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Tyrannosaurus Rex (not T. Rex) - Unicorn CD (album) cover


Tyrannosaurus Rex (not T. Rex)

Prog Folk

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4 stars Let me preface this review by quoting a sample of lyric from the album...

"Catblack the wizard is back with dales of lore from Dagamoor, we of the wind must rejoice and speak and kiss all our starbrowed brothers on the cheek".

These lyrics were written around 1968 and the album was released in 69, and Mark Bolan had been doing music like this since 66 and 67.

And although the music sounds a bit "Twee" nowadays, I am beginning to think that Tyrannosaurus Rex (along with a very silly 60's Bowie) may have been some of the first proggers... in spirit at least. Just look at the song titles! warlords, crocodiles, avalon, unicorns, nijinsky! I would bet that Giles Giles and Fripp and Peter gabriel were watching Mark Bolans Tyrannosaurus Rex very very closely back in the day.

The songs are mostly all twee, No chunky Les paul yet... just like Bowies first records. But there is a seed waiting in these songs that later became Americas dandy; T.Rex... A powerhouse of simplistic glam rock that carried with it some of the magic of these early songs. Seagull woman being the best example and Bang a gong being the last.

If you like music history, dig up these old recordings and tell me if you think these may have been the real roots of prog. I do.

Report this review (#222226)
Posted Sunday, June 21, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Unicorn - Tyrannosaurus Rex (1969)

Best Song : Iscariot or Chariots of Silk or (what the hell) 'Pon a Hill (It's that sort of album, friends).

Rating : 12/15 :

Aye, most folks know ol' Marc Bolan and his big honking T.Rex beast as a formidable glam rock troupe that rawked the early 70's with his big glammy...glam. Well, this record here more than shows him as a spaced out, hippie, Tolkein folkster, before all the glitz, glamour, image, and commercial success, and he's not one bit less formidable! In fact, I'd say he's even more formidable, this way, because in this version of the band, he didn't have anything to lose, had full artistic vision, and wasn't looking to keep the pay a-rolling.

Ain't that how it goes, folks? I'm not saying I think this is intrinsically imaginative and objectively superior, and his later, iconic glam rock days were all bloated, lifeless, commercially-minded sewer garbage, but this is certainly more daring, and boasts a personality I can only easily describe as "defiantly uncompromising". The dynamic duo takes their ques from pocketbook fantasy and hippie psychedelic folk. Making a sort of... bridge between the pomposity of Led Zeppelin and the modesty of early Cohen, only with a deranged twist. Some of the songs are more your standard folk rockers, like the opener Chariots of Silk, only with fantastic melodies. The atmosphere you get is tantalizing, really, and the singing gets under my skin, each time. The melodies themselves are hardly traditional, and in some cases, literally stunning and puzzle-like in their esoteric nature. My personal favorite, Iscariot, is a terrific example, but don't think there aren't several highlights thrown about, willy-nilly.

Bolan knows not to let a melody overstay his welcome, so instead of the usual progressive fare (give folks 5 great songs that should end 10 minutes before they actually do), he goes with the folk-y fare, in a progressive tone (you know, giving you 16 great songs that shouldn't end for another 10 minutes, but does, anyway.) There are some funky studio tricks, some weird sound clips of what I can only assume are goblins from some random grassy mud fortress. Or maybe they're hobbits? Hell if I know, but they open up Pon A Hill, which has a short, but gorgeous melody, that actually stands as one of the moments I love, most, even if it's only about a minute long.

Sometimes he's so bloated, you can't help but grin, and think: "Hell, this guy can't be serious." And other times he's so humble, you can't help but smile, and think: "Hell, this guy is too serious!" Which might make the album seem disheveled and inconsistent, but in all actuality, it makes the whole experience more diverse and easily digested, because this is a pretty far-fetched listen, even if the rewards are as rich as his crazy singing can be. As weird, uncompromising, and inconsistent as Unicorn might seem to the discerning listener, there's really no getting around how many truly thrilling moments there are to be dug up.

Oh, boy will you get dirty, though, because don't you know? It's Tyrannosaurus Rex! These suckers aren't cleanly, but they can be jaw-dropping in their beauty, in a perverse way. Lyrically, it's all the high fantasy stuff, with the most blatant example being the glossy Cat Black. While I really don't care for this sort of thing, I can get lost in it, because it seems that at least HE believes in all this crazy sorcerer shehooligarkery, even if I don't. Fuck lyrics, anyway, man. No one ever changed their way of life because of Van Halen, did they?....Did they?

The only song I don't care for is the album's closer, Romany Soup, which is a short story, read aloud, and in the end they chant the song's title rather predictably. It's neat for one listen out of pure amusement, but after that you don't really have any use for the song. Despite this, Marc leads us all to battle as the babbling, drug addled Hippie Hobbit Hellion on his most varied, engaging, and...dare I say...gorgeous album. That is, if you can handle the hardy atmosphere.

Four Stars

Report this review (#289177)
Posted Monday, July 5, 2010 | Review Permalink
Prog Folk Researcher
3 stars The final Tyrannosaurus Rex album to feature percussionist and general kook Steve Peregrine Took is also the most focused (relatively speaking) of all the pre-T. Rex records. Unfortunately the magic wouldn't last as Took and Marc Bolan would fall out in the supporting tour and Bolan would reappear with the almost as-troubled Mickey Finn for a final album before launching his glam career.

