Various Artists

Top of the Pops, Vol. 58

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Top of the Pops, Vol. 58 is another of those releases that is, initially, most notable for its production values than for the actual music within. Both Queen and the Electric Light Orchestra are longtime series favorites, as their own high standards drove producer Bruce Baxter towards peaks of his own. No matter how meat-headedly metallic "Tie Your Mother Down" and "Rockaria" might have tried to sound, there was a trickiness beneath the tantrums that he readily sank his teeth into. Elsewhere, Knowing Me, Knowing You" walks the same strained line between ABBA and the Brotherhood of Man that appears to have been Top of the Pops' own commentary on the similarities between the two groups' music (ABBA usually did things first). There's a credible stab at Manhattan Transfer's surprise smash "Chanson D'Amour," that hauls some snappy harmonies out of the bag, while the rock & roll stylisms of Showaddywaddy's "When" at least allow everyone to kit up in figurative drapes and brothel-creepers, and recall a simpler, kinder, age when the biggest star of the age wasn't a singing TV policeman (David Soul's "Going in With My Eyes Open"), and the best newcomers of the season weren't the resurgent Cliff Richard ("My Kinda Life" and Elvis Presley ("Moody Blue". Unfortunately, that's just how things stood in early spring 1977. Never mind, though. Punk rock was just around the corner.

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