Label: Universal 2013
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom
Marc Bolan - The BBC 6 CD BOX SET - Said to be the most ambitious and complete collection of BBC recordings so far. They've spent years collecting, researching and compiling the best sources where possible. A few of the sessions and concerts did exist in the BBC archive but those which did not have been sourced from BBC Transcription Discs, off air recordings made on reel-to-reel tape recorders and in one or two instances cassette tapes. It's throughout the box-set a mixture of music, poems and radio interviews (mostly John Peel) not always up to standard of todays music industry. You simply have to take the good with the bad
Breaking down the musical standard of U.K. past, the ex-mod and model Marc Bolan set out on a magical journey through time and space. Not to mention music. Disc one contains the only session recorded by his first band, John's Children, recorded for the BBC Radio One – Saturday Club in June 1967 and also includes the John Peel's Top Gear programme between November 1967 and December 1968. A total of 30 tracks and amongst groovy titles such as 'Dwarfish Trumpet Blues' and 'Frowning Atahuallpa' (the latter features one of the first commercial Hare Krishna chants on record) lies a deeper meaning and thought connected to the folk-rock psychedelica movement aka make love not war.
It's the pre-glam stuff and you just have to be open minded as to what Bolan was actually trying to say. The lyrics are rather typical for its hippie era as they are heavily based along poetic lines, some are clear, some are hidden, and some are just the result of too much weed and various toxica. For instance, the prophet got zapped and "Scenescof" came out as the result of the very far-out and groovy happening. Oh those crazy hippies. 'My People Were Fair and Had Sky in Their Hair... But Now They're Content to Wear Stars on Their Brows' - the 1968 debut album by Tyrannosaurus Rex really tells us the story of the movement. Normally.. not my kind of music, but... Marc Bolan and a few other acts (George Harrison) are so superior to the rest of the schmucks and thus why their music ending up on the must-have list. Two-man band unplugged with Bolan on vocals and guitars, and Steve Peregrin Took on backing vocals, drums, pixiphone, percussion. Hardly everything is included though, the whole 5-song-session around "Cloud Fall" and one or two more complete 1968 sessions are missing.
Disc Two (23 tracks) contains 4 Top Gear sessions plus 3 interviews for the Night Ride programme recorded in June 1969 and the In Concert performance recorded in January 1970 / tracks). Add to this 3 poems and the previously unreleased (not broadcasted) version of "Wind Cheetah". Again, do not expect this to sound like 2013, but most of the BBC material works just fine in the digital era. Disc Three (14 tracks) contains the Top Gear session from October 1970, 2 songs from the long lost Bob Harris session from November 1970, a Dave Lee Travis session from December 1970 and 5 songs recorded live for the December 1970 broadcast of the John Peel Sunday Concert. By now they've gone electric and things are starting to sound glam-ish but not quite there yet. "Elemental Child" - obviously inspired by Jimi Hendrix as it captures the spirit of the first and original guitar hero. The cover of "Summertime Blues" - okay but hardly essential and slightly out of place.