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Ian Hunter and the Rant Band - Fingers Crossed

  by Kimberly Bright

published: 8 / 11 / 2016

Ian Hunter and the Rant Band - Fingers Crossed
Label: Proper Records
Format: CD


1970's rock icon Ian Hunter pays tribute to his friend David Bowie and looks back at his own amazing life and career on his latest solo album

It’s hard to believe that 'Fingers Crossed' is singer-songwriter and famed Mott the Hoople frontman Ian Hunter’s twenty-first solo album, counting live releases. It’s even harder to believe that the venerated familiar British expatriate NYC-based rocker, immediately identifiable from his ubiquitous sunglasses and unruly curly mop of hair, turned 77 during this less than kind year for ‘70s and ‘80s rock icons. Not surprisingly 'Fingers Crossed', co-produced by John Mellencamp’s guitarist Andy York, has a prevailing theme of thoughtful retrospection. Hunter’s well-known wry humour is still evident, especially on the breezy comedic rural idyll 'White House', but there is less of the spikiness found on earlier albums like 2012’s 'When I’m President'. He is now looking back on his life and career, youth, adventures, and dreams, thinking of close friends he has lost. Hunter’s favorite track on the album, and probably the strongest one, is 'Dandy', a brilliant tribute to his one-time producer (Mott the Hoople’s 'All the Young Dudes'), songwriter, and longtime friend David Bowie. (His tribute to mutual friend and guitarist Mick Ronson was 'Michael Picasso' in 1996). “I like the line ‘And then we took the last bus home',” Hunter wrote. “David was an incredible artist with an insatiable curiosity about everything.” The song sounds like it could have been recorded forty or so years ago. He makes clever passing references to the Bob Dylan Song 'Ballad of a Thin Man', calling David “Mr. Jones,” as well as the Old Testament story about David and Goliath and Little Lord Fauntleroy. He suggests that a statue to Bowie be placed in Piccadilly Circus. “You showed us what it’s like to live inside a rainbow… You’re still the prettiest star/There ain’t no life on Mars/But we always thought there might be.” The chorus probably alludes to Bowie’s final album 'Blackstar' released two days before his death: “You left us one more / And then we took the last bus home.” Similarly “Ghosts” was inspired by his November 2014 visit to historic Sun Studios in Memphis with his band. The very profound past of the place was inescapable. They were given the opportunity to tour the building and enjoy an impromptu jam at the holy place “in the lap of the gods.” He likens the visit to seeing one of the great Wonders of the World, like the Pyramids at Giza. He could feel the presence of Sam Phillips’ Million Dollar Quartet of Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash. “I’m standing in a room full of ghosts…Be still my foolish heart.” He reminisces about his own past and milestones in 'Stranded in Reality', 'You Can’t Live in the Past', and 'Long Time', with the ambivalence of wanting to be wistfully nostalgic and realistically advising us all that “You can never go back.” And yet he recalls sitting in a café in 1959 or hanging out on the street with his friends on 'Long Time', a country backroads saloon singalong. “I wasn’t born in the USA/But I’m that way inclined.” On 'Fingers Crossed' and 'Bow Street Runners' Hunter looks at a more impersonal distant past and tries his hand at historic storytelling. 'Fingers Crossed' is a fictional tale about a defiant condemned man at the scaffold looking back on his life as a young man kidnapped and forced into a press gang to serve in the British Navy in 1750. 'Bow Street Runners' is about the actual founding of London’s first police force in 1749, portrayed as heroic figures out to clean up the worst of the city’s crime-infested slums. The man can still write a catchy shout-along chorus practically designed for a stadium crowd, like on the rocking opening track 'That’s When the Trouble Starts', skewering modern pop culture and newly minted rock stars: “50 shades of stupid…You’ve got no soul/You’ve got no passion/Who cares if it’s going out of fashion?” There are plenty of reassuring swooping guitar solos sprinkled throughout, even on the otherwise dreamy ode to the pleasures of sleep and the mythology surrounding the shape-shifting Greek god 'Morpheus'. Although it’s a brand new release, 'Fingers Crossed' sounds like classic Ian Hunter: upbeat, straight talking, unsentimental, honest, and imbued with his piss-and-vinegar sense of humor. Andy York has brought the best out of this old expat: his own unique twist on Americana. We should consider ourselves lucky that this influential artist is still among us.

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When I'm President (2012)
Intensely magnificent latest album from ex-Mott the Hoople front man,Ian Hunter

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