Legacy's remastered reissue of Mott the Hoople's All the Young Dudes pays homage to a true rock & roll myth and one of the great recordings of the early '70s -- whether the "official" critics lists reflect that or not. Ben Edmonds' excellent, even poetic liner notes tell the whole story, yet a sketch of it is worth repeating here: in March of 1972, Mott, frustrated by a rough gig in Switzerland, poor album sales, and the failure to crack the charts or fill concert halls despite a small but rabid following in the U.K. and an even smaller one in the U.S. -- though critics liked them and they filled halls in Detroit with insanely wild fans -- decided to hang it up. As Edmonds accurately points out, the band was unable to capture the wild, frenetic roots rock & roll energy (combined with hard rock) that its stage show was drenched with. Enter David Bowie, a one-hit wonder with "Space Oddity," who was trying to reinvent himself with a character named Ziggy Stardust. He loved Mott. He offered to produce the set and offered them a song, the title track. The rest is history. "All the Young Dudes" was the band's first bona fide chart success, and helped to kick off the glam era, though Mott were not a glam band. Live, they possessed the crazy, danger-channeling spirit of truly edge-walking performers like Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard, yet had every bit of the swagger and spit of the Rolling Stones, the Faces, and the Kinks. Other tracks on the disc that struck pay dirt for fans and the uninitiated were the anthemic strutter "One of the Boys," the loose and woolly "Jerkin' Crocus," and Mick Ralphs' "Ready for Love," a song he later resurrected to chart success after leaving Mott to join Bad Company. And finally there was perhaps the finest version ever recorded of Lou Reed's classic "Sweet Jane."
While the album, presented in gloriously remastered sound, offers listeners an entirely new hearing of one of rock's most enduring outings, the bonus material included here is the stuff of legend; it cements the Mott myth. There are seven bonus cuts on the set. First there are demo versions of "One of the Boys," "Momma's Little Jewel" (then called "Black Scorpio"), and "Sea Diver" (then titled "Ride on the Sun"). These tracks, while rough, contain some of the wild abandon Mott exhibited live -- and there is further evidence of that here. There is a 45-rpm version of "One of the Boys," tightened up and mixed to stun. A real lo-fi gem included here is "All the Young Dudes," with Bowie on lead and chorus vocals. It's inferior to the album version with Ian Hunter on lead (though Bowie remains in the chorus), but it gave Hunter a road map for his own performance. Finally, there are two tracks from the Hammersmith Odeon, "Sucker" and "Sweet Jane," that reveal the sheer raw and crazy magic of Mott live. Both of these cuts are simply out to lunch in their abandonment to the music itself. "Sweet Jane," in particular, has none of the pretty guitar intro that the studio version does; it's all power chords and Hunter letting out the words, cool, collected, and ready to ramp it all up -- and he does as the band plays double time. He keeps it all grounded, having both the audience and the swirling, stomping music in the palm of his hand. Check out Ralphs' guitar solo in the middle; it's utterly badass. For anyone who ever even cared about rock & roll in the 1970s, this is one of those records that is a must-have. One hopes that the reissue of All the Young Dudes will spur a Mott revival in the same way that T. Rex are revived every few years. Legacy did a masterful job and treated the presentation of this with all the care a classic deserves. ~ Thom Jurek