Various Artists

Top of the Pops, Vol. 19

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Dating from early fall 1971, Top of the Pops, Vol. 19 ushers in the now-imminent glam rock age with a cover model whose star-studded hit pants and body-hugging necklace are as much a part of period imagery as any musical happening -- which is just as well, as the album itself couldn't be less glammy if it tried. T. Rex and Slade were between hits; the rest of the pack were still awaiting their first. So, for one final season of non-genre-bound freedom, the U.K. charts danced to a myriad of different drums. From prog rockers Curved Air ("Back Street Luv," a wonderful record replayed here with vigor, if not veracity) to the reggae lite reinvention of the Pioneers' "Let Your Yeah Be Yeah"; from George Harrison's heartfelt "Bangla Desh" to Paul McCartney's "Back Seat of My Car" (a surprise under-performer in British chart terms), Top of the Pops, Vol. 19 is an album you can simply put on and enjoy. Nothing hurtles from the grooves with gut-wrenching inaccuracy, not one performance makes you want to scrape the needle through the offending grooves, and even such soft pop sickeners as "What Are You Doing Sunday" and "You've Got a Friend" pass by with a minimum of nausea. And when it's good, it's really good. The series' long-standing inability to do justice to great soul numbers is remedied across both "Move on Up" and "I'm Still Waiting," while a version of the Tams' surprise chart-topper "Hey Girl, Don't Bother Me" verges on the sensational, as the harmonies click in all the right places. "Bangla Desh," meanwhile, retains all the pathos and passion of Harrison's original and, though rhyming "such a mess" with "Bangla-Desh" was not a milestone in Beatlesque poetry, still the intentions behind the song remain salient, no matter who is conveying the message.

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