Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #31

Day 31 takes us to 31st July 1995 with the Now! compilations.

July 1995
This is how the world looked in July 1995. It was a long hot summer in France for us that year, and so the world looked like a pretty Breton holiday home, and we looked like mid-’90s holidaymakers, surprisingly enough.  Check out the plastic dummy around my neck – this was the ultimate accessory in 1995.  You wore it to class and annoyed the teachers by sucking it all through the lesson.  And yes, I still have it.

Let’s have a listen to the summer hits of that year.

Now! That's What I Call Music #31
Track 1: Wet Wet Wet – Don’t Want To Forgive Me Now

Quite like this tune, until it gets to the annoying chorus.

Track 2: Edwyn Collins – A Girl Like You

Loved it at the time, love it now.  Absolutely classic track with a great atmosphere.

Track 3: Pulp – Common People

The other kids in my primary school class considered this to be ‘my’ song ’cause I was always singing along to it.  Great tune, brilliant lyrics, still love it after all these years.

Track 4: Supergrass – Alright

I’ve always found this one pretty annoying – annoying tune, annoying lyrics, annoying theme, annoying video.  Not a fan.

Track 5: Shaggy – In The Summertime

Reggae-tinged cover of the Mungo Jerry classic with Shaggy rapping over the top.  It’s an interesting cover, and I quite like it.

Track 6: Ini Kamoze – Here Comes The Hotstepper

Oh, it’s this one!  Bit of a sample mishmash, but it’s a classic track – happily nodding along here.

Track 7: Dana Dawson – 3 Is Family

Fairly generic pop track – nothing special here.

Track 8: Jam & Spoon and Plavka – Right In The Night (Fall In Love With Music)

Fantastic Russian-tinged atmospheric dance track.  Really like this one.

Track 9: East 17 – Hold My Body Tight

Irritating chorus – wasn’t keen then, not keen now.  I remember I had a tween girl magazine at the time that showed you how to play this on recorder, which must have been wonderful for parents everywhere.

Track 10: Boyzone – Key To My Life

Loved it then, find it nauseatingly saccharine now.  Strange how that happens!

Track 11: Seal – Kiss From A Rose

This one, on the other hand, I’ve not lost any love for – it’s an absolutely beautiful track.  Gorgeous tune, lovely vocals, just stunning.

Track 12: Kirsty MacColl – Days

We’ve had this already, on Now! 15!  I’m still irritated about this kind of track repetition.

See the link for my review.

Track 13: The Human League – One Man In My Heart

The synth is nice, but the vocals are a little irritating (I’ve never found Susan Sulley and Joanne Catherall to be particularly great singers, and so this female-vocal-led track is a little weak because of it).

Track 14: Portishead – Sour Times

Great atmosphere on this track – really like this one.

Track 15: Oasis – Some Might Say

Great lyrics, though I don’t love the tune as much as I did at the time.

Track 16: Weezer – Buddy Holly

Great track!  This was a favourite in rock clubs a few years later in the early ’00s.

Track 17: Del Amitri – Roll To Me

I find the vocals a bit irritating and cheesy – not a fan of this one.

Track 18: EMF and Reeves & Mortimer – I’m A Believer

Fun, raucous cover of the Monkees song.  Great track.

Track 19: Duran Duran, Grandmaster Melle Mel, Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five – White Lines (Don’t Do It)

Semi-cover of the ’80s original (see Now! #3 post for review of original), featuring the original artists.  Slightly sacreligiously, I prefer it to the original, but then I do love Duran Duran.  Great tune.

Track 20: Jimmy Somerville – Hurt So Good

Reggae-tinged cover of the ’70s song.  Nice feelgood track, quite like this one.

Track 21: Outhere Brothers – Boom Boom Boom

Classic song, great danceable track.  Good stuff.

Track 22: MN8 – I’ve Got A Little Something For You

Oh, it’s this one!  I’ve not heard or thought about this track in a long time.  I do like that vocal hook.

