Various Artists

Top of the Pops, Vol. 41

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Top of the Pops, Vol. 41 is an odd collection in that it seems impossible that so many utterly unmemorable records were considered worthy of attention in an age when every week, it seemed, brought another all-time gem shimmering into view. Who even vaguely recalls "Get Your Love Back," "Down on the Beach Tonight," or "Let's Put It All Together"? Who, that is, aside from the Three Degrees, the Drifters, and the Stylistics, those godfathers of the American soul scene that was taking such an increasingly large bite out of the U.K. chart at that time. It's an album of extremes, as well. Traditionally, Top of the Pops cover versions become a constant cropper when faced with an original hit whose vocalist is, shall we say, idiosyncratic. Rod Stewart's impassioned rasp, Bryan Ferry's bassy warble, David Essex's echo-strewn Cockney, Noddy Holder's raucous bellow, and any falsetto whatsoever, all presented the team's chosen vocalists with insurmountable problems. What, then, were the chances of each of those artists (and two sets of falsettos!) making it onto one single album, and what are the odds of it sounding very lifelike?

Actually, the Roxy Music track works extraordinarily well. The latest member of the Top of the Pops team, singer Bert Meagher, was a Bryan Ferry devotee who had long since learned the art of impersonating his idol. A computer operative by day, this was Meagher's vinyl debut, and the series never needed worry about Roxy again. Ken Boothe's reggaefied version of Bread's "Everything I Own," too, is worthy of more than passing attention. Elsewhere, well, from "Far Far Away" to "Sad Sweet Dreamer," Top of the Pops, Vol. 41 is the sort of album you want to keep at hand to play to your karaoke-mad uncle. If you can prevent even one person from taking "Gonna Make You a Star" to heart, it'll be worth it.

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