Various Artists

Rolling Back the Years: 1974-1975

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As with previous volumes in British budget label Prism Leisure's series Rolling Back the Years, which surveys popular music in two-year increments dating back to 1950, the entry for 1974-1975 is marred by the label's having licensed any old version of each hit song included, rather than the original recording. A disclaimer appears on the back cover in small but readable type: "Some of the tracks featured are live concert performances, or re-recordings made by the soloist or by one or more members of the original group." And so it is. On track after track, a performer re-creates a hit song years later or in a concert setting, with varying results, but never to the satisfaction of a fan of '70s pop who remembers every note of the original. As usual, the selections themselves are a miscellaneous sampling of popular songs of the period. What is unusual in contrast to earlier volumes, however, is the increased emphasis on British as opposed to American hit songs. Previous volumes have been dominated by U.S. songs and performers, but the balance has been changing, and this is the first time that U.K. material dominates. The American disco songs "Get Dancin'," "Rock Your Baby," and "That's the Way (I Like It)" were Top Ten hits on both sides of the Atlantic, but after that the collection leans heavily to Britain. "Billy, Don't Be a Hero" topped the charts for different artists in the two countries, with British hitmakers Paper Lace featured here. Americans will recognize such oldies of the '50s and '60s as "Oh, Boy" and "Bye Bye Baby (Baby, Goodbye)," but not in the British revivals that were hits in the '70s. And the U.K.-only hit songs "I Love You Love Me Love," "Something 'Bout You Baby I Like," "Angel Face," "Motorbikin'," "Play Me Like You Play Your Old Guitar," and "A Glass of Champagne" will be unfamiliar to most U.S. listeners. All that is fine for a disc released in the U.K., of course, but the focus on exclusively British material marks a change in approach for the series.