Various Artists

Top of the Pops: Best of 1977

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History recalls 1977 as the year of punk rock, and a selective look at the U.K. charts for that year -- with the Adverts, the Sex Pistols, the Stranglers, and the Jam all launching concerted assaults on the Top 20 -- does not distort that notion. Move into the world of the Top of the Pops albums, however, and the barometer swings so far from "Year Zero" that the handful of punk hits that did make it into the regular series are of no more importance than the novelty smashes which consume Anglo temperaments every year. Drawn from Top of the Pops volumes 57 through 63, Top of the Pops: Best of 1977, the series' annual survey of the year's number ones, only amplifies that notion. Although the Sex Pistols' "God Save the Queen" is generally reckoned to have topped the chart during Jubilee week, at the time its triumph was somewhat more contentious -- and, besides, the Top of the Pops team didn't cover it to begin with. (They did attack "Pretty Vacant," but that's another story.) What is here then, are the number ones that didn't advocate the collapse of civilization -- 14 of the year's 17 official chart-toppers and there's not a breath of brimstone in sight. Actually, that's not strictly true. Donna Summer's "I Feel Love" is generally credited -- alongside Iggy Pop's The Idiot and David Bowie's Low -- for kickstarting the entire electro-punk boom of the late '70s, and one can only marvel at how swiftly those lessons were absorbed by Top of the Pops producer Bruce Baxter and his team. The motorik pulse is spot-on and, allied with a veritable battery of other electronic effects, the end result ranks alongside any of the series' other triumphs. Sadly, the remainder of the album is not so hot, although that is certainly a failing of the material as opposed to the performances. With the best will in the world, the Top of the Pops troupe never get to grips with the likes of David Soul, Manhattan Transfer, "Don't Cry for Me Argentina," and, most terrifying of all, the Floaters' "Float On," a song of such withering asininity that not even a hearty appreciation of retro-kitsch can salvage it. Baccara's "Yes Sir, I Can Boogie" and the inevitable brace of ABBA hits do pack a certain joyous je ne sais quoi, and Brotherhood of Man's "Angelo" is at least heart-warmingly dignified. But track after track, the evils so outweigh the good that by the end of the album you are simply wringing your hands in despair. Which is pretty much what 1977 was really like.

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