Various Artists

Top of the Pops, Vol. 24

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"It's almost four years to the day since we introduced the Top of the Pops series to the world and, thanks to you all, we have gone from strength to strength...." So proclaim the liner notes on the back cover of the 24th volume, and you're all invited to the party: "As a birthday present from us to you, we have made an extra special effort to make this album the greatest yet." And they very nearly pulled it off. Of course, even the best Top of the Pops album is only as strong as the charts that it's based upon, but those who deny that June 1972 was one of the hottest months in pop terms for years clearly had their ears clogged by way too much hot wax. "Metal Guru," "Rocket Man," "What's Your Name," "Little Willy" -- glam was glimmering all over the show, and no one had even heard of Gary Glitter yet. It was going to be a simmering summer for sure. Artist by artist, the performances wipe the floor with previous Top of the Pops attempts to cover them. They've finally got Marc Bolan down all but pat, the Sweet's Brian Connolly no longer sounds like an effeminate bricklayer, and, if Mick Jagger (across a rollicking "Tumbling Dice") sounds like a man whose lips are too large for his own mouth, then that just proves how well researched these albums were. The Move's boisterous "California Man," the Kinks' lisping "Supersonic Rocket Ship," and Lindisfarne's lovely "Lady Eleanor," too, explode with sensational verisimilitude, with the latter capturing more of the original song's incipient menace than Lindisfarne itself would muster over successive re-recordings. But the most telling moment comes when you turn to the version of the Moody Blues' "Isn't Life Strange" and marvel how the Moodys themselves ever managed to spend months at a time working on a single song. The Top of the Pops team banged its version out in an evening and, note for note, the comparison is chilling.

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