Tuesday, August 16, 2016

T. Rex Tanx (2-CD reissue)

On this, their 8th studio record, T. Rex followed the huge success of Electric Warrior and The Slider with an uneven album that tried a little experimentation (some added instruments and female backing vocalists instead of Flo & Eddie) but didn't stray too far from the T. Rex sound.

"Tenament Lady" starts with a Bolan boogie (with added Mellotron) that segues into a slower piano ballad with phased vocals and then back to a tight, solid rocker in "Rapids", and a mid-tempo strings'n'sax number with "Mister Mister". "Broken Hearted Blues" is a slower strings'n'sax tune, back to the boogie (with a smoother edge) in "Shock Rock" (perhaps a dig at Alice Cooper, who was riding high at this time?) and "Country Honey" (sounding like his old self here) and then another ballad with a memorable melody in "Electric Slim and the Factory Hen".

Flipping over the original vinyl got you the Bolan sing-along "Mad Donna", the self-explanatory "Born to Boogie" (also the name of his film from about this time period), an acoustic "Life Is Strange", a somewhat soulful sax-driven "The Street and Babe Shadow", a mellow "Highway Knees" and the album closed with the T.Rex-styled soul/gospel of "Left Hand Luke and the Beggar Boys" (highlighted by the female backing vocalists).

The bonus tracks on the first disc of the CD might even be better than the album tracks, starting with the fierce rocker "Children of the Revolution" (the single - some think that leaving this off of the record might have caused its comparatively poor sales), the fairly frantic "Jitterbug Love", the 50's rock'n'roll, complete with poundin' piano'n'sax in "Sunken Rags", the poppy/peppy heys of "Solid Gold Easy Action", a brief "Xmas Riff" and then the spectacular "20th Century Boy" - absolutely one of his best and one of the biggest'n'baddest "E" chords of all time! - before the finale, "Free Angel", which is basically a different take on "Rock On" from The Slider.

Disc 2 is Left Hand Luke (The Alternative Tanx) - basically rough mixes (before the added instrumentation and vocals), demos, acoustic takes, etc., of the record in essentially the same running order. Definitely interesting to hear the early versions especially without the orchestration - producer Tony Visconti does a great job with his arrangements, and they always fit the song, but sometimes it's nice to hear the tunes in their rawer form. For some reason - for me, at least - even his creative vocal melodies seem to stand out a bit more on this disc.

This is still good T.Rex, with some superb spots, but overall, not the stand-out quality of the previous two releases. Worthwhile, nonetheless.