Mott The Hoople and Ian Hunter

Mott The Hoople box set: "Mental Train - The Island Years (1969-1971)"

Sleeve and track listing

Universal MOTTBOX1(5 stars!)

Disc 1: Mott The Hoople

  1. You Really Got Me (2:55)
  2. At The Crossroads (5:33)
  3. Laugh At Me (6:32)
  4. Backsliding Fearlessly (3:46)
  5. Rock And Roll Queen (5:09)
  6. Rabbit Foot & Toby Time (2:04)
  7. Half Moon Bay (10:38)
  8. Wrath And Wroll (1:46)
  9. If Your Heart Lay With The Rebel (Would You Cheer The Underdog?)1 (3:50)
  10. Rock And Roll Queen (single A-side) (3:19)
  11. Road To Birmingham (single B-side) (3:30)
  12. Road To Birmingham (Guy Stevens mix)1 (3:53)
  13. You Really Got Me (full take)1 (11:16)
  14. You Really Got Me (Mick Ralphs vocal)1, 3 (2:54)
  15. Rock And Roll Queen (Guy Stevens mono mix)1 (3:24)
  16. Rock And Roll Queen (kitchen sink instrumental)1 (5:25)
  17. Little Christine2 (3:12)

1Previously unreleased

2Previously released on Two Miles From Heaven

3Listed as 'Guy Stevens vocal mix' in the book and on the box, but is actually Mick Ralphs vocal

Disc 2: Mad Shadows

  1. Thunderbuck Ram (4:49)
  2. No Wheels To Ride (5:49)
  3. You Are One Of Us (2:25)
  4. Walkin' With A Mountain (3:49)
  5. I Can Feel (7:12)
  6. Threads Of Iron (5:11)
  7. When My Mind's Gone (6:31)
  8. Thunderbuck Ram (BBC version) (3:42)
  9. Thunderbuck Ram (original take with organ solo)3 (4:53)
  10. No Wheels To Ride (demo version)1 (6:33)
  11. Moonbus (Baby's Got A Down On Me)1 (5:28)
  12. The Hunchback Fish (vocal rehearsal)1 (6:04)
  13. You Are One Of Us (take 9)1 (5:15)
  14. Going Home2 (3:05)
  15. Keep A-Knockin' (studio version - take 2)1 (2:30)

1Previously unreleased

2Previously released on Two Miles From Heaven

3Listed as 'previously unreleased' in the book and on the box, but (apart from the counting-in intro) sounds the same to my ears as the 'Bumpers' version

Disc 3: Wildlife

  1. Whiskey Women (3:40)
  2. Angel Of Eighth Avenue (4:32)
  3. Wrong Side Of The River (5:17)
  4. Waterlow (3:02)
  5. Lay Down (4:13)
  6. It Must Be Love (2:21)
  7. Original Mixed Up Kid (3:40)
  8. Home Is Where I Want To Be (4:11)
  9. Keep-A-Knockin' (live) (10:10)
  10. Midnight Lady (demo)1 (4:32)
  11. The Debt (single B-side) (4:22)
  12. Downtown (single A-side) (3:02)
  13. Brain Haulage (Whiskey Women) (3:57)
  14. Growing Man Blues (take 10)2 (3:42)
  15. Long Red (demo)2 (3:54)
  16. The Ballad Of Billy Joe3 (3:41)
  17. Lay Down (take 8)2 (5:08)

1Listed as 'Single A-side' on the box and in the book, but is actually an early demo

2Previously unreleased

3Listed as 'previously unreleased' on the box and in the book, but apart from 15s of studio banter at the start is previously released

Disc 4: Brain Capers

  1. Death May Be Your Santa Claus (4:55)
  2. Your Own Backyard (4:13)
  3. Darkness, Darkness (4:32)
  4. The Journey (9:15)
  5. Sweet Angeline (4:53)
  6. Second Love (3:46)
  7. The Moon Upstairs (5:01)
  8. Wheel Of The Quivering Meat Conception (1:19)
  9. Mental Train (The Moon Upstairs)3 (5:18)
  10. How Long (Death May Be...)1 (4:12)
  11. Darkness, Darkness1 (3:05)
  12. Your Own Backyard (complete take)1 (4:13)
  13. Where Do All Come From (backing track)1 (3:17)
  14. One Of The Boys (take 2)4 (4:23)
  15. Movin' On2 (2:47)
  16. Black Scorpio (Momma's Little Jewel)2 (3:41)

1Previously unreleased

2Previously released on Two Miles From Heaven

3Not listed as such on the box or in the book, but I believe this to be a previously unreleased version

4Not listed as such on the box or in the book, but I believe this to be previously released on Two Miles From Heaven

