|T. Rex - Electric Warrior|
|Music Disc Reviews DVD-Audio|
|Written by Jeff Fish|
|Tuesday, 13 January 2004|
For me, T. Rex is one of those bands that was perfect for its time, which was the early ‘70s. The glam rock movement was in its beginning stages and really starting to take off, with artists like David Bowie, Elton John and Mott the Hoople paving the way for all the success and excess that would happen later in the decade.
One of the artists who would come out of this genre to have a huge impact on the future of rock was Marc Bolan. T. Rex started out as Tyrannosaurus Rex, an acoustic duo with Marc Bolan on guitar and Mickey Finn on percussion. Their music would eventually move from self-described “flower power hippie pop” to the more experimental and adventurous glam rock that would become familiar. After four albums as Tyrannosaurus Rex, a new phase was about to begin for Bolan and Finn. Not only were they in the studio recording what would become Electric Warrior, the band changed its name to T. Rex. These changes obviously worked and Bolan and Finn were about to have their greatest career success, with Electric Warrior going straight to Number One in their native England, as well as having two hit singles from this release, “Bang A Gong” and “Jeepster.” Even though the success that T. Rex would enjoy in England wasn’t to transfer comparably to America, “Bang A Gong” would be a hit on both sides of the Atlantic.
The appeal of an album like Electric Warrior being remixed in surround sound is the spaciousness of the original recording. This record breathes well and the instrumentation doesn’t overpower you as you are drawn in to the compositions. This newly remixed version has so much life to it that it’s almost like you’re in the studio with the musicians. You’re not assaulted by cheap tricks of stereo panning for the sake of stereo panning or placing instruments in space just because you can. Tony Visconti, who produced the original recording, is also the man responsible for the surround sound mix of this release. This mix sounds almost like you’re sitting in the studio with T. Rex right in front of you. The way that the acoustic guitars on “Cosmic Dancer” mix with the strings brings you directly into the heart of the song. “Monolith” is another example of how, in the right hands, the new studio technology can bring a whole new level of understanding to a song. The backing vocals alone on this track are enough to warrant another close listen to this album, positively beautiful. In the liner notes, Tony Visconti remarks how when the original recording session was taking place, there would be microphones placed around there room to capture the essence of the recording session. With the new capabilities of multi-channel surround sound mixing, these sounds which were once hidden now come to life without really changing the original mix, but rather adding to it.
According to Visconti, the mix was done with T. Rex sitting right in front of you in a 180-degree semi-circle, with Bolan’s voice in the center channel and his guitars to the right and left sides (not right and left front). The rest of the band is sitting right in front of you with the strings, horns and backing vocals popping up everywhere, but mainly behind you. To my ears, this is the way that a surround sound mix should be done. I’ve always had a great deal of respect for the way that Visconti produces records (most notably the early Bowie catalog), and that respect level has shot up another notch with this release. I can’t wait to hear how he would remix Bowie’s back catalogue. It’s also really nice to read what Visconti wrote about not giving in to the temptation of modern-day mixing techniques as well, but to instead really try to give you a standard two-channel mix with elements of the music that wrap around you.
About the only thing that I can quibble with in this release is the extras. The photo gallery for each song is exactly the same and there is only one video. Granted the video is for “Bang A Gong,” which has a young Elton John sitting in with T. Rex and is pretty cool, but I was still surprised there weren‘t more photos. But as I said, it’s an incredibly small quibble. I really love the mix that Visconti did. The warmth of the recording comes through crystal clear and so does the fun. I highly recommend this release to anyone who’s into good music. This record also cuts across timelines, sounding as good today as it did in 1972. I love this record and I love this release.