Angel Air SJPCD025.
Running time: 56m 16s
Tracks 1-5 recorded at Friars Club, Aylesbury UK on 12th June 1976.
Tracks 6-9 recorded at the Polytechnic Students Union, Leeds UK on 4th November 1976.
Running time: 61m 40s
Tracks 1-7 recorded at the Forum, Los Angeles on 5th December 1975.
Tracks 8-10 recorded at the Agora Ballroom, Cleveland OH on 25th November 1975.
Following the departure of vocalist Ian Hunter and guitarist Mick Ronson from the ranks of Mott The Hoople in December 1974, the remaining members Overend Watts (bass), Dale Griffin (drums) and Morgan Fisher (piano) shortened their name to Mott and recruited Ray Major (guitar) and Nigel Benjamin (vocals). They recorded two albums for CBS in 1975 and 1976, but there has been no live product - until now.
This 2-CD set was recorded at two venues in the USA in 1975, and two in the UK in 1976 (hence the title), and were all recorded onto two-track (cassette) tape straight from the mixing desk, meaning there has been no possibility of remixing or overdubbing.
The result is a raw, dirty, in-yer-face sound which in these days of overdubbed, highly-polished "live" albums is refreshing. So what if there's the odd fluffed note or missed cue - that's rock 'n' roll. Just turn the volume way up high, close your eyes and you're there...
As the excellent booklet informs us, there were no "audience" mics to capture the sound of the crowd so we're warned to expect an apparent subdued audience reaction. Wrong! With the exception of Leeds (where the audience was subdued on the night) the balance is (to these ears) exactly right.
So what of the music itself? The Friars version of Storm blisters, with Ray Major injecting real venom into his guitar. The version at Leeds still packs a powerful punch, but is a little more laid back. Leeds is interesting because of Mott's cover of the Doors' classic Love Me Two Times, which Mott carry off with ease. The rest of the Friars set is simply awesome, capturing perfectly what is regarded as one of the best gigs Friars ever saw.
Mott always played loud and furious with their amps turned up to 11, and would frequently overload the mixing desk. Sadly this happened on both occasions and disc 1 is all that survives that is presentable in any shape or form. This is a shame, as the complete Friars show would make a superb live album.
Disc 2 captures Mott on their first tour of the States with Benjamin and with their debut album just released. The Forum gig is virtually the complete show (Mott were supporting, hence a shortened set) but this time the desk was up to it, and the result is a slightly cleaner sound. The medley It Takes One To Know One/Sweet Jane/Violence works exceptionally well, with Benjamin injecting a huge amount of youthful excuberance into Sweet Jane.
The version of Rock 'n' Roll Queen recorded at Cleveland doesn't work quite as well, sounding almost pedestrian (Ian Hunter was a tough act to follow, after all), but the rest of the disc just rocks. This show was actually recorded by a local radio station as well, so it's a shame the original recording of that show seem no longer to be available.
As always with Angel Air packaging is excellent, with a decent booklet containing witty and informative sleeve-notes by Dale Griffin and many rare photos by both Dale and Morgan.
To sum up: a raw, dirty, in-yer-face live album. All live albums should sound like this. Highly recommended.Adrian Perkins