Ian Hunter & The Rant Proper: Fingers Crossed

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Ian Hunter & The Rant Proper
Fingers Crossed
(Proper Records)
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Ian Hunter’s run of 21st Century records has been so consistently excellent that he doesn’t have a contemporary in rock and roll even close in comparison. Starting with 2001’s Rant, you’d have to look to literature’s Philip Roth or film’s John Huston to see such superb work coming from an artist in his seventies. The former Mott The Hoople leader’s newest disc, Fingers Crossed, may just be the best of this golden group. Bob, Neil, Van, their glories are mostly in the past. Ian Hunter, 77, is now simply the finest practicing songwriter from the Classic Rock era.

Beginning with the greasy, primeval groove of “That’s When The Trouble Starts,” with guitarist James Mastro’s sleazy slide playing and an irresistible “Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah!” chant, you know this ain’t no old rocker grinding out a generic, ghost version of his glorious past — like Rod Stewart. The minute Hunter’s outraged rasp crashes in, growling about showbiz, getting old and all the other unbearable inequities of life, you know we have a live one here. “After your 15 minutes of fame/ Look out, here comes the howlin’ rain’!” spits Hunter, his light undimmed. Young punks would pull out their nose rings for such authentic anger.

Longtime listeners will probably be most eager to hear Hunter’s musical eulogy for old pal David Bowie. They won’t be disappointed. “Dandy” manages the neat trick of being dry-eyed and warm-hearted, an emotional sendoff to “Mr. Jones,” that not only cleverly references Bowie song titles, but has the poignance of Hunter’s best ballads like “Saturday Gigs.” Keep the Kleenex handy for this “Dandy.”

Track by track, hook by hook, growl by growl, the guy has simply never been better. He may talk death (“Ghosts In The Room,” “Morpheus”), but the album is really about the continuing vitality of one of rock and roll’s living legends. At one point, our dude sings a song called “You Can’t Live In The Past.” Though he has many glorious accomplishments, with this album, Ian Hunter proves he is still incredibly active. As well as a man capable of taking his own advice.