He could have taken the easy route and trotted out facsimiles of his brilliant eponymous solo debut, but Ian Hunter is a smarter cookie than that. He knew that if he was going to really establish himself as a solo artist, he’d have to distance himself from preconceptions of him that had developed when he was frontman of Mott the Hoople. He had to grow. He had to evolve.
In this sense, All American Alien Boy, is probably not what Mott the Hoople fans expected of Ian Hunter. Jazz-flecked soft rock must have been a bit of curve-ball for a lot of them, but he makes a decent go of it – the title in particular is a highlight of Hunter’s solo output, complete with a fancy bass solo and Hunter performing some sort of proto-rap mid-way through.
Album highlight, “Irene Wilde”, is a classic heartbroken Hunter piano ballad in the grand tradition of “Waterlow” and “Sea Diver”. The piano playing in this case is courtesy of former Grease Band lynch pin Chris Stainton, who is a key element of the sound of All American Alien Boy and throughout the album guitar duties are handled primarily by Gerry Weems, who gets a nice chunky riff to sink his teeth into on “Restless Youth”, the album’s sole rocker. Hunter also manages to pull off a significant coup by getting three quarters of Mott’s old support act to provide backing vocals. The name of that support act? Queen, who make their unmistakable presence felt on “You Nearly Did Me In”, one of the albums most rousing moments.
All American Alien Boy was irrefutable proof that Ian Hunter wasn’t going to be satisfied by leaning too heavily on his status as the former frontman of one of British rock music’s finest rock bands and was purposefully distancing himself from the commercial pop tunes that he had penned in that band’s later years. This is the sound of Ian Hunter proving that he was prepared to challenge those who thought that thought he was going to take a predictable career path.
Sure, Hunter would have enjoyed continued commercial success if he had stuck to the same template of his solo debut, but he’d have been much less interesting if he had done and chances are his career would have burned out some time ago. As it is All American Alien Boy was the sound of Ian Hunter spreading his creative wings and taking flight. All these decades later he’s still flying.