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Prophets, Seers & Sages the Angels of the Ages—8

 

Released: 1968

1) Deboraarobed  2) Stacey Grove  3) Wind Quartets  4) Conesuala  5)  Trelawny Lawn  6) Aznageel the Mage  7) The Friends  8) Salamanda Palaganda  9) Our Wonderful Brownskin Man  10) O Harley (The Saltimbaques)  11) Eastern Spell  12) The Travelling Tragition  13) Juniper Suction  14) Scenescof Dynasty 

 

Marc Bolan was never satisfied with the sound of his debut album, “My People Were Fair And Had Sky In Their Hair…But Now They’re Content To Wear Stars On Their Brows” and felt the record was not a true representation of his sound, as he wrote many of the songs while he was still a member of John’s Children.  His talented producer Tony Visconti (who at the same time was working with David Bowie) agreed, and the two set out to make the follow up closer to Bolan’s artistic vision.  With that in mind Marc also found a new management team, Blackhill Enterprises, who managed Marc’s idol, Syd Barrett of the Pink Floyd.  Through this association, Marc met his soul mate, June Child, former girlfriend of Barrett and inspiration of many of Marc’s more tender moments on record.

 

This is the most underrated of all Tyrannosaurus Rex records, perhaps because it sold the least amount commercially.  Regardless, Bolan and Took expand on their first album by eliminating all reference to anything 20th century; these songs are all about myths, magic, and alternatives to Western culture.  These songs too, astoundingly create their own language…without the help of the lyrics provided by http://lyrics.rockmagic.net/lyrics/t_rex/ I would never have had a clue as to what Bolan was singing about.  Even with consulting the lyrics, I still have barely a clue, but can plainly see that when Bolan needed a rhyme, he would frequently just string syllables together to make something work.  This approach is both mesmerizing and mysterious, as is the entire record.      

 

With that toe tapping rhythm, those insanely poppy bongos, and Bolan’s scat singing, “Deboraarobed” is a great album opener.  It is catchy and charming…well it is until the entire song is played backwards half way through (Get it? The title is Debora, and then Debora backwards).  I’m sure it was cool at the time, but it is dated and pretty dumb for 2004.  The much more traditional “Stacey Grove” follows.  This is as normal as early Bolan ever got with its cutesy folk strumming and amazing harmony.  Seriously, Bolan’s harmonies with Took are Beach Boys/Beatles quality.  They sound absolutely stunning, particularly on this well crafted tune.  The hippy insanity of the first album makes its return with “Wind Quartets.”  Here though, the madness is much more under control and Bolan displays his ample gifts for vocal hooks.  I have no idea what the words refer to, but the song somehow manages to be heartfelt and delightful.

 

Conesuala” is happy pop, with its bouncy chords and stellar bongos—Took sure was great at punctuating Bolan’s bizarre sound.  This tune is not technically better than anything on the first album, but without the annoying background farts and splashes of noise, it sounds much more tranquil and agreeable (a comment that could sum up the entire album).  Trelawny Lawn” is slower and has its moments, especially at the end where Bolan whistles the tune and the tempo accelerates, but isn’t one of the better offerings on the album.  Aznageel the Mage” is very similar, but is much more compelling based on its better melody.  The Friends” shares its hook with “Three Blind Mice,” and like that children’s song, it is cordial, sweet, and soothing.  Salamanda Palaganda” is just an experience…I have no idea what it is about, but it is catchy, brilliant, and elfish.                                

 

Our Wonderful Brownskin Man” clocks in at less than a minute, but tells the story of the extermination of Native Americans in poetic terms.  Bolan’s singing style and chanting melodies are in fact very similar to Native American tribal music and this might be his tribute to their tragic plight.  The slightly gloomy ballad “O Harley (The Saltimabaques)” follows and the harmonies again are first rate here, as is the overall tune.  The la-la-las in the coda get my singing along every time…  Eastern Spell” is a remake of a tune that eventually appeared on “The Beginning of Doves.”  On this album, it is faster paced and the lyrics are a little easier to understand.  Like all good hippies, Bolan was transfixed with Eastern culture.  Apparently hippies felt the industrialization of the West was weakening our connection with the planet and so the youth of the 1960s turned to Eastern and alternative ideas outside the norm.  Bolan expresses this passion for “new” thinking in this song very well and really gave words to a movement that was only beginning to make news (the Beatles were still years away from going to India when Bolan first recorded the song).            

 

The Travelling Targition” is a short, but an ultimately appealing tune, haunting with excellent singing.  The ending “jam” is really kind of creepy in a good way.  Juniper Suction” is the lowlight of the record…too hippie and all together forgettable.  Scenescof Dynasty” features no instruments…just Bolan singing with handclaps as the backbeat.  It is inexcusably the longest track on the album and although slightly charming, it is far from essential. 

 

This album is much more focused than Tyrannosaurus Rex’s debut and flows with more continuity.  The images and sounds heard here are completely unique and I have no idea why the hippies didn’t eat this up.  Most people overlook this album and head right for his hippie masterpiece “Unicorn,” but if you even remotely like that album, this should appeal to you as well.

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