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02/06/04
Reviewed by - George Bennett


T. Rex
Electric Warrior
Released: January 13, 2004
Origination Year: 1971
Time: 39:02
Tracks: 9
Produced by: Tony Visconti
Style: Studio
Format: DVD-Audio
Enhancement: MLP / Video
Website:


David Bowie. Mott The Hoople. T. Rex...ladies and gentlemen, they introduced us to glam-rock in the early 70s. A few androgynous guys - looking both feminine and masculine. Were they gay? Nobody cared; they were just so damn sexy! Arrogant, defiant, dripping-erotic sexy - in their look and in their music. Bowie's Ziggy Stardust made him, Mott's All The Young Dudes was their contribution (Bowie written), and T. Rex's Electric Warrior put them on the radar, in a big way, with the hit "Bang a Gong (Get it On)" leading the way. T. Rex was, more correctly, one Marc Bolan, front-man, lead singer/guitarist, and songwriter.

Although Mr. Bowie became the undying icon and Mott meant a lot, my favorite has been the late, lamented Marc Bolan's T. Rex and their undying masterpiece Electric Warrior. A great glam-rock disc, it is also a great rock'n'roll disc, and is still relevant today, some 22 years after its release. I still have my oiginal vinyl LP, the original CD release, and Rhino's remastered and expanded 2003 CD (which is very well done). I now also have Rhino's 2004 DVD-A release. How does it stack up?? Is it worth having? Let's see...

The DVD-A of T. Rex's Electric Warrior contains the original album's 11 tracks and a few extras: black & white pix of Bolan with each song and a priceless video of the group performing "Bang a Gong" (lip-syncing, actually), with an uncredited Elton John on piano. This video is the same one that appeared on popular late-night music shows like The Midnight Special in the early - mid-70s when "Bang a Gong" and T. Rex were huge. It's very cool to have in one's collection.

I am a fan of hi-resolution multi-channel mixes, but only if done well, and done well can mean demo-quality discs like the SACD hybrid multi-channel mix of Alison Krauss + Union Station Live, where the surrounds are used only for venue ambience, or The Flaming Lips' Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots on DVD-A multi-channel, where the surrounds are used with the fronts in over-the-top multi-angular bombardments of sound, or the right-down-the-middle, not laid-back or over-the-top perfection of Steely Dan's Gaucho on multi-channel SACD hybrid (a good hi-res stereo mix can be awesome, too, and sometimes preferrable). If it works well with the program at hand, that is my criteria.

Sad to say, the multi-channel mix of Electric Warrior 2004 is a real disappointment. Although it may be interesting to a newcomer as a "wow factor", it makes no sense. The aural and spatial cues are not true to any mix one could call realistic, or even reasonable. This sounds strange coming from Rhino, especially with original mixer Tony Visconti back on-board for this re-mix. He states, in the liner notes, certain objectives he believes he met in the re-mix. I do not concur. I hear very little of what Mr. Visconti lays out in his objectives.

One of my pet-peeves is omnipresent thoughout the disc's multi-ch mix. Either the hi-hat, and/or the snare drum, or the entire drum kit are planted most heavily in the L/R surrounds! I hate nothing more than a drum travel from snare to ride-toms to floor-toms that starts behind me on the snare, then jumps straight to the front speakers for the ride and floor-toms with no pan whatsoever! Also, most often in the disc, the hi-hat, ride cymbal, and cymbal crashes come from the L/R rear speakers! Various other instruments/vocals are also too heavily weighted in the surrounds at times, and up front at others. There is no method to the madness that I can assess. (Mr. Visconti states in his notes that he placed the guitars in the right side front and rear, and the left side front and rear. Apparently, the cymbals, snare, etc. were, at times, tied into the guitar mixes on the original recordings and thus follow the guitars placement, accounting for their over-use in the rears [?].) Perhaps a solid 3 speaker mix up front with ambience leaked to the surrounds might have been preferrable, because the two-channel stereo mix is dynamite!

Perhaps worst of all, the multi-channel mix is missing the Bolan-Boogie-Factor! It robs the music of its foundation - its "oomph", if you will. It sounds disembodied and limp, no balls. And T. Rex music minus the oomph just lays down and dies. Such a shame, and a missed opportunity. Now, on to the aforementioned hi-res stereo mix...

Upon first learning of its imminent release, Matt was initially most excited about the 192kHz two-channel stereo mix...and, it turns out, rightly so. The Bolan-Boogie-Factor is fully restored and the soundstage is wide and deep, with each voice and instrument able to be placed in space. (If you have heard The Stones SACDs of Beggars Banquet and/or Let It Bleed [available in hybrid stereo only], this disc reminds me alot of what's right and special about those. I am still amazed at how a well-done hi-res stereo mix can open up the sound and make it seem almost three-dimensional.)

Transparency and presence are excellent. One can hear more "into the music" (sorry, Van), with small, previously hidden details being revealed, as the best hi-res re-mixes always seem to do. Check out the distorted guitar riffing in-between chords in the right front channel, the sound of the pick keeping beat on the strings, beginning most noticeably at approximately 58 seconds into Mambo Sun. Impressive! I love it! The you-are-there factor is jaw-dropping!

Comparing Rhino's remastered/expanded CD in analog stereo to the DVD-A stereo mix was a treat. I A-Bd the entire discs, as well as certain parts of the discs, with output levels balanced to within .5db. There is a minute amount of tape hiss in both versions, but it is only audible in dead or very quiet spaces. The frequency balance high to low is excellent on both. The CD sounds very good, indeed, even when compared to the DVD-A stereo mix. No whimping out here. But, the added transparency and presence, the ability to hear through yet another layer or two of gause, as if it were being removed from in front of the speakers, a crisper top end, and a fatter, fuller sound on the strings makes the DVD-A stereo mix the hands-down winner.

Highly recommended (and don't forget that video)! You'll probably want to keep the remastered/expanded CD if you already have it, as it is still no slouch sonically...and the extra tracks (and interview with Marc Bolan) are not on the DVD-A.


Track Listing:

Mambo Sun / Cosmic Dancer / Jeepster / Monolith / Lean Woman Blues / Bang A Gong (Get It On) / Planet Queen / Girl / The Motivator / Life's a Gas / Rip Off.


T. Rex: Marc Bolan - Vocals / Guitar; Mickey Finn - Percussion / Vocals; Steve Currie - Bass; Will Legend - Drums.


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