Various Artists

Totally Sensational 70's: 1977-1979

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Now that's what you should call music. Rampaging through the EMI vault in search of distinctive U.K. chart hits, Totally Sensational 70's: 1977-1979 is exactly what it says on the sleeve: 18 British hits that straddle the punk rock years, but neither belabor that point, nor belittle it. For every Stranglers, there's a Kate Bush, for every Buzzcocks there's a Gerry Rafferty, and there's a keen eye for all the other musical movements that were bubbling through the country during that tumultuous era -- the roots reggae of Peter Tosh, the incipient ska revival of the Specials, the power pop hopefulness of the Rich Kids and Banned, and even a fond eye cast over the pub rock fall-out. Dr. Feelgood were a shoo-in. But where else are you going to find Sad Café's soaring "Everyday Hurts," or Racing Cars' supremely lovely "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?." Treats spiral out from the most unexpected places. Anyone remembering Mr. Big today probably does so from the point of view of a mere one-hit wonder. But who knew that "Romeo" would sound so timelessly grand today? Banned's neurotic remake of the old garage stomper "Little Girl," too, defies the nearly-30-years that have elapsed since its creation, and Eddy Grant's "Living on the Frontline" is as potent now as it ever was back then. Label-led hits packages can be a dubious prospect, and it's all too easy to pass them over untouched. Let this one be an exception -- pick it up for the two or three tracks you know you need to hear, and then leave it on for the rest. You'll be surprised by how great it all is.

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