Essential T.Rex  (CD, 91, UK full price greatest hits collection.  Repackaged and relaunched 2000)


First ‘20th Century Boy’ now ‘Billy Elliot’.  This ambulance chaser of a compilation was first released to follow up the re-release of 20th Century Boy.  Now this attempt to put all the famous hits on one CD has been given a revised reissue to cash in on the interest arising from the film ‘Billy Elliot’.


In its old guise this compilation remained in the UK shops from first release.  So perhaps someone was buying it, or maybe no one was buying it and the shops were contracted to stock it until someone did.  I can’t remember seeing it in a shop sale so it must have been a steady seller.  Despite that, the relaunch has propelled it into the lower reaches of the UK album chart (as of Xmas 2000).


The make-over was worthwhile.  The old wishy-washy cheapo looking cover of Bolan and Finn has been replaced by a gold washed upper body shot of Boley.  Useful notes by Mark Paytress have been retained, thankfully.  The price has improved too, dropping to a more realistic upper budget level.


Unfortunately though this collection breaks the golden rule of great compilations, there is not enough for the established fan.  And as a singles A-sides collection it falls well short of completeness.


The major, possibly only, attraction for the Bolan collector is the inclusion of ‘Summertime Blues’, one of those famously rarely found Fly B-sides.  Only this time it includes the little rappy bit found on its 1970 vinyl B-side release but chopped from the few subsequent compi’s that use the track.  ‘Cosmic Dancer’ makes a welcome appearance too, as does a sticker proclaiming “Features songs from the British hit film ‘Billy Elliot’”.


Even so, this isn’t a very appealing buy, not least because ‘Debora’ is subtitled “Original album version”.  The 7” was the original version and is different to and in many ways better than the re-recorded album track.  However, ‘One Inch Rock’, another popular candidate for replacement by the album cut of the same name, really is the mono 7” version.


Otherwise no B-sides or album tracks lighten the mix.  Just all the top twenty A-side hits and some of the smaller ones make for a stodgy selection.  There is no ‘Pewter Suitor’, ‘Zip Gun Boogie’, or ‘Soul of my Suit’, but you do get the original ‘Magical Moon’ spelled ‘By the Light of THE…’.  It will sell well, but I’m afraid it will not draw many new fans into the magic and wonderment of Bolan.


The tracks are not presented chronologically, and the sequencing is limp.  ‘Telegram Sam’ is a natural for a closing number, but here it is plonked in second behind ‘20th Century Boy’.  No thought has been given to the running order; there is a haphazard feel to this compilation.  It really is rather unappetising, almost Bramleyish, for an existing fan.


To its credit this collection does include RZ/Fly releases with later T.Rex label singles and covers the ground up to 1976 quite well.  However, it is generally lack lustre, ignores the resurgent Bolan of 1977 (there are no singles from ‘Dandy in the Underworld’), has no real angle and was probably slung together by a tea boy on a wet Wednesday afternoon.  Yes, all the big hits are present and correct but that is not enough and there are better ways to spend your Bolan dollars.


Track list: 20th Century Boy, Telegram Sam, Children Of The Revolution, Solid Gold Easy Action, Metal Guru, The Groover, I Love To Boogie, Truck On (Tyke), Teenage Dream, New York City, King Of The Rumbling Spires, By The Light Of The Magical Moon, Summertime Blues, Cosmic Dancer, Light Of Love, Dreamy Lady, London Boys, Laser Love, Debora (Original Full Length Version), One Inch Rock, Jeepster, Ride With A White Swan, Hot Love, Get It On.


Thanks to Virgin Megastore, Swindon, for letting me hear this CD.

Copyright © 2000 The Till Dawn Organization. All Rights Reserved.