Flyback-Best of T.Rex. (LP 1971, CD 1997. The original Tyrannosaurus Rex compilation now only retains novelty value)
Dreadfully slated at the time of release, this album was cited as the worst possible kind of quick cash in on the new T.Rex girl reaction. That it is called ‘Best of T.Rex’ disguises the fact this is a wholly Tyrannosaurus Rex album - and not such a bad one at that.
This is the Great-GrandDaddy of all Bolan compilations covering the 68-70 Regal Zonophone period, ‘Best of T.Rex’ was the first with the tracks most commonly used ever since. And it represented decent value for a quick compilation too. Four songs only released on 45 were put on album for the first time, as were two previously unreleased tracks from the ‘Beard of Stars’ sessions.
However, it is the sequencing that wins the day capturing the playful spirit of Tyrannosaurus not T.Rex. Combined with eight well chosen album tracks it doesn’t attempt to document anything - you just slap it on the hi-fi and enjoy. Surprisingly the stern by comparison ‘Definitive Tyrannosaurus Rex’ uses the same tracks (all but one) for its core material.
In the days of programmable CD players the sequencing advantage of ‘Best of T.Rex’ disappears into the programmability of the ‘Definitive Tyrannosaurus Rex’. That means the original cover art but otherwise basic packaging of the A&M CD ‘Best of T.Rex’ pales in comparison with the complete rarities and copious sleeve notes of ‘Definitive Tyrannosaurus Rex’. Therefore the original vinyl copy may be all that’s required for collectors.
Hi-fi buffs may also like to know that the A&M release of ‘My People Were Fair …’ was flawed by a reversed stereo image. The two ‘My People Were Fair …’ tracks presented here correct that fault.
Of the two ‘all new’ tracks, ‘Once upon the Seas of Abyssinia’ stands out as minor classic. It feels as though some of Steve Took’s work is retained (It is supposed to have been erased and re-recorded) and serves as an indication of where the original duo might have gone after ‘Unicorn’. There is an enormous otherworldly sound that is as much about ancient Earth legend as of strange civilisations on distant planets.
However, you can’t help feeling the ‘Best of T.Rex’ suffers from what it lacks. Principally no ‘Pewter Suitor’, or ‘Warlord of the Royal Crocodiles’ (the album track used as its b-side) nor is there ‘Do you Remember’ (b-side of ‘King of the Rumbling Spires’). Another minor gripe is the absence of the last Tyrannosaurus Rex single ‘By the Light of the Magical Moon’.
Taken as a whole this is an enjoyable collection of mostly ‘Took-Rex’ material and should be the ideal companion to the ‘Finn-Rex’ ‘Bolan Boogie’. Unfortunately it is defined as much by what is missing as by what is present, and with too great an emphasis on the ‘Beard of Stars’ period (five out of fourteen tracks) an otherwise worthwhile album is demoted to the merely not essential.
Track list (in original running order): Debora, Child Star, Cat Black (the wizards hat), Conesuala, Strange Orchestras, Find a Little Wood, Once upon the seas of Abyssinia, [side two]: One Inch Rock, Salamanda Palaganda, Lofty Skies, Stacey Grove, King of the Rumbling Spires, Blessed Wild Apple Girl, Elemental Child.