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"The bull of gold that's old
beyond the songs of man
Keeps watch upon the fates lest they misweave your strand."
The Sea Beasts - Marc Bolan.
Tyrannosaurus Rex - Unicorn
List of Reviewers
=== Review by Dela ===I will start by saying that this is the most beautiful album I know of. Beautiful lyrics, beautiful music, and even a beautiful picture of Marc and Steve on the front of the album. To me it is at the most inventive stage of Marc's career, which is slightly sad in it's way. It is a progression lyrically from My People... and Prophets..., and Marc was just moving towards the livelier music of Beard of Stars and, of course, T Rex. Yet is still retains the poet, and is definitely folk rather than rock.
It was the second Marc album I bought. I had Slider, and was too young to know the difference between T Rex and Tyrannosaurus Rex. I expected more of Metal Guru and Jeepster, but was surprised and overjoyed to hear what I had 'discovered' - my new-found idol was also a folk hero as well! Life could not get any better! Since then, I have got through 3 vinyl copies of Unicorn, before finally getting a CD player and the CD version. Hopefully, this will last a little longer.
I will apologise now for what I think is going to be a very long review. I have to cover each song in depth, and then go back. So skip bits you find dull!!
Chariots of Silk
The open chimes of this song are the perfect introduction to this album - the wondrously simple chords, punching out the beat and Marc's lyrics. I expected weaker songs throughout the album, but the strength is kept up. To me, this has always been a love song, but in such a Marc way. He sings of a strong woman, one who doesn't fit the simpering stereotype of many love songs. She stands proud, with her own mind, and laughs off the advances of those who think she is anything but - 'Hunters of pity she slew.' Yet with this strength there is beauty - 'Chariots of silk she rode / Stallions of gold she owned.' I love the use of alliteration in every verse: 'Stonejars stacked with stars on her shoulders' and 'The Bard of my birth with his ballet.' It's a simple linguistic trick, but needs care else it will fall flat on it's face. Marc crafts these lyrics perfectly.
'Pon A Hill
I love the introduction to this song! When I first heard it, I really did not know what to think. But when used with the lyrics, it makes sense. An adjective seemingly over-used with Marc, especially at this time in his life, is 'elfin.' 'Pon A Hill is a seemingly simple story of magical faerie-folk - talking animals have long been a part of British mythology, particularly Celtic. The central character to this song is the 'ragged youth,' which I have always felt to be Marc himself. A magical child, sitting in an enchanted forest, telling his stories, and living as one with nature - couldn't be anyone else. I have long believed this to be as autobiographical as anything else he wrote. The almost archaic use of language is lovely: 'winged' instead of 'had wings,' 'ragged' instead of 'raggy, and the use of the passive tense.... All goes to make a song which harkens for an earlier, magical time.
The Seal Of Seasons
Whenever I have mentioned this song as one of my favourites, I tend to get blank looks. I adore the story of this, or at least of my interpretation. It tells of a man falling in love with a mermaid. One night, he sees a movement in the water, and realises what it is. The figure moves gracefully, dances for him, and then all at once it is gone. Yet in that one night, he finds love. 'One breath and shells grew on my nut tree,' to me means that the watery figure captivates him totally, and he no longer wishes to be of the land, but of the sea instead. We are left as to what happens, but I always think he walks after her one day, and is never seen again. A love so strong, it overcame his instincts. Again, another link to mythology, particularly British in nature. The 'gypsy dancer' part is such a strong image for me. European stories are full of such people, with mystical connotations and magical promise. I can just see the mermaid dancing feverishly and seductively, with only the music of the sea to accompany her....
The Throat of Winter
All cultures throughout the world have festivals around the time of the Winter Solstice, and this is a celebration of the British interpretation. The fields are empty, the birds no longer sing, and flowers cower beneath the ground waiting for spring. The use of the feminine to describe winter is quite interesting, since the darker side of nature is often represented by the masculine - in Britain, it is the dark side of The Green Man in his many guises. This leads me to believe Marc is singing of Mother Nature, and so perhaps this is not a song about negativity, but the good of winter - a time for rest and regrowth. He asks, in my mind unsurely, whether Winter is 'but a servant of the Bad One.' The adjectives are all negative, however - 'the Husky Hag of early darkness,' for example. Finally, I draw an image of what I feel this song is about. A person sees the changes in the world as Autumn moves into Winter, and is unsure of it all. Things seem to die, and the animals he once saw all hide. He questions the role of Winter, whether it is good or bad, but above all has deep respect, and a slight fear of what he sees. The future for him is uncertain.
Cat Black (The Wizard's Hat)
This is surely one of the greatest uses of language ever! I challenge you to pick out a line which doesn't use some linguistic trick - alliteration, rhyme, tempo, metaphor.... It's all there and I find something new with every listen. To this day I don't know if I should have started to analyse the lyrics of this song, but what's done is done, and ideas have been formed. Again, another magical tale, and very reminiscent of Tolkein. But the meaning to this song is mortality and the transition of time. No single example is given, but rather a mixture of images. A young woman who fears getting old asks to be blessed with a long youth, but time can favour no-one and passes by with the youth that it always has. The mountain man, from the first verse, must kill others to prolong his own survival, but death of an animal (to Marc at least) is like death to all of us - he uses the word 'murderer,' as oppose to 'hunter.' The song finishes with the most wonderful message in the final lines - life is short and fleeting, so while we are here we should do our best for others. Very wise.
