T. Rex comprised of guitarist and vocalist Marc Bolan and percussionist/backing vocalist Mickey Finn, made musical history with the release of their sixth studio album, Electric Warrior. With this 1971 release, Bolan's flamboyancy and eccentricities came to the forefront, shrouded in fuzzy, transcendent guitar work and rhythmic, almost primal sounding, percussion. The result was a classic album in the truest sense of the words which remains a staple of the glam rock movement and truly one of its defining moments.
The experimentation with instruments, recording techniques, and deft mix of both aggressive and passive sounds worked well for the duo and the album remains their most remembered effort. The second single of the album, Bang A Gong, was a number one hit in the United Kingdom and hit the top ten in the United States and remains their most recognizable song to this day.
The track listing on this newly released DVD-Audio version is identical to the original version of the album and is as follows:
1. Mambo Sun - This lead off song has a heavier funk influence working behind the scenes., but it remains quite low key in its arrangements. The result is a pretty sounding psychedelic number that sticks in your head for inexplicable reasons.
2. Cosmic Dancer - Bolan sounds more alien than man on this track with some truly eerie acoustic guitar sounds creeping over top and building to create probably the most emotionally charged song on this release.
3. Jeepster - Probably the best example of Bolan's riff heavy guitar work. The strings on this release overshadow the vocals not in the way they're recorded but in the way you hear the song. The simplistic percussion lends way to this as well and it serves only to highlight the guitar. Arguably the best track on the album.
4. Monolith - Bolan's poetic side shines through in the vocals which have a more fantastic sense to them than many of the other songs on this record. The background vocals are more prominent in the mix on this one as well, giving it a distinct sound that allows it to stand out a bit.
5. Lean Woman Blues - a blues song that, underneath it all, has a very traditional sound. Bolan's vocals obviously lend it a different flavor than it would have had in someone else's hands but it still works.
6. Bang A Gong (Get It On) - T. Rex's most famous song. Heard everywhere from the bad 80s Power Station cover to a Spaghetti-O's TV commercial, this one is instantly recognizable and remains in heavy rotation on classic rock radio even know, over thirty years since it hit the charts.
7. Planet Queen - a space themed track with an interesting false ending that gives way to more heavy guitar riffing and even more spaced out vocals with a true ending, 'Gimme your daughter' repeated over and over again, that is almost creepy.
8. Girl - The most acoustic song on the album is also the prettiest. This one is more or less a straightforward love song and sounds more David Bowie-esque than the rest of the album, but it works. It's simple, effective, and transcendental at times.
9. The Motivator - A song that doesn't, on the surface, make a whole lot of sense but when examined a little further is actually a rather personal song that has a deeper meaning. The lyrics are catchy and at times quite high pitched but the guitars once again come through and keep it moving along nicely.
10. Life's A Gas - A trippy, almost melancholy song about, well, life. Bolan's vocals are dream like and at times quite soothing while the pronounced guitar sound that accompanies him is mixed in such a manner that it doesn't take the focus off of his voice.
11. Rip Off - An angrier, more aggressive sounding track with heavier guitar riffs and some truly 'pissed off' sounding moments. Not the highlight of the album, but a stand out track that's easy to get into and which closes of this release nicely.
This newly remastered disc sounds better than it ever has and for T. Rex fans, it's a must own release as there isn't a bad song in the bunch.
Not much to talk about on the video aspect, because, well, it's a DVD-Audio release. The included video is in pretty good shape though with decent enough color reproduction and nothing wrong in the way of artifacts or shimmery lines or anything like that. It's nothing to write home about, but it's certainly sufficient.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track included for use on standard DVD players sounds incredible. Every pick of every string on every guitar is clear as a bell on each song on the album. All speakers are given a healthy work out and the inclusion of the rear speakers in the mix does wonders to bring this album to life in way that you've never heard before. Bolan's guitar work is smooth and fluid and his vocals are crisp and soft but never dull and always easy to listen to. The only thing I can even think to complain about on this mix is that the bass levels could have been just a tad bit higher but I was easily able to compensate for this by boosting my subwoofer levels just slightly through my receiver. Other than that, this sound mix is pretty much damn near perfect.
Reprise/Rhino has assembled a few interesting extras for this DVD-Audio release. First up is the complete Bang A Gong promotional video. This isn't an exceptionally rare clip, it exists on a few compilations and has never really been that hard to find but it's nice to see it here none-the-less. There are also some interesting liner notes by Sean Egan entitled Friends And Associates Of Mark Bolan that document the history of the album and serve as a nice background piece. A short one-page essay by Tony Visconti (the album's producer) relays how the album has been remixed for the format from the original master tapes. Lyrics are also included on the disc, as is a small photo gallery.
This is Electric Warrior like you've never heard it before. The surround mix totally compliments the album's lush production values and multi-layered songs with crystal clear clarity and some very immersive added depth. Highly recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.