In North America, T.Rex has long overshadowed the brilliance of Bolan's acoustic incarnation of the band: Tyrannosaurus Rex.
As embarrassing as it is to admit, I somehow heard Devendra Banhart before I heard Tyrannosaurus Rex. Of course I’d heard T.Rex and their glam hits “Get It On” and “Metal Guru”, but I had no idea about Marc Bolan’s past as folk-pop crossover genius, I only knew him as the "Electric Warrior".
Upon first hearing Banhart I thought he was amazing; such a grasp on melody and not afraid to do semi-hippy folk-pop, such a distinctive voice – I thought it was incredibly original. When I heard Tyrannosaurus Rex’s “Debora” I quickly dismissed Banhart as the flakey shameless Bolan-aper that I still believe him to be.
Perhaps most people were luckier than I and were somehow exposed to Bolan’s early period as the folk-pop duo of Tyrannosaurus Rex rather than his glam period as T.Rex, and were able to get their tastes in order accordingly – but for those who’ve led a Tyrannosaurus Rex-less life, get ready to get excited.
Though championed by John Peel and having a number of hit albums that charted in England, in North America Tyrannosaurus Rex has been largely overshadowed by Bolan’s glam incarnation: T.Rex. Full of Tolkien-imagery, beautiful and original vocal melodies, fast-paced bongos and madly strummed guitar, the first two Tyrannosaurus Rex albums are folk-pop gold – probably the best it’s ever been done.
After Bolan left his first band, John’s Children, he enlisted the help of percussionist Steve Peregrine Took (he took the latter part of his
When the album starts you’re immediately introduced to the best aspects of the band: catchy and accessible vocal melodies with a high-pitched warbling delivery; fast paced bongo
The album is excellent throughout and all songs show off Bolan’s masterly employment of melody. There are some very direct Tolkien references on this album, where John Peel does spoken word pieces that seems like passages from some fantastic piece of literature mixing The Wind in the Willows with Lord of the Rings.
The second album, Prophet, Seers and Sages The Angels of the Ages gets poppier and loses the mystical spoken word pieces, instead focusing on
This album also employs brevity to amazing success. Most songs are under 2 minutes with only one going over 3 (and that's because it's played backwards). This brevity mixed with the straight forward song structures and lack of weirder elements seems to point towards Bolan's later success as a rock superstar. Having tasted success with his weirder debut, it's like he cut out the stranger aspects to create something more popularly palatable.
The album that follows, Unicorn returns to weirder aspects but employs more drawn out rock structures, and though it's worth listening to, it just doesn't hold the excitement and unhinged energy of the first two Tyrannosaurus Rex albums.