Various Artists

Top of the Pops, Vol. 39

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Check out the British charts for early summer 1974, and the middle of the road couldn't get any wider. From Gallic crooner Charles Aznavour to Philly soul's Stylistics, from TV talent show winner Stephanie DeSykes to the fuzzy rodent romp of children's faves the Wombles, it was the kind of season that could prompt riots and rebellion from anyone raised to expect pop to be palatable. But who ever would have expected the revolution to start here? Top of the Pops, Vol. 39 is, to put it mildly, spellbinding. OK, so a handful of the bigger baddies still sneak in, but even Aznavour 'as no voice in the face of the Sweet's "Six Teens," Bolan's "Light of Love," Slade's "Bangin' Man," and Mud's magical "Rocket," crazed guitar solo and all. Glam rock may have been on its way out as an all-consuming commercial force (the Bolan 45 was his least successful in years), but you wouldn't know it from the re-creations here -- now it's the originals that sound like less than perfect covers and the Top of the Pops takes that ooze spangle and spark. No detail is overlooked. A version of David Cassidy's blistering in-concert cover of "Please Please Me" is packed with a barrage of hysterical screaming at least as frenzied as that which powers the original, while Wings' "Band on the Run" is recast as the mini pop opera that McCartney's own vision only hinted at, with an arrangement that wouldn't have disgraced 10cc at its peak. This is Top of the Pops at the top of its game -- it really doesn't get any better than this.

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