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Best Album
Unicorn—10
 
Rleased: 1969

1) Chariots 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

 

Prophets, Seers & 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.                

 

Unicorn” 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.           

 

Your journey 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. 

 

The 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.”                  

 

Warlord 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.            

 

Iscariot,” 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.

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