[Review] T. Rex: Bolan’s Zip Gun (1975)

The first album to be fully produced by Bolan features more zip than the last two records.

Kronomyth 10.0: Alloy alloy oxen free.

I had first encountered most of these songs on the American release, Light of Love, and wasn’t impressed. But the mix can make all the difference sometimes, and hearing Bolan’s Zip Gun in a good mix had me seeing things in a different light. As the first album to be fully produced by Marc Bolan, it shows him effectively branching out with a harder glam sound that includes some of his most biting guitar work to date. Oh, and the songs are actually really good this time; no Carsmile Smiths or Immaculate Meathawks here.

The album sequence follows Light of Love exactly. Light of Love and Solid Baby get the album off to a strong start with an amped-up glam sound that feels like what Bolan was reaching for on his last two records. It’s not up to the work of David Bowie (whose Diamond Dogs gets namechecked on I Really Love You Babe), but Bolan’s in the same ballpark. Precious Star immediately recalls “The Prettiest Star,” a delightful throwback with delicious vocals from Bolan and Gloria Jones (who had effectively replaced Micky Finn as Bolan’s main man). Token of My Love bumps and grinds with a smoldering, sexy performance, and the first side closes with a pair of eccentric rockers that point back to Bolan at his inscrutable best, Space Boss and Think Zinc. Just try getting their choruses out of your head.

The second side kicks off with Till Dawn, featuring strings (sorely missed since the days of vintage T. Rex) and some surprisingly good guitar work. Girl in the Thunderbolt Suit, a song that frankly bored me the first time around on Light of Love, sounds a stitch better than I remember too. The last three tracks are unique to Bolan’s Zip Gun and unique in his body of work to date. “I Really Love You Babe” actually reminded me of The Clash in the way it brings together different musical styles, and the closing guitar solo sounds uncannily like Phil Manzanera. Those unexpected comparisons show that Bolan was really stepping outside of his comfort zone. Golden Belt is another departure from the formula: a disco glam song that, compared to your garden-variety disco, comes out smelling like a rose. Zip Gun Boogie, released earlier as a single, leads with a mighty riff before settling into a smooth groove. The dual keyboards of Dino Dines and Gloria Jones on this record provide a far more robust foil to Bolan’s vocals and guitar than Finn’s congas and bongoes ever could.

Subsequent compact disc versions added a couple of covers: Bobby Freeman’s Do You Wanna Dance? (which oddly featured more bongoes in its original version than here) and a version of Otis Redding’s Dock of the Bay with Gloria Jones on lead vocals. When not in glam queen screech mode, Jones is quite a good singer in her own right. As I mentioned, the mix makes a big difference, so I’d suggest you pick up one of the remasters, which fortunately are more common than the original elpee anyway. It’s been a while since a T. Rex record didn’t send me running back to The Slider and Electric Warrior, but I’m very happy with where Bolan landed on this album. You could even call it an evolution of his original vision, given the trend in glam toward a fuller, rock-oriented production sound.

Read more T. Rex reviews

Original elpee version

A1. Light of Love
A2. Solid Baby
A3. Precious Star
A4. Token of My Love
A5. Space Boss
A6. Think Zinc
B1. Till Dawn
B2. Girl in the Thunderbolt Suit
B3. I Really Love You Babe
B4. Golden Belt
B5. Zip Gun Boogie

All songs written and composed by Marc Bolan.

CD reissue bonus tracks
12. Do You Wanna Dance? (Bobby Freeman)
13. Dock of the Bay (Steve Cropper/Otis Redding)

Japanese CD reissue bonus tracks
12. Think Zinc (3:24)
13. New York City (3:53)
14. Chrome Sitar (3:12)
15. Dreamy Lady (2:52)
16. Do You Wanna Dance (2:13)
17. Dock of the Bay (2:21)

The Players

Marc Bolan (vocals and guitar), Steve Currie (bass), Dino Dines (keyboards), Micky Finn (hand percussion), Gloria Jones (clavinet and vocals), Davy Lutton (drums) with Paul Fenton (additional drums on A2). Produced by Bolan; engineered by Gary Ulmer.

The Pictures

Artwork and cover preparation by John Kosh. Photographs by Keith Morris.

The Plastic

Released on elpee in February 1975 in the UK (EMI, BNLA 7752) and Japan (EMI, EMS-80148).

  1. Re-issued on elpee in 1983 in Japan (SMS, SP20-5063).
  2. Re-issued on elpee, picture elpee and cassette in 1987 in the US (Relativity, 8249-1) and the UK (Priority, RAP/RAPD/RAPC 506).
  3. Re-released on expanded compact disc in 1988 in Japan (SMS, MP32-5034) with 6 bonus tracks.
  4. Re-issued on cassette in November 1989 in the UK (Marc on Wax, MARCK 506).
  5. Re-released on expanded, remastered compact disc in 1994 in Germany (Edsel, EDCD393) with 2 bonus tracks.
  6. Re-issued on expanded, remastered compact disc in 1997 in the UK (Demon, 534 358-2) with 2 bonus tracks.
  7. Re-issued on elpee in 2000 in Germany (Repertoire, REP 4911).
  8. Re-packaged with Rex on expanded 2-for-1 compact disc in the USSR (CD-Maximum) with 3 bonus tracks (#12/13 above + “Explosive Mouth”).
  9. Re-released on expanded, remastered 2CD in 2002 in the US (Rhino, R2 73287) with bonus disc (The Alternative Bolan’s Zip Gun) plus bonus tracks.
  10. Re-released on 180g vinyl picture elpee in 2013 in the UK (Demon, DEMREC14).
  11. Re-released on 180g clear vinyl elpee in 202o in the UK (Demon, 90209-1).

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