Track 23: Montell Jordan – This Is How We Do It

I’m getting a bit of déja vu here, ’cause the ‘this is how we do it‘ vocal hook is actually really similar to the ‘I’ve got a little something for you‘ hook from the previous song.  I never noticed that at the time, but maybe I would have done if I’d owned Now! #31.

Track 24: D:Ream – Shoot Me With Your Love

‘Not on Spotify’ Type 2: YouTube Pause (TM).

This one’s a bit too repetitive for me.

Track 25: Baby D – (Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime) I Need Your Loving

Chillout dance cover of the Korgis classic.  I’m not hugely keen on this.

Track 26: Jinny – Keep Warm

Generic dance track – nothing exciting about this one.

Track 27: Livin’ Joy – Dreamer

Another one I’ve not thought about in a long time.  Good tune.

Track 28: Whigfield – Think Of You

The tune is a bit repetitive, but it’s got a good beat.

Track 29: Clock – Whoomph! (There It Is)

Liked it at the time, find the vocals pretty irritating now, though that synth line is great.

Track 30: Bobby Brown – Humpin’ Around

Nice intro, but the rest of the track is pretty generic.

Track 31: PJ & Duncan – Stuck On U

Around this time I had a mate who was utterly obsessed with PJ & Duncan (or Ant & Dec, as they became when the Byker Grove producers threatened to sue or whatever it was), so we constantly ended up watching their afternoon TV show (imaginatively titled The Ant & Dec Show) and listening to their album.  Amazingly, I’ve still got a soft spot for their daft songs.  This one actually has quite a good atmosphere.

Track 32: Love City Groove – Love City Groove

‘Not on Spotify’ Type 2: YouTube Pause (TM).

It always annoyed me at the time that the artist title was the same as the song.  I mean, that’s just asking to end up as a one-hit wonder.

Appropriately for today, this was the UK’s Eurovision entry for 1995.  The track itself is not my thing at all – the rap verses are super irritating, and the chorus annoys me just as much as it did at the time.

Track 33: Ladysmith Black Mambazo and China Black – Swing Low Sweet Chariot

Irritatingly, there is what sounds like a sports stadium crowd in the background throughout the track, so I’m guessing this was recorded as the England rugby team song for the Rugby World Cup ’95.  Not keen at all.

Track 34: Soul II Soul – Love Enuff

Pleasant tune, but it’s a bit dull.

Track 35: Junior Vasquez – Get Your Hands Off My Man

Not enough melody for me, but it’s got a good beat.

Track 36: Shiva – Freedom

Overblown vocals, boring tune.  Not keen.

Track 37: Billie Ray Martin – Your Loving Arms

Great electro instrumentals, annoying vocals.  Might try and track down an instrumental version.

Track 38: Deuce – I Need You

Great dance beat, but the tune is a bit dull.

Track 39: JX – Son Of A Gun

Oh, it’s this one!  I like the vocal hook, but it’s a bit repetitive.

Track 40: Hyperlogic – Only Me

That sample of U2’s New Year’s Day is great, and as a dance tune it’s fab, but I could do without those vocals, and the track does get a bit messy in the middle.

Freedom!

My busy work period is finished!  Unfortunately, it’s taking my brain a while to adjust to the fact that I don’t have to be doing ALL THE THINGS RIGHT NOW and so I reckon it’ll be next week before I can properly relax.

It is nice to have a day off for the first time in a month, though!

Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #30

Day 30 takes us to Now! #30, which was released on 10th April 1995.

April 1995
This is how the world looked in April 1995. There seems to be a bit of a theme of photos from halfway up hills and in woods and on beaches lately. Those things have obviously not changed in appearance, but my T-shirt collection has – not sure I could pull off bright yellow these days.

On with the tunes!

Now! That's What I Call Music #30
Track 1: Freak Power – Turn On, Tune In, Cop Out

It’s starting to get to the point with some of these where I’m a bit like ‘oh!  I haven’t even thought about this song for more than twenty years’, and all these incredibly vague memories sort of flash through my mind for a second.  This must be what getting old feels like.

The track is still great – love that tune on the chorus.

