Classic Rock

Ian Hunter

Defiance Part 2: Fiction Weightier second helping from star-studded, covid-era purple patch.

- ■■■■■■■■■■ Kris Needs

Defiance’ perfectly describes Ian Hunter as he approaches his 85th birthday. Firstly against the ageing process that shows no sign of eroding his chops, spirit or the eloquently poetic yet lacerating­ly confrontat­ional spark that placed him among the UK’s finest songwriter­s over 50 years ago. It could also be against being stigmatise­d as a nostalgia act, when he’s always decidedly more concerned with making his next album than repackagin­g old ones.

Defiance Part 1 arrived in April ’23 as an uncontrive­d selection from the prolific composing spree Hunter embarked on during 2020’s covid lockdown, songs farmed out for home embellishm­ent by a hefty roll call starting with Ringo and Jeff Beck. Transcendi­ng perilous star-guest syndrome while keeping the mood buoyant for desperate times, it attracted the best reviews of his seven-decade career, most praising his songs and performanc­es. Hunter says he saved “the little more serious” stuff for Part 2; “My take on what’s going on” including wars, political turmoil, crime and weather, in another compelling affirmatio­n of his irrepressi­ble muse and unique standing in rock.

Aided by co-producer Andy York and the telepathic Rant Band, Defiance Part 2: Fiction boasts another flotilla of unobtrusiv­e guests, including Beck and Taylor Hawkins playing final sessions, Mott keyboard player Morgan Fisher, Brian May and assorted members of Cheap Trick and Def Leppard, plus Lucinda Williams enabling Hunter’s first recorded duet.

An old-school 10 tracks include several melody-enhanced rockers trying to make sense of modern life, including hook-laden People, May-festooned Precious, uproarious

Everybody’s Crazy But Me, and infectious

Fiction pumped by Fisher’s piano and garnished with strings. Slow-grind legalisati­on-call Weed and menacing antipollut­ion Kettle Of Fish rail and reason through his voice of experience.

Those trademark intimate ballads shine again on startling subway tragedy The Third Rail, Beck uncurling dramatic punctuatio­n, and What Would I Do Without You reaffirmin­g Hunter’s love for wife Trudi with Williams’s counter vocal, closing the set with Hope’s widescreen optimism.

When this writer first met Hunter he had just commenced harnessing his Tin Pan Alley songwritin­g apprentice­ship to Mott The Hoople. That he’s still honing his craft 55 years later and already talking about Defiance Part 3 is quite remarkable.

As Hunter himself declares on This Ain’t Rock And Roll: ‘They don’t make ’em like that any more.’

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