Various Artists

Top of the Pops, Vol. 15

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Dominating the first months of 1971, George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord" is one of those songs that one cannot praise too highly, a deeply personal and simplistically beautiful mantra that, no matter what fans of the Chiffons might say, was quite unlike any other pop song of the age. So it is with considerable surprise that listeners discover that the Top of the Pops cover version -- knocked off in an evening by a bunch of jobbing sessionmen, of course -- didn't simply recapture all the spirituality with which Harrison's original bubbles, it possessed a freshness that few subsequent covers of the song have even begun to perceive. Perhaps it was the speed with which it was recorded, or maybe it was the total lack of precocity and pretension that hallmarked the session, but in the annals of all solo Beatles covers, this is one "My Sweet Lord" that really is sweet. The other big British hit of the season was Mungo Jerry's "Baby Jump," and here, too, the lascivious buoyancy of the original is effortlessly recaptured -- so much so that when the Top of the Pops team's attention turned toward the Mixtures' "Pushbike Song," a brazen attempt to emulate that same band's pumping jug band mayhem, they wound up sounding more like Mungo Jerry than the Mixtures themselves ever would. And the Equals' "Black Skin Blue Eyed Boys" is such a phenomenal record that it would be impossible to spoil it. The remainder of volume 15, however, is somewhat less inspiring, as the team tries, but fails, to get to serious grip on the lackluster fodder that was marching chartwards at the time. "Sunny Honey Girl," "She's a Lady," and "Candida" all drift by with little more than AOR pleasantness, while a stab at the young Elton John's "Your Song" is no more convincing than some of John's own work on one of Top of the Pops' rival series. But if you really want to plumb the depths, a version of comedian Clive Dunn's "Grandad" not only re-creates the original's built-in cringe factor, it actually exceeds it, ladling on so much honey that any dignity that there might be in old age is stripped away with the ferocity of a swarm of killer bees.