Salient. Victoria University Students Newspaper. Vol. 38, No. 2. March 11, 1975
Mott the Hoople Live
Mott the Hoople Live
The Good live album is the occurrence rare. In fact, it almost ought to be the occurrence unheard of, because the business of making a record-let alone the experience of listening to is-is a hefty dam in the stream of shared consciousness between performer and audience. The characteristics of the concert, transmuted on record, often seem less marvellous, less exciting, and no long tracks of applause and brouhaha can make up for that.
So: there's that about live albums generally. Add: nine of the fourteen tracks on 'Mott the Hoople: Live' have turned up on previous albums. Conclusion: this is a disappointing album. Comment: Not so fast, Billy, not so fast.
This is a terrific record. Mott the Hoople have always been a cut above the average glitter and decadent, downer rock working machines, from their early, Dylan influenced material to the more incisive tunes of later times. I said it 18 months' ago, and I stand to it; but this set, which is whoop and holler from its first to its 49th final minute is astonishing, yet this is not because out of the studio, the hoople goes hog wild. I know people who consider that the group's progression since 'all the young dudes' has been too clipped and tense and I see what they mean, without feeling it. However while most of 'Mott the Hoople, Live' is obviously a more unbuttoned record, it is nothing like an orgy of on-and-on jamming. Only the long medley that occupies most of the second side is significantly longer than the average single cut, yet within the extended framework that live work permits are concentrated extraordinary quantities of energy. You hardly notice that the material is nominally familiar. It's as if the electricity behind it came from an entirely different type of current.
Probably, in describing live records, it's more useful to think about the overall effect than to select tracks for comment. Here, for instance, you perceive that the audience is out there, vociferous enough, but clearly separate; the group's sounds are what the record is made of. It isn't always so in these times (compare the Grateful Dead's live sets). But I like the old way better. Among other things, it doesn't exclude the listener who wasn't there when it happened (as six sides of tomfoolery live in Europe tends to do). The gramophone record was invented to bring the stage into the drawing room, but with a lot of live albums I can't escape the feeling that the music is coming from someone else's drawing room. It's like 'The Fly' horror movies, the atoms have to be transported and reassembled, but something goes wrong. But with 'Mot the Hoople; Live' the reconstitution process is entirely successful. The music goes round and round and it comes out here.
This, then, is a live album that asks for no ifs and buts from its hearers. It was recorded by the way in London and New York at the Odeon Theatre, Hammersmith and the Uris Theatre on Broadway, respectively.