Various Artists

Top of the Pops, Vol. 60

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In the world of Top of the Pops collectors, there are a handful of volumes that never fail to get the pulse racing. The famous nipple sleeve of 1971 (Vol. 16) is one; the gatefold bondage "best-of" that same Christmas is another. The earliest volumes always fetch a good price when they appear on the market, and a couple of the last editions, too, are scarce enough to prompt a queue of customers. For fans who care only for the music, however, Vol. 60 contains the Holy Grail. "Pretty Vacant" was the Sex Pistols' third British hit, but the first to be deemed appropriate for airplay in that country. It was also the Top of the Pops' series first-ever punk cover, and Tony Rivers happily admits it was not the most painstakingly accurate effort he ever cut. Indeed, when the Pistols' own producer, Chris Thomas, heard it for the first time, Rivers told Mojo magazine, "He was in stitches." And he was probably right to be. Although not for the reasons you might think. But Vol. 60 is by no means a one-man show. A remarkable rumble through ELP's rendition of "Fanfare for the Common Man" might not improve on the original, but is at least comparable, while Donna Summer's "I Feel Love," a synthesized pulse that is now ranked alongside Iggy Pop's The Idiot and David Bowie's Low among the era's most influential electro records, is executed with a motorik throb and icicle excitement that, if anything, is even harder hitting than producer Giorgio Moroder's blueprint. The guitar solo slicing through "Easy" is as effortlessly elastic as the Commodores' prototype, while one can never get enough of the Top of the Pops team's takes on the Boney M catalog. "Ma Baker" is as audacious as any of them. Finally, a distinctly 10cc-flavored version of Alessi's "Oh Lori" emerges among the classiest recordings of the entire year -- a status that the brothers' own rendering never even hinted at. All of which adds up to that most unlikely of artifacts, a Top of the Pops album that isn't only in heavy demand, it's also worth whatever you end up paying for it.

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