Stones For Avalon
If I remember my Celtic Mythology correctly, Avalon was a Holy Island where women trained in much the same way as the Druids did. They held similar pagan beliefs, and performed the same role, but to a lesser degree. Many myths sprung up about it, and very soon into the Dark Ages was no longer a physical aspect of this world, but a mystical one. That's where (it is assumed) the Arthurian Myth of the land of Avalon, the Kingdom of Briton, comes from. Quite where this leads Marc in the song is open to great interpretation. For one, it is another certainly another celebration of British and Celtic Mythology. For me, it is the androgyny of us all Marc sings of (the famous lines from the back of Prophets, 'In the head of a man is a woman, in the head of a woman is a man....'). The chorus is very telling - 'Nobody sees what Avalon sees, Nobody sees.' Each of us holds power of masculinity and femininity, and each of us can use the different aspects of them to great effect. I suppose many links could be made to Yin-Yang theory. A simple song, but a lovely message.
She Was Born To Be My Unicorn
This is my favourite song on the album, and one of the best of all time. The simple strumming of the guitar enhances Marc's voice perfectly, and the drums in the background and guitars work on opposite beats to wonderful effect. A mystical love song of the highest order. Yet again, a faerie-like air, telling of 'She,' a spirit of nature, crowned with ferns, and taught by the finest of minds. This love is more than just romantic. The singer/poet tells of how he protects and cares for the one he loves, fending off enemies both magical and physical, psychological and non-corporeal. With Marc's love of children, sometimes I feel as though this were one speaking of the love held for a child - Unicorns only ever came to the pure and innocent. However, for the main I still see this as another noble, all-protecting love song a man has for a woman.
Like A White Star, Shining And Far, Tulip That's What You Are
This is an odd-sounding song, with a grinding, almost dirge-like part which accompanies the vocals, and a second, faster, tribal-sounding ending. The thudding guitar in the first section, and the almost monotonous voice Marc sings with gives me the impression of boredom of the mundane world, yet the lyrics are almost the opposite when read alone. 'Warm and wise as a mute, In the thunderbolt suit;' very positive lyrics. Again there is more mystical imagery, with Titans and Satyrs mentioned, and the use of celestialism (stars, the dark, day worshipping). Also the only song I've ever known to mention the Maenads, once more bringing the idea of ritualism and mythology. I feel this song represents the view we have of daytime, and what it should be. We see it as a routine time, which we expect to happen, so take it for granted. But it is a magical time, when the demons of night are gone, life springs forth once more, and this is the side we have forgotten. The lyrics are almost spoken, and this shows that we have taken the joy out of the day, but the final section recaptures the vigour with which we should give daylight.
Warlord Of The Royal Crocodiles
I think this may be one of those cases where interest in another subject may just totally block any other idea from entering! In Ancient Egypt, the Osiran God Sebek was worshipped, though not as widely as others such as Thoth, Isis and Ra (especially). Sebek was represented as a man with a crocodile's head, with two sides to his character. One was beneficial, rescuing Osiris' body after he had been killed by Set. Sebek was also one of the gods encountered on the entrance to the Afterlife, giving the deceased sight, and helping to overcome the evil of Set. On the other hand, Sebek represented the dangerous side of the sun, and was implicated in the actual murder of Osiris. From this story, the crocodile was both worshipped and reviled in different parts of Egypt. The words, andeven the music, remind me of this story. Whether the Warlord in the title is a representation of Sebek or the God himself I am unsure, but I prefer the idea of the latter walking among the inhabitants of the Nile....
Evenings Of Damask
This touches on a subject which occurs a couple of times throughout the album, the nature of mortality and nature. We are all transitory on this planet, and while here we should be as close to our surroundings as possible - 'The youth of truth chest feeds a starling with his heart,' for example. And the process goes the other way when a horse lays down his life so that a man may eat. The words are quite dream-like, and the images they conjure are as mysterious. I think Marc does this best with the verse 'The icy claws of earth are crawling, Upon my baby's brow and calling "Please come home." ' The voice with which he sings is also light and dreamy, and I like to think this is intentional.
The Sea Beasts
The most interesting part about this song for me are the noises, especially those in the background, which are certainly not words as such. At the end of each chorus, a strange gurgling groan can be heard, but it is very quiet. With 'you' as a foal, and the various guardians you have (the hawk, the sea-beasts, the horned dog), I feel this is a song about adversity, and overcoming it. The song is sung at a (comparatively) rapid pace, especially when compared to the songs which precede and follow it, and adds to the urgency of the tale. UFO - a reference to the unknown and isolation? But the words finish with growth (spiritual, I guess, considering the rest of the album) from a foal to colt. One of my favourite tracks, and great to sing along to.
This song, if I am in the right mood, will always bring a tear to the eyes. The title gives a clue to the meaning. I consider this to be about unrequited love, but a vengeful one as well. Not only is the man refused by his love, refusing all his gifts, but after she destroys his spirit, he tells her of what she's forsaken. All his beautiful words have gone to waste, and he speaks instead of the pain she's caused him - 'You cut the heart of my heart out,' and 'you devoured my hand.' The song is sorrowful, with an almost funerary feel to it. the part 'for ere to go unheard' intrigues me. Is it just that she refuses to hear his words of love, or is it more, that he has killed her in a fit of love-stricken sorrow? With the sombre mood of the song, I am sometimes inclined to agree with this final conclusion.
I must confess I have no real idea what Nijinsky Hind is, but once again I feel it is a reference to something present in British folklore. Hern, the male personification of nature in Paganism, was sometimes seen as a proud, white stag. I understand East and North European folklore also had similar images. It was a representation of the might and beauty of nature, which would live for evermore even after we forgot about it. It would protect us in the dark, and guide us through the night. Whether or not Marc intended for this image to be seen is something I will never know, but to me that is what this song will always be about.
