Thursday, July 24, 2008

T.Rex – Electric Warrior

Combining pop, glamour, rockabilly, folk, Dylan and hippie poetry, Marc Bolan formed T. Rex out of his acoustic Tyrannosaurus Rex duo and basically created the glam rock genre. This album was probably the most popular of that sound in the US due to the massive “Bang a Gong” single, though Bolan and many others had countless glam rock top-forty singles in the UK.

This was his first fully electric record and while it has a complete band and a fine, rockin’ groove throughout, it still shows plenty of his folk influences. In fact, according to the liner notes, the basics were still recorded acoustically and then the electrics were added on top of that. So, Marc is concentrating on the song itself, but the band and the overdubs create the glitter groove.

“Mambo Sun”, the opener, is a good example of this. A solid beat is maintained throughout the tune, but it is almost laid back. There is plenty of electric guitar added to give it that updated rockabilly feel, though. On “Cosmic Dancer” he does revert almost completely to acoustic guitars backed with strings. So, he wasn’t completely ready to shed that persona yet!

So, is there anyone who has not heard “Jeepster” or waited in anticipation for his ending hiss “…and I’m gonna suck ya”?! This is updated rockabilly to a “T” – so much so that bands have done a medley of this and Elvis and no one noticed the transition! In fact, when someone I knew in the 70’s discovered Gene Vincent, the first thing he said was “I just found this guy who sounds just like T.Rex!” Great stuff!

Marc shows off his electric playing on “Monolith”, though, again, this is pretty quiet overall with great backup vocals from Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman (from the Turtles and later Frank Zappa and Flo & Eddie). Apparently, one of the band members had just broken up with a girlfriend, so Marc wrote “Lean Woman Blues” in his honor. This is a pretty standard blues progression, but with Marc’s fairly fey vocals, it would never be mistaken for Muddy Waters! Once again, Marc updates a genre and makes it his own!

Ah, and then the masterpiece of the session and T.Rex’s biggest (and only) hit in the States, “Bang a Gong”. More updated 50’s guitar playing, a super rockin’ beat, cool, obscure lyrics, a catchy chorus and one helluva song! Of course, everyone’s heard this and knows how amazing it is, so I don’t have to say so! Extra hipster points for the “Little Queenie” reference at the end (“meanwhile, I was still thinking…”).

“Planet Queen” is a little more laid back but still a cool r’n’r tune with a nice chorus and a funny Flo & Eddie “gimme your daughter” fade out. Marc creates a romantic ballad with “Girl” that producer Tony Visconti complimented with a nice horn section. He basically combines “Jeepster” and “Bang a Gong” for “The Motivator” and the result is another happening 50’s-styled, catchy tune. This also includes some neat percussion from his almost forgotten partner, Mickey Finn.

The last couple of songs are quite a contrast – the pretty, uplifting “Life’s a Gas” and the (rare for Bolan) downright angry “Rip Off”, which, unsurprisingly, is the most aggressive song of the batch and is quite rockin’ and ended the album in a wash of feedback.

This CD has 6 bonus songs and an interview. There are a couple of ballads – “There Was a Time” and an acoustic version of “Planet Queen” but also a couple of his best singles – “Raw Ramp” (with the classic line “woman, I love your chest, I’m just crazy about your breasts”!) and “Hot Love” (with a fabulous “la,la,la,la,la,la,la” ending) – terrific tunes! “Woodland Rock” is pure rockabilly with Bolan’s mystic lyrics and “The King of the Mountain Cometh” sounds like Jody Reynolds or something though again with Marc’s distinct touch and some great guitar playing.

Another major highlight of the 70’s and the bonus tracks make this release pretty damn essential.