Various Artists

Top of the Pops, Vol. 3 [Hallmark]

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The final Top of the Pops album of the series' first year maintains the ambitious step forward debuted on its predecessor. Of course the scope of the U.K. charts of the day limited precisely how much ambition could be squeezed onto the wax, but a gathering that ranges from Fleetwood Mac's ethereal "Albatross" to the theme from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, from Donovan's so po-faced saga of "Atlantis" to the Scaffold's daft but ever-so-catchy "Lily the Pink," could not help but draw out some remarkable performances. Whoever the guitarist is on "Albatross" (of course there are no musician credits on the album) was certainly wasted if covers were all he ever cut, while the gently lilting vocalist who does Donovan so daintily surely had ambitions in the lightweight singer/songwriter vein that was so big on the underground at the end of the '60s. He sounds like one puff of wind could have blown him away -- give him a record deal now. Of course there are several performances that do not bear replaying -- anybody who thought Marmalade's hit version of the Beatles' "Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da" represented a new low in Fab Four covers (as if the original was much better) will certainly curdle at the very thought of the Top of the Pops team's overenthusiastic bash, while attempts to get soulful ("For Once in My Life," "Son of a Preacher Man") are contrarily dispirited and dead. But Hair's showstopping "Ain't Got No - I Got Life" is rambunctious and joyful, and "Build Me Up Buttercup" has a free and easy charm to it, all of which renders Top of the Pops, Vol. 3 among the very best of the series' earliest volumes.

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