late Taylor Hawkins (former drummer of Foo Fighters) on drums, electric guitars, electric piano and backing vocals, Duff McKagan (bass; formerly of Guns N’ Roses), Aerosmith’s Brad Whitford (slide guitar) and prominent session musician Waddy Wachtel (12-string acoustic guitar, lead electric guitars).
The last track I’d like to call out is This Is What I’m Here For, another tune featuring Hawkins, this time on drums only. Wachtel provided electric rhythm and electric guitars, while Def Leppard’s Elliott sang backing vocals.
All songs were written by Ian Hunter who also played piano or electric guitar on most tracks. Defiance Part 1 was produced by Andy York and Hunter. “It’s like when I worked with Ronno [Mick Ronson – CMM],” Hunter told Rock Cellar magazine, commenting on York. “I’m blood and guts in the studio. I want drama 1-10. Andy takes care of all that, the minutiae, the same as Ronson used to do. He’s a stickler. He has to get everything right. I’m a lot kind of, “Well, that will do.” Not with Andy. Andy’s not like that. It’s gotta be right. I need somebody like that.”
Here’s a Spotify link to the album.
But wait, there’s more. Hunter’s website notes there will be Defiance Part 2, which will feature an equally stunning range of special guests while projecting an entirely different thematic approach and songwriting aesthetic. “Well, we’ve got to finish the second part,” Hunter said when asked by Rock Cellar about touring plans. “It’s about 60 percent, 70 percent done. But my co-producer Andy’s out with John Mellencamp till July, so we won’t get it finished till late summer. We’ll see then.”
Sources: Wikipedia; Ian Hunter website; Rock Cellar; YouTube; Spotify