Various Artists

Top of the Pops, Vol. 45

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In the so competitive world of Top of the Pops LP collectors, there are a handful of volumes that always set the wallet racing. Volume 14 with its marvelous assault on Jimi Hendrix, Volume 49 with that spine-tingling rendition of "Bohemian Rhapsody," Volume 61 for the Sex Pistols cover, and Volume 45, wherein Kraftwerk's "Autobahn" comes in for the Top of the Pops treatment. "That was very hard [to do]," producer Bruce Baxter told Mojo magazine in 2000. "I did it all myself on an ARP2500 synth. It took the best part of the day." But with vocalist Tony Rivers then executing the Beach Boys-ian chant that chases the electronics along, Top of the Pops was granted one of its most enduring performances, one of those that lifts itself so far above the "quickie cover version" reputation that was the series' normal level, that it redefines it as an art form to gaze upon with awe. In the face of such majesty, it would be easy to accuse the rest of Volume 45 of failing to live up to such standards; how could it, after all? But a superbly arranged cover of Mud's rendition of "Oh Boy" puts the voices in training for the Queen cut to come, and there are more heavenly harmonics to be drawn from "Only Yesterday" and "The Night." One also marvels at the version of Minnie Riperton's "Loving You," which strives so hard to match the crystal-shattering purity of the original that it seems churlish to flinch when the notes go (occasionally) astray. Indeed, in terms of actual musical expertise, this might well be one of the strongest Top of the Pops releases of the mid-'70s, with even the latest Wombles number, the Fred 'n' Ginger parody "Wombling White Tie and Tails" accorded a definite dignity. Sadly, the majority of people who now own this album don't even look twice at such niceties as that. Not when there's that superlative "Autobahn" to drool all over.

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