Various Artists

Top of the Pops, Vol. 33

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From late summer 1973, Top of the Pops, Vol. 33 is another of those albums that really doesn't put a foot wrong, even if it doesn't always get everything right. A turbulent version of David Essex's "Rock On," the song that would launch the young actor into one of the decade's most enduring singing careers, concentrates not on Essex's own highly honed musical skills, but on the effects (some say gimmick)-laden vocal which was the song's most immediate calling card. Contrarily, Barry Blue's "Dancin' (On a Saturday Night)" is reiterated with such gusto that the original record's own multitudinous gimmicks are utterly subverted by a new musicality -- and reminds us that, at the time, veteran producer/studio musician Blue really did seem a better long term bet than the good looking guy from Godspell. In typical Top of the Pops style, two of the most immaculately produced records of the season, 10cc's "The Dean and I" and Wizzard's "Angel Fingers," are reiterated with glittering panache, and the Rolling Stones' "Angie" aches as softly and heartbreakingly as the original ever did -- the Top of the Pops team never truly came to grips with Mick Jagger's occasionally yowling vocal, but here they don't even try. The performance stands out accordingly. Rod Stewart's "Oh No! Not My Baby," too, works more as an interpretation than a facsimile, ensuring that fully one half of this album bears repeated listens. The rest, while by no means disposable, nevertheless founders on the slim pickings left by the songs themselves. Even avowed fans of the guilty parties are unlikely to rate "Skywriter" (the Jackson Five), "Young Love" (Donny Osmond), and "Ooh Baby" (Gilbert O'Sullivan) among their heroes' finest moments, and the versions here skid by with no more or less élan than their makers' own. But then you reach a remake of Bobby Pickett's "Monster Mash" that makes the original sound positively Satanic and everything is suddenly forgiven. How can you hate any record that leaves you laughing this hard?

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