Various Artists

Top Gear: The Ultimate Driving Experience

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Harking back to the days of homemade mixtapes, BBC's television program Top Gear released its own version of a road-trip album in a two-disc, 38-song compilation they call The Ultimate Driving Experience. According to the label, Family Recordings, the first disc is a selection of "recent" hits (though if the Stone Roses song "Love Spreads" from their 1994 album, Second Coming, really qualifies as recent is debatable), while the second focuses more on atmosphere (aka electronica, techno, and house music). What this basically means is that there is a disc for day and then one for night, though, perhaps because of the incessant rain in Britain and the lack of sun in the winter months, there are some songs on the first that seem to better apply to low-light situations (DJ Shadow's "You Can't Go Home Again," UNKLE's "Panic Attack," and Snow Patrol's "Run," for example). That being said, all the tracks do possess the absolutely most essential characteristic needed for the road: a simple, repetitive hook or chorus to which one can easily sing along or tap the steering wheel. Everything else is just secondary. Encouraging movement, either lyrically or rhythmically, is also a big plus, as is seen in "Somewhere Else" by Razorlight, "Somewhere Only We Know" by Keane, or "Oh" by Underworld. There aren't a lot of great American open-road songs here (anything by the Allman Brothers for example, or even Kings of Leon), but to be fair, this is a British album and reflects British society/driving conditions and should be treated as such. Ignoring the two movie theme songs ("Any Other Name" from American Beauty and Adagio for Strings from Platoon), which are gentle enough to put any tired driver to sleep, The Ultimate Driving Experience can be comfortably slid up in the sun visor disc holder, right next to that "Summer '98 Road-Trip" CD-R.

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