The Pilgrim's Tale
When I first saw these lyrics, I was overjoyed, as it seemed Marc was singing about something I have always believed in. Every single part of nature is connected and of equal importance, and with that realisation is true understanding of the wonder of the world. Forget deep philosophies and complex religions. Regardless of your beliefs, it is something we can all understand. Marc gives the sea animal and plant qualities ('As a flock the wild seas sway before us.'), and tells us of the spirit of the water, whether mystical or metaphorical ('Fairy lights in her eyes tame the water'). The world is a wonderful place if you look closely, something few of us do anymore, and it deserves to be marvelled at. As Marc himself says at the end of the song, 'It's not hard to believe in....'
The Misty Coast of Albany
Albany, if I recall, has many locations but one I think very pertinent is that it was the old name for Britain, particularly with reference to Celtic Britain. This seems to tell a sad story of a woman who loves a man, but who can no longer have the one she loves. Instead, he has been captured by a spirit (again, whether real or metaphorical), who has lured him to his imprisonment. One of my favourite parts of this song is when Marc sings 'Once a heart was made and cast in molten love,' as if has been made of gold, or indeed, of a base metal such as lead or iron. Was this love for the woman or the spirit, and was it cold or pure? Again, there is more use of alliteration - 'Weeping willow woman,' 'Pining pillow' and 'Womanly waiting' - a device that Marc loves to use, and uses to good purpose in all his songs of this period.
As you can see by how much I have written, I think this is a truly marvellous piece of work. There is good music, stories, lessons, emotion, and tricks with language. There are common themes which crop up again and again.
One is folklore and mythology, explored in songs such as 'Warlord of the Royal Crocodiles' and 'Nijinsky Hind.' Marc seemed to have loved tales such as these, told for generations, and coloured with each year. While Ra is mentioned in the story of Romany Soup, and I believe Warlord of the Royal Crocodiles is about Egyptian Mythology, it seems to be British and Celtic mythology which Marc writes of most. Perhaps he was celebrating our culture and history with a slightly strange, but very welcome, viewpoint.
Using this imagery, he sings of aspects of life we all experience. Love, heartache, joy, fear.... At the middle of it all is the faerie-like image of Marc, from 'Pon A Hill, giving us his thoughts and ideas. He tells us of the beauty of nature, the kindness we can show to others, that there are things which will see us through life, whether physical, emotional or spiritual, and that pain can only cause more pain.
I am never sure whether anyone else sees even the remotest of what I see in this album, but that to me is part of the joy of it - you see what only you can see. In earlier albums, Marc's style was very reminiscent of others, such as Tolkein's fantasy and Poe's dreamstates. Now, Marc has matured into giving us his own universe, with his own imagination's creations. It is magical, dream-like, spiritual and optimistic, and as I said at the start, a beautiful album.
=== Review by MarkMcL ===Till-Unicorn
June 1969. Now there was a summer. I was 16 (nearly 17) had just finished my O-Levels and A-Levels were two years away.
For those unacquainted with the English educational system, 16 is the legal minimum age for leaving school. Ordinary Level exams were what you sat at the end of that last year; many pupils took 8 subjects. If you were aiming at University you stayed on at school for a further two years and sat Advanced Levels, usually three subjects. The grades you got were used by the universities to set acceptance criteria.
I had worked very hard revising for the O-Levels and so the summer really felt like a holiday. The A-levels seemed like half a lifetime away. It was a beautiful summer and I had a vacation job working on an archaeological dig. Every day I would cycle 5 miles to the Roman fort (80 AD) and (being a boy) got the physical jobs like digging trenches and pushing wheelbarrows. Such a pleasant open-air contrast from the preceding intellectual activity. Uncoiled spring is the phrase that comes to mind.
My head was fully of Lord Of The Rings and the Chronicles Of Narnia. And Unicorn. Something of the impact of the album must be connected with my state of summer euphoria.
First some overall comments on the album:
Alliteration: there is extensive use of alliteration as a poetic device, "barren barley", "Husky hag". This is far more noticeable than on any of the others albums before or after. Often triple alliteration, "salty shimmered shell", "night-mare's mauve mashed mind". The most extreme example being: "The Bard of my birth with his ballet, Walked the wild worlds in the chase".
Classical Mythology: whereas Prophets... is inspired by (or at least acknowledges) LOTR and Narnia there is little evidence of a broader mythology. Did Marc read a lot of classical mythology between the two because here I see a lots of allusions to both Greek, Roman, Nordic and Celtic mythology which I shall mention as we go (and goofing sometimes).
Sea: A recurring image throughout this album is the sea. "Seal of seasons" sets the scene. "She was born to be my unicorn" picks it up with the 'sandled shore' and 'shoreside stream'. "Like a white star" continues with 'a babe of the spray' and 'charted seas on your skin'; then 'the elements and oceans' from "Warlord of the Royal Crocodile", and so on. That thematic consistancy is part of what makes this album such a triumph.
Chariots Of Silk.
Not an outstanding track but with a couple of striking images: "The glassy entrails of a frog", the black chested canary who as a moose can sing bass" Strange poetic images occur throughout the album.
'Pon A Hill.
A track of two halves and a certain symmetry. Two verses about birds, and two about the "ragged youth with eyes of glass" made more striking by the contrast with the preceding two. This mental picture I have is very strong - of that graceful youth dancing on a well manicured [Trelawny] lawn in the pale gray light of very early dawn with the grass still damp with the "dawning's dew". Possibly even the figurine of the back cover of Prophets...
The Seal Of Seasons.
