T. Rex

Dazzling Raiment: The Alternate Futuristic Dragon

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Marc Bolan had intended 1976 to mark the debut of his most treasured recent project, a concept album/movie/book titled Billy Super Duper, only to change his mind at the next-to-last moment and unveil, instead, what amounted to a collection of unused oldies and reheated outtakes. Actually, that's extraordinarily unfair. True, much of Futuristic Dragon had been written and recorded over the previous two years; true, too, even its title was somewhat second-hand -- 1975's Bolan's Zip Gun was originally to be called Theme for a Dragon, and the unused song of the same name was now salvaged as the centerpiece of this new set. But it is also true that only a fool would have left material as good as "New York City," "Chrome Sitar," and "Saturation Syncopation" (retitled "All Alone" for public consumption) to molder on the archive shelf, and though Bolan could be a lot of things, he was never a fool. In its released form, Futuristic Dragon was completely re-recorded by the latest incarnation of T. Rex. For this alternate version of the same album, the original session recordings finally see the light of day, serving up a stylistically piebald, but never less than fascinating glimpse into the Bolan archive. "My Little Baby," "Chrome Sitar," "Casual Agent," and "All Alone" were all retrieved from sessions in New York and Chicago in late 1974 -- so, somewhat shockingly, was "New York City," a song so indelibly associated with the spring of 1976 that it seems impossible that Bolan could have conjured it up so long before. Other cuts hailed from 1975, but it's interesting to note that just nine of Futuristic Dragon's 13 tracks presented themselves in either demo or outtake form -- absent are "Calling All Destroyers," "Ride My Wheels," "Jupiter Liar," and "Theme for a Dragon" itself, as Bolan took the only existing recordings for use on the actual album. He missed at least one gem, however -- "Dreamy Lady," as released on 45 that same year, was presented as a stirring soul ballad and did very well for itself on the chart. How much more successful could it have been, however, if Bolan had unleashed the phenomenal reggae-flavored take that had obviously been on his mind since demo stage? Dazzling Raiment concludes with 11 bonus tracks, divided between alternate studio takes and solo demos, and also including both sides of his next single, the gently ruminative "Life's an Elevator" and a version of "London Boys" that -- if you only pay attention to the guitar sound -- could easily be the missing link between T. Rex and the Sex Pistols. Neither is that as absurd an evolution as it might sound, as Bolan's own next album, Dandy in the Underworld, would prove.

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