Monday, 4 June 2018

T. Rex - Tanx (1973)

Donna la folle, par T. Rex....


Released January 1973

Recorded at Chateau D'Herouville, France

Running time 35.03

For me and, I think, for quite a few other followers of the so-called "Bopping Elf", this was where it all started to go a bit awry.

Firstly, this 2012 Tony Visconti remaster is excellent, the best it has ever sounded. This is the version that appears on the now hard-to-obtain "Complete Studio Albums Collection". The bass is, as on "The Slider" nicely up in the mix, negating the "glam" tinniness considerably and bringing a new warmth of melody to the table.


1. Tenement Lady

2. Rapids
3. Mister Mister
4. Broken-Hearted Blues
5. Shock Rock
6. Country Honey
7. Electric Slim & The Factory Hen
8. Mad Donna
9. Born To Boogie
10. Life Is Strange
11. The Street & Babe Shadow
12. Highway Knees
13. Left Hand Luke & The Beggar Boys                      

Back to the music. 1972's "The Slider" had been a tour de force of Bolan mini-masterpieces of glammy nonsense backed by irresistable riffs. On "Tanx" he tries to replicate that but, to be honest, a lot of songs are even shorter than that album's two and a half to three minute average. Thirteen tracks lasting only thirty-five minutes. In that vein, many of them, particularly the first two "Tenement Lady" and "Rapids" feel somewhat unfinished. Others, like the dreamy, saxophone-driven "Broken Hearted Blues" and the brief, chunky boogie of "Shock Rock" are good tracks but just seem too short, ending at around 1 minute 50 seconds. The riffy "Country Honey" is exactly the same. It has the feel of an album that was "work in progress" but never got finished. Not quite Bolan's "Smiley Smile" but it feels rushed and nowhere near the pleasure to listen to that is "The Slider" or the earlier "Electric Warrior". You can't really repeat an album like "The Slider" again, though. One is fantastic, but two...hmmmm. 

Furthermore, something about the cover seemed to suggest Marc was starting to believe his own myth. Tongue in cheek it obviously was in its schoolboy puerility (the toy tank sticking out between Bolan's legs) but it belies an "I'm untouchable now" arrogance that never sat well with such a sometimes shy guy.

"Mad Donna" with its cute "French kid" intro and "Born To Boogie" are two bona fide T.Rex fully fledged rockers and "Life Is Strange" could have come from "Electric Warrior", but I am left rather frustrated by the rest, due to their unfinished nature. 

The backing starts to be dominated by several female backing voices, something that would be taken to the nth degree on "Bolan's Zip Gun". Saxophone is added a lot, sometimes taking over from the trademark guitar riff-drive T. Rex sound. A good example of this is found on "Mister Mister", which is full of swirling sax breaks. Bolan was trying to get away from that and produce a more hybrid slightly funky sound - interestingly, Bolan was dabbling in this sort of thing two years before David Bowie, the great innovator, did so on "Young Americans". "Electric Slim And The Factory Hen", despite its ludicrous title, displayed definite experimenting in more soulful, rhythmic material. Check out its quirky, infectious bass line, strings and congas. "The Street And Babe Shadow" is in the same vein too. 

The final two tracks, the rocking, more recognisably T. Rex "Highway Knees" and the anthemic, overblown ballad "Left Hand Luke & The Beggar Boys" are longer tracks and, for that reason, are more fulfilling. Incidentally, "...myxomatosis is an animal's disease..." is one of Bolan's most bizarre lines!

This release is, however, resurrected by the presence of the extras - the killer singles "Children Of The Revolution", with its rock hard riffs, the glammy pop of "Solid Gold Easy Action" and the iconic, wonderful "20th Century Boy". Also excellent is the 'b' side "Sunken Rags". Quite why they were not on the album is unclear. They would have made it much better. In its actual original form, it is certainly nowhere near as essential as the previous two albums.


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