|First posted 8/6/2020; updated 10/17/2020.|
Charted: 5/27/1978 to 3/24/1979
Sales (in millions): --
Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.)
Total Running Time: 66:00
4.033 out of 5.00 (average of 3 ratings)
Quotable: This is where my obsession with music began.
About the Album:
1979. I was 12 years old. I plunked down my hard-earned allowance at K-mart for the K-Tel compilation High Energy. K-Tel was a Canadian-based company launched in 1962. They specialized in selling products like the Veg-O-Matic and the Miracle Brush via infomercials, but also pioneered the idea of producing compilation albums featuring original hits by the original performers. From their first set in 1966 through the end of the ‘80s, the company put out somewhere around 100 albums.
The album didn’t achieve any kind of landmark status for K-Tel, but it was significant for me as my very first album purchase. On his K-Tel tribute website, Herc proclaims it one of his top 5 K-Tel albums and that nearly a dozen fans told him High Energy was also their first album. HK
I use the term “album” loosely as I bought it in the decidedly unwieldy 8-track format. Sure it allowed for more portability and durability than vinyl, but the listener didn’t have the same control – and there was that loud ka-klunk sound signifying the jump between tracks. Over the years I changed with the formats, accumulating cassettes, CDs, and now some 40,000 digitized songs on my laptop. Of the some 4000 albums I now have in my collection, though, none measures up to the sentimentality of High Energy.
The collection was an odd mix. Side one of the vinyl version consisted of seven top-ten R&B songs, six of which were also top 5 hits on the disco chart, and 4 which hit #1 on the pop chart. HK Andrew Weiss of Armagideon Time said it “had one of the strongest first sides of any K-Tel release, ever.” AT “The one-two electrodance punch of Blondie’s Heart of Glass and Amii Stewart’s spaced-out cover of my favorite Sixties soul track was reason enough to buy a copy. Throwing in the apex disco of I Will Survive plus the party jam combo of Shake Your Groove Thing and Le Freak bumped High Energy into the stratosphere.” AT Three of those songs (“Heart of Glass,” “I Will Survive,” and “Le Freak”) rank in the DMDB’s top 1% of all time.
“The second side was K-tel's usual blend of Top 40 fare with both soft rock and hard rock.” HK Weiss says it was “all over the place…[and] never manages to hit anything close to a sweet spot.” AT Of course, it was precisely the disparity which drew me in. I loved “Heart of Glass” and “Le Freak” as well as Foreigner’s Double Vision and Styx’s Renegade and now I had them all in one package! Four decades later, “Heart of Glass,” “Le Freak,” and “Renegade” still rank in my top 100 songs of all time.
Interestingly, while side one felt like the pinnacle of disco, Weiss considers High Energy “a significant artifact” in the death of the format because it marked “a looming shake-up of the status quo” and the extinction of a “bloated and complacent music industry.” AT “Hard rock, soft rock, easy listening pop, mellow soul, jazz rock — all would stagger into the new decade of diminishing returns and increasingly fractalized formatting and marketing practices.” AT
The album was a mess and it may well have marked the end of an era. It was, however, the beginning for me. More than forty years later, I look around my living room at the jukebox, the chart book sitting on my coffee table, and the photo over my fireplace of my kids playing air guitar. Music has become a pervasive force in my life and I can trace it back to the point when High Energy entered my life.
Confusingly, the same title was used for K-Tel collections later released on cassette and CD which had very different track listings.