Now this is one of the most beautiful and poetics tracks Marc ever wrote. With the opening bars I know why this album is my favourite. It is just so lyrical, swaying. "One breath and shells grew on my nut tree". And surely inspired by the Silkie - the seal-like mermaid of Hebridean folk-lore.
The Throat Of Winter.
This feels so melancholy, with sympathy for winter who is not really a servant of the bad one, just misunderstood. "The barren barley fields" conjures up the image of stubble in the fields no longer able to sway as they had when they stood tall, before the harvest.
Cat Black. "Wept for the jailer of time to bless her old" reminds me of the Greek myth of the woman who asked the gods to grant her eternal life but forgot to ask for eternal youth, consequently grew older and more haggard. This also contains the much quoted "We of the wind must rejoice and speak, And kiss all our starbrowed brothers on the cheek." A line which beautifully captures the hippy mood of the times.
Stones For Avalon.
Simple but cheerful. The use of Avalon shows the Celtic mythology peeking through. The Isle of Avalon was an island to the West where King Arthur was taken when he died.
She Was Born To Be My Unicorn.
Nothing to say about this.
Like A White Star.
Maenads, Satyrs, Titans all from Greek mythology. There is something chill, icy even, about this track but still those arresting phrases "Statues that say, worship the day, For only humans you are." And an early sighting of "thunderbolt suit". One thing that strikes me is the way the same names and images recur giving MB's whole opus a sense of unity e.g. "Scenescof" on My People and "The Scenescof Dynasty" on Prophets, Agadinmar in BOS and COR.
Warlord Of The Royal Crocodiles.
Where did this one come from? Very different, not sure I like it so much.
Evenings Of Damask.
Another to put up there with Seal of Seasons. Just such a wonderful song, the way he sings that last line of each verse. For me it calls to mind the traditional European fairy tales collected by the Brother Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson. The choice of "a loom, a cheese and choppper" is so obviously symbolic. I love the idea of the weaver warrior.
The fates are, I suspect, not those of classical mythology but rather the Norns of Celtic mythology: one spins the yarn, one weaves the fabric, one cuts the thread that is our life. A nice link from the previous track. So many echos of myths here: the bull of gold sounds Old Testament, daughters of the sun sounds Greek (the Fates were daughters of the Night - a nice twist), the horned dog guarding grandly reminds me of Cerberus the three-headed dog guarding the entrance to Hades.
Aaah. This is the song for me; that chorus "Will burn thee to a wizened word, For eer to go unheard" gets to me. I echo the sentiment of whoever said their favourite line was "I'm old and bruised, But my fate is that of youth". My favourite verse is however:
You gashed the heart of my heart
Like a Portuguese
Witch, I'd planned for you this land
But you devoured my hand.
Nothing to say.
But this one grabs my attention again. A song of joy. "Fairy lights in her eyes" is a lovely image, reminds me of Christmas tree lights - I always love the holiday season.
I have inherited the McLellan family lights. Every year the same ritual of "hunt the blown bulb" as I swap the new bulb for each old one in turn until I find the rogue.
Misty Coast Of Albany
The line I like in this one is "weeping willow woman" because it can be read two ways. Willow[y] as an adjective or as a noun. So either a woman who is graceful as a weeping willow or a slender woman who is sobbing. The whole album is set in realms of the past.
But what about the childrens' song read by John Peel. See http://www.mmenterprises.co.uk/lionel.htm The story mentions the Hyperboreans - Greek mythology.
Like all the Tyrannosaurus Rex albums, that last track on side two is a long extended item.
Thats all (and probably enough).
=== Review by Desdemona ===
Ah, Unicorn. One of my all time favorites.
What can I say really? The poetry is beautiful, the songs eerily magical, a very important and appropriate "ritual" album. This album has many strong spiritual one-liners as in all of Bolan's early writings. Pick almost any line or 2 from this album and you'll see what I mean. There's more here than just rhyming words!
My favorite line and prophetic? I'm old and bruised but my fate is that of youth!
I've got to get me some Romany Soup. Gypsies dance on!
=== Review by Zoom ===
Unicorn. This one gets me very personal. I can't bring a fathomable frequency to it. In '80, naive highschool boy, moi, had crush on this girl who had coquettish lips and huge eyes. I gave her a copy of Unicorn. She liked it, invited me to exclusive Xmas party. She went home with other boy. It wasn't the first time yet hard to take the fact I was 3 1/2 feet tall, 300 pounds with flaming red hair plus coke-bottle glasses on. Girls... I heard she had a baby few years later. Unicorn still sounds timeless, sounds of passes to universe where contains many stories of particles-us.
Without any exception Opus 3 gets mellow and lyrical whereas the second is wild/experimental whose first was brilliant. This format applies to all our lives I believe. Especially to the stage of relationships? It's determined by the human perception?, is that all?, or whole vibe of galaxy?
Excuse me. My head's still spinning from last night activity. 'llya pass me any bottle of pills..../z
=== Review by MarcO ===
I think I'm gonna find it difficult to review this album (Unicorn) 'cos I don't have the literary ability to lay praise on it that it deserves. E.g. if there was ever a league of great albums, Unicorn would win it's category hands down, and probably 'cos it would be (the only one in it's class) If you were a record shop manager in 1968 under what section would you file it?
I own every album Marc ever made and this is the one I play the most, in fact I'm a little worried that each playing will affect the quality. This is Marc at his best, lyrically and melodically too. I scratch my head and think how on earth did he sit down with these lyrics and ever begin to put the melody to them. It's a good job that he had a recording contract at the time, can you imagine the response he would have got taking (these) songs around the record companies, and the strange looks too.
