Named after an annual power-pop festival in the Los Angeles, Rhino's three-disc Poptopia! Power Pop Classics series attempts to chronicle power pop's evolution from its '70s roots to its '90s incarnation as a cult genre. Power pop, in many ways, is the ultimate cult music: it has a specific sound, a strict songwriting formula, and a small number of classic artists. In other words, it's a genre that lends itself easily to an anthology -- it's possible to feature both the classics and a number of obscure gems on one compact disc. The first volume of Poptopia proves this point, as it skillfully balances the familiar with the relatively unknown. Over the course of 18 tracks, the album features all of the key power-pop bands, from the Raspberries ("Go All the Way") and Big Star ("September Gurls") to Cheap Trick ("Come On, Come On") and 20/20 ("Yellow Pills"). Nearly every artist is represented by one of their big songs, with the notable exception of Badfinger, whose Capitol material wasn't available due to licensing restrictions. As a result, Poptopia! Power Pop Classics of the '70s is a basic primer on the genre, offering every major artist and many of the great songs that provided power pop with its foundation, including Nick Lowe ("Cruel to Be Kind"), the Dwight Twilley Band ("I'm on Fire"), Flamin' Groovies ("Shake Some Action"), Todd Rundgren ("Couldn't I Just Tell You"), the Knack ("Good Girls Don't"), Bram Tchaikovsky ("Girl of My Dreams"), the Shoes ("Too Late"), Pezband ("Baby It's Cold Outside"), the Rubinoos ("I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend"), and the Records ("Starry Eyes"). Any serious power pop fan, and many casual listeners as well, will have everything here, but this is where the curious should start.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine