My People Were Fair and Had Sky in Their Hair... But Now They're Content to Wear Stars on Their Brows (1968)
Hot Rod Mama 9.5/10
Is it weird to anyone else that the very first moments of "Hot Rod Mama" are gong noises? He's definitely getting something on! The funny thing about "Hot Rod Mama" is that it's not far removed at all from a usual, early '60s R&B tune. The chord progression and vocal melody are spot-on to that oft-explored genre. Except the instrumentation is completely different. It's played with acoustic guitars, bongo drums and Peregrin Took's droney background vocals. Bolan delivers his characteristic spritey vocal performance, which is always fun to hear... he must be one of my favorite singers. It's a nice idea that Bolan chose to open this album with something more musically familiar to get us into the mood before hitting us on the head with that big frying pan...
OK, now this group is ready to go nuts. This is so weird and exotic that I had to listen to this several times to gain footing on it... The instrumentation consists of a strangely strummed acoustic guitar as Bolan sings with his weird vocals. Meanwhile, Took plays the bongos furiously. Somewhere past the middle, someone chimes in with a monotonously played xylophone whilst a hobbit choir chimes in. This song is weird and weird. This guy was from another planet. Or maybe Middle Earth.
Child Star 8.5/10
I listened to this album at least eight times directly before writing this review (much more than I usually do) not to mention the times I heard it a few years ago, and it doesn't fail to perplex me. This track is a "ballad" of sorts, but it's difficult to put this music in categories. I guess that's what intriguing about it. I like the melody, but it's weird and nothing like I've ever heard before... Well, you've got to at least appreciate the originality.
Strange Orchestra 9/10
If you thought it couldn't get any weirder than that, Bolan embarks on the "Strange Orchestra." Even more minimal than the previous tracks, this features Bolan just playing one string on his guitar while he chants a strange, strange track. It's catchy but in a weird sense. He inserts strange sound effects and he twists his voice to emulate animals that only exist in the fantasy world. This guy is so weird...
Chateau in Virginia Waters 10/10
This is just pretty. This probably would have been a hit in a parallel universe --- who knows what sort of warp-hole this guy accidentally went through to reach our world. Well, you'd be hard pressed to think that our world couldn't use this sort of thing. The melody is enchanting, and the instrumentation is very pretty. It consists mainly of an acoustic guitar that seems to be given a little bit of reverb and the usual bongo drums. Bolan comes up with some druggie vocal stylings in here --- What planet is he from?
Dwarfish Trumpet Blues 8.5/10
It's safe to say that I'm weirded out totally. I let this thing play four times with the intent of writing a track review, and ... nothing came out. Now I have to bypass my emotions and just write something. Again, this thing is based on weird standards of folky pop music that these guys probably just invented when writing this. The melody is odd though strangely compelling. And there's a weird and brief poem they chant at the end...
Mustang Ford 9/10
What a strange subject... Maybe these weird guys from another dimension like our cars. Think of what Sam Gamgee would think about a Mustang Ford... Yeah... He'd probably like it, too, enough to write a song about it. The chord progression mimics a usual R&B structure, but the instrumentation is off in the cosmic realm. Again, Bolan's singing is weirder than ever (yet entirely compelling). He comes up with more crazy, animalesque non-verbal vocals. What a nutcase...
Afghan Woman 9.5/10
Another gorgeous song. The melody is absolutely pretty and Bolan's peculiar vocal performance is aesthetically pleasant. (OK you probably won't think Bolan's voice is that gorgeous when you first hear it --- I'm used to it, naturally.) The bongo drums are doing their own thing in one corner while Bolan delivers a rather usual acoustic guitar strumming in the other. A xylophone helps out with the chorus...
It's difficult to even dislike this even though Bolan seems to be overextending his weirdness here... especially that bit at the end when he delivers these 'yelps.' I never get the feeling that he's being weird for weird's sake, but he's coming close there! Up until then, this is a fairly normal song for this album. The bongo is pounding away, and Bolan sings a strange but alluring melody. The vocal interchanges are just strange here --- especially when you factor in Took's strange drawls in the background.