The cover design is magnificent, the perfect photo along with gatefold sleeve and the unicorn background, my mate Michael Tingey, I'll never forget his name, had this album before me and I was oh so jealous of him.
Incidentally, my copy is the mono version on the blue label, so would you believe I've NEVER heard this album in stereo. I for one would have loved to hear Marc reproduce this album with the backing of a band and he swinging that Les Paul, ahhhhhh perchance to dream.
Unicorn. Star rating out of 10 10000000000000000000000000000000000. MarcO.
=== Review by Kate ===
Rick, one reason I've been hesitating to write about Unicorn is that I'm not sure that I can find the right words. This album was very personal for me when I first heard it and always remains special. Unicorn was among the first tapes I managed to get hold of, and at the same time I bought The Lord Of The Rings book. It was January and snowed all day, I had a flu and had to stay in bed, so I was reading the book and listening to the tape over and over again... I remember I used to go to sleep with the headphones on, playing The Unicorn - I always went to sleep after Iscariot. My favourite tracks are The Throat Of Winter, Iscariot and Warlord Of The Royal Crocodiles. This is the only record that still makes me feel I'm discovering it for the first time.
Laser Love, Kate.
=== Review by DaveR ===
I had just helped my kid carve two pumpkins in anticipation of Halloween. Putting him to bed (finally), I grabbed my Unicorn CD and stuck it in the CDROM drive. As "Chariots of Silk" began to play, I was reminded of (approximately) when I found the album in some basement record store on the strip in front of the University so many years before. It was only my 2nd or 3rd Bolan album, and when I listened to it, I remembered wondering to myself if this was really the same guy that did Electric Warrior. Then I wondered just what the hell he was saying since I couldn't understand a word of it. Luckily there were liner notes and I could read along.
Then I heard the thumping. The album was scratched. No, it was just the entrance to "'Pon A Hill". Or was it something on the front porch? I wasn't sure, and anyway" 'Pon A Hill" was a short song and soon "The Seal of Seasons" was on and I forgot all about it. A nice catchy tune.
I grabbed a beer (the light American stuff - I hadn't discovered black beer yet). But by the time I sat back down, "Seal of Seasons" was over and "The Throat of Winter" was on. I opened my front door (my apartment only had one door) and walked out. It wasn't winter yet, but late October nights in Tennessee were cold enough to remind one of Winter. The wind blew rather harshly, scattering leaves along the walk out front. Then I heard that scratching again. Damn album - I'd have to return it the next day and see if they had one in better shape.
But then "Catblack" was on so I went back in my room (my apartment only had one of those), sat back and enjoyed my beer and the album.
By then "Stones for Avalon" was on which brought my mind to one of the books I had been reading recently. Was it Lord of the Rings or Sword of Shanara? I don't know, I don't read those things anymore and can't remember them either. And then fast as a wink "Unicorn" was on, and even more so, I began to envision an age when the world was full of wizards and warlocks. A world full of strange animals - dragons and, of course, unicorns.
But whatever thoughts I had about that vanished with "Like a White Star". Then, and to this day, I found the song to be eerily haunting - though the words didn't support the feeling. I heard the scratching again and began to feel concerned. It wasn't really the album was it? Then on came "Warlord of the Royal Crocs". It too bothered me - something about the cords and the sounds in the background. Too many little sounds which were there one minute and gone the next. Kind of Pink Floydian. This carried through to "Evenings of Damask". It was during this song that I realized that Steve Took added a mysticism to Marc's music that peaked at that particular point in the space/time continuum and had somehow never previously existed - nor ever would exist again in that particular form. I was stunned by the realization that a great disturbance had occurred in the cosmos when that song was cut and, it now being 1977, I had missed it. It wasn't until 4 weeks later that I picked up a copy of some rock magazine and learned of Marc's untimely demise.
But by then the scratching was becoming increasingly annoying and to top it off the phone started ringing. It was my Mom. Was I coming home for the holidays, she wanted to know. "Maybe Mom, you know I'm not sure, etc. etc". "Well your Dad would really like to see you." "OK Mom, I'll let you know, Bye".
I put the phone in its cradle and sat back down. But the music was over and there were these guys talking. On the album? Something about mushrooms and airships. I checked out my beer to make sure it wasn't a mushroom brew but, no, it was just a Bud. Telling a story on an album? It was a first for me. But the scratching was out of control by now. I walked over to the turn-table and switched it off. I looked the album over and decided it looked OK but something was certainly wrong. Maybe it was the Toshiba turntable. They were under lots of suspicion for selling nuclear submarines to someone our government wasn't very fond of anyway.
But then I heard it again. The stereo was off, but the scratching was still there. It WAS coming from outside. It was coming from the front door. Being a short, small, chicken-shit, I grabbed a frying pan off of my stove (my one room had one little stove) and walked over to the door. Clutching my fist tight around the handle of the frying pan, I reached for the door, bit my lip, and swung it open.
At first my eyes didn't adjust to the darkness. But as they did, I saw him huddled against the fence no more than 5 feet in front of my door. His face was gnarled from years (maybe decades) of life on the streets eating out of trash bins. His hair was matted as if he spilled a bucket full of syrup or automobile oil on his head. I could not see color in the dark but his ears and nose appeared to be secreting something unmentionable. He held in his hand a small bowl which he held out to me gingerly as if his arms had barely the strength to lift it. And in a voice that cackled like a crow in its final moments of life said,
"I want some more Romany Soup"
=== Review by David Do ===Unicorn is an enchanting, mystical, awe inspiring album. It seduces me every time and draws me into another time and place, another world, a secret world known only to myself. Its the land beyond the rising sun - I tell you I know where it is!
I like to "experience" Unicorn alone without any distractions, in a darkened room.
