Various Artists

Super Hits of the '70s: Have a Nice Day, Vol. 21

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One of the virtues of this ubiquitous series (which seems to have become, for Rhino, the corporate equivalent of the dance to the death of the hapless girl in The Red Shoes) is that it's usually "safe" -- except in cases of the most egregious drivel, there's nothing on most of these volumes that's going to do you too much harm hearing again. Oh, there are two reminders of how low the bar for acceptably stupid pop crazes was getting -- actually, "Stars Wars Theme/Cantina Band" by Meco isn't that bad a cut, but it does open up a Pandora's box of bad memories of other Star Wars ephemera (including echoes of Saturday Night Live's surreal sketch of a dorky lounge singer rendition of the movie's title theme), and, by skipping over Meri Wilson's "Telephone Man" after the first listen, chances are good you'll come out unharmed but maybe lightened up a bit in mood from the other 11 songs. Sides of the '70s that are good to go ankle deep into include Jay Ferguson's and Exile's respective riff-driven AM anthems "Thunder Island" and "Kiss You All Over"; Dan Hill's sensitive singer/songwriter classic "Sometimes When We Touch"; Warren Zevon's crunchy, tuneful, darkly comical "Werewolves of London" (which was one of the rare non-Stones, non-Byrds tunes ever to rate a cover by the Flamin' Groovies); David Gates' post-Bread MOR film-based hit "Goodbye Girl"; and Bonnie Tyler's raspy-voiced hook-fest "It's a Heartache." Perhaps the most unusual cut on this 12-song CD, however, is Ram Jam's high-wattage update of Leadbelly's "Black Betty," which, along with the use of the latter's music in association with the TV rock showcase Midnight Special, saw to it that the Hudie Ledbetter estate was collecting lots of money (if not a great deal of recognition) in the 1970s (and in the 1990s, when this rendition was remixed and re-released). The sound is excellent and the notes are even funnier than usual.

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