Ian Hunter Shrunken Heads

This is his first album in six years from this British rock veteran, but in absentia his reputation has been boosted by such fans as Alejandro Escovedo (who does a killer version of Hunter’s "I Wish I Was Your Mother”). As leader of Mott the Hoople, Hunter was a prominent figure in ’70s glam rock, and his later solo albums and work with Mick Ronson had some shining moments (remember "Cleveland Rocks” and "All The Way To Memphis”?). This enjoyable disc doesn’t quite live up to former glories but does show that Hunter’s gruff voice and wit as a songwriter remain in fine fettle. There are a few cheesy production effects, demonstrated by the echoed vocals on "When the World was Round,” while the repetitive chorus of "Brainwashed” gets annoying. Far better is "Shrunken Heads,” which proves he can still pull off a lush, piano-drenched ballad with more cracked conviction than the likes of a Rod Stewart (though at over seven minutes long it could have used a little editing). An all-star cast of players includes Graham Maby (Joe Jackson), Steve Holley (Wings), James Mastro and producer Andy York. Long-time fan Jeff Tweedy (Wilco) sings backing vocals on three cuts, including album highlight "Guiding Light,” a moody, soul-searching ballad. Stylistically, the disc veers erratically, with the rootsy shuffle of "I Am What I Hated When I Was Young” sounding out of place here. However, there’s enough strong material to satisfy the Hunter fan though. (Yep Roc)