Various Artists

Top of the Pops, Vol. 63

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A year that brought so many shocks to the system, 1977 ended with perhaps the biggest shock of them all -- Paul McCartney popping up with a one-off song about a tiny Scottish peninsula that promptly became the biggest-selling single in British chart history. "Mull of Kintyre" -- campfire singalong, bagpipe skirl-along, inane lullaby, call it what you will -- dominated the last months of the year as thoroughly as any safety-pinned reprobate from punk rock hell, and reassured an entire nation that, in a world filled with anger, three chords, and a spittoon, there was still room for a nice tune occasionally. Though scarcely able to compete with the sheer idiot joy unleashed by its predecessor, Top of the Pops, Vol. 63 maintains that album's boisterousness with a dynamic selection that swings from the folky swagger of "Floral Dance" to the new wave punch and quirk of "Mary of the Fourth Form" -- opposite ends of the musical spectrum to be sure, but vibrant performances all the same. True, a cracked squawk through the Bee Gees' "How Deep Is Your Love" does few people (and even fewer ears) any favors, and the laid-back approach to Paul Simon's latest hit leaves the singer in serious danger of slip-sliding away as well. But the album still has a rambunctious air that made it a sure-fire hit at the season's Christmas parties -- and made sure that there would be no escape from "Mull of Kintyre" for anyone.

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