Whenever I mentioned the slab Overnight Angels (1977) to Ian Hunter during our four or five interviews since 2000, the usual reaction was a groan, or a grimace, or a combination of thereof. But I was on a mission…
At the London 02 Arena VIP room immediately following the final “original” Mott the Hoople gig (Martin Chambers substituted for the ailing Dale Griffin) in 2013, I met Def Leppard singer Joe Elliott and congratulated him on his tribute – on record and on stage – to Ian’s Angels by way of his Mott / British Lions / Hunter repertory ensemble Down ‘n’ Outz. He thanked me profusely, and noted that I was among the few who “got it!”
Though it was an album out-of-time, out-of-touch, and somewhat out-of-tune thanks to producer Roy Thomas Baker’s misdirection, the songs and bass playing on Overnight Angels are, to my ears, astonishing.
Rare is the player who can overplay – yet play to the song. Yet that is exactly what Rob Rawlinson achieved on this collection, which, incidentally, was only available as an import in the United States upon its release.
Rawlinson’s nimble fingered fretwork, which was given to strategic rapid fire grace notes, chords, harmonic extensions, and glissandos – were obviously inspired by Jaco Pastorius – who forged electric bass history on Ian’s previous album All American Alien Boy.
Ironically, Rob once replaced Jaco on a session helmed by Roy Thomas Baker.
Rawlinson didn’t appropriate Jaco’s tonal character – which was custom among many players of the era who were bitten by the Pastorius bug. Instead, Rob rounded out Hunter’s ensemble, which also included Earl Slick, with a traditional Fender Precision bass resonance which held the tracks together.
Rawlinson, who went on to found Atomic Studios in London, also anchored sessions and gigs with Freddie Mercury, the Climax Blues Band, the Lloyd Langton Group, Rick Astley, and Alison Moyet, among others.
Over the years, Ian’s stance on Angels has softened, likely due to Elliott’s remake / remodel of one of rock’s most intriguing flawed gems – as he has been known to perform a track or two from this album with The Rant Band with Paul Page on bass.