I once saw Ian Hunter play a gig on his birthday. One of those weird fan boy types (you know the sort, they’ve always got a carrier bag) kept yelling “happy birthday Ian” in between songs. Finally, Hunter snapped: “fuck off” was the only acknowledgement.

This would have been a decade ago. And it was never far from my thoughts on “Defiance Part 1”. Hunter will be 84 years old in June, but that heart of a rebel, that desire to “frolic with all the young dudes” as he puts it on the title track, still burns strong.

And it must be said “Defiance” might be the most star studded record ever made. It began with an idea from his collaborator (co-conspirator?) Andy York. “It’s 2020, no-ones doing anything,” reasoned Hunter, with usual understatement. So people were emailed. Which explains why Slash and Metallica’s Rob Trujillo are on the title cut, but not why it’s so good. That’s purely down to Ian Hunter.

I’ve always had him down as a kind of British Bob Dylan, and “Bed Of Roses” (Ringo Starr and Mike Campbell on this one) underlines it with its glorious rambling poetry.

There’s some wonderful moments here. “No Hard Feelings” with Johnny Depp and the late Jeff Beck, is beautiful, while most of Stone Temple Pilots give the brilliantly acerbic “Pavlovs Dog” a stomping rock n roll flavour.

That’s typical of what the record does, in that it doesn’t sound like anything else here, yet Hunter is the golden thread. And that extends to the guests. Todd Rundgren is on the soul filled “Don’t Tread On Me” – a simple plea for respect – and you imagine for the stars this was a fun way to get out of comfort zones.

There’s something a little E St Band-ish about “Guernica” and Joe Elliott’s harmonies are superb, while “I Hate Hate” is an example of the anger that burns. Its also what this album would have been if it had been conventional as it’s just Hunter and The Rant Band (it would have still been brilliant – and there’s another version too with Jeff Tweedy on).

“Angel” resurrects the power ballad, and adds a touch of Bowie and that’s suitable seeing as Brad Whitford of Aerosmith joins Duff Mckagan and Taylor Hawkins and the foray into Southern Rock for “Kiss N Make Up” on which Billy Bob Thornton duets and the Rev Billy Giibbons does his thang, is a highlight.

The much missed Hawkins, and Joe Elliott are back for the last one too. A real Mott The Hoople freak out, “This Is What I’m Here For”. He feels it in his bones, he says “all the way to my erogenous zones” and this is the point. He feels this music. And yes, it affects him still.

One of the lines in that last song sum it up: “when I was 30 I was over the hill,” he spits, before adding, “50 years later I still kill em all”.

Never mind the guests, “Defiance Part 1” is one of the album’s of the year because its an Ian Hunter record and he’s a genius.

Just don’t wish him a happy birthday, for Christ’s sake.

Rating 9.5/10

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