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Mott the Hoople - "Wildlife" (LP)

Mott the Hoople - "Wildlife" (LP)

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Genre: rock
Rating: 3 stars ***
Title:  Wildlife
Company: Atlantic
Catalog: SD-8304
Year: 1971
Country/State: US
Grade (cover/record): VG+ / VG+
Comments: gatefold sleeve
Available: 1
Catalog ID: 6244
Price: $15.00

After two commercially under-performing albums, producer Guy Stevens reportedly pressured Mott the Hoople to make some personnel changes, including suggesting the band fire keyboardist Verden Allen. The band responded to the suggestion by ending their relationship with Stevens. The band also decided to take a stab at self-production with the release of 1971's "Wildlife". With singer Ian Hunter and lead guitarist Mick Ralphs dividing writing chores, the album also found the band making a tentative move towards a lighter, more varied and commercial sound. Mind you, evidenced by songs like 'Whiskey Woman' and the live 'Keep a' Knockin'' there were still plenty of rockers on the collection, but you also had some sensitive singer/songwriter numbers ('Original Mixed-Up Kid'), a country-rocker ('It Must Be Love') and even one amazing Neil Young knock-off ('Wrong Side of the River'). The album was also an anomaly in the band's catalog in that Hunter and Ralphs shared vocal responsibilities. While I've always liked Hunter's rugged, occasionally Dylan-esque voice, hearing Ralphs take the mike made for a pleasant change. To be honest, Ralphs didn't have a particularly impressive voice, but at least within the studio confines his performances were more than adequate.

- For my money Ralph's 'Whiskey Woman' stands as one of the band's best songs. A crisp and powerful rocker with some funny 'American groupie' lyrics, Ralphs lead vocals were great (making for a nice change from Hunters ragged voice). Should have provided the band with a massive radio hit ... rating: **** stars
- Okay if was apparently inspired by a New York prostitute, but 'Angel of Eighth Avenue' remained one of Hunter's prettiest compositions. With a beautiful and almost pastoral melody, even Hunter's vocals were understated. Loved the way Hunter's lyrics captured the mundane aspects of city life. rating: **** stars
- Written and sung by Ralphs, 'Wrong Side of the River' found the band turning in their best Neil Young impersonation .... Seriously, Ralphs fragile falsetto bore an uncanny resemblance to Young this time around and the song's melancholy melody and feel was a perfect Young knock-off. Great song. rating: **** stars
- For a band known for their rock repertoire, Hunter's 'Waterlow' came as a major surprise - who would have expected to hear an orchestrated folk number ? Very pretty and calming and truly bizarre. rating: *** stars
- One of two cover tunes, side one ended with Melanie's 'Lay Down'. I can't say I was ever enthralled with the Melanie original, so their probably wasn't much that Mott could have done to convert me ... Needless to say, Hunter's screaming vocal coupled with a backing chorus that sounded like it had been lifted from the original, failed to impress. rating: ** stars
- Mott does Poco ... Yeah, I never expected to hear these guys doing a country-rocker, but witness 'It Must Be Love' they did. Not bad, though it simply wasn't a genre that did a great deal for me. rating: *** stars
- Showcased keyboardist Verden, 'Home I Where I Want To Be' was a catchy, mid-tempo rocker that sported one of the album's best chorus. Shame the song faded out so early. rating: **** stars
- A slightly ramshackle live performance that suffered from hideous sound quality, the liner notes listed the track as Little Richard's 'Keep a' Knocking', but this was really a medley of '50s rock chestnuts such as Jerry Lee Lewis' 'Tell Me What I Say'. Apparently recorded for a planned live album that was shelved, normally covers of '50s rock and R&B chestnuts don't do anything for me, but on this one Hunter and company literally tearing their way through the song with Ralphs shining throughout the performance. Very impressive. rating: **** stars
As you probably expected, the band's willingness to try out a new musical playground was greeted with critical and buying public disdain. Most band's would have probably thrown in the towel, but these guys kept on going.

"Wildlife" track listing:
(side 1)
1.) Whiskey Woman (Mick Ralphs) - 3:38
2.) Angel of Eighth Avenue (Ian Hunter) - 4:30
3.) Wrong Side of the River (Mick Ralphs) - 6:18
4.) Waterlow (Ian Hunter) - 3:00
5.) Lay Down (Melanie Safka) - 4:10

(side 2)
1.) It Must Be Love (Mick Ralphs) - 6:01
2.) Original Mixed-Up Kid (Ian Hunter) - 4:06
3.) Home I Where I Want To Be (Mick Ralphs) -
4.) Keep a' Knockin' (Richard Penniman) -
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