Unicorn World is my own private Narnia. The songs are sublime, they have a quality unique to this album alone. Beautiful melodies blend seamlesly with Marcs spellbinding - mauve - mashed - mind blowing poetical lyrics. Marc had absorbed everything he had ever heard or read about mythology, reigion, folklore, fantasy, the supernatural. He had read poetry, Tolkien, Kahil Gibran and his imagination boiled over to produce an work of mind blowing genius.
These songs are hypnotic, gentle, musical mantras, they have an hallucinogenic effect on my very soul.
I close my eyes and warlord of the royal crocodiles transports me into a dense moonlit forest. I here chanting in the distance. I am drawn towards it. Through a gap in the undergrowth I spy strange beings wearing terrifying crocodile masks, and they chant..........Handsome as love he's our lord and we trust him.............
During Chariots I witness the creation of a galaxy, inspired by the line "stone jars stacked with stars on her shoulders" - A chariot ridden by a goddess, drawn by stallions of gold, reigns in one hand a whip in the other (calm down Marco:) ) as she soars through the darkness stars pour from the stone jars filling the blackness.
The seal of seasons is a beautiful girl, long flowing hair, a necklace made of sea shells, shes dancing - ankle deep in the foaming ocean, as I approach her - the gypsy dancer, she turns and is gone. "Unto the fleeing sun and then she fled".
Nijinsky Hind and the Pilgrims Tale are both uplifting songs, musical 'e's . I am among people who love one another, radiant happy faces, more beautiful girls (well its my own private world!) dancing children, the sun in a clear blue sky wears a smile. There are no lows here, just high after high. Songs so familliar to me they are etched into my DNA. Evenings of Damask, Iscariot, Mysty Coast I could go on.
Every line in every song conjours up such a powerful image. I can't think of any other artist that has written words so meaningless to so many yet means so much to "the chosen few". Fairy lights in her eyes tame the waters" - "Daubed in doom in his tongue tombed room" - "A box of doves I place beside you chest" - "You gashed the heart of my heart like a Portugese witch" - it's a language I understand.
Angels abound as I kissing the ground thrilled to be around.
=== Review by Dan-D ===Hey Tillers, back in 1978 I had just finished my first year of living on my own as a hermit after dropping out of university. This was a time in my life when I had just about given up on the rat race and was going through my hippy recluse phase. I lived alone in a small cottage on the corner of a horse ranch out in the country and worked the solitary janitor night shift at a local recreation centre.
I hid from the world for a few years during this period but with the help of music I found my inspiration to eventually return to the world of people. I was listening to a lot of acoustic bands during this time; musicians like Neil Young, Cat Stevens, Bob Dylan, Harmonium (a band from Quebec Michel may know). I had the domestic T.Rex releases like Electric Warrior and The Slider but imports were very hard to come by where I lived.
About this time I started venturing into the big city (Vancouver) to discover the alternative import record stores. I thought I had found blissful nirvana at these temples of sound. Here I found my first import T.Rex record. A double record of A Beard of Stars and Unicorn. Many a night I played these records out at the ranch with the peace of the wooded fields outside and a crackling fire burning from the fireplace inside.
I must admit that Beard of Stars was my favourite of the two but Unicorn had some gems on it. Chariots of Silk, The Seal of Seasons, Throat of Winter, She was born to be my Unicorn, and, Catblack (the wizard's hat). I loved the slightly tinny acoustic guitar sound of these songs and just the overall oldtime minstral ambience. This record was like nothing I had ever heard in 1978 and it must have been quite radical in 1969. At any rate this record marked a period of rebirth in my life and I am most grateful.
Well, there it is my first humble attempt at a T.Rex review.
=== Review by Michel ===Memory is a tricky friend. I always thought that Unicorn appeared in my life in 1968, but since I joined Till Dawn, I realised it was actually 1969, year of its release.
It was a beautiful summer and my loved one, Louise, was a ballet dancer in the Montreal Metropolitan Ballet Company. And there was this project of a more contemporary dance choreography that she was working on this very summer and this small theatre was the place to hang around for the local artistic 'milieu'. And one Friday, Etienne, one of the dancers' girl friend, was just landing from a trip to London.
She had bought few albums and Unicorn was one of these. During a break, we gathered around the small turn table - as they were rehearsing from records, no tape recorders or cassettes were then available. Etienne had bought the albums without knowing the artists, just because she liked the covers. As they were listening to bits and pieces of Fleetwood Mac and other releases, I was fascinated by this Unicorn cover. Who were those guys? And these poetic titles, Khalil Gibran's books at the back and this June Child name first, then Marc Bolan and Steve Peregrin Took...
When it came to listening to Unicorn, everybody commented about how awful this guy's voice was and how no one could understand anything. Weird Brits. As for me, time had stopped. This was it. This was the music I was waiting for since I had taken birth on this planet. Thanks to the Beatles who had opened my ears, now I was ready for the real thing. My heart was beating fast - I had to have this record. As Etienne was in agreement with everybody else, I asked her if I could bring it home to have a better idea and she agreed. She was so nice she let me have it until it was released in Canada few months later on Blue Thumb. Over the years, I have bought it 4 times in vinyl as I played it so much, and once on CD.
I went to my room right away and put the record on the turn table to finally have a real intimate musical experience. I clearly remember that when Chariots of Silk started once again, I started to cry... It was all true. It was possible, this very music existed for real. I couldn't understand any words but nevertheless, the meanings were reaching my very soul.
