TANX / ZINC ALLOY Deluxe Edition - Review by 'Metal Guru'

It's a busy new year for Marc Bolan fans. Both Demon and Universal have new deluxe editions of Marc’s work being released in March. And the national theatre tour of "20th Century Boy" starts in April and runs in theatre’s all over the country over the following 6 months.

First up is Demon, who after their stunning box set for The Slider last year have put together another deluxe package for fans. This time they have combined TANX and ZINC ALLOY ( Zinc Alloy and the Hidden Riders of Tomorrow or a Creamed Cage in August ) into one album sized package with 4 discs of music.

TANX / ZINC ALLOY Deluxe Edition

The package is strictly limited to 1500 for the World, so is pretty exclusive. And the front image of Marc, astride a tank of course, is fabulous. Much better than the original image used. As with The Slider Boxset the set is due to contain a wealth of goodies from 7" vinyl to pics and fan club stuff from 1973/4 period when these albums were released.

The extras package also includes a DVD of footage from the period. Much you have seen before. "Life's A Gas" with Cilla has been seen a lot, but this includes "Mad Donna" which T.Rex performed on the same show. Also Marc's performance of "Teenage Dream" on TOTP which has never been on DVD before".

Then there is the music itself. Tanx was the follow up to massive The Slider album, and 1972 had seen the charts full of Marc’s catalogue re-issues and the two previous albums with 5 singles in the chart ( including the 2 No1’ on The Slider) 2 of which, Children of the Revolution and Solid Gold Easy Action.

So after 2 years of frenetic activity and massive sales, Marc came to record the next album. Prolific as he was, he could have probably just knocked out a Slider 2 type album and the fans would buy it.

But Marc had spent a lot of time in the States and found new influences and sounds to absorb. Having used Flo and Eddie’s (Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan ) backing vocals to complement his own, he brought in more backing singers including of course Gloria Jones who has soon to become his partner.

And with keyboards added the new T.Rex sound was a much richer one than Electric Warrior or earlier work. But the next single "20th Century Boy" was a strong rock riff, giving no hint of the album that was to follow. That was followed by "The Groover" in a similar vein. But when the album came out..

There was no single to promote it, no familiar hits. Indeed Marc decided not to release any tracks as singles. An extraordinary decision for a "pop star".

Not surprisingly sales didn’t reach the levels of Electric Warrior and Slider. But the album sold well, peaking at No 2. And those fans who shelled out were rewarded with a collection that was exhilarating ( certainly to me at 13 yrs old !) There was a slinky sleazy sound to songs like "Tenement Lady" and "Electric Slim" interspersed with short sharp rock riffs like "Country Honey" and "Shock Rock". The second side climaxes ( and that’s the right word ! ) with "Left Hand Luke", an anthem no less.

Critics who had attacked Marc for formulaic singles, were confused by the new sound – rather than welcoming. But for many Bolan fans this album was their favourite, and showed how Marc would continue to seek new sounds rather than become pigeon holed as a pop act.

Zinc Alloy - Marc had a much lower profile in 73 than the previous years. So 1974 was presented as something of a come back. And Zinc did feature a single – "Teenage Dream" ! Far from the singalong pop of "Hot Love" or "Telegram Sam", the single was an epic 5 minute story delivered in a laconic weary voice, creating a splendid antidote to the bouncy pop in the charts. But it didn’t sell well.

The album showcased the new sound seen on Tanx, now identified in the song as "Interstellar Soul". Venus Loon exemplified the power guitar sound of T.Rex, but many tracks like" Carsmile Smith", "Change" and "Spanish Midnight" featured the lush gentler sound of Marc’s soul influences. While not a concept album like Ziggy, Zinc definitely had a sound to the collection. Marc chose to close the album with "The Leopards featuring Gardenia and the Mighty Slug". Such a change of style to the rocking closers on all the previous T.Rex albums.

Demon have included all the A and B sides not on the albums as well as many demos and early versions of songs from these collections. I think most of this has been available previously as the alternate versions and demo albums have been released before. But it is always interesting to hear how a simple acoustic demo can be transformed into a sweeping symphonic sound in the studio.

For some these albums represent Marc post his commercial peak and losing his way. But for the faithful I think these albums represent Marc using the platform success had given him to explore new sounds, and largely influenced his album work until his death. It is the sound of a man maturing and aiming to make great music. Inspired by his time in the States, new horizons and a new love he was reaching for that Intersellar Soul. Who can accuse him of chasing hits, and easy money, when he doesn’t even release a single to push Tanx ?

This release maybe a tad expensive, but then it is aimed at the hardcore fan, and is only ever going to be available for a few days this spring in very limited quantities, so order yours now.

Steve Gallant