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Album Of The Week Club Review: Mott The Hoople - The Hoople

Mott The Hoople's final album comes under the Album Of The Week microscope

Mott The Hoople - The Hoople
Mott The Hoople - The Hoople

Mott The Hoople - The Hoople

1. The Golden Age of Rock 'n' Roll
2. Marionette
3. Alice
4. Crash Street Kidds
5. Born Late '58 (Overend Watts) 6
6. Trudi's Song
7. Pearl 'n' Roy (England)
8. Through the Looking Glass
9. Roll Away the Stone 

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Mott The Hoople's seventh album was released in March 1974 with a title, The Hoople, that suggested it was a companion piece to its predecessor, Mott. The album contained the classic Roll Away The Stone, originally released as a single four months earlier, but now featuring guitar overdubs from new member Ariel Bender (known to his mother as former Spooky Tooth man Luther Grosvenor, the replacement for Mick Ralphs, who'd left to form Bad Company). 

It also included the life-affirming single The Golden Age Of Rock’N’Roll, the epic Marionette and the proto-punk Crash Street Kidds.

Every week, Album of the Week Club listens to and discusses the album in question, votes on how good it is, and publishes our findings, with the aim of giving people reliable reviews and the wider rock community the chance to contribute. Join the group now.

Here’s what we learned about The Hoople!

Background

On August 1973, Mott The Hoople played Washington DC. It would be Mick Ralphs’ last show with the band. The guitarist was uncomfortable with the way the success of All The Way From Memphis had changed the direction of the group. “We’d become a stylised pop group without the outrageousness,” he says. Post-Mott, he formed Bad Company with ex-Free frontman Paul Rodgers. a band whose commercial success would dwarf that of his old band, especially in the US.

Ralphs’ replacement was former Spooky Tooth guitarist Luther Grovsenor. The fact that he was a childhood friend of the man he was replacing ensured there was no animosity. He also happened to be a top-drawer nutter who would bring an unhinged energy to Mott’s stage show.

The only snag was that Grovsenor was still contracted to Island, so he was forced to use a pseudonym. British singer-songwriter Lynsey De Paul, a friend of the band, had once christened Mick Ralphs ‘Ariel Bender’ after watching the drunken guitarist charge down a street in Germany bending car aerials, before plunging his head into a horse trough. Hunter remembered the name, and laid it on the up-for-anything Grovsenor.

On November 12, Mott commenced what would be their biggest and most successful UK tour yet, supported by a rising band called Queen, then promoting their debut album. Bender careered around the stage, jousting with Hunter and living up to his declaration that he’d give Mott a shot in the arm.

Of course, the wave had to break. The electrifying buzz which Bender brought to the live show didn’t translate to the studio, so Hunter had to bear the full weight of being leader, songwriter and producer.

Other albums released in March 1974

Aerosmith - Get Your Wings
Camel - Mirage
Rush - Rush
Three Dog Night - Hard Labour
Queen - Queen II
Chicago - Chicago VII
Frank Zappa - Apostrophe
Eagles - On The Border
King Crimson - Starless And Bible Black
Kansas - Kansas
Bob Seger - Seven
Grand Funk Railroad - Shinin' On
Boz Scaggs - Slow Dancer
Peter Frampton - Somethin's Happening

What They Said

"Has success spoiled Ian Hunter? Last year's Mott received and deserved much acclaim. It seemed a post-glitter breakthrough, debunking superstardom and demythologizing rock: "Rock 'n' roll's a loser's game." But since then Hunter and Mott the Hoople have themselves become stars, and unfortunately they appear to have lost the detached perspective which distinguished Mott. Instead of self-awareness, The Hoople offers self-pity; instead of insight and irony, it purveys the cheap histrionics of Alice Cooper." (Rolling Stone)

"Roll Away the Stone and maybe Golden Age of Rock 'n' Roll are classics in their neoclassical mode, which is also to say that they're nothing new, and the marginal stuff is quite undifferentiated. I suspect that Ian Hunter's ego, which he deserves, is crowding out the others. And I know for sure that Ariel Bender flashes more ego than Mick Ralphs ever did, and that he deserves none of it." (Robert Christgau)