Track 2: Janet Jackson – Whoops Now

Slightly ’60s-tinged, jaunty track – another one I haven’t thought about for a long time.  The chorus is a little repetitive, but it’s a nice tune.

Track 3: Boyzone – Love Me For A Reason

Yup, I had this album.  Boyzone showed up just at the right point when Take That were coming to the end of their original run, giving tween girls everywhere a new favourite band.  Pretty much every girl in my primary school class loved this song.

To adult ears, it’s kind of cheesy, and while I’ve never heard the original ’70s version, I’m guessing the cover probably doesn’t add much.

Track 4: Cher, Chrissie Hynde, Neneh Cherry and Eric Clapton – Love Can Build A Bridge

‘Not on Spotify’ Type 2: YouTube Pause (TM).

Absolutely loved this one at the time, still like it now.  It was the Comic Relief song for 1995, back when Comic Relief songs were still good.  Love the tune, really like the way the vocals are shared throughout the song.

Track 5: East 17 – Stay Another Day

This track’s status as the Christmas number one for 1994, its festive bells toward the end, its snowy video and its ubiquity on the music channels during December all mean that this is very firmly considered a Christmas song nowadays, so it feels highly out of place in May.  I’ve always loved it, though, and remember being wowed by it when I first saw it performed on Top of the Pops in late 1994.

Track 6: Mike & The Mechanics – Over My Shoulder

This one was the ‘played all the time on the ferry’ track of summer 1995, so it just takes me straight back to being on a cross-channel voyage.  Great song, love the tune.

Track 7: Jimmy Nail – Crocodile Shoes

Super annoying chorus – never been keen on this one.

Track 8: Scarlet – Independent Love Song

Nice tune, nice atmosphere, but a bit slow, and the chorus is kind of overblown.

Track 9: Simple Minds – She’s A River

Great, epic-sounding rock song.  Really like this one.

Track 10: The Boo Radleys – Wake Up Boo!

I think the tune and theme to this one are pretty annoying, but I still find myself nodding along to it.

Track 11: The Human League – Tell Me When

Good to see the Human League back in the charts, with a great bit of synthpop.  Lovely tune.

Track 12: M People – Sight For Sore Eyes

Great danceable track  – really like this tune.

Track 13: Sting – This Cowboy Song

The instrumentals are nice, but there’s nothing special about the song.

Track 14: Shut Up And Dance – Save It Till The Mourning After

‘Sampling’ of Duran Duran’s Save A Prayer where they’ve just taken the backing track and chorus and added a horrible misplaced rap over the top.  I’m also not sure why, in the title, they’ve changed ‘morning’ to ‘mourning’.

However, no matter how messy the sampling, I love Duran Duran, and Save A Prayer is one of my favourites, so I’m just going to enjoy the sample and ignore everything else.

Track 15: R Kelly – Bump ‘N’ Grind

The vocal gymnastics at the start are pretty anthemic, but once the track gets going it’s messy, dull and irritating, not my cup of tea at all.

Track 16: Eternal – Oh Baby I…

Fairly generic-sounding ballad.  Not keen.

Track 17: Massive Attack and Tracey Thorn – Protection

Too slow for me, and I find the tune pretty dull.

Track 18: Portishead – Glory Box

Great hook, great tune, classic track.

Track 19: Oasis – Whatever

Nice violin instrumentals, awesome tune.  It’s another one I hadn’t thought about for a while.

Track 20: Outhere Brothers – Don’t Stop (Wiggle Wiggle)

This was everywhere in 1995.  It’s actually a really annoying song, but it certainly has a lot of memories attached to it.

Track 21: Alex Party – Don’t Give Me Your Life

Oh, it’s this one!  Another one I’d forgotten about.  Loved it at the time, find that chorus a little annoying nowadays.

Track 22: Strike – U Sure Do

And…oh, it’s this one!  I’ve got a feeling this is going to start happening a lot.  Found the tune annoying at the time, find it quite nice and nostalgic now.

Track 23: Kenny Dope and The Bucketheads – The Bomb! (These Sounds Fall Into My Mind)

Absolute classic – great party tune with an awesome singalong chorus.

