Marc Bolan & T. Rex

20th Century Boy: The Ultimate Collection

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Given that the T. Rex/Marc Bolan catalog is cluttered with collections, all recycling much of the same material, it's easy to be suspicious of another hits compilation, such as Hip-0's 2002 release 20th Century Boy: The Ultimate Collection, especially if it's billed as an "ultimate" retrospective. Against all odds, this 23-track disc really is an "ultimate collection," or at least as close as it can possibly get, given the labyrinthine nature of Bolan's catalog. What this gets right is that it samples it all, from Tyrannosaurus Rex to Dandy in the Underworld, hitting all the big songs along the way -- "Debora," "One Inch Rock," "Ride a White Swan," "Bang a Gong (Get It On)," "Cosmic Dancer," "Telegram Sam," "The Slider," "Children of the Revolution," "20th Century Boy" -- which is the first time all of these have been on a collection so concise, succinct, and winning. Sure, some may complain about a missing single or album track, but this is a stellar, pitch-perfect compilation, balancing the aforementioned big hits with relatively lesser-known gems like "Raw Ramp" and a cover of "Summertime Blues," resulting in the only single-disc compilation to capture all sides of Marc Bolan and T. Rex. And that means it's not just a necessary introduction, it's also essential for those who already have a bunch of albums, because it puts his career in perspective.

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