Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

 

TOP OF THE POPS LP – Volume 21 SHM 770

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

Top Of The Pops LP Sleeve - Volume 21 Hallmark SHM 770.
  • Year of Release:  1971
  • Unknown

The main benefit of having your latest hit covered by the Top of the Pops team was that it meant an extra payday for both the publishers and composers of the original hit record. Although few would admit it at the time, most artists were more than happy to see their latest hit single appear on any number of budget label cover LPs. This was certainly not the case however for a certain Benny Hill. While Benny was no doubt delighted to see his latest novelty hit ‘Ernie’ clinging to the top of the UK singles chart at the end of the year, giving him the much-coveted Christmas number 1, he was absolutely furious to find a cover version of his song appearing on this particular issue of Top of the Pops. After threatening to sue, Benny was horrified to discover that it was perfectly legal for anybody to record and release cover versions of absolutely any song whatsoever without having to obtain permission from the original composer. Benny was so outraged by this discovery that he vowed never to release another record again.
As it happens, the cover version of ‘Ernie’ that appears on this … Click here to read the rest of this post...

TOP OF THE POPS LP – Volume 27 SHM 805

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

Penny Irving - Top Of The Pops LP Sleeve - Volume 27 Hallmark SHM 805.

Top of the Pops stalwart Tony Rivers would often claim that if any of these LP’s were played at a party, nobody would notice the difference. Personally, I’ve never allowed myself to agree with that statement. To my ears, the aural differences between the two are even more blatant now than they were almost forty years ago when I first discovered these records. However, listening today to this volume’s opener ‘Clair’, I finally find myself (if only for this one particular track) in agreement with Tony’s bold claim. Not only does session singer Ken Gold* provide an impeccable impersonation of Gilbert O’ Sullivan, but the track also clearly demonstrates what an excellent producer Bruce Baxter was. Despite time and budget constraints, Bruce managed to produce a cover version here which I’m convinced would have fooled me and most others had it been played at a disco party in 1972.
This high standard continues on track two with Lee Vanderbilt* delivering a great vocal performance on the Chairmen of the Board hit ‘Elmo James’. Although it’s unlikely that this version would also have fooled me back then, if It had, the game would have … Click here to read the rest of this post...

TOP OF THE POPS LP – Volume 18 SHM 745

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

Top Of The Pops LP Sleeve - Volume 18 Hallmark SHM 745.
  • Year of Release:  1971
  • Cover Girl:  Unknown

Volume 18 turned out to be a milestone LP for the ‘Top of the Pops’ team when, in August 1971, it became the first one in the series to make it to the top of the UK albums chart. This accomplishment was repeated two issues later with Volume 20. It obviously played a pivotal role in the chart compilers’ decision in January 1972 to exclude all budget priced LPs from the chart from that point on.
The album gets off to a fairly good start with TOTP regular Martin Jay* honing his Marc Bolan impersonation skills on a very passable cover (sans saxophonist) of the T.Rex classic ‘Get It On’. This is followed by an awful version of ‘River Deep Mountain High’, on which session singer Jacqui Baxter* and her male counterpart combine to provide an extremely cabaret version of what was already a poor cover version by The Four Tops and The Supremes. Martin Jay* re-emerges on track three with a very inoffensive cover of ‘Me And You And A Dog Named Boo’.
Legendary record producer, Norman Smith, released his first solo single in 1971 as Hurricane Smith. Hurricane had what can only be … Click here to read the rest of this post...

