Monday, 4 June 2018

T. Rex - Futuristic Dragon (1976)

Did you ever see a woman coming out of New York City....

  

Released January 1976

Recorded at MRI Studios, Hollywood

Running time 40.22

In 1976, Marc Bolan was pretty much irrelevant. His days lording it at the top of the singles charts with his riffy glam rock anthems were now three years past. His previous album, "Bolan's Zip Gun" was a patchy experiment between tinny pop and soul/funk, aided by excessively loud female backing vocals, provided mainly by his wife, Gloria "Tainted Love" Jones.

The omens weren't good for this album, especially when one considers the fantasy fiction-style cover that seemed like something from the worst of early 70s "prog rock". Many other reviewers have lambasted the album, as indeed did the music critics at the time. Re-visiting it again, many years later, I am pleasurably surprised.

TRACK LISTING

1. Futuristic Dragon (Intro)

2. Jupiter Liar
3. Chrome Sitar
4. All Alone
5. New York City
6. My Little Baby
7. Calling All Destroyers
8. Theme For A Dragon
9. Sensation Boulevard
10. Ride My Wheels
11. Dreamy Lady
12. Dawn Storm
13. Casual Agent                                                 

"Jupiter Liar" is a great opener. Why, it is almost classic T.Rex - repetitive riff, repetitive intoxicating, bizarre lyrics. I love it. "Chrome Sitar" an't half bad either, another killer riff and hook. Never mind that punk was catching fire all around and there was no need for T.Rex, it still sounds good. "All Alone" is a catchy little piece of funky pop, which seemed to be what Bolan was specialising in now. Many people have complained about the sound on this album. Yes, it is a bit trebly, but I believe this latest remastering has re-enabled the killer bass lines and given it a beefed-up feel. It is not too bad at all. Better sound, in fact, than on "Bolan's Zip Gun".

The surprise big hit single from the album, the preposterous "New York City" - "Did you ever see a woman coming out of New York City with a frog in her hand?". No Marc, can't say I ever did. A great piece of driving sort of funky pop, though - glam backing vocals, organ, pounding barrel organ piano, saxophone - a sort of T.Rex wall of sound. "My Little Baby" is pretty disposable pop, while "Calling All Destroyers" experiments with all sorts of instrumentation. An interesting piece of madcap upbeat music, utterly impossible to categorise. Marc was just putting out whatever he liked by now, and you now what, it sort of worked. Both sides of the original began with brief instrumental tracks, as if this were some sort of concept album. Both are appealing enough, but completely superfluous. The second one, "Theme For A Dragon" has teenage girls' screaming on it, as if Bolan is back in 1972.

Bolan even tries to ride on the disco train dominating things at the time with the sort of electric disco of "Sensation Boulevard", which would have made a great single, and the somewhat odd "Ride My Wheels". The other single from the album, "Dreamy Lady" has a funky soul feel to it. "Dawn Storm" is a heavily orchestrated slightly raucous ballad, while "Casual Agent" continues Bolan's seeming tradition of choosing a unique song to close the album, this is a disco-ish, funky-ish, lyrically weird strange but interesting song.

The non-album singles are "London Boys" and "Laser Love", neither of which were particularly impressive, to be honest. The latter being slightly better. In fact, "Laser Love" is quite good, a sort of mid 70s throwback.

Overall, not as bad as album as many would have you believe.

C+

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