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A Whole Zinc of Finches

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Album Review

Five discs' worth of largely unreleased music, a DVD of super-rare concert footage, a nine-song excerpt from DJ John Peel's last-ever broadcast for pirate Radio London, and the chance to hear what Tyrannosaurus Rex was doing during Woodstock weekend — all that and more recommends A Whole Zinc of Finches to the world and, if the contents may be a little arcane for all but the most dedicated collector, still it's impossible to overstate their importance. The Peel broadcast opens the box, excerpting the DJ's all-night show by isolating Marc Bolan's own contributions to the proceedings, with Peel's own intros and outros intact. From there we move into a solid 24 songs' worth of demos and works in progress, painstakingly avoiding any duplication with the bonus-stacked reissues of the band's own albums, but still serving up some magical performances. Two discs' worth of live recordings follow, the first highlighting shows at the London Lyceum and Queen Elizabeth Hall in early 1969 (the only portion of the package to have seen prior release), the second from the Cafe au Go Go in New York, in August of the same year. The sound quality is shaky throughout, and one awaits the day a recording surfaces that matches the magic being enacted on-stage. But you can hear enough to know you want more, and historical documents must be taken as they're found. The final CD digs into Tyrannosaurus Rex's transition into the electric T. Rex, via the sessions Bolan convened beneath the pseudonym Dib Cochran & the Earwigs, before the DVD rounds up positively every known fragment of unreleased footage to capture the band in the days before they were on TV every week. Again, it's not pristine quality, but it wouldn't be so precious if it were. Finally, a fat booklet rounds up all the facts, figures, and background, to complete the kind of box set that even the bootleggers could only dream of. A lot of archive projects are described as treasure troves, but A Whole Zinc of Finches really is.

A Whole Zinc of Finches, Tyrannosaurus Rex
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