This is one of those “double” reviews of albums that I`m personally not very fond of. But here you have it. Two albums reviewed for the price of one or something… Personally I find the Sabbath one a great collection of tracks even today, but Mr. Murray wouldn`t agree with me. Enjoy!
You too can have a legend like mine
Takes only two minutes a day – in your own home!
Mott The Hoople: Greatest Hits (CBS);
Black Sabbath: We Sold Our Soul For Rock `N` Roll (Nems).
By Charles Shaar Murray
A cornucopia of aspects: Compilations seen as examples of the Gentle Art Of Putting Compilation Albums Together, compilations as someone`s idea of the best and most important aspects of the artist in question, compilations as distillations of the essence of the artist and thereby lynch-pins for discussion of the artist`s Galactic Importance, Social Significance, Role in the economic exploitation of the rock-sensitive sections of the populace and occasionally New Jersey.
The Mott album was put together by the current incarnation of the band with the assistance of Stan Tippins, tour manager and close associate of the band since Year Dot.
It covers the CBS years: i.e. from “Dudes” (1972) to “Saturday Gigs” (late `74); the period from the entry of David Bowie to the departure of Ian Hunter.
It contains all the hit singles – that`s “All The Young Dudes”, “Honaloochie Boogie”, “All The Way From Memphis”, “Roll Away The Stone” and “The Golden Age of Rock And Roll” – the last two singles, which didn`t catch public interest too tough (“Foxy Foxy” and “Saturday Gigs”), and a clutch of album tracks: Pete Watts` big moment “Born Late `58” and Ian Hunter`s two melodramatic chest-beating keynote speeches “Hymn For The Dudes” and “Ballad Of Mott The Hoople (March 26, 1972, Zurich).”
Which is fair enough, obviously. “Born Late `58” is no cultural triumph, but it provides continuity with the current Hunterless Mott (who, after all, compiled the album). “Hymn” and “Ballad” are both crucial tracks, but the inclusion of both at the expense of equally crucial (and far more dynamic) pieces like “Sucker” and “Violence” balances the album far too heavily towards the portentious end.
“Saturday Gigs”, whatever its merits/demerits in its original incarnation as a single – the overly self-centred autobiography-of-Mott latter verses blow it for the far more universal opening verses – was just tailormade to be the last track on a Mott The Hoople bestof.
Still, those are individual quibbles with an individual view of the music of what was certainly one of the best and most important British bands of the first half of the `70s – and while we`re on individual quibbles, I still think “Honaloochie Boogie” sucks – and it should go without saying that anyone who wasn`t Hoople-conscious at the time owes it to his/her rock and roll soul to get this album.
On a trivia level, however, it would appear from the packaging that various old wounds dating from the Mott/Hunter/Ronson hara-kari of a year or so back are still more than a little septic.
The cover photo has Hunter – undeniably the group`s Heavy Duty Figure during its hey-day – unobtrusively stashed away behind Morgan Fisher, while Pete Watts in all his glory holds sway front`n centre.
On the back liner spread and the photo insert, there ain`t one single pic of Mick Ronson – who for better or for worse was a member of Mott The Hoople for a while, even though none of the present Motters have any cause to remember him with any affection – and the unfortunate Ronno is simply listed as having played guitar on “Saturday Gigs”, just as, say, Andy Mackay is listed as having played saxophone on “Boogie” and “Memphis.”
He`s also conspicious by his absence from any mention in CBS`s PR chief David Sandison`s liner note.
It may seem petty to go into all this, but it was a lot pettier for Tippins, Watts, Fisher, Griffin et al to turn Ministry Of Truth and attempt to re-write history like this.
Ronno was in Mott – no matter for how short a time and no matter how unhappily – so give the dude his due, boys. An album of this nature is supposed to be a picture of what went down, not a means of avenging old grievances. Be British about it, f`Chrissakes.
The Sabs` album, on the other hand, is beset by no such problems. For one thing, they`ve had the same line-up all along, so there`s no danger of the album being turned into a battlefield by warring factions. For another, they`ve only ever had one hit, so there`s no need to worry about conflicting identities as a singles band vs. album/concert band.
What it is – fanfare please, maestro – is A Monument To The Work Of A Great Group.
Wisely enough, it concentrates on the band`s early material; working on the principle that the Sabs` current young audience will be more likely to have, say, the last three albums as opposed to the first few. Therefore, the first two albums, “Black Sabbath” and “Paranoid” are re-presented virtually in toto, and its various successors are represented proportionately on a sliding scale (i.e. the more recent, the less tracks).
Mind you, it don`t make that much difference because apart from the reactionary intrusion of strings, pianos, synthesisers and other softening/broadening devices introduced to vary the monolithic belabouring of guitar, bass and drums, it all has remarkable internal consistency (when I was a snob – i.e. before I Saw The Light – I would`ve said that it all sounds the same). “We Sold Our Soul For Rock `n` Roll” – I think I`ve seen that slogan somewhere before, like on NME tube-card ads – is wall-to-wall pneumatic-drill riffing in wide-screen Skullarama, heavy as two short planks and monomaniacally psychotic/obsessive rock and roll.
I`m proud to say I love every beautiful braindamaged crushingly obvious moment of it. Cross my heart and hope to…
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!
This number of New Musical Express also contains articles/interviews with these people: Woody Herman, Howard Schuman and Andy Mackay, Man, Roy Wood, 50`s Rock and Roll, Boxer, Al Jarreau, Bill Wyman, The Bothy Band, Mike Dorane, Billy Connolly, Fats Domino, Led Zeppelin.
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