Marc Bolan & T. Rex

T. Rex Unchained: Unreleased Recordings, Vol. 1: 1972, Pt. 1

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The multi-volume Unchained series is quite possibly the living definition of collector's ephemera. Spanning eight 70-minute discs, the series apparently contains every demo, idea, half-idea, jam and scrap that Marc Bolan left behind. Considering that T. Rex released an astonishing number of albums, singles and non-LP B-sides between 1970 and Bolan's death in 1977, and that Demon also masterminded a series of alternate versions (including previously unreleased songs, not just alternates takes and demos) of every album between The Slider and Dandy in the Underworld, the very fact that enough unreleased music exists to fill eight discs is astonishing enough. It would have been even more impressive if the Unchained series offered some revelations, but it just confirms that Bolan was a talented man who had two ideas -- sleazy boogie and spacy folk-rock. Granted, he got a lot of mileage out of those two ideas, and he made a number of indisputedly classic singles and albums, but when it comes to sorting through the vaults, it gets tedious for anyone who isn't a serious fanatic. And the word "serious" cannot be emphasized enough -- fans who enjoyed all the albums, even the weak ones, will certainly have their patience tested by any volume of Unchained. In one sense, each volume is interchangeable, because they offer variations on the two Bolan themes, both in complete and incomplete versions. But when the eight discs are listened to in order, slight contemporary influences, such as disco, can be heard. On Vol. 1, however, it's straightforward boogie and folk, in the form of demos, unfinished songs and guitar solos. Nothing on here stands out, and there are no lost gems, but the sheer thought processes of Bolan are fascinating, and in a perverse way, it's easy to admire Demon for releasing this extensive series as a way of circumventing bootleggers. But that doesn't mean that anyone who wouldn't buy this same material for thirty dollars should pick any of the discs up.

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