Citadel Records
Pop/Rock, Contemporary Pop/Rock, Roots Rock, Rock & Roll, Hard Rock, New Wave, Singer/Songwriter, Alternative Pop/Rock, Glam Rock, Album Rock, Punk/New Wave, Alternative/Indie Rock

Album Review

It sometimes seems that the massive Mick Ronson memorial concert, staged at London's Hammersmith Apollo one year after the guitarist's April 1992 death, is better remembered for who didn't show up (David Bowie) than for who did. And, on first inspection, this generous two-CD souvenir of the event doesn't really alter that perception. Ronson was one of Britain's best-loved musicians, and one of the most well-traveled -- beginning in 1970 (and Bowie notwithstanding), his career saw him play alongside artists as far apart as Bob Dylan and David Cassidy, Sparks and Slaughter & the Dogs. Not one of them is present here. Play the album, however, and the stars who are present more than compensate for the absentees -- and are, possibly, more resonant. His first recorded band, the Rats, reconvenes for a triumphant (if somewhat metallic) version of "It Ain't Easy," the Ron Davies song that closed out side one of Bowie's breakthrough Ziggy Stardust album -- with producer Tony Visconti making a surprising appearance in Ronson's own shoes. Elsewhere, Dana Gillespie, a seemingly permanent fixture in the Bowie-Ronson universe of the early '70s, offers up a mildly rude blues; Glen Matlock, whose Rich Kids debut album was a stylish Ronson production, revives that LP's "Burning Sounds"; and Steve Harley, who harnessed Ronson's talents for some ultimately unreleased 1988 sessions, serves up two songs, including a sweet "Make Me Smile." Queen's Roger Taylor repays Ronson for appearing at the Freddie Mercury tribute concert (Ronson's last public appearance) with a soaring "It's a Kind of Magic," while Big Audio, Rolf Harris, Roger Daltrey, and Bill Wyman are among the guests who simply play because they loved him. The centerpiece of the show, of course, was the lengthy Spiders From Mars reunion, built around the original rhythm section of Trevor Bolder and Woody Woodmansey and fleshed out by Joe Elliott, Billy Rankin, Bill Nelson, Phil Lanzon, and Phil Collen. Seven songs, highlighting some of Ronson's proudest accomplishments with both Bowie and solo, may not truly recapture the brilliance of the originals, but one cannot fault either the musicianship or the emotions that re-create them. It's a spellbinding sequence. Ian Hunter, too, serves up a dynamic set, opening with "Once Bitten Twice Shy," the 1975 single that introduced the world to the long-running Hunter-Ronson partnership, but highlighted by "Michael Picasso," Hunter's own personal tribute to his friend. The evening ends, of course, with -- what else? -- "All the Young Dudes." The song started life as the ultimate anthem of glam rock, the sound of '70s youth rising up to shake off all the flotsam of the previous decade. Today, with the dudes themselves either middle-aged or, in too many instances, dead, it carries far greater weight, rounding up both aching sadness and bitter nostalgia, while that so-distinctive guitar line rings like a requiem for everybody that the era once held so dear. Of them all, Mick Ronson was one of the dearest.
Dave Thompson, Rovi

Track Listing

  1. It Ain't Easy
  2. A Lotta What You Got
  3. Burning Sounds
  4. A Whiter Shade of Pale
  5. Mystery Train
  6. Medicine Show
  7. The Last Time I Saw You
  8. Come Up and See Me (Make Me Smile)
  9. It's a Kind of Magic
  10. Width of a Circle
  11. Ziggy Stardust
  12. Angel No.9
  13. Don't Look Down
  14. Moonage Dream
  15. White Light, White Heat
  16. Suffragette City
  17. Once Bitten Twice Shy
  18. Ressurection Mary
  19. Baba O'Riley
  20. Summertime Blues
  21. Michael Picasso
  22. All the Young Dudes