Mott the Hoople, “Mental Train: The Island Years”: album review

Even though the trend for luxury box sets these days is focused on a single album and everything around it, these collections are basically aimed at die-hard fans with the cash to spare. Mental Train: The Island Years 1969-1971, which brings together all of Mott the Hoople’s recordings before their 1972 hit “All The Young Dudes”, takes a different approach for half the price.

The the six-disc set covers the first chapter of one of the most underrated rock bands, including their first four albums – Mott the Hoople (1969), Crazy shadows (1970), Wildlife (1970) and Brain capers (1971) – as well as non-LP singles, live tracks, demos, rehearsals and alternate takes.

It is well documented that David Bowie saved the band from potential oblivion after Mott announced their separation in early 1972. Bowie, a newly formed superstar, first offered them “Suffragette City” to record; instead, they chose “All the Young Dudes”, which they turned into an anthem for a time.

Prior to this career-defining song, they were a hard-working, hard rock band who combined their love for Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones and Little Richard into raw and sophisticated rock ‘n’ roll on the first original songs like “Rock and Roll Queen, “” Backsliding Fearlessly “and” Half Moon Bay “, as well as expert covers (their version of Sonny Bono’s” Laugh at Me “is one of the best).

Their second album, Crazy shadows, was a darker disc, while the third, Wildlife, unlike any of their other LPs. Guitarist Mick Ralphs was more influential here, collaborating with frontman Ian Hunter and producer Guy Stevens, who worked on Mott’s first two albums and was, by all accounts, not the right person. easier to work with. (His contributions are covered in detail in a 50 page book included in the box).

By the fourth album, Brain capers, the band delivered some of their best and hardest music – “Death May Be Your Santa Claus”, “Sweet Angeline” and “The Moon Upstairs” sounded harder than anything the Stones and their contemporaries were playing at the time. . The record sold even fewer copies than its predecessors, but it became a huge influence on bands that helped ignite the punk scene, including the Clash, who enlisted Stevens to produce their landmark. London call LP.

Mental training traces the evolution of the group during their period with almost all of the material remastered from the original tapes. Combined with the single mixes, B sides and live tracks, the box shows just how powerful a band Mott the Hoople was before they rose to fame. It also confirms that they were an important group as the 1970s approached, and that with only half of their history ended.

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