Monday, April 20th saw the welcome release of a brand new collection celebrating the life’s work of the legendary Marc Bolan and T-Rex. Spread out over two CDs, these 49 tracks – made up of 20 Top 50 singles and a selection of B-Sides, rarities and popular album cuts – chart the rise, fall and rise again of this groundbreaking glam rock act that started out as the more folk-influenced Tyrannosaurus Rex in 1967.
Kicking things off, we have “Debora,” a track off Tyrannosaurus Rex’s second album, from 1968, Prophets, Seers & Sages: The Angels of the Ages. While its rather dated psychedelic vibe is very different from Bolan’s more famous material, it’s an enjoyable tune, not least because it brings back memories of Tony enthusiastically paying tribute to ongoing love interest Deborah in popular ’90s sitcom Men Behaving Badly.
The order is not chronological as track two, the rather short “One Inch Rock,” from 1970’s T-Rex – the year the band, at that time a duo consisting of Bolan and Mickey Finn, shortened its name – makes clear. The so-so “Pewter Suitor” and “King of the Rumbling Spires,” further journeys into psychedelic folk – though the latter features electric instrumentation – are bonus tracks found on the 2004 reissue of 1969’s Unicorn. Up next is the more well-known “By the Light of the Magical Moon,” track seven on A Beard of Stars (1970).
After this early experimentation, things start getting good as we begin to enter more familiar territory. The majestic “Ride A White Swan” was given a new lease of life in the early 2000s, thanks to the smash hit film Billy Elliot (a number of other T-Rex songs also appear in the movie), while the moody “Hot Love,” with its catchy “la la la la la la la” refrain, sounds as great today as it ever did.
The hits keep on coming thick and fast. “Get It On,” “Jeepster,” “Telegram Sam,” “Metal Guru,” “Children of the Revolution,” “I Love to Boogie” and of course “20th Century Boy” – all now Classic Rock staples – are the perfect soundtrack to a particular place and a moment in time, in this case the glitter-and-lipstick, cross-dressing androgyny of 1970s London.
Disc Two begins back in the hazy days of Tyrannosaurus Rex with “Hot Rod Mama” (the only track on here to come from their very first album, the-very-much-of-its-time-sounding My People Were Fair and Had Sky in Their Hair… But Now They’re Content to Wear Stars on Their Brows), “Blessed Wild Apple Girl” and “Find A Little Wood.” Again, they are interesting reminders of Bolan’s early work, but not a patch on what was to come.
Much better is the cover of Eddie Cochran‘s “Summertime Blues,” complete with hand-claps. Other highlights on the 25-track second disc, that to be honest is nowhere as good as the first, include: “Beltane Walk,” the wonderfully-titled “Seagull Woman,” “Raw Ramp” (the B-side to “Get It On”), “Life’s A Gas,” “Thunderwing” and the anthemic “Dandy in the Underworld,” a title that self-proclaimed dandy and Marc Bolan devotee Sebastian Horsley used for his entertaining, tell-all autobiography in 2008, thirty one years after the death of his hero in a car crash.
This exhaustive compilation has pretty much everything any die-hard fan could want, although sadly there is no place for “Cosmic Dancer” or “Baby Strange,” and it should also be a very pleasant listening experience for any casual music lovers who may only know the hits.
For All the Cats: The Best of Marc Bolan and T-Rex is out now on UMC/Demon Records.
For more information, visit the group’s official Facebook page.