When I'm President

Ian Hunter & The Rant Band

Proper Records, 2012


REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


Ian Hunter is not the first rock and roller in history to make a great album past the age of 70; I’m pretty sure of it. Just as I’m pretty sure that no one in the entire history of rock and roll has ever delivered three great albums in a row after the age of 65, until now.

At an age when most tradesmen are contemplating life from an easy chair, the tough, crafty Hunter is on a creative roll like a hitter who suddenly sees every pitch like it’s batting practice; he’s knocking them out of the park, one after another. When I’m President is at least as good as 2007’s Shrunken Heads, even better than 2009’s Man Overboard and, regardless of any and all comparisons, one of the very best albums of 2012.

Hunter’s backstory as frontman for original British barroom bashers Mott the Hoople and intermittently successful solo artist could fill volumes. His current late-career groove has surely been buoyed by the stellar support he’s receiving from the same crack band he’s been working with for over a decade now, since 2001’s return-to-form Rant. Affectionately known as The Rant Band, and appropriately co-billed with Hunter on this album, this musical wrecking crew features guitarists Mark Bosch and James Mastro, keys-man Andy Burton, bassist Paul Page and drummer Steve Holley. Under the musical direction of Hunter and co-producer/guitarist Andy York, the Ranters are on par with the E Street Band in terms of skill, feel, versatility and ability to flat-out rock when called upon to. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

It comes down to this: there isn’t a duff track on When I’m President, not a one—it’s all killer, no filler, and how many acts can say that at any age? 

Raucous, witty opener “Comfortable” sets the tone, rocking with swaggering authority. “Fatally Flawed” follows with a wonderful one-act play about addiction, its mid-tempo brio erupting into magnificent crescendos and falling back to a somber denouement. The title tune bats third, a brilliant, ringing rocker in which Hunter fantasizes about righting the wrongs laid out before him and playfully imagines “my ugly mug up on Mount Rushmore.” It’s a classic Hunter anthem, and he’s just getting started…

If you thought the septuagenarian Hunter didn’t have any of that old Mott fire left in him, you’d best prepare yourself for “What For,” a genuinely ferocious stomper of a tune that Hunter sings with the fire of a man a third his age. The Ranters finish it off with a muscular guitar solo worthy of Mick himself (Ralphs or Ronson), in this case executed by Mark Bosch. The similarly Hoople-esque “Black Tears” is a bitter, beautiful ballad about a woman who can switch the tears on and off at will, featuring a sledgehammer chorus and another stinger of a solo from Mr. Bosch. As for “Saint,” a single, masterful, plain-spoken line tells you all you need to know: “I ain’t no saint, no / But I could never be you.”

Granted, “Just The Way You Look Tonight” might feel a tad predictable, but it’s sweet nonetheless; Hunter is nothing if not a gentlemanly, romantic thug. More in character is the bartop-dancing movie pastiche “Wild Bunch,” complete with telling details like the bank teller’s shaking hands. Hunter delves deeper into Old West history with the swirling, atmospheric “Ta Shunka Witco (Crazy Horse),” a tune that might have faltered under the weight of its narrative if not for the superb arrangement and smart sequencing. Up next, “I Don’t Know What You Want” is a steady, dark thumper giving voice to millennial alienation.

Closer “Life” is another brilliant number, a sort of overture for Hunter’s entire five-decade career. It’s not just the deft way he sums up the philosophy of life that has kept him sane and healthy all these years, it’s the genuine wonder and delightfully unsentimental sentimentality he invests in lines like “I can’t believe after all these years – you’re still here and I’m still here -- laugh because it’s only life.”

Ian Hunter is 73 years old, he’s given his life to rock and roll and he’s still doing it, and it still means something, even at its most absurd moments. He’s still here, with a voice full of passion and determination and a winning, rough-hewn honesty, singing some of the best songs he’s ever written. And that’s bloody well saying something.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


Great review. I'll be grabbing my copy soon, I'm sure. And 'Cheers!' to Ian Hunter who plans on shaking the RnR apple cart long, long after ...the nighttime comes.

© 2012 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Proper Records, and is used for informational purposes only.