Angel Air SJPCD250.
1 Recorded at Fairfield Halls, Croydon, London England 13th September 1970
2 Recorded at The Konserthuset, Stockholm, Sweden 16th February 1971
Ah yes, the famous Croydon gig. Formed in 1969, Mott The Hoople soon gained a reputation as one of the finest live acts around. So why not capture that dynamism by recording a live concert? Why not indeed. With label-mates Free about to record a live album and with Mott supporting them that night, the decision was taken to record Mott's set as well for a live album. Plans to release that live album were soon shelved, and all that surfaced from that recording was Keep a-Knockin', included on Mott's third album Wildlife. This was a shame, as by all accounts Mott blew Free off the stage that night...
Excuses given at the time were that the tapes were unusable due to fans seizing the stage, leads being pulled out and other nonsense. Technical problems? If the Who could release Live At Leeds (recorded on the same mobile) complete with pops and clicks, then why not Mott? And so the gig grew into something of legendary status, with fans mulling over this lost opportunity and wondering if there ever would be a top-grade live recording of the original line-up captured at their most feral.
A recent reappraisal of the tapes (for the 3-CD Anthology) showed that not only were they in good condition but that they were entirely usable. Fans began to hope that maybe, one day, they may see the light of day. Well, the moment has finally arrived...
From the roar that greets opening track Ohio to the final frenzy of encore track You Really Got Me Mott don't let up for an instant. You can tell that the hall is packed (always a good sign, given that Mott were the support act), and the cheers that greet each track shows they were more than familiar with Mott's set.
Ian's electric piano on No Wheels To Ride is soon obliterated by Mick Ralphs' brutal guitar work, while Rock 'n' Roll Queen and Thunderbuck Ram whip the audience up into a frenzy. Close your eyes and you can almost believe that you're there, so well is the live atmosphere captured on this recording.
We can even forgive a few duff notes on When My Mind's Gone (no overdubbing here - this is truly "live"). Keep a-Knockin' is different in places from the version we're familiar with - both shows that evening were recorded and the version here is clearly the "other" one (early or late show, we're not told).
As always you get an excellent booklet written by Keith Smith together with rare photos. Five tracks from Sweden in 1971 complete the disc (they had previously been issued on Stockholm To Philadelphia) and they seem almost tame in comparison, recorded as they were for Swedish radio with a request to be "not too loud please". But in the end that doesn't matter, it is the Croydon tracks that will keep bringing you back to this disc.
Yes, Mott really did deliver that night. Yes, you can finally hear just how good Mott were when they wanted to be. Yes, this really is the sound of Free being blown off the stage. Is it as good as the fans had hoped it would be? No - it's better.