Various Artists

Top of the Pops, Vol. 65

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Strange but true -- after 65 albums spread over ten years, the Top of the Pops team had still not come to grips with high-pitched voices. It wasn't as though there was nothing to practice on -- from Sparks to the Stylistics, from Minnie Riperton to the Rubettes (and not forgetting the Bee Gees, of course), the airwaves resonated with sounds that cruel critics complained were audible only to dogs and dolphins. Not once, however, had Top of the Pops enacted a truly passable pastiche of any of them -- so one can only imagine the horror with which all concerned greeted Kate Bush's arrival on the scene, with the glass-shattering crescendos of "Wuthering Heights." But nothing ventured, nothing gained and, though nothing was gained by the ear-piercing shrieks and whistles that relay this tale of Cathy and Heathcliff's ghost, still "Wuthering Heights" must be chalked up among the series' most gallant failures -- all the more so since no one else ever did it better. That aside, Vol. 65 isn't one of the more noteworthy editions. Too many so-so songs are given run-of-the-mill renditions, although Blondie's "Denis" has a beautiful bounce to it, and Nick Lowe's "Breaking Glass" is duplicated with a flash and panache that Lowe himself would surely have relished. One might also be drawn to "Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs," Brian & Michael's chart-topping ode to the painter L.S. Lowry. A soppy song with a brain-squelchingly sweet children's chorus, it nevertheless packs a flat-capped northern English passion that is hard to beat. And talking of regional novelties, "Ally's Tartan Army" replicates the Scottish national soccer team's celebration of its upcoming visit to Argentina for the 1978 World Cup. From that description alone, you can probably deduce it's a terrible song, performed in dreadful voices -- Rule One: Sportsmen Cannot Sing. But it did better than the soccer team itself managed -- simply getting onto this album proves that!

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