Disc 5: The Ballads Of Mott The Hoople

  1. Like A Rolling Stone (fragment)1 (1:32)
  2. No Wheels To Ride (first house, Croydon)1 (7:53)
  3. Angel Of Eighth Avenue1 (5:23)
  4. The Journey1 (10:26)
  5. Blue Broken Tears1 (3:15)
  6. Black Hills1 (4:09)
  7. Can You Sing The Song That I Sing?1 (15:55)
  8. Till I'm Gone2 (3:19)
  9. The Original Mixed Up Kid (BBC version) (2:54)
  10. Ill Wind Blowing2 (4:00)
  11. I'm A River (rehearsal)1 (10:43)
  12. Ride On The Sun (Sea Diver)2 (3:44)

1Previously unreleased

2Previously released on Two Miles From Heaven

Disc 6: It's Live And Live Only

  1. Rock and Roll Queen (Live Croydon)1 (4:32)
  2. Ohio (Live Croydon)1 (4:32)
  3. No Wheels To Ride/Hey Jude (Live Croydon)1 (8:13)
  4. Thunderbuck Ram (Live Croydon)1 (5:46)
  5. Keep A-Knockin' (Live Croydon)1 (7:59)
  6. You Really Got Me (Live Croydon)1 (9:53)
  7. The Moon Upstairs (BBC Live In Concert)2 (6:03)
  8. Whiskey Women (BBC Live In Concert)2 (4:40)
  9. Your Own Backyard (BBC Live In Concert)2 (4:59)
  10. Darkness, Darkness (BBC Live In Concert)2 (7:36)
  11. The Journey (BBC Live In Concert)2 (8:53)
  12. Death May Be Your Santa Claus (BBC Live In Concert)2 (5:06)

1Supposedly previously released, but this is a 2018 mix

2Previously released on Original Mixed-Up Kids

Review

You know Mott The Hoople... All The Young Dudes, Roll Away The Stone, All The Way From Memphis, Golden Age of Rock 'n' Roll, Honaloochie Boogie... Hit singles, Top of the Pops, glam rock... right? Wrong, completely wrong.

Mott effectively had a career of two halves. All of the above was the second half. Before all that, before the hits and the fame Mott were an albums band rather than a singles band. A band with an enviable reputation as a must-see band thanks to their exposive live shows, with a following who showed a devotion few bands get. But despite recording four albums for Island they couldn't translate their live drawing power into record sales (necessary in those days to make a living). Hence a temporary split in 1972, a hook-up with David Bowie and the second half.

This box set neatly packages their four albums for Island in the period 1969 to 1971. Their self-titled debut showed their diverse Stones and Dylan influences, while Mad Shadows demonstrated Mott establishing an identity of their own. With sales poor (see above) Wildlife showcased guitarist Mick Ralphs' country-rock influences (just think Neil Young at his most mellow). Fearing they would soon be dropped by Island they recorded the hard-rocking take-no-prisoners Brain Capers, easily a fan's favourite from the pre-fame period.

But this set is much more than their first four albums. We have more rarities and previously-unreleased tracks than you can shake a stick at. Fans thought the rarities pool was pretty much fished out... well, how wrong can you be? The unreleased material (demos, works-in-progress and alternate versions) is astonishingly good. The full take of You Really Got Me for example is a revelation - fans knew the band kept on playing after the album's fade-out (culminating in the jam fragment Wrath And Wroll) so it is great to hear the full take for the first time, hearing the band having fun and just rocking out.

Mott were more than just a bunch of rockers - their ballads are just as sensitive (as evidenced on Disc 5 of this set) and would often be listened to in rapt silence. It is a shame that not much live material survives from this period in Mott's career. We do, however, have Disc 6 which is taken from two previously-available releases. We have (most of) their show at Fairfield Halls, Croydon in September 1970 (when they blew headliners Free off the stage) and a BBC In Concert show from December 1971. The BBC tracks are presented in the correct running order and so are an improvement on the previous release (Original Mixed Up Kids.) The package comes complete with a book written by Kris Needs (who ran the fan club back in the 70's) which chronicles this period in Mott's career and contains many rare/previously unseen photos.

Pete Frame (who wrote the 'Rock family Trees' you may have seen) was an early champion and of the opinion that the early Mott were, on a good night, untouchable and the best live band in the world. This collection goes some way to showing why.

All in all, an excellent collection and quite possibly unsurpassable.

Criticisms

With a project like this it is inevitable a few gremlins will creep in. Sadly it is my duty to report that great tho' this package is a few flaws have crept in.

The live Croydon tracks on disc 6 appear to have been remixed compared to their counterparts on Fairfield Halls Live. Fade-outs at the end of each track are annoying (the previous release was a continuous live performance), and all appear to have been remixed to give a narrower, almost mono, soundstage. The previous release is therefore preferable in this regard.

The Two Miles From Heaven tracks all seem to run slow compared to the Angel Air CD. Not all of this can be accounted for in differences in lead-out silence. Detailed technical analysis and use of reference tones has established that the Angel Air CD is spot-on in this regard and perfectly in tune. The fault has therefore arisen at some point during this mastering process.

In one case the difference is almost half a semitone, in another it was about a quarter of a semitone, while in another it was just a tad slow. Why there is a speed difference, and why it should vary from track to track, is a mystery.

(Thanks to Mick McLaughlin for his analysis of these issues)