Marc Bolan & T. Rex

T. Rex Unchained: Unreleased Recordings, Vol. 3: 1973, Pt. 1/Vol. 4, Pt. 2

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For starters, put received and critical history out of your mind. Any notion that, as he passed through 1973, Marc Bolan's musical prowess was slipping as fast as his commercial invincibility is thrown out with the bathwater from the word go. Or, at least, from the moment "Dance in the Midnight," "Saturday Night," and "Down Home Lady" leap out of the stereo and imprint themselves on your brain for all time. With up to four different versions of each spread across these two discs, all three could wrestle any of Bolan's established classics into submission, while his failure to take "All My Love" to completion at least accounts for his failure to score any more Top 10 hits. Who could resist any song with the chorus, "my baby is a scooter and I love her"? Unlike volumes one and two of Unchained, documenting Bolan's 1972 outtakes, this pair comprises primarily finished songs, as opposed to fragments and jams. At least one of the tracks, the sultry "Metropolis Incarnate," was intended for the aborted Billy Super Duper concept album, a project which he continued toying over the next two years; several others will be familiar, albeit in different versions, from the Messing With the Mystic outtakes overview which inaugurated Edsel's overhaul of the archive. Other standout tracks spread across these two discs (sold separately, but unquestionably destined to be considered as one) include "Jet Tambourine," which is another of Bolan's cunning rewrites of both his own, and rock & roll's, past heritage; the gentle "High Wire"; and "Sad Girl," a song wouldn't have been out of place in Jagger-Richards' mid-60s' canon. There is also an over-long, but fascinatingly mantric, shot at gospel featuring Bolan and a choir led by girlfriend Gloria Jones; "Sky Church Music," incidentally, was a title he borrowed from a remark by Jimi Hendrix. Other might-have-beens are conjured by "Organ Thing" which opens volume three with an infuriatingly brief, but oh-so-tantalizing, glimpse into what could have been one of Bolan's most ambitious musical ventures; and the otherwise untitled instrumental "Jam" (volume four), which harks back to the extended conclusion to "Elemental Child" (from 1970s Beard of Stars LP), at the same time as looking forward to the true funk basics which the forthcoming Zinc Alloy album ultimately shied away from. Almost ten minutes of wah-wah soloing may not, of course, be to everyone's taste, but that's their problem. For anyone who doubts (or contrarily, doesn't doubt) Bolan's status as one of rock's greatest guitar visionaries, it remains essential listening.

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