Various Artists

Top of the Pops: Best of 1984

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Although the Top of the Pops series of albums officially ended in 1981, after 91 volumes and 13 more Best Of collections, there was one attempt made at relaunching the series, in late 1984. Retaining all the values for which the series was originally renowned, including a retail price set at around a quarter of a "real" LP and an eye-popping selection of the year's biggest hits, further saleability was added by persuading the young Samantha Fox -- then at the peak of her newspaper modeling career -- to pose for the cover photo. The venture failed, for precisely the same reasons as the earlier series ended: In a market already awash with original artist hit compilations, who needed to hear anonymous session musicians playing the same songs? Move past such inevitable criticism, however, and Best of 1984 is actually a fine effort. Two Frankie Goes to Hollywood numbers are let down only by the weediness of the vocals -- but that's always been the case with these albums. Move into the less readily recognizable territory of one-hit wonders (Black Lace's "Agadoo," the theme from Ghostbusters) or such soulless soul warblings as "Joanna," "Hello," and "I Just Called to Say I Love You," and the Top of the Pops renditions are no more disgraceful than any other of the multitude of covers those sort of songs inevitably attract. Three Wham! numbers, too, are delivered with all the effervescence and élan that hallmarked the duo's finest hours, with "Careless Whisper" an especially impressive interpretation. But, again, who needs covers when the real things are just as affordable? Despite sleeve notes that trumpet "we're back -- by popular demand," reports of Top of the Pops' rebirth were sadly premature -- so much so that, when Hallmark returned to the master tapes in 2000 to reissue the rest of the Best Of compilations, 1984 was overlooked entirely. So, don't wake me up, you've already gone-gone.