New West NW6167
After two albums that were somewhat political in nature (2001's Rant and 2007's Shrunken Heads), 2009 find Ian in a more mellow frame of mind. After a long and successful career he has time to look back on his life and say "Yeah... I've no complaints..."
The album opens strongly with The Great Escape, which tells of the singer's narrow escape after a "lack of respect" for a local thug. Indeed, several songs seem to be telling tales of the rougher side of life, such as the title track which informs us "They say crime doesn't pay, well take a walk down my way..."
Ian doesn't forget his working-class roots either, with the delightful Girl From The Office, which is reminiscent of the Kinks at their best and has a very English feel to it, and tells the story of a factory-floor romance. As always with Ian's songs of this nature, it has a happy ending (he gets the girl).
Ballads have always been a strong point with Ian, and these are prominent especially on the second half of the album. Not all work, however, with These Feelings being a particular weakness.
More up-tempo songs are on the first half of the album. I hesitate to say "rockers", as medium-pace is about the best we get these days (I did say Ian is more mellow these days) and guitars, although present, are rarely high in the mix any more. Those expecting another Just Another Night or Cleveland Rocks should perhaps look elsewhere. That was then and this is now... That said, Arms And Legs is a strong guitar-led song that will really work well in a live setting, as is the next track Up And Running.
Ian hopes to tour with the album both in the USA and UK, so we will wait and see how the songs work in a live setting. Reports from the two gig so far (at the time of writing, end July '09) are positive. As for where this album fits in Ian's extensive back catalogue time only will tell. It is more immediately likeable than its predecessor (sometimes it takes a few plays to "get" an Ian Hunter album, but I liked this straight away), but ulimately I feel it may end up a notch or two down from his very best.