Even as I dug through a disorganized assortment of crates in search of my copy of Rock 80, another auditory artifact from a bygone era was making its way from someone’s damp basement to my front porch.
The album was Right On, a 1976 release that represents the apotheosis of K-Tel’s midlist compilations during the Me Decade.
By the middle of Seventies, the label’s formula of “matter-of-fact title plus nondescript cover” had begun to drift towards more conceptual territory. These were lean times — the infancy of our unending cycle of diminishing returns — and survival meant sprouting a set of brand-establishing plumage. Offering value for money wasn’t enough. There had to be certain intangible quality capable of baiting the value-added hook.
In K-Tel’s case, that meant presenting a compelling package which evoked the most ephemeral aspects of the zeitgeist. In Right On‘s case, that meant a reheated bit of hep slang and a midriff-baring mascot flashing consumers a come-hither thumbs up.
Here’s the track list:
A1 Thin Lizzy – The Boys Are Back In Town
A2 Heart – Magic Man
A3 Firefall – You Are The Woman
A4 Electric Light Orchestra – Strange Magic
A5 Barry De Vorzon & Perry Botkin Jr. – Nadia’s Theme
A6 Manhattans – Kiss And Say Goodbye
A7 Bay City Rollers – Saturday Night
A8 The Miracles - Love Machine (Part 1)
A9 Diana Ross – Love Hangover
A10 Lou Rawls – You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine
B1 Elton John – Daniel
B2 Commodores – Just To Be Close To You
B3 Paul Anka & Odia Coates – One Man Woman, One Woman Man
B4 ABBA - I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do
B5 Norman Connors – You Are My Starship
B6 War – The Cisco Kid
B7 Eric Carmen – All By Myself
B8 Pilot – Magic
B9 Flash Cadillac & The Continental Kids – Did You Boogie (With Your Baby)
B10 Brick – Dazz
While K-Tel’s marketing angle underwent some slight revisions, the production side of things continued to emphasize quantity over quality. In order to cram twenty tracks (from one of the most bloated eras for pop ditty runtimes) onto a single platter, drastic edits were made. Only two cuts — War’s “The Cisco Kid” and Lou Rawls’ “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine” — were allowed to exceed the three-minute mark. The rest were trimmed to hit a 2:45 target, with ELO’s “Strange Magic” shedding over two full minutes from the original LP version.
I approach these collections as full-side exercises in nostalgic-historical mood music, so the edits aren’t as unforgivable for me as they are to more dedicated audiophiles. The only times I tend to notice them are when I step outside speaker range towards the beginning of one song to take a piss and it’s halfway through the following one when I return.
Unlike my previous K-Tel purchases, there was no single track that sealed the deal. The ELO and Thin Lizzy cuts are my favorites of the lot, but I’d just as soon listen to the source material. The ABBA, Rollers, and Miracles jams also rank up there, but as elements of a bigger picture.
Nostalgically, Right On is the soundtrack to some my earliest still-lucid memories — Bicentennial parades and my brother’s birth and my dad’s cherry red Cutlass convertible and getting slammed with both scarlet fever and chicken pox within a month of each other. Historically, it’s fascinating to compare against K-Tel’s early Seventies comps, as you can observe pop’s evolution as a holistic ecology rather than as isolated genre or artist-based strands — soft rock congealing into a distinct entity while funk’s offshoots develop into a foundation of the pre-Fever disco sound.
It’s more interesting in theory than on record, however, and Right On‘s lack of any convincing flow trips it up as compelling listen in its own right. Utterly fascinating but not really worth revisiting — what could be more Seventies than that?
Or to quote Maura during its first spin on the turntable, “The Young and the Restless theme? Really?”