"The record seems a little uneven, both in terms of songwriting and sound, but it's hardly without merit. Roll Away the Stone, a leftover from Mott, is first-rate; Crash Street Kidds rocks viciously; The Golden Age of Rock & Roll is a pleasant spin on Bowie-esque nostalgia (think Drive-In Saturday); and Overend Pete Watts follows through on that theme with Born Late '58, a perfectly credible rocker. This all makes The Hoople an entertaining listen, even if it doesn't compare to Mott's earlier masterpieces. (AllMusic Guide)

What You Said

Brian Carr: Keys to my musical tastes: melody/hook, particularly on the vocals, and some degree of musical talent, especially in the guitar playing realm. Other things help, but those two are almost essential (which explains why I really don’t like punk). 

The Hoople has neither of these things. “Ariel Bender” is all kinds of sloppy on this album and melodic vocals are certainly not Ian Hunter’s strength. To go further, the songs aren’t even very high quality (what the hell is going on in Crash Street Kidds? First the fade out less than two minutes in, then a noisy outro). Despite these downsides, I kind of like it. The vibe (almost) makes up for the general sloppiness throughout. I voted 6/10.

Mark McCullagh: Not a band I have had a lot of exposure to other than Memphis and Dudes but this is a pretty solid album. The fellow club member who stopped at Track 4 missed a belter of a track later on with "Through The Looking Glass". Every album in the club needs a fair hearing.

Ed Brown: Sorry guys I've always had a hard time with Mott The Hoople, Roll Away The Stone is a pretty good jam but the rest of this record could easily be scrapped. Maybe they should have just had David Bowie write all their songs for them because All The Young Dudes is the best song they have recorded. Out of all their albums I really only like three or four songs, it's really unfortunate because they have really good company musically such as T-Rex and David Bowie.

Richard Cardenas: I remember when this came out. Formulative stage in my life and this record opened me up to glam even before Bowie. 

I don’t think they were ever any better than this as a whole and moving ahead I liked Ariel Bender’s project, Widow Maker, better than any MtH product.

Jim Linning: Mott the Hoople (supported by Queen) was the first gig I ever went to so I've always had a soft spot for the band. Having said that I never thought they ever came up with that 'killer' album. There always seemed to be a couple of tracks that let them down, and in my opinion it's Pearl 'n' Roy and Through the Looking Glass that do the trick on this one. I'm not a great fan of Crash Street Kidds either, mainly because it always seemed like a wasted opportunity to me. A right rollicking track let down by that flipping fade a couple of minutes in and some clumsy overdubbed guitar on the chorus. Nevertheless Golden Age, Roll Away the Stone and Marionette are classics and Rest in Peace - an addition on the deluxe reissue and the B side of Golden Age is one of my Favourite MTH tracks. 7/10

Tony Collins: After the 'Mott' album, I was actually quite disappointed with this. Apart from 'Marionette', I personally don't think any of the tracks matched anything on 'Mott '. But that's just my opinion. Sure some will disagree.

Maxwell Martello: A fairly decent record. “Golden Age Of Rock and Roll” is one of my fave MTH songs. I’ve always had a soft spot for “Roll Away the Stone”. If I had to pick a single lp by MTH, it’d sure be “Mad Shadows”. HEAVY.

Alistair Gordon: Probably musically not Mott The Hoople's finest hour but it's my favourite Mott album no particular rhyme or reason I just love it also liked the live album that came soon after.

Lee Jones: A bit of a step down from previous records. The lead guitar is a glaring problem. Now, if Mick Ronson (or even Ray Majors) had joined instead of Luther Grosvenor this would have been a much better album. Bender's ham-fisted guitar bludgeons each song into a bloody mess. Which is strange as he is usually a great player (see Spooky Tooth & Stealers Wheel for proof). Still, the majority of songs on the record are top drawer and a class above most rock released in the last 25 years or so. Though, bear in mind that the single version of Roll Away the Stone featuring Mick Ralphs is way better than the album cut featuring Bender. Iconic album cover though.: I remember when this came out. Formulative stage in my life and this record opened me up to glam even before Bowie. 

I don’t think they were ever any better than this as a whole and moving ahead I liked Ariel Bender’s project, Widow Maker, better than any MtH product.

Final Score: 6.89 ⁄10 (98 votes cast, with a total score of 685)

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