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Album review

T. Rex 

Tanx - Zinc Alloy And The Rider Of Tomorrow - Ltd. Edition double set

added: 10 Mar 2014 // release date: 10 Mar 2014 // label: Edsel Records
reviewer: Claudia A

T. Rex - Tanx - Zinc Alloy And The Rider Of Tomorrow - Ltd. Edition double set - Printable version
Tanx and Zinc Alloy And The Riders Of Tomorrow are the first albums depicting glam-rock superstar Marc Bolan drifting away from his “teeny bopper” hit formula beats and instead revealing a new and more mature sound, influenced by US funk and soul.

Tanx (1973), although still containing the classic Bolan sound such as ‘Born To Boogie’, by and large broke away from the groovin’ boogie formula. What we get is not only a more mature and more edgier, funkier sound, we also get a more in-your-face attitude– particularly emphasized by the brash tongue-in-cheek cover album sleeve!

The very grown-up rock ballad ‘Tenement Lady’ - with its killer horn arrangements - is an opener indicative of sounds to come. ‘Rapids’ and ‘Shock Rock’ – with its immediately recognisable Bolan rhythm - might be back again in usual T.Rex territory (sounding of course fantastic), but it’s the smooth ‘Mister Mister’ which is not only fabulously catchy but sports a dynamic sax towards the end which sucks you right in.
‘Broken Hearted Blues’ is a song that Marc wrote when he was young, and apart from a dreamy melody it oozes, well, heartache and blues, all compressed in a wonderful ballad. The absurdly titled ‘Electric Slim And The Factory Hen’ is ann interesting number to say the least, albeit one that never was destined to please Marc’s teenybopper fans… that one they get with ‘Born To Boogie’ and with the “donna la folle, par T.Rex” introduced ‘Mad Donna’.

Nicely upbeat and on a real cool pace is ‘The Street and Babe Shadow’, spiced up once again with electrifying horn arrangements, but hey, our man Marc really comes into his own with the heavily gospel influenced ‘Left Hand Luke and The Beggar Boys’ – not only the odd one out on the album but easily the best track as well! From the overall arrangement to the awesome backing vocals and the spot-on keys, everything sits right here and also gets right under your skin! And golly, it seems to go on forever as well (that’s a good thing of course). It also shows Marc’s sense of humour when he ends the song with an exhausted, almost farty sounding “phroof” coming from his lips.

The Tanx bonus CD is another little treasure trove offering classics such as ‘Children Of The Revolution’ – forever electrifying thanks to its iconic opening riffs and strings, and other much-loved T.Rex numbers such as ‘Sunken Rags’, ‘Jitterbug Love’, ‘Solid Gold Easy Action’. As a further added bonus we get the 11 second long ‘Xmas Riff’ before ‘20th Century Boy’ blasts in, during which Marc wishes everyone a super-funky Christmas and a golden New Year. Then there’s an array of demos and outtakes, including a Pepsi Jingle, and the wonderfully barmy ‘Xmas Fan Club Flex’.

As for Zinc Alloy And The Riders of Tomorrow/A Creamed Cage (1974) – now that’s a different beast altogether! It’s the album that pretty much bode farewell to Marc’s distinctive glam-rock days (at least it tried to). Instead it steered towards a more funk and motown-influenced sound, not least thanks to Marc’s blossoming relationship with Cincinnati-born soul singer Gloria Jones, providing backing vox and keys. The resulting album divided critics and fans alike. Although it must be said that quite a few of the songs lack the often instantly memorisable (and often also rather repetitive) melodies/harmonies so typical of T.Rex’ glam rock period, here we get a body of work that’s incredibly solid and adult, with ‘Venus Loon’ still catchy and dynamic enough to win over hardcore fans to his ‘new’ sound.
‘Sound Pit’ combines Gloria’s powerful black backing voice with Bolan’s distinctive voice, yet it works although the composition is certainly more funk- and soul infused than previously released numbers. ‘Explosive Mouth’, ‘Galaxy’ and especially the slow-burning and harmony-laden ‘Change’ with its blues-ey guitar hooks exemplify the shift in Bolan’s direction, but we’re still talking great numbers here – just not stuff that fans were expecting. They got it with ‘Teenage Dream’ – a number which, although bursting with soul and equally soulful backing vox, once again offered a composition pretty much every T.Rex fan could relate to.

Slick, smooth and with a feverish guitar halfway through, ‘Carsmile Smith & The Old One’ once again turned out to be anything but your typical T.Rex fare, with ‘Interstellar Soul’ further proving the point as far as title and sound are concerned. Sharp, snazzy, bold and ahead of its time is probably the best way to describe ‘Painless Persuasion v. The Meathawk Immaculate’ – a number as complex in musical structure as its title suggests… Most certainly not what you would ever expect of a T.Rex composition, personally though I think it’s a terrific affair!
That also goes for the heavily funk-infused ‘The Avengers (Superbad)’ though Marc, bless him, never quite had the voice to do such distinctively ‘black’ sounds full justice… which is why Gloria Jones’ backing vocals at times almost dominate the track. Marc’s redeeming features here is a hardcore guitar solo that blows you sideways.
Finally, ‘The Leopard feat. Gardenia & The Mighty Slug’ (just how did Mr. Bolan come up with such surreal titles all the time?) almost takes you over the rainbow - lyrically speaking – with lines like “The leader of the pack lives down in the local drain / King Kong built a car inside his brain” while the tune, soulful and pleasant to the ear, never quite matches the sheer outrageousness of Marc’s word-smithing skills.

On the second CD we get singles and B-sides. Gems include ‘Midnight’, the scorching ‘The Groover’, ‘Satisfaction Pony’, ‘Truck On Tyke’ and ‘Squint Eye Mangle’.
On the Demos and Outtakes front, there’s a great little electric-g solo version of ‘Change’, and well as the love song ‘Spanish Midnight’, solo acoustic versions of ‘The Groover’ and ‘Truck On Tyke’ (with La Gloria), and much more. It goes on with the ballad ‘Dance In The Midnight’, ‘Saturation Syncopation’, ‘Delanie’, the stonkin’ ‘Hope You Enjoy The Show’, a January 1974 radio show snippet, and other treats.

The Bonus DVD includes footage of various T.Rex’ performances on TOTP and The Cilla Black Show, as well as promo films for ‘Children Of The Revolution’ and ‘The Groover’ (depicting Marc what he did so effortlessly well: posing).

Tanx and Zinc Alloy And The Riders of Tomorrow/A Creamed Cage, sounding better than ever thanks to remastering by Bolan's longtime producer Tony Visconti, come packaged together in a limited edition, 12 inch collector's hardback book style set on Demon Music's Edsel label, with many Extras including the aforementioned bonus discs and DVD, a hardback book filled with lyrics, photos, ephemera and liner notes from Tony Visconti, plus a 7,000 word essay by rock critic and Bolan biographer Mark Paytress.

Tanx and Zinc Alloy are both available from the new T.Rex store March 10th http://www.myplaydirect.com/t-rex


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