Another Golden Oldies made up of recent re-releases, this time the first three T Rex albums before they changed their name from the slightly longer Tyrannosaurus Rex. These all came out at the end of January, but there’s so much material on them that it took me a while getting round to listening to everything!
All three albums (Unicorn, My People Were Fair… and Prophets, Seers and Sages) come with an absolute ton of bonus material. So much that it’s not a case of “album on CD 1, bumph on CD2”; the bumph fills the space on CD1 and pushes the limits of the second disc’s capacity. The quality of additional recordings is the same across all three as well.
Take Unicorn as an example. Fifty four tracks, including the original sixteen songs – a number that’s still impressive by today’s 7-8 song recordings. The bonus material covers singles which weren’t on the album, live versions, demos, recordings used on BBC’s Top Gear (not the motor show, an old BBC radio programme from the 60’s!) and even an interview.
Some of this stuff is for completists, though, as there are inevitably multiple versions of the same song. “King of the Rumbling Spyres” features twice, for example – two different studio takes. I’d be more forgiving of a studio and a live version, perhaps.
You may notice that I’m focussing on the package and content rather than the music itself. That’s because, well, this is T Rex. Fans will already know them and many will already own the original material. What makes the albums worth the purchase is the extras I mentioned. But for those of you unfamiliar with Marc Bolan’s little beat combo…
Tyrannosaurus Rex – later, as mentioned, T Rex – were one of the seminal glam rock bands. Not “glam” in the Poison/Ratt/Tigertailz ilk – that was to come many years later – but still standing out from the more fast-paced rock’n’roll of the day. Their first four albums – those listed above and 1970’s A Beard of Stars – are acoustic and musically the work of only Bolan and partner Steve Peregrin Took. With their fifth album, T.Rex, the band went electric and the hits started to appear.
All of which makes Tyrannosaurus Rex very much like T. Rex lite. An early, simple, underground introduction to one of the biggest rock bands of the 1970’s.
Just go back to the first track on the first album, “Hot Rod Mama” on My People Were Fair… and Bolan’s voice is every bit the same as on later classics such as “Bang A Gong” and “Children of the Revolution”.
Given the era, there’s inevitable comparison to the liked of The Beatles’ later, more trippy, era. Bolan and Took made use of a lot of instruments, many of them of Indian origin/sound. To be honest, when you listen to the number of instruments being played then realise it’s only two guys performing them all it makes the each song even more impressive.
While I’ll admit to being a “singles” person as far as T. Rex is concerned, it’s been hugely enjoyable being exposed to the earlier material. Three albums, plus extra material, of raw T. Rex. The makings and trappings of an up-and-coming rock legend which, even from the very beginning, could give most of their peers a run for their money.
Though much of the material in the bonus collection is “nerd only” (and I’d class myself in that category for many artists), it’s not so niche as to lack enjoyment for the casual listener. It makes these re-issues great value for money for the Rex-a-holic a layman alike.
If your original vinyl pressings are starting to click a little too much, then these are the editions you should be getting to replace them. Settle back in your bean bag, relax with your favourite (legal) means of doing so and let the hippy sounds of the seventies wash over you…
For details of all the different versions (CD, vinyl, single-disc vinyl) being released, see the original press release.
- Tyrannosaurus Rex reissues coming later this month (moshville.co.uk)