Album Review: Ian Hunter & The Rant Band – When I’m President




Glam-rock icon Ian Hunter is now on his 20th solo album since Mott the Hoople threw in the sequin towel in 1974. David Bowie has written songs for Hunter and Mott the Hoople (on his own accord), and Hunter’s right-hand man was lead-Spider From Mars, Mick Ronson, right up to the bitter end, when liver-cancer tragically claimed Ronson’s life in 1993.

When I’m President witnesses the glam-rock deity aging gracefully, without unnecessarily neutering the inner rock ‘n’ roll beast that originally brought him to prominence in the ’70’s. Now in his 70’s, Hunter is still angry, still inspired, and the perpetually bespectacled Brit has put together a dynamic record of that touches on his glam-rock pedigree while simultaneously displaying the refinement that a career as long as Hunter’s cultivates.

The album immediately smacks of the better parts of Mott the Hoople’s best years on opening track, “Comfortable (Flying Scotsman)”, a number painted in weaving guitars, boogie-woogie piano and Memphis-style horn stabs. As the tracks lyrics suggest “we slip into something more comfortable,” the sound follows suit in its adherence to classic mid-70’s form.

While the album is present and clear in its production, Hunter and his Rant Band recorded President in under a week, circumventing the sterility that can result when a rock band spends too much time in the dreary world of too many takes and too many tweaks.

As the album title suggests, Hunter’s infatuation with American history and politics plays an important role here, though, aside from the title track, the diatribes are far less pointed than those found on Hunter releases during the Bush administration. Western lore takes the lyrical reigns frequently, including an atmospheric dream of a song sung from the perspective of storied Native American chief Crazy Horse, and “Wild Bunch”, an exercise in Mick Taylor-era Stones twang about the 1969 Sam Peckinpah western film of the same title.  

Between the reinvigoration Mick Ronson’s death catalyzed in the man, and a mission to “repay the debt” he feels he owes to artists like Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley for initially inspiring a life in music, Ian Hunter has created a record that is an extreme rarity in how well it stands up to the giants within his discography.

Essential Tracks: “When I’m President”, “Black Tears”