Although it was subsequently rendered academic by the release of the All the Young Dudes box set, Ballad of Mott would stand proud as the finest Mott the Hoople collection on the market for close to five years -- and, in many ways, it remains so.
The emphasis is on the band's years at the top, the 1972-74 period when they machine gunned out hit singles, at the same time as operating a virtual revolving door for guitarists.
Mick Ralphs, Ariel Bender, and Mick Ronson all filed through the band during that period, and all three left some startling classics behind them -- the tasteful effervescence of "All the Young Dudes," "Violence," and "Whizz Kid" (Ralphs); the playful flash of "Roll Away the Stone," "Crash Street Kids," and "Golden Age of Rock'n'Roll" (Bender); the majestic sobriety of "Saturday Gigs" and "Lounge Lizard" -- both present here in previously unreleased form (Ronson).
Of course all the hit singles are aboard, together with four well-chosen cuts from the band's years with Island/Atlantic in the days before fame came knocking.
There's also some meaty rarities above and beyond the aforementioned -- the jokey "Henry & the H Bombs," recorded during the Dudes sessions with producer David Bowie, a version of The Hoople's masterful "Through the Looking Glass," which dissolves midway through into an utterly unexpected barrage of invective; and the opening verse of Don McLean's "American Pie," with which Mott introduced their 1974 era tours.
Add a clutch of U.K.
B-sides (nothing spectacular, but nice to have), and a generous dose of primo album cuts and, while The Ballad of Mott did draw some criticism from a Mott fanbase which was hoping for even more vault-exhuming lovelies, in terms of truly telling the story, it's a peerless collection.
Yes, even more so than the box set.