Although several Tyrannosaurus Rex compilations appeared in the years following Marc Bolan and T. Rex's U.K. breakthrough in 1970, it was, remarkably, 1993 before anybody set about seriously evaluating their entire output with a set drawn from both the duo's album output and a surprisingly strong singles output. Seven of the 31 tracks featured on this aptly-titled collection had never previously been anthologized (although most have appeared on one comp or another), including the Beard of Stars era outtakes "Once Upon the Seas of Abyssinia" (one of Bolan's best) and "Blessed Wild Apple"; and 1969's "Pewtor Suitor" and "Do You Remember" 45s. Programmed in strict chronological order, the album selections are fairly predictable: both the 1972 Best of T. Rex and the budget-priced Ride a White Swan compilation are represented in their near-entirety, while other cuts appear to have been selected as much for their diversity as for their quality -- not, of course, that latter consideration need cause too much concern. Even amid such familiar surroundings, there is ample cause for surprise; the almost classical magnificence of "Child Star" and "Cat Black" is clearly a template for the grandiose gestures which the superstar Bolan became so fond of delivering, and the deeper into the disc one delves, the more inevitable that superstardom becomes. Historically, it was the acrimonious departure of original partner Steve Peregrin Took which gave Bolan the push he needed to "go heavy," as he called it. Musically, however, he had started flirting with those basics several months beforehand, and planning further consummation within weeks thereafter. Recruiting a new percussionist, Mickey Finn, Bolan celebrated the change with what would become Tyrannosaurus Rex's crowning achievement, the single "King of the Rumbling Spires," swiftly followed by the truly monumental Beard of Stars album. From there, of course, it would be but a small step into the full-blown rock & roll of Electric Warrior and The Slider. Indeed, the five-minute closing track of both Beard of Stars and The Definitive Tyrannosaurus Rex, "Elemental Child" ranks among the most powerful -- even brain-charring -- recordings Bolan ever made, an all out electric assault course which opens with one of his most evocative images ("torch girl of the marshes") and closes with a firestorm guitar solo which actually grows in intensity every time you hear it. The singer's old John's Children bandmate Andy Ellison remembers catching him in concert around this time, and hearing him announce to the audience, "I am Jimi Hendrix and I have taken over." On the evidence of "Elemental Child," he was right. Exemplary packaging and crystalline remastering complete The Definitive, and it would not be too far-fetched to say that, if and when the definitive Bolan box set materializes, the contents of one disc have already been sorted. Indeed, with this at your disposal, you could almost forego the purchase of the original albums. Almost.
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AllMusic Review by Dave Thompson