Monday, April 24, 2023

Ian Hunter - Defiance Part 1

There may be a hint of Dylan-ish creakiness in Ian Hunter’s voice these days, but his capacity to write a terrific rock’n’roll song remains undiminished – as does his ability to capture it with brio.  And for all that there’s a bundle of big names making quality contributions to Defiance Part 1, it’s still Hunter who’s at the heart of everything.
The title track gets things moving with enough power to clear the custard, as it were.  Yeah, there’s a bucket of grit in the guitar work from Slash and bass from Robert Trujillo, but it’s also the only track for which Hunter himself straps on an electric guitar to add to the churning sound of the rhythm section.
Long-time Hunter fans are going to be well pleased with a lot of the stuff here – the melodies, the riffs, the vibe and the lyrics are all present and correct.  ‘Pavlov’s Dog’ rattles its cage in a manner reminiscent of rockers from the Hunter/Ronson escapade Y U I Orta, but with just a tad
Ian Hunter joins Def Leppard shock!
less sense of turbo-charged rabble-rousing.  It’s a nagging shuffle with a very Hunter-ish ringing riff and the piano banging away in the engine room, while Hunter cracks out, just a little hoarsely, an urgent chorus about how “You can bite the hand that feeds ya, but I gotta job to do,” and Dean De Leo of Stone Temple Pilots carves out some warbling, ferrety lead guitar.  ‘I Hate Hate’ on the other hand, is a piano-pounding anthem with snappy, behind the beat drums and shaking tambourine, plus a terrific piano riff that surfaces periodically.  And while the lyric doesn’t do anything elaborate, it’s a great example of how good Hunter is at ramming home something simple, direct and forceful.  (There’s an alternative take too, with Jeff Tweedy adding guitar and bass.  Take your pick.)
‘Kiss N’Make Up’ sounds very modern, with restrained, offbeat drums from the late Taylor Hawkins, subterraneanly rumbling bass from JD Andrew, and subtle, fuzzy guitar from Billy Gibbons.  ‘This Is What I’m Here For’ has Waddy Wachtel rocking out on guitar over swinging, thumping drums from Hawkins, who clatters a few cymbals for good measure when things heat up with a sizzling Wachtel solo, and all the while Hunter sounds like he’s having a damn good time hollering away at the title and declaring “Might as well enjoy it”.
But Hunter can still dial things down in expert fashion too.  ‘No Hard Feelings’ is a wistful affair of vivid, character-led memories, drifting along on lilting piano and some moans of slide from Johnny Depp, and with a very Jeff Beck guitar solo from – well, Jeff Beck actually.  ‘Don’t Tread On Me’ is soulful, with nice bass from co-producer Andy York, cleverly phrased backing vocals and understated lead breaks from Todd Rundgren, but with words of warning from Hunter about trying to push him around.  Even better though, is ‘Guernica’, with Hunter putting himself in the shoes of Picasso, contemplating the painting of the title and reflecting that “If you think for yourself you’re a traitor”, over interesting, downbeat percussion from Dane Clark, while Mike Campbell adds an excellent, reverb-shimmering solo.
Songs like ‘I Hate Hate’ and ‘Guernica’ show that Hunter has his finger on the pulse of today’s bitterness, and can still get his feelings across in pointed fashion.  But ‘Bed Of Roses’ is a reminder of just how long he’s been at this game – a jaunty piece of nostalgia about Hamburg’s Star Club with, appropriately enough, Ringo Starr on drums. It’s melody and lyrical pattern recall ‘White House’ from Fingers Crossed, but here with a singalong chorus and anthemic bridge, and some wonderful, woozy slide guitar from Mike Campbell.
Much of Defiance Part 1 was recorded remotely by the various contributors, but it all sounds as engaged and fresh as if they were all knocking it out in the same room.  And it’s released on Sun Records – aptly enough, as if Ian Hunter is still rocking all the way from Memphis.
Defiance Part 1 is out now on Sun Records.

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