Graceful Fat Sheba 7/10
A little more lethargic than most of the previous tracks. Well, the melody is OK in that same strange way... That droning percussion really gets on my nerves though ... Hate to say it...... But at least they knew well enough to keep this under a minute and a half.
Weilder of Words 9.5/10
This is much more enthusiastic combined with their always weird ideas. This one keeps on changing tempoes and Bolan adopts more vocal tones almost to the extent that you can't believe he was serious. Yet, you have to take it seriously and it's too much of a hoot to ignore. Again, the melody is good but it's weird! You have to make sure your brain is ready to soak this stuff in... Actually, my first introduction to early T. Rex was Unicorn and I hated it the first time I heard it --- but I kept playing it, and it grew on me like healthy exercise regimes!!!
Frowning Atahuallpa (My Inca Love) 10/10
This is so far in left-field even compared to this album that I had to listen to this one on repeat a week before I wrote this. It's so intoxicating ... and so beautiful. The melody is so great that it would have been a classic if Annie Haslam were singing it. Actually that could have been appropriate. Took's drawling singing in the background produces some more weird atmosphere. Where on earth did this thing come from?? This song is nearly six minutes long, and they certainly don't lack any weird ideas for it. In the middle of the song, they slowly begin to increase the tempo and they sing "Hare Krishna" over and over again. It's difficult to know exactly what they were going for, but by the end of the album you stop asking questions like that. Took starts reading off some fantasy story that doesn't make sense. What a freaking weirdy. And the final minute is a completely new song. The chord progression is great... OK, I'm picking out weird chord progressions now... I'm spent.
Prophets, Seers & Sages – The Angels of the Ages (1968)
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So anyway. (It's probably worth beginning all the track reviews with those two words.) This is a funny song with their usual sense of melody, acoustic guitars and bongo drums. The song is spaced-out and weird as you would expect, and somehow the effort still manages to sound fresh. Bolan's vocal performance is fun... The one main problem with it is there isn't a whole lot of interesting diversity within the track. Weirdly, he repeats the same song backwards, which ends up proving that the song is almost a palindrome. That's an odd experiment that's kind of interesting, but it's just a gimmick and not meant to be aesthetically pleasant.
Stacey Grove 8/10
They're back to the strange, spaced-out folk music with this track although I get the feeling that they're getting pretty bored already... The hook is OK but simple, and they repeat it so quickly. Bolan's vocal performance is fun, though. Nothing amazing...
Wind Quartets 7.5/10
They didn't even bother incorporating those cool bongo beats with this, but that's not necessarily a damaging effect. It's just that the whole tone of the song manages to feel pretty unexciting. The melody is pretty good, and I like Bolan's "wails" though... This one's good for soaking up if you're in that mood...
This is a pretty involving song though. You have the acoustic guitar strumming and Bolan singing a spaced-out tune. Meanwhile, the bongos are off doing their own crazy thing without much regard to the acoustic guitar rhythm. It produces an almost avant-garde effect... is that what they were going for?
Trelawny Lawn 6/10
The bongo is even more out of control here. It's possible that he was trying to illustrate rain or something, but I doubt it. Bolan's vocal melody doesn't work that well, and the arrangements aren't too interesting. It gets a little better when he incorporates some whistling, but that's really too little and too late.
Anzaneel the Mage 9.5/10
But at least this is a remarkably good song. The melody is rather catchy and I like the chord progression. What makes it notable is Took's wobbly background, which provides a good harmonic line that manages to give this track the necessary musical depth. Yes, I'm easily able to get caught up in this song! Let us celebrate!!
The Friends 6/10
Hardly a minute long, but it's so bland that it manages to be a significant force in dragging this album down. The melody is absolutely worthless... and nothing about the atmosphere or (particularly) Bolan's singing is up to the task of saving this... Meh...
Salamanda Palaganda 9/10
Well at least this one is quite an interesting song both melodically and instrumentally. The acoustic guitar is strummed well, and the bongo drums are crazy and pretty constructive to the song as a whole. What's that? I triangle? ... Cool. This song has good flow and nice energy, so this is one of the better ones.
Our Wonderful Brownskin Man 7/10
Again, it is not even a minute long, but this is another example of a song that just doesn't work and it drags this whole effort back. The melody doesn't do anything, and the acoustic guitar just blindly follows around the melody. Meanwhile, there's a crazy percussion instrument that's fiddle faddling around without knowing where to go...
