What does it sound like?:
Subtitled “The Complete Mainman Recordings”, this 4 CD release on Cherry Red sweeps up pretty much all Mick Ronson’s solo recordings from the period between 1974 and 1979. The first 2 CDs each showcase the officially released RCA albums from 1974 and 1975: Slaughter On 10th Avenue and Play Don’t Worry. Each CD concludes with a selection of out-takes, b-sides and live recordings. CD 3 contains a dozen studio recordings that Mick Ronson made with a power trio in late 1976. This material essentially constitutes a largely unheard album of recordings. They are very good and strongly reminiscent to me of the hard rock albums that Rory Gallagher released in the late 70s. CD 4 is a motley collection of demos and live songs entitled Rarities. This CD is a little underwhelming to begin with and contains mainly songs heard before in the set but picks up at the end with 7 fine live songs from 1976.
The good news is that the sound quality of this release is very decent indeed. Not too much compression and on a par with previous CD releases of the 2 Mainman albums. Mick had an ear for mixing records and writing and producing excellent arrangements. His most famous are of course Life On Mars, Walk On The Wild Side, Perfect Day etc but none of them are here. There is a song called Life On Mars but not the Bowie song; it is among a handful of interesting unreleased studio recordings with the Rolling Thunder Revue band on CD 2. It would have been great to have included a 1975 live recording of Dylan singing It Ain’t Me Babe from 1975 with the incendiary guitar solo by Ronno but alas budgets are budgets. Also sorely missed are the Tumbleweed Connection guitar fest out take of Madman Across The Water or the unreleased sessions with Van Morrison (if they are any good). Ronson’s excellent work with Roger McGuinn and Ian Hunter is largely unrepresented here except for an entertaining 1979 live workout of the Shadows song F.B.I with the Hunter Ronson band. There are some live tracks from the Rainbow in 1974 but all are songs off the Slaughter LP. I was there and clearly remember a great Ronno version of Moonage Daydream. But it ain’t here. Of course this is not “The Best Of Mick Ronson – Sideman – The Glory Years” but the “Complete Mainman Recordings”. So what is essential here? There is a corking Hunter Ronson Band metallic live version of Slaughter On 10th Avenue with wild guitar and Led Zeppelin quotations. There are also covers of Moby Grape’s Hey Grandma and perhaps Mick Ronson’s loveliest ballad I’d Do Anything To See You. Written for wife Suzie perhaps? The highlight of the unreleased 1976 sessions is a guitar freak out called Roll Like A River.
Let’s not forget those two previously released LPs either. Slaughter On 10th Avenue is a fine record though the ghost of David Bowie looms large. Opening song Love Me Tender was recorded for Bowie’s Pin Ups and 2 actual Bowie songs appear here too. Ronson is almost trying too hard to be the new Bowie. In hindsight it was never going to work. Maybe a better idea would have been to keep the original Spiders From Mars band together and go in a hard rock direction. Ronson was a huge Cream fan and the 1976 power trio material here is just fine – Mick is at ease not having to play the Bowie part. To me though, Play Don’t Worry is the stronger of the RCA albums. Billy Porter is Ronson’s catchiest pop tune and should have been a hit and White Light White Heat is absolutely blistering. Overall it is a more even album than its predecessor.
One oddity here – there is an undated demo of a song called Pain In The City which uncannily uses the same tune as the Rolling Thunder arrangement of The Ballad Of Hattie Carroll. Weird.
What does it all *mean*?
A very nice compilation but not the last word on Mick Ronson.
Goes well with…
29th November 2019
Might suit people who like…
Bowie, Rory Gallagher, 1970s Rock