Come on, come on! It’s rare that this column gets to celebrate a glam rock shot, but a couple of new releases send us spinning all the way back to those halcyon days when boys could be girls and girls could be girlier, and even short people towered over you on eight-inch stack heels.
Classic Hits: A Celebration of Marc and Mickey (Angel Air) is the current lineup of T. Rex’s tribute to the two men without whom none of what they perform would matter one jot. It was more than 10 years ago, back in 1997, that former percussionist Mickey Finn first put together the band, initially to play one of the Marc Bolan tribute concerts being staged that year (the 30th anniversary of Bolan’s death).
Moving onto the concert circuit, and with vocalist Rob Benson doing his best to sound like the original Bopping Elf, this new version of the group marched on until Finn, too, passed away, and that might have been the end of the story. But no! They continued on, and this album celebrates their determination with 15 classic T. Rex songs, performed with all the pizzazz that the music deserves. True, it isn’t the “real” T. Rex — how could it be? But it’s a more than passable imitation, and if you should come across this on your travels, give it a listen. You may be surprised.
There’s more revisited glam on the Glitter Band’s Glitteresque (Angel Air), a jam-packed hits collection that marks the return of John Rossall, a mainstay in the original band, still pounding out that old stomping beat after all these years. All of the Glitter Band’s classic material is revisited, alongside Gary Glitter’s “Rock and Roll,” and though, once again, they’re not the original records as you remember them, it’s a close-run thing.
Angel Air also is responsible for one of the year’s most intelligent box sets, a four-disc Mott the Hoople package, In Performance 1970-1974. True, the four discs are nothing more than a straightforward repackaging of shows that the label has already taken around the block once, rounding up gigs from Croydon in 1970, Stockholm in 1971, Philadelphia in 1972 and Santa Monica in 1974, together with a collection of live cuts and demos taped between 1971-1973. So you may already have them. But if not, the bookshelf-style box is beautifully designed, while the 48-page booklet is also an exhilarating read. The music, of course, speaks for itself.
Mott fans also may want to check out the same label’s repackaging of a Mott collection, The Doc Thomas Group’s The Italian Job. Mick Ralphs, Overend Watts and Dale Griffin, plus future Mott roadie Stan Tippens, power through a blistering set of mid-’60s R&B, while the bonus tracks revisit Watts’ and Griffin’s return to those same pastures when they reconvened another pre-Mott band, The Silence, for a new album in 1990. It’s biting blues through and through and a living history lesson for everyone.
Glam changed a lot of things in the U.K., especially among those artists whose priorities were built around regular appearances in the Top 40. A lot of acts who, just months before, were chart regulars found themselves gasping for air once the tinsel started falling. One who didn’t, one who has weathered every shift in the British market’s taste in pop for 50 years, is Cliff Richard, who does indeed celebrate a half-century at the top this year with a lavish box set designed to count off every single one of them.
They Said It Wouldn’t Last: My 50 Years in Music (EMI) is titled from a line in his first ever hit, the proto Britbeat smash “Move It.” Since then, Richard has established a track record that nobody is likely to truly disturb; other acts might, in the years to come, stay at the top for 50 years or more. But even the various ex-Beatl