Friday, May 18, 2012

Review: Deluxe Edition of T. Rex's 'Electric Warrior'


T. Rex perfected their space age boogie and finally conquered the colonies in 1971 with Electric Warrior. Artists from David Bowie to The Rolling Stones left a trail of glitter and stick-on stars racing after Marc Bolan to catch up with his fresh take on the most basic Rock & Roll. So a deluxe edition of this monolith seems overdue, right? Well, yes and no. Sonically, this is a major upgrade. No doubt about it. Content wise, there weren't enough compelling leftovers from the sessions to fill out two discs, and the second one is padded.

The last incarnation of Electric Warrior landed in 2003. It polished up the sound a bit and tacked on seven bonus tracks. Most of these were readily available singles, though an acoustic version of “Planet Queen” and a lengthy promo interview with Bolan were appended for good measure. UMC’s new double-disc deluxe includes all that (minus the interview) plus twenty more alternate mixes, versions, and masters, as well as a valuable clutch of home demos and weird poetry.

Although its track line-up is nearly identical to that of the 2003 release, Disc One is immediately striking because it sounds so damn good. Electric Warrior has never sounded fuller or warmer on CD. This remaster of the original album—as well as the great singles “There was a Time/Raw Ramp/Electric Boogie”, “Hot Love”, “King of the Mountain Cometh”, and “Woodland Rock”—is the main draw of the deluxe edition.

Disc Two centers on a Bizarro World Electric Warrior with the album’s 11 songs presented in their original order but as alternate imaginings. Some of this is definitely interesting. A mix of “Cosmic Dancer” eliminates Bolan’s double-tracked vocal leaving one voice so shockingly intimate you can hear his larynx constricting. The alternate “Jeepster” also strips away a vocal while pulling an eerie synth line into the mix. “Get It On” swells to nearly six minutes with an extra repeated verse and some fun vocal tomfoolery through the finish. A raw run through of “The Motivator” booms with natural room echo.

Some of this is unabashed filler, such as instrumental basic tracks of “Mambo Sun” and “Rip Off”, songs too repetitious to be remotely interesting in this setting. “Alternate masters” of “Girl” and “Life’s a Gas” are barely distinguishable from the familiar versions, as are the “London demo versions” of “Raw Ramp” and “Electric Boogie” that follow the Bizarro Warrior. Those tracks notwithstanding, this is where Disc Two starts to get cooking. There’s an unreleased rendition of Carl Perkins’s “Honey Don’t”, which translates into a blaze of haunted Rexy boogie nicely. Then there’s the cozy sequence of demos that prove Bolan really wasn’t from Jupiter after all. Fans will delight in the confidentiality of these home recordings of “Planet Queen”, “Girl” (a scant 40 seconds long), “Jeepster”, and “Get It On”. Such moments will definitely make T. Rex freaks seriously consider repurchasing Electric Warrior one more time.

Get the deluxe edition of Electric Warrior at Amazon.com here:

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