For the first time this was a record opening a new door to another world, a world of poetry, fantasy, nothing mundane or materialistic about it. This music was a journey to another time, another dimension. A timeless musical statement it was and still remains to this day. A time when there were no boundaries between dimensions on this planet. I have once written that Marc's voice appeared to be the voice of an elf. Songs from the little people. I really thought then he was a fairy child coming to communicate with us.
Chariots of Silk will always remain the most important song as it was the very first one I have heard. Each time I play it, it is as fresh a memory. By the way, it is Unicorn's 30th anniversary this year... No wonder why I became a member of TILL DAWN, it's still effective.
I won't go over all the songs as I couldn't pick one without mentioning another one as well but I will nevertheless underline the Nijinsky Hind song as it was the only song Louise - the ballet dancer - really liked because of Nijinsky the legendary Russian dancer.
Usually we may not agree on one's favorite song on a particular album, but on Unicorn, I will agree to anyone's choice.
=== Review by Karen ===This has to be my favourite "all time" album, If I had only one album to take into the next millenium this would be it.
It conjures up a certain ritual magic element I can almost see and touch.Each time I hear this album I tend to hear something different I think that varies on the mood you are in at the time, if I've had a bad day or am feeling stressed out once I've played Unicorn I feel a soothing,calming feel come over me, I feel as one with the earth, it does have a certain tranquility to it. You can almost feelyourself being transported into another magical time and place,so far away from life today.
There are some beautiful songs on this album, in fact you could almost be entering into a book of fables and poetry, if you take away the music. i have many favourites on this album I love "she was born to be my unicorn" I love the lyrics on this one and Marcs silky voice, another favourite of mine is"warlord of the royal crocodiles" I love Steves bongos on this track, simply complementing Marc as usual, I for one actually like Steve Peregrin Took I think he was a lot more talented than people seem to realise.
"Evening of Damask" another beautiful song, there really are to many songs on this album that I like, I can't pick a favourite track. I like certain songs for different reasons, I love the dark eery quality of Iscariot, I could almost imagine someone like Siouxsie Sioux doing this track as a cover.
Another favourite track of mine is "Mist coast of Albany" Marc sounds so sweet and soulful on this track.
To sum up Unicorn is quite difficult for me as I'm not very good with words and I know I could never even begin to do it justice, so if I just say I think it's beautiful and I love it very much you'll know what I mean.
Karen(Torchgirl of the marshes)
=== Review by Stewart ===This is the hardest Album review to do for me because it's not the Album it's the way of life to quote someone from the list.
When i first heard it, i thought what is this,from Slider to Unicorn is a Big jump and yet i did listen to it,slowly at first but i found my self listening to it more and more.
What i found was that i listened to it when know one else was around,was it shame,was it been worried about being caught listening to this Hippy Sprit music[as my older Sister called it] sort of a soft lovie type of music.
Can't discribe what it did to me ,but i did love it and would play it thru headphones for hours on end.
Unicorn has alway's been a sort of secret music for me and i don't really know why,mabey when i tried to play it to people they would look to me in some strange look and say "You like this" and i would go back in my shell and put on the headphones again.
I can tell you that i have Never listen to Unicorn in the car or on the deck or just anywhere,it has to be in a dark room with headphones on.
As for the Album well what can i say you have to live it to believe it.Unicorn is another World and i'll go there anytime i can ,just for the escape into Marc's World of Royal Croc's and so on.
I now use this Album as sort of a test to new friend's to see what there really like,most say oh yes it's very nice glad you like it,very few say i don't understand it,but would you tell me about it, it sort of does something for me and those are the friend's i keep.
So as you might guess my circle of close friends is very small and most of them are on the list <G>.
I once played some Marc to a very old Blues player and he said "He know's the blues" and with that i end my review.
Romany Know's Blues,the Blues only start been down, but when they go up it's The Unicorn So Sad, So Happy, So Much of my Life.
=== Review by Pierre ===I have 'Unicorn' playing on my PC while trying to lay into words my feelings upon this lovely record.
The first time I saw it my brother had ordered it from USA and it was on 'Blue thumb' label. That was the first ever record we ordered from foreign. It was still my brother who bought T.Rex records but he was soon to go to different lands and to let me do.
This record has always had a nice, different from others, atmosphere for me. I loved it for ages and still do.
When April started and the turn was on 'Unicorn' I played it again and again in order to find something to write.
One thing I noticed for the first time was the change in the percussions : almost no african bongos on first side but a mix of various ones : maraccas, drumkit, miscelleanous but no bongos.
The second side opens with them in a genuine Tyrannosaurus Rex way, but even on this flip side they still remain sparse.
Piano appears for the first time, and an organ that sounds exactly like the childish 'Bontempi' I had.
Unicorn is Tyrannosaurus Rex's chef d'oeuvre ( masterpiece ). None of the songs are weak and the whole sounds incredibly homogeneous. Catblack being my favorite.
The sound is richer than previously. And basically as far as my musical knowledge allows this music comes from nowhere. I hardly can't find any root or influences to it. This music is Marc's music and no-one's else.
Marc would have his 'heure de gloire' later with a totally different music. Why the periods were so different and why Marc succeeded in both is a total mystery for me.
If I had only one album on an island I'd appreciate this one without nether boring, though I would desperatly miss some others. During last month I easily listened to it 15 times.
=== Review by Pierre 2 ===UNICORN - One more time...
OK, I'll try not to repeat myself. I was young and foolish, I was 19 years old in 1969. There was the Beatles then and pop was well established. The main albums had been released: Sgt Peppers and all. But all this music was earthly, human, 'normal'...
So hearing UNICORN for the first time when you're French speaking and living in a small town is like being caught in the middle of the Twilight Zone.
It did... and still does.