The two biggest changes that can be heard on this album are the occasional whispers of electric guitar from time to time, and Took's somewhat more conventional percussion (again, comparatively speaking).

The first several times I listened to this record it didn't sound a whole lot different to me than the first two. Only after repeated playing do some subtle but important nuances begin to emerge. For one thing Bolan's presence, always dominant in this partnership, is even more pronounced on these songs. While the two of them collaborate on vocals the compositions are clearly owned by Bolan, and at times ("The Throat of Winter", "She Was Born to Be My Unicorn", "The Sea Beasts") this almost sounds like a Bolan solo effort, although Took's persistent stick-and-bongo contributions never waver throughout.

The lyrics and themes are as eclectic and fanciful as ever, with references to unicorns (naturally), elves, alchemists, magicians and the like, and the sometimes scat-like singing (aka chanting) which are trademark Bolan. But there are sporadic new sounds as well, such as the drone at the end of "Iscariot" (glockenspiel?) and electric guitar on the wholly self-indulgent fifteen-minute plus reading/musical tale "Romany Soup".

Tyrannosaurus Rex albums are quite difficult to write about as they all sound fairly alike except to those who take the time to become completely immersed in the reverie known as Marc Bolan's creative force, or for those who tripped on the same stuff (whatever that was) that the band members were indulging in at the time. That said, this is probably the most approachable of the three which feature Took and Bolan, and a very good place to start for anyone interested in discovering the group and their music. Three stars (out of five) for a memorable work, but not quite so much as the debut 'My People Were Fair and Had Sky in Their Hair.. But now they're Content to Wear Stars on Their Brows'. Well recommended to just about any acid folk fan though.


Report this review (#342631)
Posted Saturday, December 4, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars A nice psychedelic folk album that I believe influenced many other bands to come. "T-Rex" were just a duo in these days with Marc Bolan and Steve "Peregrine" Took (later of Pink Fairies and Shagrat).This early sound is a lot different to the glam rock sound that would come later. Bolan's vocal style is very distinctive and there are lots of lush melodies and surreal lyrics apparently inspired by Greek and Persian mythology as well as other creations.

Lot's of fantasy images can be drawn from this exotic, often peculiar brew of sounds. There's some nice acoustic work from Bolan. Took's subtle contributions play a big part as well, mostly from bongos as well as african drums, the pixiephone, kazoo and Chinese gong.

The best moments are "Chariots Of Silk", "Cat Black (The Wizards's Hat)", "She Was Born to Be My Unicorn" and "Iscariot". "Romany Soup" includes a story read by the late, great John Peel who had a brilliant voice but I always wondered why he reads the story twice on the 15 minute track. Perhaps it was to deliberately make the track longer? I'm not quite sure.

In all, there's a very stoney atmosphere on Unicorn. I can understand why there were many dedicated hippy followers of this music. It's rather sad that both these musicians had untimely deaths. It's an enjoyable album but not essential.

Report this review (#349581)
Posted Friday, December 10, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars The final Bolan/Took collaboration is... really, an awful lot like the earlier ones. There's even another fairy story read, once again, by John Peel - a name which probably means little to progarchives users beyond the UK but who had an enormous influence on the music scene in this country spanning decades, not from any music he produced himself but from the incredibly wide and experimental range of bands he promoted on his radio show. Unicorn, to me, is a pleasant enough album on its own, but only pleasant. Taken in the context of the group's earlier recording, it is clear that here is a band which is merely treading water. In retrospect, it's probably a good thing Took left after this one - it opened the way for further experimentation, and even though the band went full glam pop after it lost the "yrannosaurus" in its name, Bolan did manage to produce some of the finest and most enduring works in that vein ever. But here, his talent just isn't showing.
Report this review (#452549)
Posted Friday, May 27, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Tyrannosaurus Rex - Unicorn (1969)

Before Marc Bolan began the glam-rock outfit 'T Rex' he made a couple of psychedelic folk records, this one being the most famous. Bolan proves to be a great songwriter, though most of our attention is sucked up by the bizarre vocal performance of Bolan. His strange-sounding, blurry and shaky vocal performance style is unique, but also a bit too omni-present. Every note is sung with vibrato, most vocal lines are dubbed and the effect is perhaps a bit too psychedelic. I do think he must have influence later psychedelic folk singers like Roger Wooton of Comus.

Behind the layer of bizarre vocals the beautiful melodies are plentiful and the songs are quite original. Sometimes I can't help to think the album also has something 'French' to it - whatever that may mean. The amount of great ideas is not a problem, but mixing them into well finished songs is a different thing - though some might argue the unpredictability adds to the psychedelic effect of the album. The sound of the album is great with the volume up high, but somehow the dreamy sound remains a bit confusing. Another psychedelic trick on the listener? The addition of a short spoken-word fairy tale on side two has no function at all. Still, the amount of great melodies keeps adding up and almost every song has some catchy part that may light up in your mind days later.

Conclusion. There aren't that many psychedelic folk records and I think this record can become a favorite if given the time to ripe. It is crazy and damn catchy. I'm giving it the warm three-and-a- halve stars because of its originality.

Report this review (#1255629)
Posted Friday, August 22, 2014 | Review Permalink

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