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Variety Is The Spice: Varese Serves Up Ian Hunter, Ray Price

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Ian Hunter - All AmericanUpon his departure from Mott the Hoople, frontman Ian Hunter wasted little time in establishing a solo career. His first, eponymous solo album in 1975 yielded the single that made Hunter’s name as a solo artist, the original version of “Once Bitten, Twice Shy.” Recorded at George Martin’s AIR Studios, “Once Bitten” boasted Hunter’s old cohort Mick Ronson as arranger, guitarist and co-producer, and the track made it all the way to No. 14 on the U.K. chart. (Great White’s 1989 cover version belatedly earned Hunter a hit in the U.S. when it reached the Top 5.) Though “Once Bitten” was Hunter’s only hit U.K. single as a solo artist, his fellow musicians were taking notice. Hunter’s star-filled next album, 1976’s All American Alien Boy, has recently been reissued by Varese Sarabande’s Varese Vintage imprint in a newly-remastered edition which also adds six previously-issued bonus tracks including the unique single version of the title track.  (Thanks to all who entered our recent contest to win this fantastic title!)

Recorded at New York’s Electric Lady Studios, All American Alien Boy saw Hunter joined by jazz greats David Sanborn and Jaco Pastorius, as well as Mothers of Invention drummer Aynsley Dunbar, Blood Sweat and Tears’ Lew Soloff and Dave Bargeron, and even Freddie Mercury, Brian May and Roger Taylor of Queen! Messrs. Mercury, Taylor and May can be heard, along with Sanborn, on “You Nearly Did Me In.” (An early version of the song sans guests, “Weary Anger,” is another of the bonus cuts here.) Though Mick Ronson didn’t appear on the album, Chris Stainton was brought onboard as a creative foil for Hunter, and supplied the evocative organ work on the Side Two opener, “Rape.” Aynsley Dunbar’s drums shine on “Apathy 83,” and though jazz great Jaco Pastorius brought his signature bass to the whole album, he also stepped up on lead guitar for “God (Take 1).” Soloff and Bargeron, of the Blood Sweat and Tears horn section, brought their powerful brass to the epic title track.

To quote from that band, however, what goes up must come down. Despite the strength of its material and the impeccable musicianship, Hunter’s sophomore effort failed to match the success of its predecessor. In the U.S., the Columbia Records release only reached No. 177 on the Top LPs chart, a far cry from the No. 50 scored by Ian Hunter. Varese Vintage’s reissue restores the original American cover artwork for All American Alien Boy, and also boasts a Columbia replica logo on the CD itself. This reissue happily retains the six bonus tracks released for the album’s thirtieth anniversary edition in 2006. Full lyrics and credits are provided in the new booklet along with liner notes from Larry R. Watts. Steve Massie has remastered the LP.

After the jump: more on Ian Hunter, plus the news on a collection of rarities from Ray Price!

Ray Price - New PlaceWhen Ray Price died last year at the age of 87, it could be said that an entire era of country music died with him. Price got his start singing after serving in World War II and signed with Columbia Records in 1951, a partnership that lasted for 23 years and more than 30 albums including the Grammy-winning platinum seller For the Good Times in 1970. Upon his departure from the Columbia roster, the venerable country star signed with Viva Records, the label owned by producer Snuff Garrett (Gary Lewis and the Playboys, Cher) and distributed by Warner Bros. He appeared on the label’s soundtrack to Clint Eastwood’s film Honkytonk Man singing “San Antonio Rose” and “One Fiddle, Two Fiddle,” and also released an LP on Viva, 1983’s Master of the Art. Earlier this year, Varese Vintage reissued Honkytonk Man among other titles from the Viva library; now, the label has turned its attention to Price’s solo discography. A New Place to Begin, available now, features eight of Price’s singles from his time at Viva plus seven previously unreleased tracks and one bonus cut from Master of the Art.

Eight of Price’s thirteen single sides for Viva/Warner can be found on this new compilation, including all of those that charted: “(I’m Looking for) A New Place to Begin,” “Better Class of Loser,” “What Am I Going to Do Without You,” “Willie, Write Me a Song,” “Coors in Colorado,” “Scotch and Soda,” and the two songs from Honkytonk Man, “San Antonio Rose” and “One Fiddle, Two Fiddle.” All of these tracks were produced by Garrett, who also helmed the unreleased songs here. The most unexpected of these rarities is a rendition of Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler’s standard “Stormy Weather.” Despite enjoying a long and fruitful career, Price performed very few American pop standards.

Ray Price followed his time at Viva/Warner with stints at labels including Step One and Lost Highway; at the latter, he teamed with Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson in 2007 for the appropriately-titled Last of the Breed. Produced by Cary Mansfield and Laurence Zwisohn and featuring notes from Zwisohn and remastering by David Shirk, A New Place to Begin is a long-overdue overview of Price’s Viva period, made extra-special by the inclusion of so much never-before-heard material.

Both Ian Hunter’s All American Alien Boy and Ray Price’s A New Place to Begin are available now from Varese Vintage and can be ordered at the links below!

Ian Hunter, All American Alien Boy (Columbia LP PC 34142, 1976 – reissued Varese Vintage 302 067 276 8, 2014) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

  1. Letter to Brittania from the Union Jack
  2. All American Alien Boy
  3. Irene Wilde
  4. Restless Youth
  5. Rape
  6. You Nearly Did Me In
  7. Apathy 83
  8. God (Take 1)
  9. To Rule Brittania from Union Jack (Outtake)
  10. All American Alien Boy (Single Version) (CBS (U.K.) single S 4268, 1976)
  11. Irene Wilde (Take 1 – Outtake)
  12. Weary Anger (Outtake)
  13. Apathy (Outtake)
  14. (God) (Advice to a Friend) (Outtake)

Bonus tracks first collected on 30th anniversary CD reissue, 2006.

Ray Price, A New Place to Begin (Varese Vintage 302 067 277 8, 2014) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. )

  1. (I’m Looking For) A New Place to Begin (Viva single 29277, 1984)
  2. Everyone Gets Crazy Now and Then (Viva single 29277-B, 1984)
  3. Better Class of Loser – with The Cherokee Cowboys (Viva single 29217, 1984)
  4. What Am I Gonna Do Without You – with The Cherokee Cowboys (Viva single 29147, 1984)
  5. I’ll Sail My Ship Alone
  6. Nothing to Go On
  7. Stormy Weather
  8. Starting New Memories
  9. Willie, Write Me a Song (Warner Bros. single 29691, 1983)
  10. San Antonio Rose – with Johnny Gimble and the Texas Swing Band (Warner Bros. single 29830, 1983)
  11. Old Loves Never Die
  12. One Fiddle, Two Fiddle – with Johnny Gimble and the Texas Swing Band (Warner Bros. single 29830, 1983)
  13. I’m the Last One You Remember (And the Last One You Forget)
  14. Coors in Colorado (Viva single 29458, 1983)
  15. One Away from One Too Many
  16. Scotch and Soda (Viva single 29543, 1983)

Tracks 5-8, 11, 13, 15 previously unreleased

Written by Joe Marchese

November 12, 2014 at 09:50

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