wed 06/12/2023

Reissue CDs Weekly: Tyrannosaurus Rex, T Rex | reviews, news & interviews

Reissue CDs Weekly: Tyrannosaurus Rex, T. Rex

Reissue CDs Weekly: Tyrannosaurus Rex, T. Rex

An overwhelming overdose of Marc Bolan

Marc Bolan in 1970, looking towards the future


Tyrannosaurus Rex A Beard of StarsTyrannosaurus Rex: A Beard of Stars/T.Rex: T.Rex, Tanx/Marc Bolan & T. Rex: Zinc Alloy and the Hidden Riders of Tomorrow

Reactions to these reissues are going be determined by what level of fandom the band's acolytes subscribe to. These are not for the casual purchaser. Each is stuffed with masses of bonus tracks, many previously unreleased. The primary content is overwhelmed by the bonuses. Whether it's good or bad to put original albums in the shade is a matter of taste. The volume of extra material makes it hard to appreciate what Bolan intended each album to be in the first place.

With Tanx and Zinc Alloy and the Hidden Riders of Tomorrow, it’s amazing that anything remained to be done as both were the subject of previous reissues and have even spawned stand-alone alternate versions of each album. Both A Beard of Stars and T.Rex were given the “expanded” treatment in 2004, but these new editions leave those standing. Why these are hitting the shops now is a mystery - no anniversary is being marked.

Original producer Tony Visconti has remastered Tanx and Zinc Alloy which are, eccentrically, brought together in one book-bound package. He contributes extensive and fascinating notes on each album. There are also essays by Bolan biographer Mark Paytress. The book is packed with amazing images. The Tanx/Zinc Alloy package includes the book and five discs, one of which is a DVD of TV appearances. Paytress has also written liner notes for the two stand-alone, double-CD versions of Beard of Stars and T.Rex.

T.Rex T.RexThe original albums bookended the T-Rextasy years. A Beard of Stars, the last album billed as by Tyrannosaurus Rex, was issued in March 1970. T.Rex, its follow-up from December of that year, was the first credited to T.Rex. It was followed in 1971 by Electric Warrior and in 1972 by The Slider. Then, the downward slide began with Tanx (1973) and Zinc Alloy (1974). The latter, tellingly, was credited to Marc Bolan & T. Rex. The band name may have been either a millstone or have outlived its usefulness.

All four albums are familiar. Any lengthy reiteration of what they are is pointless. The first two chart the transition from folky, fey bopping elf to pop hero. The latter pair show an increasing fascination with soul and a desire to break away from the styles which had been such an enormous success on single. Bolan may not have changed that much physically or wardrobe-wise from 1970 to 1974, but like his old friend and sparring partner David Bowie (also produced by Visconti), he was always moving forward, always transmuting his new inspirations.

Any focus with these new releases has to be on what is fresh: the packaging (which is super, although the booklet of T.Rex sets yellow text on a red-brown background as per the front cover, making for a headache-inducing read), the liner notes (great) and the unheard music. Spread across the first two albums are 30 previously unreleased tracks and sessions and concerts for BBC radio. The Tanx/Zinc Alloy set is more about the fine new remaster rather than demos and outtakes, although masses are included along with hilarious and surreal fan-club Xmas singles.

T. Rex Tanx/Zinc Alloy and the Hidden Riders of TomorrowMost mind-blowing are the home recordings collected on A Beard of Stars. An untitled instrumental of spindly electric guitar and organ is cosmic. Elsewhere, Bolan can be heard perfecting the guitar style which defined the hit singles of the early Seventies. This is aural eavesdropping. “Children of the Revolution”, which opens disc two of the Tanx/Zinc Alloy set, has never before sounded this immediate or kinetic.

If you already own the albums and are a committed fan, you need these. If you need to hear four essential albums for the first time, second-hand copies of previous reissues can be found for around £7 apiece. The new Tanx/Zinc Alloy set is £50, where the fresh A Beard of Stars and T.Rex are £12 each. Doing the sums to make the price comparison is easy, but these labyrinthine, sprawling new releases are, at least for now (who knows what music may surface in the future?), the last word on four eccentric, exotic and joyous albums by a pop great.

Visit Kieron Tyler’s blog

Comments

The guy was totally awesome, and probably the most consistent lyricist this country has ever known!! However, when all said and done, Bolan was a Blues man. Many of his songs are Blues inspired, and if you listen closely you will find many examples in these albums. Decent review, but you need to hear more of the Bolan catalogue to really appreciate individual albums.

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