Various Artists

Top of the Pops, Vol. 48

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After a run of several less-than-pleasant offerings, the Top of the Pops series returned to the top of its game with Volume 48, one of the most ambitious and, on the whole, enjoyable issues of the entire year. The peaks, of course, are attained with a deliciously whimsical version of David Bowie's "Space Oddity," a six-year-old reissue that was to give Bowie his first ever British chart-topper. David Essex's "Hold Me Close," too, seems to be played as much for fun as for fidelity -- the original's Cockney chirp is exaggerated to almost hilarious proportions, but the swingalong, singalong melody has never sounded so haunting. Ambition, meanwhile, marks out versions of ABBA's "SOS" and the briefly reformed Simon & Garfunkel's "My Little Town" -- itself one of the finest duets Top of the Pops has ever mustered (the solo Garfunkel's "I Only Have Eyes for You" is here, too). A triumphant take on "Hold Back the Night," a raucous rush through Mud's "L-L-Lucy," and, crowning it all off, a version of "Don't Play Your Rock and Roll to Me" that pinpoints just how desperately Chris Norman wished he sung like Rod Stewart complete the helter-skelter highlights.