T. Rex's best album, Electric Warrior, distills the best elements of Marc Bolan's earlier acoustic period with a dynamic rock rhythm section--drummer Bill Legend and bassist Steve Currie--and lush arrangements by producer Tony Visconti. Featuring the classics "Bang a Gong (Get It On)," "Jeepster," and "Mambo Sun," Warrior ranges from the space-blues of "Lean Woman Blues" to the punk-jazz of "Rip Off," with a sound fleshed out by chamber strings and the falsetto harmonies of ex-Turtles and Mothers of Invention Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman. (Zappa sideman Ian McDonald plays sax as well.) Touches such as the arcing cellos of "Cosmic Dancer" and the sexy rhythms of "Planet Queen" perfectly bring to life Bolan's imaginative world of "diamond star halos" and "shadowless horses." A must for any serious collector of British rock classics. --James Rotondi
Pitchfork Review :
"It really doesn't matter at all
Life's a gas
I hope it's gonna last"
--Marc Bolan, "Life's a Gas"
Just before Marc Bolan was killed in a car crash in 1977, he seemed on the cusp of an artistic and commercial resurgence. His death marked one more lost opportunity in a career studded with them. He was the decade's first superstar in Britain, but he never hit it off with America, due in part to a stateside inability to comprehend camp, and in part to Bolan's own carelessness. Just as the support of his native audience was wavering, his ego burst from the pressures of fame and increasing drug abuse. He had missed his chance, and never got another. His few Yankee fans worried that the man unfairly derided as bubblegum by prog-leaning audiences and DJs would have his vital contributions reduced to his lone U.S. hit, filed next to Wild Cherry in the stacks. And with the exception of a devoted cult, that's exactly how the States still see him.
Leave it to the saints at Rhino Records to preserve yet another precious slice of our musical heritage. They've now reissued T.Rex's Electric Warrior, the first and best of a trio of brilliant albums. Its two successors-- The Slider (1972) and Tanx (1973)-- have nearly vanished from music shops, and with a comprehensive best-of collection now available, Electric Warrior seemed destined to follow them into the void. Thankfully, this catastrophe has been averted: Bolan may have been known for his singles, but his albums-- and this one in particular-- deserve to be heard in their entirety.
For those hunting down the singles, Electric Warrior does contain the immortal "Bang a Gong (Get it On)", but that's neither the only nor the best reason to pick it up. What makes this record so enduring is its almost accidental emotional depth: When T.Rex is kicking out the jams, they sound like they're having the most gleeful, absurd good time ever committed to wax. There's nothing so glorious in rock and roll as hearing Bolan croon, "Just like a car, you're pleasing to behold/ I'll call you Jaguar if I may be so bold," over his namesake boogie.
The most significant aspect of Electric Warrior isn't its arena rock confidence; it's that Bolan allows his grinning mask to slip. With the incomparable aid of producer Tony Visconti, Bolan sketches a vast, empty room, where, after the party's over, he resides alone, wide-eyed and desperate. On ballads like "Cosmic Dancer", "Monolith" and "Girl", he speaks in the same gibberish as elsewhere, but he's clearly haunted-- by what we can't say. But the gaping, searing question mark that comes at the conclusion of the album-- guitar feedback paired with a string section, holding a shivering and very ambivalent cluster of notes-- is just one of many clues that there's more to Electric Warrior than its surface lets on. This is not simply a man who plays party songs because he wants to: This is a man who plays party songs to fend off darkness.
For this reissue, Rhino remastered the original tapes and added seven bonus tracks (six songs and an interview). The updated sound is a modest improvement over the first-generation CD, but no news is good news, recalling those hotly contested Iggy Pop and Velvet Underground remasters. Though the sound could've been polished more, it's most important that the production hasn't been inflated. Electric Warrior wouldn't be the same album with the meaty tone of The Slider, with all its shadows and doubt chased away or ignored.
The bonus tracks range from decent to very good: "Raw Ramp" stands out for the lurid line, "Woman, I love your chests/ Baby, I'm crazy 'bout your breasts," but none of them are as revealing as the interview, during which a thoughtful Bolan reveals that the album was a self-conscious attempt to win the attention of America. And because he had precious little time to accomplish everything he wanted to, there was a sense of urgency, that if he was ever going to take over the States, he had to do it immediately.
It's a devastating interview, considering how his ambitions deteriorated into addiction soon after, but it offers keen insight into Bolan's mindset at that moment when he seemed poised to finally conquer the entire world. In fact, what makes Rhino's reissue wonderful is that it reminds us of that excitement with its every detail, presenting Electric Warrior to U.S. shores with the love and fanfare it always deserved but never received. It's bittersweet adulation for a tragically lost hero, but as the saying goes, better late than never.
— Brian James, February 25, 2003