of Silk 2) 'Pon A Hill 3) The Seal of Seasons 4) The Throat of Winter
5) Catblack (The Wizard's Hat) 6) Stones For Avalon 7) She Was Born To Be My Unicorn 8) Like a White Star Tangled and Far, That's
What You Are 9) Warlord of the Royal Crocodiles 10) Evenings
of Damask 11) The Sea Beasts 12) Iscariot 13)
Nijinky Hind 14) The Pilgrim's Tale 15) The
Misty Coast of Albany 16) Romany Soup
& Sages the Angels of the Ages” was not the big seller it should have been…in fact it did not even chart
in the UK. Honestly though, when your main audience is hippies, people who rarely
make money, let alone buy albums, why would Bolan have thought any differently? Still,
he pressed on with Steven Peregrine Took and expanded on his sound. He would
do it without his management team though as Marc’s girlfriend, June Child, was fired from Blackhill Enterprises for
being caught having sex with Marc on the bed of Pink Floyd’s manager Peter Jenner.
Bolan decided to cut his ties with Blackhill and Child became his new de-facto manager.
His first move
in this new situation was to release a sixty-three page book of poetry entitled, Warlock of Love. Like Bob Dylan and Jim Morrison before him, Bolan’s book was panned by the critics, but at the height
of the T Rex glam phase, it reached the top of the UK’s Best Selling Poetry chart.
With the money coming in from the book sales and his first two albums (although technically, by no means a fortune)
Tyrannosaurus Rex had enough capital to record their next album on sixteen tracks, using more and better instruments. Producer Tony Visconti finally had the technology to capture Bolan’s elfish
tales in all their grandeur, and the resulting album showed just how amazing Bolan’s vision truly was.
is the single most charming album I have ever heard, and along with the Kinks “Village Green Preservation Society,”
is the most melodic. There is absolutely no filler on this record. None. Bolan literally sounds like an elf. Not someone sounding elfish, like on his first two records…here he actually is an elf—a crazy,
wandering, bard elf that stopped into your village on his travels to play his songs.
And these are some of the most hippied, amazingly catchy, toe-tapping, stick-in-your-head-for-weeks, songs you’ll
ever hear. The most remarkable thing is that 90% of the lyrics are unintelligible…so
you don’t have any words to harp on…you just find yourself singing sounds that are similar to what Bolan is scatting
on about. The album sounds like a bunch of musically super-gifted, Dungeons and
Dragons obsessed, ten-year-olds got together and wrote songs out of, and for, sheer entertainment.
starts with “Chariots of Silk.” Honestly, this is just great. The melody, the harmonies, the distinctive drumming, and the scat singing style make
for the best song Bolan had yet recorded. But the incredible thing is that
this album is better than the sums of its parts. Unlike most times when you say
that though, each part here is individually fantastic…but when heard all together, this is just an unmatched experience. “’Pon a Hill” starts with bird whistles and ridiculous backward
sounding mumbles, but when the tune kicks in, it is just soothing and compelling (although shorter and slightly darker than
most of the album). Perhaps the mood is so gloomy because of the strange percussion
played by Took, who is unjustly forgotten by many fans of Bolan. Took put his
signature on all of these tunes as well, and had a very unique style in his own right.
Seal of Seasons” is fun, bouncy and catchy as hell. The background
”la-la-las” are as uplifting as possible for a song about whatever the hell it is about. It is memorable, appealing, and a grand hippie time is guaranteed for all.
“The Throat of Winter” again features a great melody and vocal scat singing hooks. It is much slower than the first few numbers, and the backwards, sonic splashes in the coda are a little
crazy. However, they are nothing like on “Deboraarobed,” as
these effects go in and out, acting as another instrument, instead of just having backwards sounds for the sake of having
them. “Catblack (The Wizard’s Hat)” is about the most
sing-along song I’ve ever heard. The piano, strange horn sounds, and the
double tracked vocals make this a stand out, as does Bolan’s “Do-Ron-Ron” tribute in the coda.
With its spiral
guitar riff and melody, “Stones For Avalon” is gorgeous. It
is also slow, but moody and gentle as hell. “She Was Born To Be My Unicorn”
has an accordion in the background and all sorts of hippie noises throughout. Unlike
on previous efforts, these farts and noises are absolutely essential and somehow elegant.
Bolan really sounds rousing here and the ending is delightfully elfish. “Like
A White Star, Tangled And Far Tulip, That’s What You Are” is ominous, yet Bolan really nails the vocals with
sincerity and emotion. It is slow and a little dull, but kicks in with an incredibly
uplifting, brilliant coda similar in style, and just as fun, as the Beatles’ ending of “Hello, Goodbye.”
Of The Royal Crocodiles” features more scat singing and catchy strumming guitar work. There is so much going on in this track...it is as much a Phil Spector “wall-of-sound” as possible
with just acoustic instruments and Bolan’s ridiculous voice. Conversely,
“The Evening of Damask” is just Took on bongos and Bolan on guitar, but still manages to sound classy with
the fascinating harmonies and a slightly distorted atmosphere. “The
Sea Beasts” is the catchiest tune here. The chords are played so high
and Bolan’s voice fits in so well, that even though I have no idea what he is yelping about, I am right there with him,
singing out loud, just making grunts and noises that sound similar to his…”Diy, die, die a die a diew daaaaa!” God, I love this album.
named after Judas, is one of the saddest songs I have heard. I can just feel
Bolan’s emotion behind his singing and the melody is truly wonderful. The
instrumental coda too, is just so beautiful in its strangeness. The regal “Nijinsky
Hind” is next, both charming and agreeable. The best bit is again at
the end when Bolan scats us into the subsequent tune…“The Pilgrim’s Tale.” This is the most disjointed song on the album, but somehow still works.
I love the guitar fills in between versus and wonder why you don’t own this album. “The Misty Coast of Albany” has an excellent melody and the best harmonies on the record. Like the previous tunes, it is impossible not to tap your foot and bob your head along
with it. Instead of playing bass, Took hums and makes noises where the bass should
be…interesting, unusual, and just plain cool.
John Peel, the
legendary radioman, picks up where he left off on Tyrannosaurus Rex’s debut album, with his narration of the closing
tale about moles entitled, “Romany Soup.” It is too long and
really strange…so much so that I turned this “tune” off the first twenty times I listened to “Unicorn.” However, somewhere down the line, I listened all the way through and although I didn’t
understand what the poem was about, found that at the end, Bolan and Took jump into a song: a sinister, much darker song,
unlike anything on the album. Just chanting, mantra-style, “Romany Soup,
I gotta get some Romany Soup” over and over again. It builds in tension
and sounds like some crazy killer scene in a movie—quite frightening and absurdly catchy all the same. Bolan then cuts the tune off mid-verse and whispers, “Unicorn,” ending the album with a childlike
innocence. How else would he end the album?
After all, elves are forever young looking, pale and beautiful creatures of a fantasyland Bolan was enthralled by and
unicorns are their fabled, loyal steeds—a perfect title to one my favorite albums of all time.
I don’t know what to say really. Each time I hear this album I find myself singing portions of it for days.
There are so many little nuances and hooks that every listen reveals something new and catchy. Bolan and Took had to work up to this point, building from their previous efforts, but with “Unicorn”
they finally created a Tolken-inspired, mystical, enchanting masterpiece. This
is quite honestly the most underrated album in rock and even confessed fans of Bolan overlook it. You shouldn’t.