Oh Harley (The Saltimbanques) 8/10
I'm noticing that every other song seems to be good. Here is one of the better ones. It's rather pretty with some nice strumming, and Bolan sings a rather pretty melody. It does grow a little old (despite it being hardly more than two minutes long), so it's not a great song. They might have done more to develop that melody...
Eastern Spell 8/10
This is pretty good. There's nothing about it that stops me in my tracks, though. The melody is average, and Mr. Took is going insane with those bongos. This isn't too distinctive, though it's nice enough to sit through.
The Travelling Tragnition 8/10
Here is an interesting song. I like the simple melody and he uses a strange, bell-sounding instrument to repeat that line of melody. That harmonic value made what would have been a bland song interesting! Keep doing stuff like this!!
Juniper Suction 7.5/10
This tends to get a little monotonous despite its very short running length. He's trying those reversed sounds again, which are never that exciting to hear to be honest... The very end of the song features a sort of bongo drum roll, and echoey screams. That was kind of pointless but neat.
Scenescof Dynasty 6/10
A difficult song to like even if you wanted to. It consists of Marc Bolan singing an a cappella song that repeats the same two bars over and over again for four minutes. While that's going on, there's a very repetitive and regular hand clapping... Every once in awhile, you hear a funny vocal effect in the background or something. Meh.
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Chariots of Silk 9.5/10
Absolutely delightful. Here is Marc Bolan playing choppy chords on his acoustic guitar and singing in his usual, awesome voice. Peregrin Falcon Took gave himself a diploma from the bongos and graduated to tambourines and timpani. Somebody or other is playing a harmonium in the background... This instrumentation is utterly delightful. The melody is fairly simple, but it's effective and catchy. The melody isn't the main attraction here, though, as you would probably expect. I love the ending --- everything sort of breaks apart and sails away. This is much more developed and mature than anything that appeared in Prophets. What an excellent way to begin the album! I was inspired to try to write a song like this once, but I gave up pretty quickly. Well... you know how that goes.
'Pon a Hill 8.5/10
I'm pretty sure the first time I heard the beginning of this song, I exclaimed to my car stereo speakers: "What the hell did I just buy?" It features some very hilarious "nature" noises that seem to be constructed out of just Bolan's voice making extremely silly noises. (Anyone familiar with Homestar Runner will probably immediately identify "The Cheat" in here, as I did!) The main bit of the song isn't very melodic, and it's overly repetitive, but they get extra points for that honking noise we hear at regular intervals... HILARIOUS.
The Seal of Seasons 9/10
The melody is quite whistleable, which is certainly a nice quality! Relatively speaking, the song isn't so weird. It features more acoustic guitar strumming and Bolan singing in his distinctive, warbly faun vocals... He even makes up some words here and there! A few vocal overdubs along the way gives it a little more variety!
The Throat of Winter 8.5/10
Very slow yet very pretty... Marc Bolan sits down and strums his guitar very quietly while he sings another rather bizarre melody. But the melody is interesting and even somewhat enjoyable, so there you go! At the end, he seems to be playing around with a backwards sitar. That's not just a novelty, but it serves to make the song even more bizarre...
Cat Black (the Wizard's Hat) 10/10
This was the only song I liked when I first bought the album... and I still feel pretty strongly about it. The reason for that is because of that silly and simple "chorus." It might not really be a chorus because it opens the song, but that's what it seems like. This utter weirdness is probably the most memorable song on the album--- I like that off-beat woodwind instrument that we hear at the end that sounds like it's just playing random notes!
Stones for Avalon 8/10
Weird, but not as compelling. I still get the feeling that he's singing some big hit on a different planet. I don't know why they didn't offer Tyrannosaurus Rex a guest spot on Star Trek. That would have been awesome! Anyway, this is still compelling though less so. The song isn't quite as interesting as the others, you have Bolan singing his spaced-out tune and playing the same melody with his acoustic guitar. There seems like there's someone else humming in the background...
