Various Artists

Top of the Pops, Vol. 67

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Top of the Pops, Vol. 67 is one of those classic volumes that comes along every once in a while -- not, perhaps, promising much when you glance at the track listing, but winding up a flawless thematic snapshot of a moment in time all the same. The summer of 1978 is largely remembered for John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John's domination of the U.K. chart, courtesy the barrage of highlights that ricocheted off the soundtrack to Grease -- and, yes, "You're the One That I Want" is here. If you want to talk sterling pop moments, though, the Motors' rocketing "Airport," South African rockers Clout's classy "Substitute," and Marshall-Hain's positively incandescent "Dancing in the City" all spiral out of the bit of your brain that is reserved for songs you'd completely forgotten, with clever covers that ape the originals with xerox precision. The Boomtown Rats' speeding Kraftwerk-ian "Like Clockwork" and Showaddywaddy's hygiene-conscious "A Little Bit of Soap" are less pristine, but they, too, offer entertaining alternates to the original visions. There are a couple of dodgy moments -- following Vol. 65's atrocious assault on "Wuthering Heights," Kate Bush comes in for further abuse via a reedy cover of "The Man With the Child in His Eyes." And what can you say about the Smurfs' "Smurf Song" that can convey the true horror of those nauseating blue Belgian goblins? But, delightedly bucking the standard line that all the later Top of the Pops albums are barely worth a second glance, Vol. 67 is, in fact, one of the series' finest.

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