Marc Bolan fans who find this U.K. release while browsing record shelves should rejoice with a gruff Bolan-esque "Yeah!" An overabundance of T. Rex compilations has tried to capture the full span of the godfather of glam rock's career, with very few succeeding -- 20th Century Boy: The Ultimate Collection being the most likely choice. Greatest Hits could practically be marketed as an extended director's cut of that CD with bonus features. This 40-song set (or 41 if you count a spoken word outro) includes 17 of the songs found on The Ultimate Collection and groups them with alternate singles and B-sides from 1965 to 1977. Not only does this pairing illustrate the simple brilliance of his 15 songs that hit number one or two on the charts -- including "Bang a Gong (Get It On)," "Cosmic Dancer," "Ride a White Swan," "Children of the Revolution," "Telegram Sam," and "Jeepster" -- but it also shows that Bolan was an absolute songwriting machine, with many of his lesser-known grooves sounding just as powerful as his big hits. The one minor problem with this stellar collection is that most newcomers looking for an introduction to Bolan would probably find a few other songs from his biggest '70s albums (T. Rex, Electric Warrior, Tanx, and The Slider) more essential than some of the picks from his earlier folkie Tyrannosaurus Rex days or later pre-disco years. Regardless, this is a strong overview. "Life's a Gas" is a swaying acoustic classic worthy of any collection, and the boisterous rockers "Laser Love" and "Soul of My Suit" show where David Bowie got his inspiration for his "plastic soul" era. Considering that Bowie was both a peer and pupil of Bolan's, most notably in his Ziggy Stardust phase, this could make for a perfect shelf accompaniment to Bowie's stylistically similar anthology, Singles: 1969-1993; subsequently, no one ever quite explained the curly-headed trailblazer's cultural impact better than Bowie himself, when he spoke for the entire glam community in "All the Young Dudes" and sang "Who needs TV when I got T. Rex?" This collection sums up Bolan's discography brilliantly, if not as precisely.
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