Various Artists

Top of the Pops, Vol. 36

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Like the first British charts of the year, the first Top of the Pops album of 1974 gave little hint of the horrors that the remainder of that span had in store. From singing cops to vaudeville revivals, 1974 remains one of the most eccentric years in Top 20 history. But, with the first weeks' release schedules literally creaking beneath the heavy hitters of the age, another vintage year certainly seemed to be looming. Mud's "Tiger Feet" opens the show, an instant U.K. chart-topper that is here performed with at least as much veracity as Mud themselves expended on the rock & roll cover versions that they tried their hands at. Ronnie Lane's first post-Faces hit, the semi-spooky "How Come," passes by with xerox-clear duplicity, while Cozy Powell's Top Three drum solo "Dance With the Devil" isn't simply executed with just as much panache as the original, but the downplaying of the original record's other elements -- Hendrix guitar lift and monkish chorales -- actually heightens the percussive experience even further. Future hit songstress Tina Charles, the latest recruit to the Top of the Pops team, weighs in with a positively convincing Lulu impression, which in turn soars to fresh heights courtesy of a flawless recasting of Bowie's "Man Who Sold the World," while another of Ziggy's offspring, Mick Ronson, finds himself represented as well, courtesy of his solo warbling of Elvis' "Love Me Tender" -- a reminder, incidentally, that the Top of the Pops albums didn't simply reflect the chart of the day. They also had a go at predicting them, and it's a sign of the consummate skill with which the series was compiled that there are very few occasions when they got it wrong. "Love Me Tender," a total flop on release, is one occasion when they did, and, to prove that lightning can strike twice, the inclusion of 10cc's utterly under-performing "Worst Band in the World" offers further proof of the old adage, that even sure-fire hits can sometimes miss. Finally, thanks to Vol. 36 for reminding us all of one of those peculiar little coincidences with which pop history occasionally abounds, as Marc Bolan, the Sweet, and Alice Cooper all chose the precise same moment to unleash hits with the word "teenage" in the title. And, of course, all three of them are here.

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