Overnight Angels

Ian Hunter

Sony, 1977


REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


One of the truisms of the life of an artist is that if you keep at it long enough, at some point you’re bound to release a piece of work that in retrospect you really wish you hadn’t.  Welcome to Ian Hunter’s albumus terriblus.

Two years down the road from his superb solo debut -- and two years apart from his invaluable partner on that recording, guitarist/arranger/producer/creative foil extraordinaire Mick Ronson, Hunter threw together a group for this disc that must have seemed promising at the time.  Start with returning drummer Dennis Elliott from Hunter’s debut, on the cusp of hitting the big time with Foreigner, and add flashy guitarist Earl Slick and a couple of like-minded studio musicians.  Then top things off with the production talents of notable 1970s boardsman Roy Thomas Baker, coming off a pair of hit albums with Hunter’s old pals Queen.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

It all sounds good on paper, doesn’t it?  But…

Baker proceeds to take one of the frequently-brilliant Hunter’s less inspired sets of tunes and dress it up with an astonishing variety of fussy overproduction until it collapses into one big blurry mess.   Rockers like “Golden Opportunity,” “Overnight Angels” and “Wild N’ Free” try hard to ignite, but only the latter ever breaks free (sorry) of the oppressive confines of Baker’s overcrowded production.  The title track is a complete disaster, as Baker processes Hunter’s trademark, pleasantly raw vocals to the point of rendering them almost unrecognizable.

Unfortunately, it’s not the worst track here.  That dubious honor would have to go to the truly wretched “Justice Of The Peace,” whose phenomenally grating chorus background vocals are the musical equivalent of water-boarding.  Honorable mention in the category of Truly Horrible Arrangement and Production goes to “To Love A Woman,” where said background vocalists are made to sound like the Brady Bunch on helium.

There are a handful of passable tunes here -- “Broadway” is another of Hunter’s passionate love letters to his adopted country, and “The Ballad Of Little Star” is pretty enough in its simplicity -- but more common are stumbles like “Shallow Crystals,” a rather pedestrian ballad with distinctly Queen-like guitar crescendos erupting without warning every couple of minutes as if to shake you out of a slumber.

The fact that this album has been out of print for years, other than Sony BMG’s two-for-one package pairing it with All American Alien Boy, is testament to both the quality of the finished product and Hunter’s own assessment of it.  This is one he was happy to leave in the dust.

Rating: D+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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