She Was Born to Be My Unicorn 9.5/10
This also has one of the more distinctive melodies from the album. Yeah, I can whistle this melody, and it's not too bad! There's actually a snare drum (or something) that you can hear banging around in the background. Bolan's created a very interesting texture here, and it's quite fun to immerse yourself in. Took sounds like he's starting to sing a Beach Boys song very lightly a few times!!
Like a White Star, Tangled and Far, Tulip That's What You Are 8/10
The melody is actually quite good although a tad repetitive even for me! The first half consists of Marc strumming his guitar and singing in his silly voice. The second half is considerably more upbeat as he sings up his weird vocal fills... That's always fun to hear.
Warlord of the Royal Crocodiles 9/10
This track is another one of the more creatively instrumented ones. It starts with some odd recorder noises that sound like they were trying to make bird noises! He turns it into a fun, obscure and catchy melody (as usual). They bring in some reverse cymbals at the end to make it even sound more strage... Well, I've got to love that! (It's difficult to describe this stuff... if you weren't able to tell!)
Evenings of Damask 9/10
This one's slower and less orchestrated, but quite a bit more engaging than some of these! I suppose Bolan's singing a ballad in respect to the others. You have Mr. Took playing the bongos in the background, and he gets a bit of a solo at the end. Eh, I've heard worse!
The Sea Beasts 9/10
This is more upbeat--- Just Bolan with his acoustic guitar singing another one of his funny melodies. Tooks playing a sort of clicky thing... (Wow, it's not my best day for reviewing.) The characteristic bit comes at the end when Bolan makes "The Cheat" noises amidst a funny sort of Woodland Critter party. (You just have to hear it... it's not enough describing it to you!) This is hilarious fun!
Now this song's interesting, and I swear David Bowie ripped part of this off for his "Memories of a Free Festival." Well, I love Bowie, but the guy sure liked to borrow!! Anyway, this is a rather dark song, and the melody is quite complex and interesting. There's a dark harmonium playing simply in the background and also a xylophone... Cool!
Ninjinski Hind 9.5/10
This melody is quite catchy. I can whistle this one, and it's not bad. Also understand that it's spaced out, but it works perfectly in its own context. I also love those back-up vocals that go "yut-yut-yut-yut" and then "doooo-dooooo" in the chorus. My only complaint is that they dropped the ending, but this one gets high points just for being so effectively strange...
The Pilgrim's Tale 8.5/10
It's not too effective to point out that this song is weird, but --- well, it's weird! The percussion seems to include of snapping and some stringed instruments! The melody is another involving and engaging one though not so much as some of the previous ones. They play that harmonium to sound like a violin at the end of this, which is something I haven't heard before in this album!
The Misty Coat of Albany 9.5/10
I like the instrumentation here in particular. It starts out to be one of his weird, upbeat woodland songs. The chorus of the song features some rapid notes of the harmonium at just a perfect level... The melody is also quite involving this time, and I like that freaky ending... It's just Bolan's voice saying "lai-lai-lai" a cappella, but he's very funny at it.
Romany Soup 8/10
I'm not too interested in hearing Peter O'Took's fantasy story that he just reads off. It's strange and just more proof that you shouldn't read Tolkein while you're on acid. The best part is at the end when Bolan comes in with another one of his spaced out jams. He repeats the same freaky notes over and over again, but he builds up the instrumentals every few bars or so. Well, it's a bizarre build-up, which Bolan hadn't tried yet in the album... seems a strangely appropriate note for the album to go out on...
Beard of Stars (1970)
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This is a one minute intro consisiting of a bell chiming off at regular intervals, and Marc Bolan delivering a rather hooky though entirely silly electric guitar solo. What makes it goofy is the last few seconds in which he seems to be playing random old notes.
A Daye Laye 9.5/10
This is a good song and I'll tell ya why! It the melody is actually catchy. I can actually whistle this thing and generally enjoy the melody. What makes it great, of course, is the instrumentation and the texture especially. There's a funny, whispy electric guitar playing somewhat randomized notes and mini-"eruptions" from an organ. There's a jumbled bit in the middle that's almost chaotic. Really this is well done!
Woodland Bop 8.5/10
This seems like it was meant to be a woodland version of "The Mash Potato" of sorts. I'm talking about the lyrics and not the music, though. Musically, it's just Bolan playing a folky song with his acoustic guitar. It has a somewhat catchy melody and the whole thing is bizarre enough to be considered memorable! Yay!!
