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Tyrannosaurus Rex (not T. Rex) - A Beard of Stars CD (album) cover


Tyrannosaurus Rex (not T. Rex)


Prog Folk

3.61 | 17 ratings

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3 stars There were a multitude of changes for this fourth and final Tyrannosaurus Rex studio album. Most notable is the departure of longtime Marc Bolan sideman Steve Peregrine Took, whose growing rift with Bolan over ego, lifestyle and artistic differences had destroyed their last tour. Took would become involved with Twink and other variations of the Fairies and Pretty Things lineups, but would largely cease to matter as a musician in the seventies and would perish of a drug overdose in 1980. He was replaced on this album (and supporting tour) by Mickey Finn, a completely unknown multi-instrumentalist whose only previous professional credit came from a very brief tour appearance with the late-60s psych collective Hapshash and the Coloured Coat. Finn would of course follow Bolan into the more famous T. Rex lineup once this folk duo collapsed in 1971.

The other really big change hits listeners right from the first note – Bolan has gone electric! While Finn does a great job of replacing Took and all his various traditional and percussive instruments (including bongos), Bolan largely sets his acoustic guitar aside in favor of an electric one, as well as several songs featuring organ for the first time in the band’s career.

I’d also say Bolan’s songs have evolved as well, probably intentionally, to being just slightly more accessible than some of the ersatz psychobabble on the band’s first three records. The electric guitar and organ give both range and depth to the music, moving it away from the sort of stark acoustic folk from their earlier music that was undoubtedly listened to mostly by stoned and bandana’d hippies lounging in parks and microbuses. Instead, this stuff was more likely enjoyed by stoned and bored middle-class kids looking for something to amuse and engage them – pretty much the same sort of kids who would embrace the glam rock Bolan and his crowd were already working to morph this stuff into.

Don’t get me wrong, this is a decent record. “By The Light of a Magical Moon” in particular offers a very palatable blend of mainstream electric guitar, psych percussion and Bolan’s unique brand of partially-comprehendible lyrical wandering. I still hear this one every once and a while on college radio stations. None of the songs are bad actually, except perhaps the monotonous “Woodland Bop”. And the driving guitar-jam freakout of “Elemental Child” makes for a nice segue to what would come next for Bolan in the form of a rapid barrage of commercially successful T. Rex records. But overall this is my least favorite of the four albums from the Tyrannosaurus Rex prog folk duo, as it strays the furthest from what made the experiment interesting; and also because the result from this studio session shows clearly (albeit in retrospect) Bolan’s commercial ambitions much more than his artistic explorations. I’m going to give this one three stars, but really only just barely and not with any particularly strong recommendation unless you are a serious prog folk fan who may also be interested in hearing some of the birth pangs of glam.


ClemofNazareth | 3/5 |


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