Monday, December 21, 2009

Rolling Stone 500: (491) All the Young Dudes by Mott the Hoople [1972]

Everybody knows Mott the Hoople for their big hit, the title track from All the Young Dudes. But, you know, it's like, man, they made more than one song that just happened to be used in a popular movie. So based on that one song I was pretty excited to listen to Mott the Hoople's 1972 release. Expectations were almost impossibly high because "All the Young Dudes" is so good.

The story goes that the band wanted to break up, but David Bowie gave them "All the Young Dudes" and produced the album. And even though the song is and remains amazing, the rest of the album is top notch 1970's rock 'n' roll, a.k.a. classic rock. Much of it sounds like the Rolling Stones did during the same time period (also the last time the Stones would make listenable music).

And why not kick off a record with a nice little cover of a great Velvet Underground song? "Sweet Jane," while nice, seems a bit too low energy, especially the singing through the first half of the song. Still, their cover is pretty good.

Maybe I am a sucker for sound effects, but going from "Mamma's Little Jewel" into "All the Young Dudes" there is an awesome tape warping sound. The transition from the basic 70's rock sound into the lushness of "All the Young Dudes" would otherwise not work. And with that cool transition Mott the Hoople's perfect song takes up the next three-and-a-half minutes. Something about the organ (which always seems to make a song sound epic, for instance, Procol Harum's "A Whiter Shade of Pale" and The Beatles' "Let It Be") with it's "clean" sound placed under the distorted guitar makes a nice musical landscape for the passionate lead vocals. Not to mention the background singing "oooohhhh." All of it perfect.

The next few songs sound like the Rolling Stones (especially on "Jerkin' Crocus") of that time sounded like or what bands such as Grand Funk Railroad will sound like a couple of years after this release (on "Soft Ground"). Then the final two tracks end the album on a high note. I like Bad Company and know a bunch of their songs from my dad's music collection and classic rock radio. So when I heard this familiar guitar part I kept trying to put my finger on what it is. Then I recognized Bad Company's "Ready for Love." I learned Mott the Hoople guitarist Mick Ralphs wrote the song and later joined Bad Company. This version compares very favorably to Bad Company's hit.

And finally, "Sea Diver" ends the record in beautiful fashion. It builds from a simple singer/piano arrangement to one that includes strings, horns and drums. The song crescendos and decrescendos throughout while rests allow both the band and listener to take a breath before the music picks up again. Imagine the Beatles' "The Long and Winding Road" with a much better arrangement and that is what you get to conclude the album. Again, beautiful, simply beautiful.

Unfortunately, the two best songs happen to be the two shortest ones. Overall this has been the most consistent record on the list so far. None of the songs are bad or have major flaws. "Sea Diver" and "All the Young Dudes" I could listen to over and over forever and not get bored. The others, however, I need to be in the mood for. That is the same with most music though; it is not a knock.

All the Young Dudes

Sea Diver

Ready for Love

Best songs: "All the Young Dudes," "Sea Diver" and "Ready for Love"
Filler: None (worst song though it isn't that bad: "Momma's Little Jewel")
Verdict: 3.9 out of 4 (officially a four on Rate Your Music)
Next up: Entertainment! by Gang of Four (Rate Your Music predicts I'll give it a 4.45)

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