Various Artists

Top of the Pops, Vol. 14

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Although he had helped out on earlier editions, Top of the Pops, Vol. 14 marked producer Bruce Baxter's first album in complete control of the proceedings, and what a masterpiece it turned out to be. Of course, he was assisted by a positively sparkling selection of songs -- after a fallow few months beforehand, the last weeks of 1970 saw the British chart riven by some absolutely stunning hit records, not least of all the recently deceased Jimi Hendrix's "Voodoo Chile." Featuring Miller Anderson/Kenny Young sideman Bob Falloon, a guitar frenzy that first saw the light of day on Hendrix's landmark Electric Ladyland album is miraculously recrafted on a Fender Telecaster with standard gauge strings and zero sustain; in other words, nothing close to the tools Hendrix utilized at his own session. Yet still it emerges a seething mass that puts most recognized Hendrix impersonators to shame. The first glimmerings of the glam rock explosion of the next few years are painted by a game attempt on T. Rex's "Ride a White Swan" -- the vocals are weak, but the spirit is strong, while versions of Status Quo's proto-blues "In My Chair" and Joni Mitchell's "Woodstock," a U.K. number one for former Fairport Convention vocalist Ian Matthews' Matthews Southern Comfort, could both pass as reasonable reinterpretations rather than simple re-creations. Indeed, of the "classic" rockers revamped for volume 14, only Dave Edmunds' "I Hear You Knocking" falls at all flat, by virtue of a vocalist who echoes the original's ad-libs without sounding too certain precisely what he's ad-libbing about. And buoyed by such gems, even the lesser songs covered on the album -- "Julie Do Ya Love Me," "Cracklin' Rosie," "Home Lovin' Man" -- take on a vibrant cache of their own, establishing with this one album a benchmark that future editions of Top of the Pops could not help but aspire toward.