Various Artists

Top of the Pops: Best of 1974

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Following in the footsteps of the previous year's issue, Top of the Pops: Best of 1974 concentrated solely on the Top of the Pops team's renditions of number one hits, rounding up 14 of the 21 45s that had topped the British chart over the past 12 months. It's an eclectic sampling, ranging from the soft singalongs of the New Seekers' "You Won't Find Another Fool Like Me" and John Denver's "Annie's Song" through the glamourama of Mud ("Tiger Feet") and the Rubettes ("Sugar Baby Love") and on to those baffling anomalies that the U.K. public habitually thrusts to the top without any word of warning whatsoever: Euro-crooner Charles Aznavour's "She," reggae star Ken Boothe's skankified take on Bread's "Everything I Own," and Terry Jacks' deliciously maudlin assault on Jacques Brel's "Seasons in the Sun." Seven volumes of Top of the Pops had passed by during 1974 (volumes 36 through 42) and the team had by now got their duties down to a fine art, and despite that, recorded at a breakneck pace that would mortify the studio-bound dinosaurs of more conventional musical pastures. Producer Bruce Baxter convened the sessions on a Friday, then delivered the finished LP the following Wednesday and the joy of these albums (and Top of the Pops: Best of 1974 is one of the finest examples of them all) is the consummate skill with which some decidedly tricky records aren't simply replicated, they are occasionally improved. The Top of the Pops version of "Tiger Feet" brags a positively maniacal guitar that makes the original sound almost anemic by comparison, while "Kung Fu Fighting" brags a swampy bassline and a post-Shaft guitar line that makes more sense on the dancefloor than Carl Douglas' own version ever did. If you only want to own one Top of the Pops CD, Top of the Pops: Best of 1974 might well be the best place to start. (You can always buy the others later.)

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