You're Never Alone With A Schizophrenic

Ian Hunter

Chrysalis, 1979

http://www.ianhunter.com

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/16/2009

After the consecutive disappointments All American Alien Boy and Overnight Angels, Ian Hunter all too suddenly found himself at a crossroads in his post-Mott The Hoople solo career.  The initial promise of his self-titled debut having steadily dimmed, it was becoming not just important but perhaps essential for him to find a way to realize that potential again.

Step one toward achieving that goal was to move to Chrysalis and reunite with his former musical partner in crime Mick Ronson, he of the prodigious guitar, production and arrangement talents.  A mutual admiration society ever since David Bowie had brought Ronson in to help arrange Mott The Hoople’s triumphant All The Young Dudes album, over the years Hunter and Ronson consistently brought out the best in one another musically.

Step two was to recruit a band of world-class players to back Hunter and Ronson in the studio -- and you couldn’t ask for better than pulling in Roy Bittan (keys), Garry Tallent (bass) and Max Weinberg (drums) from Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band.nbtc__dv_250

Step three was for Hunter to deliver a sharp, focused set of songs with strong hooks and memorable lyrics.  Check that one off the list -- top to bottom, this is one of the most consistently hooky sets of songs Hunter has ever written.

The album, produced by Ronson and Hunter, with arrangements by Ronson, Hunter and Bittan, is tight and dynamic from the first “here we go” kick-drum hits of “Just Another Night” to the dramatic final fadeout of “The Outsider.”  In between, you get three of Hunter’s most melodic and memorable rockers in “Just Another Night,” “Wild East” and “Life After Death,” the requisite heartfelt ballad in “Ships,” and the immortal singalong that is “Cleveland Rocks.”

The latter comes with a story of its own, as it was originally composed for Overnight Angels, then left off that album, only to resurface soon afterwards as a standalone single retitled “England Rocks.”  That version is an entertaining novelty, but the Schizo version of “Cleveland Rocks” is simply one of the most fun songs ever put to tape -- just ask Drew Carey -- not to mention one of many Hunter tributes to the American rock’n’roll he loves so well.

The twist of Schizo comes in the latter third when the album lives up to its title (which Ronson copped from graffiti he read on a bathroom wall), becoming distinctly unstable.  “Standin’ In My Light” and ”Bastard” tap into up-til-then hidden reserves of anger and aggression, the latter truly seething by the end, whereupon it drops into the almost-spooky theatrics of “The Outsider,” a narrative of an Old West drifter that’s arranged like a rock Phantom Of The Opera.  No, really.  Right off the rails, they went…

The success of You’re Never Alone With A Schizophrenic -- which hit #35 on the U.S. album charts -- ensured that both Ian Hunter’s solo career and the Hunter-Ronson partnership would endure.  The subsequent tour was among the most successful of his career and was captured in all its glory on his very next release, the double-live LP Welcome To The Club.  To use a now-tainted phrase -- mission accomplished.

Rating: A-

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