TOP OF THE POPS LP – Volume 64 SHM 998

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

Top Of The Pops LP Sleeve - Volume 64 Hallmark SHM 998.
  • Year of Release:  1978
  • Cover Girl:  Unknown

It was after listening to this particular album in 2005 that my 33 year hatred of these LP’s finally ended. The musicianship is top notch throughout, the vocals are consistently great, and production wise, this has got to be one of the best albums in the series. It’s not as if I love the songs chosen for inclusion on this LP, in fact, some of them I absolutely hate. But I have to admit that if I’m going to judge this album for what it is (a collection of cover versions of big hits of the day) then I would have great difficulty in faulting it.
The album starts off with a bang. Abba’s ‘Take A Chance On Me’ is spot-on, followed by a very convincing performance of Bill Wither’s ‘Lovely Day’. I don’t particularly like the Althea & Donna song ‘Up Town Top Ranking’ but have to concede that it’s covered very well here.
All of the disco tracks sound great, especially if we consider the big production budget afforded the originals. I especially enjoyed the Odyssey and Bee Gees numbers. Even the cheesy attempt at re-creating scenes from Casablanca on ‘As Time Goes … Click here to read the rest of this post...

TOP OF THE POPS LP – Volume 5 CHM 635

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

Top Of The Pops LP Sleeve - Volume 5 Hallmark CHM 635.
  • Release Date:  1969
  • Cover Girl:  Unknown

Volume 5 of this series was issued in the early summer of 1969. The track-listing for this LP presented quite a challenge for the session musicians enrolled to cover the twelve songs chosen for them.
The LP kicks off with a faithful rendering of ‘Get Back’. The band and singers deliver a note perfect copy of The Beatles’ own version. The track is let down though by the producer, who inexplicably sends the rather prominent keyboard licks right to the back of the mix, rendering them almost inaudible.
There are no other obvious errors on the album and all in all it’s difficult to choose a poor cover version on this particular issue. Session singer Danny Street* in particular, really earned his session fee for his contributions to this LP. He proved without a doubt on this album what a talented and versatile vocalist he was. As well as appearing on the throwaway pop of ‘Dick-A-Dum’ and a faithful cover of Paul Simon’s ‘The Boxer’, Danny also turns in a very passable performance of the highly emotional ‘Man Of The World’ along with the two big production numbers on the album, ‘Love Me Tonight’ and ‘My … Click here to read the rest of this post...

TOP OF THE POPS LP – Volume 1 HM 572

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

Top Of The Pops LP Sleeve - Volume 1 Hallmark HM 572.
  • Release Date:  June 1968
  • Cover Girl:  Unknown

So this is where it all began. When this LP was released in June 1968, Easy Listening acts were still enjoying considerable success in the UK single’s chart. It’s no surprise then that the Easy Listening genre is well represented on this album. The first thing that struck me when listening to this LP was that a lot of the keys had been dropped to suit the range of the session singers. I don’t think this practice continued for too long, though I’m not entirely sure. It’s something I’ll be looking out for when I review future issues.
The album gets off to a great start with a rather impressive version of Gary Puckett’s ‘Young Girl.’ It’s followed by a rather disappointing cover of ‘My Name Is Jack.’ the lead vocalist on this track is well respected session singer Roger Cook*. On this occasion though, he comes across rather whiney, and is unable to recreate the warmth of Mike D’Abo’s original. I’m assuming that the very capable crooning on tracks three and four is provided in both cases by the same vocalist. The first track he attempts (Can’t Take My Eyes Off You) is lowered … Click here to read the rest of this post...

TOP OF THE POPS LP – Volume 22 SHM 780

Sunday, November 28th, 2010

Nicola Austin - Top Of The Pops LP Sleeve - Volume 22 Hallmark SHM 780.

This was actually the first Top of the Pops LP that I ever encountered, and it’s for that reason alone that I’ve decided to choose this particular album to get this blog category off the ground. When I first heard this record as a twelve year old in 1972, I absolutely hated it. In fact, it was because of this specific album that I decided I would never want to listen to a ‘Top of the Pops’ LP ever again (click here for the full story).
Listening to it now, 38 years later; I must admit that my denigration at the time was probably a little harsh. This is not the best ‘Top of the Pops’ LP by a long way, but it’s certainly not the worst. Yes, I still cringe when I hear the weedy introduction to ‘Telegram Sam,’ but can now appreciate that the vocalist’s impersonation of Marc Bolan is not too bad at all. I can’t help wondering though, how much effort these session singers put into actually singing the songs, as opposed to concentrating on impersonating the original artists. This LP provides a classic case in … Click here to read the rest of this post...

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