T. Rex

Change (The Alternate Zinc Alloy)

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Change, as its subtitle makes apparent, is an alternate view of what, even today, ranks as Marc Bolan's most unsatisfying (or at least divisive) album, 1974's Zinc Alloy and the Hidden Riders of Tomorrow. But if that sounds a grim recipe for disaster -- the demos for the album which even fans don't like very much -- think again. Change not only serves up a generous blend of previously unreleased material, it also rebuilds the parent album in a wholly new light, raw and soulful, loose and utterly unselfconscious. Guitar driven and gritty, "Venus Loon" packs an almost proto-punk energy, while a brief, gentle demo of the underrated "Spanish Midnight" contrarily reminds listeners that, with the right American marketing, Bolan could have utterly crushed the sensitive singer/songwriters of the '70s by proving more sensitive (and a better singer/songwriter) than any of them. Plus, he didn't have a beard. Another dramatic re-evaluation is "Teenage Dream," a soaring, pomp rock epic that seemed to sum up Bolan's own declining fame. Shorn of its lush orchestration, Bolan's plaintive lament is now accompanied primarily by nightclub piano (shades of David Bowie's "Aladdin Sane") and a grumbling guitar soup, and though you wouldn't want to say which version is better, this one's at least more remarkable. Topping up the regular Zinc tracks, Change concludes with ten bonus cuts, ranging from loose acoustic demos to unmixed period singles. Included, and notable, are a version of "The Groover" without its trademark backing chorus, and a magnificent acoustic take on "Truck On," which wipes the floor with the repetitiously overbearing 45 he eventually released. There's also a maniacal version of the B-side "Midnight," all bleeding guitars and slurred vocals. Back in 1974, the finished LP sounded watered down. Now we discover that's because it was, slavered with the production techniques that were once integral to the T. Rex sound, but were now utterly superfluous. Here, the roughness strips away all but the most integral elements of the songs, allowing Bolan's original vision to shine through. At the time, he called it "space age funk." And now we know what he meant.

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