* Notice, I've borrowed this style of writing from Simes... he knows. Just read his review of T.Rex (the brown album) - this is not a review, this is "live" from his heart!
=== Review by Melinda ===Well let's start by saying that every song on this Album is superb, nothing lacking anywhere. The things that Marc does with his voice, the instruments are there only to accompany his lovely voice. This music fills your soul with hope, and strokes your psyche with a feathery touch. Every song draws you into the next one and further into that world that we only dream about. Oh and Sverre, I posted mine first.
=== Review by timot ===hi ya again tots
been busy again..sobreing up from the guiness....ho what amber neckter...slurp,you know before i gas on about the review,if ever i was in an acciedent and they tried giving me a blood transfussion ,they will just have to put a 50 - 50 mix of blood n guiness together first <g> me unicorn review
=== Review by Luis ===Tillers,here's my (humble) review on "Unicorn" :
"I WAS BORN TO LISTEN TO UNICORN"
Blow the horn the horn of unicorn the voice of things never heard before or since the voice of marc the mage ridin' chariots of silk from 'pon a hill with the seal of seasons wearin' a wizard's hat (catblack) bringin' stones for avalon or for her the one who was born to be a unicorn like a white star tangled and far tulip that's what you are - he said the boy who was the warlord of the royal crocodiles in the evenings of damask listenin' to the sea beasts betrayed (not) by iscariot transfigured into nijinsky hind as told on a pilgrim's tale told off the misty cost of albany waitin' on a romany soup back on to the ride on a chariot of silk...
=== Review by Alice ===Hello Everyone,
Sorry this is so late, but as I said before I wanted to give the album a few listens before coming to any conclusions on it. So here goes.
Like Carrie , I too was quite confused as I listened on the first run through. I hadn't a clue as to what Marc was singing. I was lucky if I caught a word or two that would help me distinguish one song from another. Thanks to David Do , I have begun on my long journey into decifering the lyrics to the many songs on Unicorn and will one day be able to understand everything being said ( David sent me the lyrics to Unicorn among some other songs from Marc). And because of the hard time I am having understanding the lyrics I am also unclear as to what story Marc is trying to tell us . I can see that by just the song titles alone there is some sort of story or tale Marc is trying to tell . I just don't get it yet. And I am being truly honest in saying that.
I am also not used to the style of music portrayed on Unicorn. I am used to EW or Slider. EW was the first album of Marc's I ever bought and will always be my favourite. I am not saying that I don't like Unicorn, I just am used to the more commercial sounds of EW. I can however say that I have picked out a favourite song on Unicorn...."Catblack". For some reason that song just jumps out and grabs me by the ...balls ( if I had them , I guess it would do just that!) <BFG>! Anyways for now let's just say that I do like the album and I am sure that with time I will grow to love it as much as some of you do. Thankyou so much Stew for giving me the tape of Unicorn. I really do appreciate it.
=== Review by Carrie Ann ===Tillers,
I promised and I do deliver sooner or later. Here after some time, is my review...I am currently listening to the tape that Stew sent to me. My feelings about this tape when I first heard it, was one of confusion. I had never heard the entire thing before, so this was very new to me. I did have a hard time understanding what Marc was saying, but it is clearer now. I can't go song from song, because in my opinion, they all blend together. It's like Marc was telling a story, with the songs being different chapters. From Chariots of Silk to Romany Soup, the songs are beautiful and tell the story of a magical world. I wish I had known this album before, when it first came out, only to get into Marc's head, to understand where he was coming from.
I do have some favourites on this album, I love Pon A Hill, with the little fairy voices...it seems like I'm listening to a private conversation between two elves. I also love Cat Black (Wizards Hat)...no reason, just like it. The whole album is a work of art, I can almost "see" the music, if you know what I mean. Marc painted pictures with his words...almost like a painter with his brushes and paints. Takes me to a whole other plane of being...
here it is...hope you enjoy it...
Carrie Ann...two penny princess...bubba bubba boo boo...
=== Review by Nathan ===I've spent a few days thinking about this album after having listened to it with the girls the other day.. and one thing I can say for sure right offhand is that it now has a special place in my heart. I will admit that when I first heard it I wasn't sure what to think of it as I'm more rockin' kind of guy where my musical tastes run.
This was NOT my first introduction to Marc.. that position was taken by Electric Warrior that to this day is a real fave.. as Unicorn was one of my later purchases . In fact the client I spoke of that actually was responsible for turning me on to T.Rex didn't even have UNICORN in their colection. I stumbled upon this one all by my lonesome one day .
Anyways, the first time I heard it I hate to say it, but I was disappointed in that it was in no way similar to either The Slider or Electric Warrior or even Tanx as those were the only things I had by them at that time. I never bothered to take a closer look at the thing.. just saw it was by T.Rex/Marc and grabbed it to take home for a listen. After that first time I listened to it only a few more times and then put it away ...not to be taken out again until I searched it out for this review.
I played it the other day a few times while the girls and I were working in the kitchen .. baking up a storm and I noticed it almost immediately created a serene atmosphere. I couldn't believe how peaceful everything became and it made my time with the girls that much more special. Even Vanessa & Jen both commented on how "magical and mystical" things sounded. Jen even said she felt like she was in another place .. that the music was so soothing . I had to totally agree with her. This album really helped me connect with both an inner peace and with my girls in a way that I will never forget and hope to achieve often.
It was a universal choice in us saying we all thought "Catblack" was our favorite song off of UNICORN. I'm not really sure why, but it was the one we all chose.
I would just like to say .. many Tanx to Marc for helping me already become closer to my girls and I am so glad that he left behind so much great music..
Looking forward to participating in the next review!
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