MOTT THE HOOPLE - Mental Train: The Island Years 1969-1971 (2018)
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.
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