Columbia 516051 2.
It's taken 30 years, but at long last Mott The Hoople's legendary shows at the Uris Theatre, NYC and Hammersmith Odeon, London have finally been reissued as a 2-CD set. And boy what a live set this is - just crank the volume way up high and settle down and revel in two hours of the finest live rock 'n' roll available anywhere.
Both shows are presented in their original running order, with only Here Comes The Queen dropped from the Uris CD and All The Way From Memphis and Hymn For The Dudes dropped from the Hammersmith show. But everything else is here, including the famous riot in all its glory at the end of the Hammersmith show. Talk about 'expect the unexpected' - just close your eyes and you're there... Sounds at the time said "This will go down as one of the great gigs when the annals of rock 'n' roll are finally compiled" (see sidebar), and they weren't wrong because this is brilliant. The band are relaxed and riding high (Ian announces that Roll Away The Stone has just shifted 200,000 units), and Hammy O is packed. Right from the off you can just sense the atmosphere that this is one long party, a celebration of Mott's homecoming after two lengthy tours of the States.
But what of the Uris show? Again, stunning. Just a notch or two down on Hammersmith but still better than anything that's gone before. By now they were running like a well-oiled machine - in goes the set, back comes the applause, no sweat... We have the segueing of American Pie and Golden Age of Rock 'n' Roll, Roll Away The Stone with Sweet Jane, and the stunning Marionette. But then it's all good, my only complaint being that Mountain is the original LP edit, and not the full-length version. Oh, and is it my imagination, or has some of the between-song banter been cut as well?
Packaging is lavish, with a 24-page booklet with many previously-unseen photos and presented in a digifold package. My only criticism is that all the photos are from Uris - surely some exist from Hammersmith?
Fabulous, just fabulous...
The original LP featured the following tracks: All The Way From Memphis/Sucker/Rest in Peace/All The Young Dudes/Walkin' With a Mountain/Sweet Angeline/Rose/Jerkin' Crocus medley. I gave it four stars.
Mott The Hoople were always a shit-hot live band, and it took a while for technology to finally catch up and capture their live show. These performances go some way to redressing the balance, but are let down by other considerations.
CBS refused to release a double album, or even consider a "bonus" mini-LP (10-inch), so these magnificent performances were edited down to fit on a single LP. They also refused to allow any Hoople tracks to be included, which certainly affected the track selection of the Uris side, which were also presented out of real-time sequence for programming considerations. At over 50 minutes, it was still quite a long LP for 1974.
Although there are fans who do not like guitarist Ariel Bender's Ted Nugent-style noisemaking, this reviewer regards this as one of the best live albums ever made. While the Hammersmith performance included here captures that intangible "expect the unexpected" essence of the true live gig, there was always the feeling that the Uris side had something missing - tracks that have since surfaced suggest that the best tracks were left in the can.
The Uris show was recorded by the syndicated radio show King Biscuit Flower Hour who recorded the second night (8th May 1974) of a week-long run, and about half an hour was originally broadcast back in 1974. This show was re-broadcast in 1988, and a few transcription CDs found their way into the collector's market. The following tracks were broadcast: American Pie/Golden Age of Rock 'n' Roll, Sucker, Born Late '58, One of the Boys, Marionette and All the Way From Memphis. The original master-tape was mixed in quadrophonic, and this (1988) broadcast sounds like one track front and one track rear from a quad master - there is an odd delay between the stereo channels.
There was another (20 minute) broadcast in 1989, and this found its way onto the Long Red bootleg. The tracks broadcast this time were American Pie/Golden Age of Rock 'n' Roll, One of the Boys, Marionette and All the Way From Memphis. This time, it seems, they took the correct tracks off the master.
A couple of rarities from these shows have surfaced over the years. The 1980 compilation Shades of Ian Hunter included a live performance of Marionette from Uris. Sadly, it seems to have been mixed by someone less than familiar with Mott's work - all the power and majesty of the live performance has been lost. This reviewer much prefers the mix available on the aforementioned Long Red bootleg.
Another rarity from these performances surfaced in 1987. Castle's The Collection featured the full ten-minute version of Walkin' With a Mountain, complete with all the solos which were edited out of the official live album. It's not on the CD version - this was on the 2-LP version only. Who says vinyl is dead?!
In 1998, of course, we had the excellent 3-CD Anthology, which included American Pie/Golden Age of Rock n Roll and Roll Away The Stone/Sweet Jane, together with the Blowin' In The Wind coda to Hymn For The Dudes.
CD packaging is OK (same as the LP), except that here the date of the Uris performance is given erroneously as 1975. In addition, the date given on the original vinyl (7th May 1974) was that of the show reviewed in Creem, not the recording date. Sound quality of the CD is average.
It is a shame that CBS have yet to take advantage of the CD format and re-issue this CD with additional material. The rarities I've mentioned above prove the material is there (and strong) for an extended CD of the Uris show, and I'm sure the same must be true of the Hammersmith show.