A small number of unofficial recordings of Ian and Mott have surfaced over the years, mostly radio shows on vinyl and more recently on CD. In addition, there are a large number of audience tapes in circulation. The die-hard collector will no doubt be interested in tracking these tapes down; Justin Purington has done an excellent job in cataloguing them in his Bootleg Bible (see the Outsider and Just a Buzz fanzines for details), and I have no intention of repeating that material here.
I will, however, list the bootleg LPs and CDs that I know of, and try to assess those that I have heard, to help guide the casual but not fanatic purchaser.
In the mid- to late-90's there was a flurry of new releases. This was due to a number of factors. One is the ease with which CDs can be pressed up (at very little cost). Another is the continued interest in Ian and Mott, not to mention the ease with which release information can be publicised via the internet and other media. And, of course, with Ian touring regularly in recent years there is a wealth of new material in circulation...
Note: I cannot review a bootleg if I don't know about it! (Well, duh) If you know of a bootleg that isn't listed here, then please get in touch.
These days few people buy bootlegs. This is one good thing to come out of high-speed internet, the Bittorrent P2P protocol and all the file-sharing brouhaha. Not that I'm advocating anything illegal, but sharing such unofficial recordings for free undercuts the bootleggers and makes it very difficult for them to make a profit out of the artists hard work. As they say in trading circles, "buy the music, support the artist."
Over the years there have been more Mott The Hoople bootlegs than there have been for Ian Hunter. Most of these I would categorise as being of historical interest only, given that most if not all of the recordings that are any good have now been released commercially. As a result, most of these items will now prove difficult if not impossible to find especially given that the reputable P2P sites don't allow commercially-available recordings.
Of course, before the advent of CDs vinyl was all there was. Although largely superseded by CDs (and especially with much of the material here now available commercially) there is still a certain kudos to owning any of these vinyl boots, some of them are certain to become collector's items.
These days virtually every bootleg comes out on CD. In some cases, however, the quality is desperately poor.
I'm a bit hesitant about including CDRs here, since anyone can make a CDR and put it out. I will, however, make an exception for the Handmade series.
Which is the best? I attempt to be honest in my reviews, and if something sucks then I'll say so. I have attempted to grade these boots taking into consideration desirability as well as sound quality. Accordingly, my "star" rating should be used as a guide by the less-than-fanatical purchaser.
I'm tempted to say there are fewer Ian Hunter bootlegs, but that is because most recordings these days tend to be shared on P2P sites. The Rock 'n' Roll Circus series documented early Ian Hunter tours from 1975 to 1979, taking as the source whetever tape happened to be circulating at the time. More recently, the 'handmade' series tried to document every Ian Hunter tour from 1997 onwards, using as source material first-generation recordings. Sadly, they were forced to close in about 2004. Since then (as I mentioned) recordings of various Ian Hunter gigs tend to be distributed via file-sharing sites.
Surprisingly there was only one vinyl bootleg (that I know of) from Ian's solo career.
All bootlegs these days comes out on CD, although the quality in some cases is desperately poor.
I wouldn't normally include CDRs here, since anyone with a CD writer (which these days means anyone with a PC) can make one and put it out. I will, however, make an exception for the Handmade For Fans series, which tries to be selective about what they put out, and strive to be high quality as well.