When Ian Hunter decided to quit Mott the Hoople in October 1974 he was effectively drawing a line in the sand between the pressures of stardom in an equal-opportunities band and a solo career that, despite times when the music business still demanded hit records, would give him full creative rein and control of his destiny.
What many saw as a gamble paid off handsomely. As his latest album Fingers Crossed showed, Hunter’s remarkable late-period golden run is still in rude health. Which was one good reason why this self-deprecating individual who was always so stubbornly opposed to trading on past glories climbed on board to assist Proper Music in their mission to construct what has to be the most exhaustive, certainly the biggest, career retrospective any rock-related artist has had assembled in one package.
Limited to 2,500 copies, the striking, Escher-inspired box contains every album Hunter has released since 1975’s self-titled solo debut (236 tracks), plus nine discs of out-takes, demos and live recordings (another 136 tracks), two DVDs of promos and gig footage, an old-school music paper (called Shades) containing past press, and an 86-page book which long-time fans will be delighted to learn includes what could be seen as a continuation of 1973’s seminal Diary Of A Rock ‘N’ Roll Star, as he describes every song here with characteristic blunt, sometimes even brutal, honesty.
It’s those nine bonus discs that will persuade many to fork out £250 for the set. Tilting The Mirror (Rarities) gathers rarities, demos and out-takes. If You Wait Long Enough For Anything, You Can Get It On Sale (Live 1979-81) includes the fabled 1979 Hammersmith Odeon concert with long-time collaborator Mick Ronson. Bag Of Tricks (Live Rarities) presents rarely performed songs, including some from Hunter’s 2013 Acoustic and 2015 Japanese tours. Acoustic Shadows (The 2008 Acoustic Tour) captures the ‘unplugged’ tour.
Final disc Experiments (Unreleased Trax) is the jewel in the whole crown, as it collates previously unheard demos from Hunter’s archive, including some from the 1980s he had no recollection of recording. ‘Whatever you do, it’s gonna come back on you,’ he sings on Salvation, the tear-nudging 90s confessional he always said would close his last ever album. Instead the song brings the curtain down on this ultimate monument to one of our most beloved singer-songwriters, although, most crucially, Hunter’s not done yet. Whatever he says, it’s time to salute one of the all-time greats.