I suppose that for many who have not heard of T.Rex, this album may take a bit of a listen to get used to - especially some of the less 'mainstream' tracks. Yes, it's on this release that you will find "Bang a Gong (Get It On)", but that's a track that one could consider as a bonus to the rest of the tracks, all of which are solid.
Marc Bolan (frontman for said band) and David Bowie were friends and spent a fair amount of time hanging out; one could say that they were effectively cut from the same cloth (though Bolan's theatrical tastes were far bested by those of Bowie) and if you ever wondered where the genesis for Bowie's "The Rise and fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars" you need look no further than this record (which predates TRAFOZSATSFM) by a year or so.
I wouldn't in any way call this record a concept album (an assessment often made of Bowie's TRAFOZSATSFM) apart from the concept of Glam-rock having informed many of these tunes. Many of them are heavy on the mellotron (which was a short-lived but important keyboard instrument used on some other classics (the into to the Beatles "Strawberry Fields Forever" as but one...) and typical pseudo-stereo effects (also heavily used on TRAFOZSATSFM). Still, when you strip away the effects, the music is still solid.
We open with "Mambo Sun", a driving bass and drum-led rocker that has a sort of laid back yet always moving rhythm; it remains one of my favorite rock tunes from this era. Some really nice guitar work here with at least one part (lead) being played through a distortion pedal - but played well...a really nice use of effects...
This brings us to "Cosmic Dancer". Again, a very melodic tune / structure from which Bowie 'borrowed' heavily for TRAFOZSATSFM (on more than one tune) with some utterly bizarre lyrics - just look 'em up sometime and you'll see what I mean. Yet, there's a really nice string arrangement that seems to work really well in this track...which takes us right up to...
"Jeepster". From the soft, melodic structure of " 'Dancer" we jump right back into a simple (about as simple as you can get) 12-bar blues-based tune, with (yet again) bizarre lyrics...and yet once again, some great guitar work; Bolan does a nice job of syncopating parts of this track via anotehr distorted guitar riff; the use of slap-back echo also seems to suit this piece. All in all, an enjoyable and yet amusing (though I doubt deliberately so) tune. Also, Bolan's vocals are double-tracked on this and do well to help fatten the vocals out nicely.
"Monolith" has much in common with " 'Dancer", especially musically...right down to the backing vocals and pseudo-stereo effects. Musically though, it's a nice slowly rocking piece...and yes...again...some obtuse lyrics.
This brings us to "Lean Woman Blues", which is probably my favorite track on the record. Yes, "Get It On" is every bit the classic, but I just love the slow, sloppy feel to this - right on down to the guitar parts.
Next up "Bang A Gong (Get It On)". I really, really love how this track begins - just a sparse bit of bass and guitar...maybe two bars' worth, and then the main riff starts. the mellotron featurtes heavily on this track as well (starting right around the 0:38 mark). I see this as the classic, quintessential glam rock track - and due to it's massive airplay world-wide, one of the more influential songs that pushed glam to the fore (albeit briefly).
"Planet Queen" is very much like "Mambo Sun", though played in a slightly slower meter...and yes...Bolan's bizarre lyrics abound.
Then we have "Girl". This is probably the most 'sparse' track on the record (the reverb on Bolan's vocals notwithstanding). This is pretty much driven by acoustic guitar, a distorted lead / fill guitar, and what sounds like a french horn. There are no drums or bass on this track, and given Bolan's sensibilities, this tune becomes a bizarre but very listenable track.
"The Motivator". Great tune. This one bounces and features some great backing vocals (primarily Bolan's) and complements "Girl" in terms of its sparseness. It is not as orchestrated / produced as some of the other tracks on this record, but I think (for me anyway) it is what makes this tune 'work'. I also like how the congas carry the rhythm of this track.
"I could have loved you girl, like a planet" ... yes...those are the introductory lyrics to the next track ("Life's a Gas")...again...congas are featured on this (as they were on "The Motivator", albeit not as forward in the mix). Like most tracks, the vocals fill nicely here due to them being double-tracked. There's also a cool, but brief guitar solo here... I felt like I had to quote at least some of the more unusual lyrics (though these songs are replete with such lyrics).
The record closes with "Rip Off". In some ways, this almost seems to pre-date rap. When I say that I am referring only to the vocal phrasing, but this tune turns on the glam with its saxophone fills and orchestrated sound.
All in all, this still remains one of my favorite rock records, but I think you have to categorize this one as glam (primarily) that has been informed by blues and rock as well. As I have mentioned before, the lyrics are, in some ways, laughable...but at the same time, they fit the songs. Indeed, I find this album to be the quintessential 'period piece'of that short-lived but very influential period when glam held sway.