[Review] Marc Bolan & T. Rex: Zinc Alloy and The Hidden Riders of Tomorrow / A Creamed Cage in August (1974)

A slight return to form, although Bolan’s excessive and excessively odd behavior had begun to overshadow the music.

Kronomyth 9.0: Zinky stardust and the riders from ‘morrow.

The rise of Marc Bolan/T.Rex was an evolution by accretion. Each album added more musical elements than the last, and by the release of T. Rex, Bolan and producer Tony Visconti had struck upon a magical balance of poet and pop star. Beginning with Tanx, however, too many added instruments began to throw Bolan out of balance. Zinc Alloy is even more excessive than his last, with a full rock band, choir and orchestra in tow. In some ways, the album is a return to form and a lot of fun. But in other ways, it’s a reminder that the golden age of Bolan was behind us.

Things started to change in 1972, when David Bowie introduced the world to Ziggy Stardust. Bolan, not one to be outdone, began to take a more electrified and dystopian stance. Even the title, Zinc Alloy and the Hidden Riders of Tomorrow, is an obvious nod to that album, but that’s where the comparisons end. Bowie’s was a carefully crafted and strangely sympathetic underworld, from “Lady Stardust” to “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide.” Bolan’s world is full of rapid-fire, nonsensical wordplay and over-the-top arrangements: “Venus Loon,” “Liquid Gang,” “Nameless Wildness.” The excess isn’t simply contained to the music; song titles like “The Leopards Featuring Gardenia and The Mighty Slug” and “Painless Persuasion vs. The Meathawk Immaculate” are indicative of Bolan’s lyrical verbosity.

Despite these flaws, those drawn to Bolan’s giddy, glammy arrangements and magnetic personality are likely to enjoy this record for what it is: an attempt to bring T. Rex into a more contemporary rock setting. “Teenage Dream,” “Change,” “Galaxy” and “Interstellar Soul” are good examples of Bolan stretching out his rock & roll muscles. The band still lacks a bonafide lead guitarist (and could have sorely used a Mick Ronson), and the Cosmic Choir is no replacement for Flo & Eddie (who were, Frankly, irreplaceable), but Marc Bolan & T. Rex (now his backing band, apparently) arrive at a kind of sub-Mott/Rocky Horror sound that works most of the time. Yes, “Carsmile Smith” is basically a rewrite of “Spaceball Ricochet, “Nameless Wildess” of “Baby Boomerang.” You don’t buy Marc Bolan albums expecting to hear complex polyrhythms. You do expect him to color your world with a little technicolor magic, and Zinc Alloy is a colorful record, even if the magic was beginning to fade.

Original elpee version

A1. Venus Loon (3:01)
A2. Sound Pit (2:50)
A3. Explosive Mouth (2:26)
A4. Galaxy (1:48)
A5. Change (2:47)
A6. Nameless Wildness (3:06)
A7. Teenage Dream (unedited version) (5:45)
B1. Liquid Gang (3:17)
B2. Carsmile Smith and The Old One (3:16)
B3. You’ve Got To Jive To Stay Alive – Spanish Midnight (2:35)
B4. Interstellar Soul (3:26)
B5. Painless Persuasion v. The Meathawk Immaculate (3:26)
B6. The Avengers (Superbad) (4:28)
B7. The Leopards Featuring Gardenia and The Mighty Slug (3:36)

Bonus 12-inch single
A1. Satisfaction Pony
A2. Light of Love
B1. Zip Gun Boogie
B2. Space Boss

CD reissue bonus tracks
15. The Groover (3:21)
16. Midnight (2:45)
17. Truck On (Tyke) (3:06)
18. Sitting Here (2:18)
19. Satisfaction Pony (2:48)

All tracks written by Marc Bolan.

The Players

Marc Bolan, B.J. Cole, The Cosmic Choir (Sister Pat Hall, The Gloria Jones, Big Richard), Steve Currie, Mickey Finn, Jack Green, Lonnie Jordan, Maestro David Katz & The Pop Arts Orchestra, Bill Legend, Danny Thompson with Tony Visconti (string arrangements). Produced by Tony Visconti and Marc Bolan.

The Pictures

Front cover photography by Richard Fitzgerald. Original cover preparation by John Kosh. Back cover photography by Neal Preston. Polaroids by Alphi.

The Plastic

Released on elpee, cassette and 8-track on February 1, 1974 in the UK and Australia (EMI, BLNA/TC-BLNA/8XBLNA-7751), Germany (Ariola, 87 718 IT), Italy (EMI, C 064 95172), Japan (EMI Odeon, EOP-80991) and Spain (PDI, E 50.1556) with gatefold cover and innersleeve; reached #12 on the UK charts.

  1. Re-issued on expanded double-elpee and non-expanded cassette in October 1983 in the UK (Marc on Wax, MARCL/MARCK 505) with bonus 12-inch and unique gatefold cover.
  2. Re-issued on compact disc and cassette in 1987 in the US (Marc on Wax/Relativity, 8250-2/4).
  3. Re-released on expanded, remastered compact disc in 1994 in the UK (Edsel, EDCD392) with 5 bonus tracks.
  4. Re-issued on expanded, remastered compact disc in 1997 in the US (Chronicles, 534 357) with 5 bonus tracks.
  5. Re-issued on expanded, remastered compact disc on August 1, 2000 in Germany (Repertoire, RR 4905) with 5 bonus tracks.
  6. Re-released on expanded compact disc on May 23, 2001 in Japan (Teichiku, TECI 24057) with 2 bonus tracks (17-18).
  7. Re-released on expanded 2CD on July 17, 2002 in the UK (Edsel, MEDCD 717) with bonus disc.
  8. Re-released on limited edition 180g vinyl elpee in 2011 in the US (Fat Possum).

1 thought on “[Review] Marc Bolan & T. Rex: Zinc Alloy and The Hidden Riders of Tomorrow / A Creamed Cage in August (1974)

  1. I remember when Marc have me a copy of this album it was the puzzle version and had the not for sale on the record.memories.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *