For the generation who ended up staffing the UK punk bands of the mid-70s, Alex Harvey was their raffishly wicked uncle and Ian Hunter their tough, sardonic but compassionate older brother. Now well into his 70s (as opposed to ‘the 70s’), not only does Mistah ’Untah still have his trademark hair and shades, but his voice and brain remain in enviable fettle.
His Rant Band is a solid ensemble, with the likes of Wings, Joe Cocker, Patti Smith, John Cale and John Mellencamp on their collective CV, and they provide the punchily textural backdrops.
The song settings tend to be either neo-50s sax-and-piano-driven stomps pitched halfway between Mott’s own Golden Age Of Rock ’N Roll and the Stones’ Brown Sugar, or strummy lower-voltage Dylanesque musings and meditations, but it’s what – and who – is up front that counts. In other words, for vocal charisma, dexterous wordplay and rock’n’roll passion, you’ve come to the right place.
Black Tears – spiked with a mean, lyrical guitar solo that tells you how much Mistah H still misses Mick Ronson – is a standout, as is the exuberantly swirling La Bamba fun of Saint, which follows. However, there’s little lack of lustre elsewhere.
With one foot firmly planted in rock and the other in singer-songwriter-ismo, the Old Bastard is still nobody’s pushover.