It may be no coincidence Ian Hunter’s newest solo album precedes a reunion of Mott the Hoople in autumn of 2009. The prospect of revisiting the most-high profile work of his career appears to have elevated him as a songwriter and performer on Man Overboard.
“The Great Escape” becomes immediately arresting as Hunter's hoarse voice depicts vivid detail over strongly strummed acoustic guitars, the combined intensity of which goes up a notch with entry of piano then electric guitar. Fey vocals and keyboards arrest that momentum somewhat, but ultimately this is an effective beginning, particularly as it gives way to the sleek rhythm chording of "Arms and Legs.”
The somewhat formulaic approach Hunter utilizes here may not carry much weight for those unfamiliar with the man's history, but the noisy likes of "Up and Running " is something else altogether: Hunter sounds like he's drowning in the cacophony and loving it. In much the same way, the melancholy he embraces in the Dylanesque titlesong is anything but self-pitying as he imbues the lyrics with double meaning while the orchestration of strings and horns extends the deliberate ambiguity. Over the course of his own career, Ian Hunter has never done much to diminish the intelligence he demonstrated as titular front man for Mott. Even more than 2007's splendid Shrunken Heads, Man Overboard enhances his profile.