Various Artists

Top of the Pops: Best of 1973

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Revisiting the highlights of Top of the Pops, Vol. 29 through volume 35, the traditional end-of-year best-of serves up the most generous helping -- 14 tracks representing all but three of the previous 12 months' U.K. chart-toppers. Of course it's a mixed bag -- any year that can plant the likes of Dawn and Donny Osmond at the top is going to be. But it was also a span that saw Gary Glitter, Slade, and the Sweet make regular assaults on the number one slot, while Suzi Quatro and 10cc also made their presence felt in the most obtrusive manner possible. Indeed, the Top of the Pops team's version of the latter's "Rubber Bullets" rattles along with such self-assured aplomb that it might well have contributed to the original's own run of success -- somewhat farsightedly, the song was originally included on Top of the Pops, Vol. 31 some weeks before it actually reached number one. Wizzard, too, brought out the best in the Top of the Pops-ers -- producer Bruce Baxter was nothing if not absurdly ambitious and the Spector-esque Wall of Sound with which Roy Wood draped his own recordings was like a red rag to a bull. "See My Baby Jive" is as awash with sonic flare as its prototype, with a sax that honks through the mix like a squadron of fighter jets. Elsewhere on the LP, vocalist Stuart Calver fronts a similarly ambitious rendition of the Sweet's "Blockbuster," while at the opposite end of the scale is a full-blooded re-creation of the Simon Park Orchestra's "Eye Level" (the theme from television's Van Der Valk is as stirringly compulsive as the original ever was). Indeed, the only performances that you really need to avoid are the ones that were despicable to begin with -- "Tie a Yellow Ribbon," of course, and "Welcome Home," a hit for television talent-contest winners Peters & Lee. But even that is so laden with soaring strings and celestial choirs that, from a pure production point of view, it's as remarkable as anything else on the record.

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