Does every obscurity deserve to see the light of day? Up for debate, but when it comes to metaphysically challenged artists who won’t be adding anything new to their relatively short catalog, every scrap is of interest. In the case of Marc Bolan, it is unfortunate that he produced a lot of mediocre work. There’s no questioning the heights of his highest and his best, but dang, he really phoned it in sometimes. You can’t really blame him for trying to rekindle the initial spark of T.Rextasy, or for hoping to break big in the States, both of which he failed to do, but a string of lazy albums between 1974 and ’76 did his legacy no favors. Reissues of Light of Love, Bolan’s Zip Gun and Futuristic Dragon, complete with all the requisite demos and B-sides only went to show how disappointing those albums had been in the first place. However, if there’s one forgotten jewel in Bolan’s crown that deserves belated accolades it’s Zinc Alloy and the Hidden Riders of Tomorrow. Ziggy-derivative title aside, it’s unique in the Bolan annals, and trailblazing in a broader sense. If Zinc Alloy is remembered at all, it’s for fusing the elements of Glam with Motown and Soul influences, creating a blueprint for the Blue Eyed Soul that Young Americans ran all the way up the charts with less than two years later. Sadly, it flopped for Bolan, and he took trying to steer T.Rex back into Slider territory, with not much success. Still, it is very much worth exploring, and that includes an entirely alternate reissue with a glut of B-Sides and outtakes. Considering that Bolan released so much sub-par material, it’s surprising and delightful to find a wealth of unreleased music that’s very much up to par, if slightly different from what we usually expect from him. It’s also interesting to ponder, if the more experimental sound of Zinc Alloy had been a success, would Bolan have been encouraged to continue expanding his musical directions to ever greater and more interesting heights. Could there have been a second wave of T.Rextasy, an unimagined new phase of greatness, instead of a droop into self-repeating mediocrity? As it were, after the record failed, Bolan, with his egoistical insecurity, seemed to shrink away from pushing his own boundaries again for several years. Wasted years.


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