Imagine if you will that Marc Bolan did not die in that car crash.
Instead, he retired from public performance of any kind and busied himself in the studio. First with his own music then producing other acts. In 1995, well known but no longer recognised, he set out on an unplugged’ tour of 500-seater venues of the UK with a small band. The ‘Acoustic Warrior’ live album of the tour was his first new release since 1979 and stayed in the charts for forty weeks.
Although not strictly speaking a compilation, there are no clues about its true nature on the cover and I have seen this album mistaken for a collection of original hit recordings. In fact ‘Acoustic Warrior’ is made up from solo demo’s, a US radio broadcast (available unadulterated on ‘Spaceball’) and a genuine live recording of ‘Debora’ circa late 1970. The demo’s and radio pieces have been skilfully fleshed out with more guitar, cello, double bass and drum. Had the man responsible (Peter Todd) stopped there far fewer people would have minded as much as they do.
By the nature of the performances there is already a ‘live’ feel, but canned applause added to each track ruins the effect. The idea isn’t totally misplaced, but the way it is done simply beggars belief. A lighter touch at the mixing desk with the applause track would have worked wonders. All it needs is a hint of audience noise bubbling under the music and boiling up between songs to reinforce the live feel. The idea is cheesy sure, but to hear it done this badly is infuriating.
The trouble with overdubs is that sooner or later they betray themselves. On ‘Girl’ in particular the backing is not sensitive to the guitar playing of Bolan. While he thrashes away, the backing is pure rock ballad cliché. Then comes the ‘tracking’. Half of this material comes from a live radio recording where one track rolls into the next with a little rappy chat from Boley: sacrificed I’m afraid for a three-second gap between each track. And of course the radio performance order is mostly lost.
Now can you understand why so many people detest this album? It misrepresents itself and then goes ahead to do what it does in a most annoying way.
However, you shouldn’t overlook the musicality of ‘Acoustic Warrior’, which does confirm Bolan’s ability to produce simple but strong melodies. The slightly dissonant jingley-jangley backing sound matches Bolan’s guitar style convincingly. For my money this is better than ‘Scare Me to Death’ the only other overdub collection of note. Personally I like this record with the reservations given above and I think its detractors overly demonise it.
You have been warned; hear before you buy.
Track lists: This release has seen at least three European issues K-Tel and (still available) Camden in the UK, Sony in Germany. All have a different running order. The Camden has an additional track - Down Home Lady.
German Sony track list running order: Spaceball Ricochet, Metal Guru, The Slider, Jeepster, Cosmic Dancer, Main Man, Ballrooms of Mars, Mystic Lady, Girl, Telegram Sam, Seagull Woman, Get it On, Laser Love, 20th Century Boy, Debora.
Artwork differs between the three releases, Camden has an eight-page photo/lyric booklet that owes something to the cover of the Flyback ‘Best of T.Rex’, the much better Sony has a black, brown and gold colour scheme, includes a fold out letter size Bolan photo poster, a 500 (German) word biography and a tasty photo-montage cover.