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Monday, 4 June 2018
T. Rex - Zinc Alloy & The Hidden Riders Of Tomorrow (1974)
Released February 1974
Released in 1974, as Marc Bolan unfortunately entered his "washed up teenage idol" phase, attracting derision from the music press as they trotted out their "poor old Marc Bolan" articles by the score. However, although the glam star was fading, after three years of phenomenal singles chart success, and giving this album a "Ziggy Stardust" rip off title, there are signs of a desire to change things a little on here maybe slightly ahead of David Bowie in that regard. Just.
Adding soon to be wife Gloria Jones on funky clavinet, there are definitely "soul" and "funk" elements on some of the material. Check out "Explosive Mouth" for starters. The are soul echoes in the backing vocals and bass on "Galaxy" too. While the extended rock balladry of the album's only single, the delicious "Teenage Dream" is hardly an audition to appear on "Soul Train" there are just strains here and there that hint at letting soul stylings creep in. The beautiful, rich, melodious bass and laid back feel on "Change" is another example. A bit like the wah-wah guitar on Bowie's "1984" from "Diamond Dogs" hinted at influences from elsewhere, so we are able to grasp at many small nuances on this album. "Change" is maybe the cornerstone of this album, despite its sub-three minutes' length. "Interstellar Soul" with another killer bass line, is up there with it too.
Elsewhere, though, the old riffy glam rock sounds are still there, notably on the opener, the lyrically perplexing "Venus Loon" and the guitar choppy "Sound Pit". "Nameless Wildness" has echoes of "The Slider"'s "Baby Boomerang" too. "Liquid Gang" and "Carsmile Smith & The Old One" have some rocky guitar present, but they are slowed down, nothing like the glam anthems of yore. The latter even has some synthesised brass on it too.
The final two songs are somewhat odd affairs - both around four minutes long, the play around with soul and funk - "The Avengers (Superbad)" and "The Leopards Featuring Gardenia & The Mighty Slug" (what was that all about??). However, they don't quite get there, but they are definitely not glam rock.
So there we have it - an album of palpable change, to an extent. Bolan's songs were always two or three minutes of often pretty nonsensical, repetitive lyrics and this didn't change throughout his career, whether against a glam, folk, rock or soul/funk backing. He was certainly no genius as a composer, but there has always been a strange appeal to his often lyrically odd ditties.
The non-album singles include on this release include the excellent glammy "The Groover" from the previous summer, when Bolan still ruled the airwaves and the more underwhelming "Truck On (Tyke)", the banality of which almost, in a stroke, signified the end of the "Hot Love"/"Get It On"/"Telegram Sam"/"Metal Guru" glory days. "Dino-sohwers" indeed. "Truck On" heralded an extinction, for sure.
This Tony Visconti remaster is just SUPERB, as is his similar work on "Electric Warrior", "The Slider" and "Tanx". They are full, punchy and delightfully bassy. The excellence of the bass playing is really highlighted on these remasters. What were previously somewhat tinny albums are now warm works of aural beauty. To be honest, they made me re-visit and enjoy a flawed album again and listen to it through new ears. It sounds so much better than I remember it too.