From cross-legged cult to major pop star in three years. The first five albums, plus outtakes and alternate versions

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Marc Bolan was reinventing himself from the moment he pranced out of the womb. As adept at the chameleon bit as Bowie ever was, he worked his way from bedroom mirror rocker to milkbar male model to Anglo beatnik to mod face when he was barely in his teens. From 1968 to 1970, the period covered by these five albums, he was the underground’s resident pixie minstrel.

The first Tyrannosaurus Rex album was recorded quickly with minimal overdubs, and it shows. But behind the rudimentary strumming and vibrato bleats lies a rare gift, already evident in “Knight” and “Chateau In Virginia Waters” for alchemising unearthly melodies out of root chord patterns. Prophets, Seers And Sages, released just three months after the debut, is more of the same, only with better titles. Who among the long-haired questers and fey young Middle Earth dwellers could resist songs called “Trelawney Lawns”, “Juniper Suction” and “Scenes Of Dynasty”? Producer Tony Visconti swelled up 1969’s “Unicorn” with a Spectoresque ‘trellis of sound’ as rendered on gongs, bells, myriad junk-shop arcana and a