Various Artists

Top of The Pops, Vol. 81

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With the series on its knees, beset on all sides by the kind of compilations that didn't rely on sessionmen to play the hits of the day (the real thing was so much better, of course), Top of the Pops, Vol. 81 is little more than a shadow of the glories that we once came to expect. The traditional cover model is in place, and as pin-up-calendar-glamorous as ever. But a series that once prided itself on taking the trickiest route through the current Top 20 has now been rendered nothing more than a pale reflection of the month's most tedious hits. Summer 1980 was the age of Kate Bush's "Babooshka" and Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart" -- and wouldn't you love to have heard the Top of the Pops attempt that? Instead, it's Odyssey, Leo Sayer, Diana Ross, Olivia Newton-John, E.L.O., and the Gibson Brothers, who dominate, leaving MOR/disco haters with only Dexy's and the Rolling Stones' "Emotional Rescue" to cling to. And neither are executed that well. There is also a truly execrable stab at the Undertones' "Wednesday Week," which takes original vocalist Feargal Sharkey's natural sheep-like tones, and runs them through the slaughterhouse. True acolytes, of course, will argue that, 80 LPs in, one no longer purchases Top of the Pops for the music. You buy them to try and complete the collection, and the last albums in the series are as difficult to find today as the first. Just don't pay too much for this one, okay?

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