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Starting Point
T. Rex9
 
Released: 1970

1) The Children of Rarn  2) Jewel  3) The Visit  4) Childe  5) The Time of Love is Now  6) Diamond Meadows  7) Root of Star  8) Beltane Walk  9) Is It Love?  10) One Inch Rock  11) Summer Deep  12) Seagull Woman  13) Suneye  14) The Wizard  15) The Children of Rarn

 

By 1970, Tyrannosaurus Rex had released four reasonably successful albums and eight singles, but had failed to propel Marc Bolan into superstardom (his only real goal).  To better his chances at becoming a star, Marc was slowly changing his sound, transforming from his acoustic, hippie, slurred-vocal, guru anthems into an electric, rock and roll writer.  A Beard of Stars” hinted at this, but Bolan had something even more radical in mind.

 

To mark his change in style, Marc decided to shorten his group’s name from Tyrannosaurus Rex, to the simpler and more hip, T. Rex.  His first single with his new moniker, was entitled “Ride A Swan,” and was released in October of 1970.  The tune was electric and catchy and spent over three months on the charts, peeking at number two.  Later that year, Bolan released his full-length album simply called “T. Rex,” that would skyrocket his career, staying on the charts for a half a year and reached as high as number thirteen.  It was by far his cleanest recording to that point, with his vocals clearly understood and orchestration being featured on many of the tracks.  This album also was Bolan’s last to include songs heavily based on his love of wizards and mysticism, the last album which featured the band as a two piece (with Mickey Finn still handling the percussion), the last album Bolan shared the front cover, and the last album with which Marc wrote the vast majority of the tunes on acoustic guitar.  It is the first record from T. Rex, but in actuality, it is the last Tyrannosaurus Rex album.     

 

The mood is still there however.  That great, charming, tug-at-your-emotions feeling that Bolan seems to provide at will is still present, as are his amazingly cordial lyrical adventures.  But strung within these norms is a rock and roll vibe not found previously.  Bolan, under his new name, really develops an original interpretation on an old sound for this album.  He revamps the Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis style…not copying it straight up, but incorporating it within the general framework of his writing.  So instead of his scat singing and just shouting out crazy syllables in unusual patterns, now he harmonizes using traditional “oohs” and “bops.”  And unlike on “A Beard of Stars,” the electric guitar is not just used to add color; here the songs are driven by it.  Most fans consider “T. Rex” to be nothing more than a setup for what follows, but this album stands on its own.  The blending of styles and sounds heard here really does represent a merger of acoustic Bolan with electric Bolan, and this is the best starting point if you want to hear the best of both worlds.    

 

Two versions of “The Children of Rarn” bookend the record with short bursts of church organ simplicity…neither rendering is anything memorable, but the tune itself is indicative of Bolan’s diverse approach on the album.  Jewel” follows and is just that, a rock gem.  Its boogie beat and demonic guitar somehow complement Bolan’s gorgeous, Beatle inspired harmonies perfectly.  The song is his hardest rocker to date, even bettering the Pete Townshend like,  Elemental Child” from “A Beard of Stars.”  The Visit” slows things down a great deal, but this isn’t a bad thing as the chorus is simply beautiful, and the entire tune is one of Bolan’s most heartfelt.  Childe” doesn’t give you the time to bask in the charm of “The Visit” for long as it comes right in with its sinister, slow rock sound.  Not long enough to be anything more than a mood piece, it melts into the bongo beats of “The Time Of Love Is Now.  This tune is mostly acoustic and captivating, with a very catchy beat and a great melody.  It is slow, but sincere and another very strong offering.

 

An orchestra, backed by Bolan’s electric guitar, takes center stage on the stunning “Diamond Meadows.”  Marc’s voice is so genuine and honest on this track that it literally breaks me down…one of Bolan’s most elegant and lovely songs.  Root of Star” follows with xylophones, fantastic harmonies, and a very relaxing disposition…another solid effort.  Orchestration is used again with terrific results on “Beltane Walk.”  The song is pure pop happiness and Marc should have had a huge hit with it.  It has all the charm of Bolan’s early albums, but features a cabaret beat and great guitar work.  Is It Love?” and One Inch Rock” both bring back the 1950s rock sound.  Each works great, particularly the latter with its unbelievably catchy coda and bee-bopping vocal hooks. 

 

Summer Deep” is a more updated folk-rock song that is just as melodic as the previous efforts.  Bolan sounds so confident on these tracks; his voice and playing both are reaching their peek periods.  Seagull Woman” is another excellent song, 50s inspired and catchy as hell—great singing, bouncy beat, and short, soaring guitar fills.  It also is the first Bolan tune to feature the background vocals of Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman of the Turtles.  Apparently Bolan befriended the singers while touring the States and the twosome would be regular guests on future T. Rex albums.  Suneye” brings back the acoustic charm of “Unicorn.”  It is short, but complex, and features an impressive melody and vocal harmonies.  The album’s centerpiece is the nine-minute reworking of Bolan’s first single “The Wizard.”  Here the tune is fast, hard rocking and above all else, a fun track.  Bolan’s vocal cackles and gibberish make the tune seem more intricate than it truly is, while the middle double-tracked guitar and orchestration section shine.  It isn’t a masterpiece, but is a fun and entertaining track on a diverse and brilliant album.

 

T. Rex” is the third consecutive album from Bolan with basically no filler; an amazing achievement from any artist, but even more so when his next album, “Electric Warrior,” is usually considered his masterpiece.  On “T. Rex,” Bolan wears his love of fifties rock on his sleeve and recycles old tunes, but the album has a very addicting flow with every song offering something of value.  While not as famous as its follow-up, this is his most musically varied effort and is vastly underrated and overlooked.

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