Right off the bat I must confess a certain prejudice here, because I happen to feel that Ian Hunter is among the most under-rated rockers out there. He has a history of excellent tunesmithing dating back to the late ?60s when Mott the Hoople first made their presence known on a changing rock scene. He has a wonderful, powerful, raspy voice and he knows his way around a piano and a guitar fairly well to boot. I think much of the lack of buzz over Hunter?s wares is due to the notion that Mott rode on the coattails of David Bowie through the tail end of Hunter?s time with them, in the slipstream of the glitter era. (Why the Pretty Things didn?t suffer a similar blackballing from the rock canon for their similar association with Led Zeppelin, I?m not quite sure.) There can be no doubt that Mott the Hoople?s flagging career was given a speedball by the success of the Bowie-penned ?All the Young Dudes,? but these fellows certainly were not devoid of their own ideas. In fact, despite some rather unfortunate fashion choices, Mott?s glitter phase produced some of their most enduring tunes, such as the gorgeous ?I Wish I Was Your Mother,? and the waycool rockers ?One of the Boys? and ?All the Way From Memphis.? In my view, their high watermark still must go to their second record ?Mad Shadows? (1970), which displays a shiver-inducing sense of melody alongside some of the most naked emotion this side of John Lennon?s ?Plastic Ono Band? music therapy session.
So ? what about this ?Shrunken Heads? thingy, you may be asking yourself. Patience, kiddies. There?s more back-story.
Post-Mott, Hunter went on to release three superb solo records and one sorta decent one (I think? I may have the sequence wrong.). Then it happened. Tell me, have you ever been so disappointed and felt so downright betrayed by a record that suicide briefly wafted across the windmills of your mind? When I heard ?Short Back and Sides? by Ian Hunter I tell you I wanted to vomit. I am not ashamed to admit that a tear or two may have fallen on the grubby carpet. Someone I felt I could depend on to move me had succumbed to some sort of delusional fascination with ?new wave? electronic dance mung, which I loathed for the dry, unemotional, superficial twattle that it was (and still is). By god, I was hurt! I wrote Mr. Hunter off in disgust.
This brings us to 2007, more than 20 years since Ian Hunter was vilified in numerous conversations with fellow fan, and close friend, Kevin. Out comes ?Shrunken Heads.? I read a positive review, but more importantly I just had a feeling
about this record. I was correct. ?Shrunken Heads? is a wonderful disc that went down like a phone call from a long-lost friend. Hunter?s songwriting has never been more melodic, powerful, and sardonically witty; the musical accompaniment is a delightful cross-breeding of the Band and vintage Rolling Stones (via Mott), and his voice, though raspier than ever, has never sounded ?better? in its own way ? much like Bob Dylan?s on recent outings. Not since Neil Young?s ?Freedom? have I been so pleased with an artist?s return to form on the heels of some well-intentioned but failed experimentation. It is really good to have him back. 8/10 -- John Bullabaugh (24 July, 2007)