First Heart Mighty Dawn Dart 9/10
Bolan brings in the electric guitar throughout this and he delivers quite a few nice licks. Otherwise, this is Bolan singing a slightly obscure though interesting melody with an acoustic guitar, bongo drums and ... uh, and electic bass, too. I don't think I heard an electric bass in a T.Rex song previous to this!
Pavillons of Sun 9/10
Bolan sort of starts right in on this song. No intro? Eh, whatever. That guy gets away with everything, anyway! This is another track that consists mainly of Bolan singing with his wildly strummed acoustic guitar. The characteristic feature of this one is he manages to delivers some mighty electric guitar licks in the middle. Dude, that guy could shred if he wanted...
Organ of Blues 7.5/10
This one consists of Bolan singing with a rather dreary harmonium and a bongo drum beat that doesn't seem to go anywhere. The melody is OK as far as Bolan's been able to write them, but ....... well this song is boring. These guys shouldn't be boring of all things... Even that fade-out where they strip everything away but that boring drum beat should have been different. Meh.
By the Light of the Magical Moon 8.5/10
Somehow this one seems almost mainstream. Of course Bolan's still being slightly obscure, but only *slightly*. Bolan's singing a hummable melody with his acoustic guitar. He brings in a few electric guitar licks at opportune times! Well with the increased accessibility certainly a greater number of people can appreciate early T.Rex. I'd have to say that I like this song though it's not especially intriguing to me.
Wind Cheetah 9/10
Well this is unique and it's nice to hear it! It's not accessible ... it's another one of their weird musical ideas that characterize Bolan's weird early albums. He's singing a strange melody with instrumentation that's following his melody to the letter. The atmosphere is utterly alarming, and it's quite effective. It tends to stick out at you. Cool!!
A Beard of Stars 8.5/10
Bolan seems to be reverting to his elvish past here except the star of the show is the electric guitar that's soloing throughout. He's not singing lyrics but singing "aaahs" with a rapidly played bongo drum to create another fantasy atmosphere. It's quite funny!
Great Horse 9.5/10
He creates a dark atmosphere here, and it's another one of his enticing tracks. It also happens to be my vote for my favorite song of the album. Not only is the atmosphere dark, but I find Bolan's vocal melody to be quite catchy ... and even a little bit heartfelt. (Of course the lyrics might not be so heartfelt.) The structure of it is hardly normal ... there seem to be a few spots where the events threaten to turn into mayhem, but they don't ....... through the graces of the Great Horse. I guess.
Dragon's Ear 8.5/10
Well it's hardly even worth asking them to take it easy on the listener. This one manages to be one fo the more unusual compositions of the album. It's not too accessible though. The song opens as he's playing a sort of muted acoustic guitar and he's singing a rather unusual melody and chugging away at the guitar. There's quite some development in here at one point also sounding a bit like a ballad. The highlight comes in the final two minutes that feautres a rapid-fire acoustic guitar duet! This track might be difficult to describe, but it's better for it!
Lofty Skies 9/10
They seem to be going Kraut-rock here. Well, that repetitive wobbly guitar reminds me of those Neu and Slapp Happy albums that I didn't spend that much time listening to a year or so ago. Thanks to this unique sound that means that this contributes to the diversity of the album. Also thanks to the melody, that means that it's easy-to-be enjoyed!
It's slower, more "folky" and less enticing to me, but it does contain a rather pleasant melody. The tone of those bongo drums create a nice atmosphere... Somehow it all seems slightly out-of-tune, but maybe that's some of its charm. Hm.
Elemental Child 9.5/10
Yikes! Look at that guitar! It's all over this song! He has a passage that could even constitute a "riff" although the wily structure of this piece keeps it from ... well, being a "glam" song. His melodic ideas continue to be similar to the spirit of these early albums and that "riff" disappears a few times to make for a weird, sprawley section. Everything about this song sounds off-base, and I dig that!!! The real highlight comes at the last half of the song where Bolan just goes at it with the electric guitar. He's no Eric Clapton, but he's quite a lot of fun!
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