Track 24: Nightcrawlers – Push The Feeling On

I find this one pretty repetitive, but I do like the instrumental hooks.

Track 25: Tin Tin Out – Always (Something There To Remind Me)

Electro dance cover of the ’60s classic.  The instrumentals are too messy for my liking, unfortunately.

Track 26: Corona – Baby Baby

Great dance track, great atmosphere – really like this one.

Track 27: Clock – Axel F

Before Crazy Frog ruined the Harold Faltermeyer classic in the ’00s (which I mentioned in my review of the original), Clock had a go at a ’90s cover, which is basically a dance remix of the ’80s track.  I don’t hate it, but nothing beats the purity of the original tune.

Track 28: N-Trance – Set You Free

Absolutely classic dance track – that chorus is epic.

Track 29: JX – You Belong To Me

Ten dance tracks in a row, and we’re most definitely back in the imaginary ’90s nightclub.  This one’s got a nice atmosphere around the vocals, but it’s a bit generic otherwise.

Track 30: Perfecto Allstars – Reach Up (Papa’s Got A Brand New Pigbag)

Cover/sampling/remix (the line is becoming a bit blurred with these dance producers) of the Pigbag song with some messy drums over the top at the start and some irritating dance vocals cutting in thereafter.  Really not keen on all the messing with classic tracks that started happening during this period.

Track 31: Rednex – Cotton Eye Joe

Daft novelty country/linedance/electro dance track.  I loved it at the time, but it’s become super overplayed in the intervening years.

Track 32: Deuce – Call It Love

Great piano intro, great atmosphere.  Really like this one.

Track 33: 2 Unlimited – Here I Go

The tune to the vocals is nice, but it’s pretty generic otherwise.

Track 34: MC Sar & The Real McCoy – Run Away

‘Not on Spotify’ Type 2: YouTube Pause (TM).

Great bassline, great atmosphere.  Good stuff.

Track 35: Nicki French – Total Eclipse Of The Heart

Dance cover of the Bonnie Tyler classic.  The vocals are very far from the original standard, and the dance beat is a bit wishy-washy.  It’s different enough not to be pointless, but it’s pretty poor.

Track 36: Sean Maguire – Suddenly

Irritating tune, irritating vocals.  I remember Smash Hits being obsessed with this guy, but his stuff’s hugely forgettable.

Track 37: Bobby Brown – Two Can Play That Game

I really liked this one at the time, and I still quite like it now – great tune.  Shame it’s by Bobby Brown.

Track 38: Ultimate Kaos – Hoochie Booty

More creepy kiddie vocals about sex from Ultimate Kaos.  Please go away.

Track 39: Pato Banton and Ranking Roger – Bubbling Hot

Like that saxophone in the background, as well as the reggae instrumentals.  Nice jaunty song.

Track 40: Mica Paris – One

Slow, soulful cover of the U2 song.  The vocals are a bit overblown, but I quite like it.

Phone Box Thursday: Chambers Street, Edinburgh

We’ve finally moved away from the Royal Mile (all the way to Chambers Street round the corner!).  I’m sure you’re all relieved.

Red phone boxes
Red phone boxes, Chambers Street, Edinburgh, 25th January 2016.

These ones are very nicely placed, opposite the Central Lending Library.  They’re also very near a bus stop, so you can admire them (or even make a quick old-fashioned phone call if you’re so inclined) while you’re waiting for the bus!

Bonus full-length shot:

Red phone boxes
As above!

Central Edinburgh is a beautiful setting for classic phone boxes (and for everything, really).  Stay tuned for more next week!

Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #29

Day 29, and today’s Now! compilation takes us to 14th November 1994.

November 1994
This is how the world looked in November 1994…that is a giant lie. This was September (we have no pictures that are closer in time), hence why the trees are still green. I imagine we were still wearing those dodgy jumpers into November, though.

Let’s listen to some more mid-’90s tracks.

Now! That's What I Call Music #29
Track 1: Pato Banton, Robin Campbell and Ali Campbell – Baby Come Back

I should find that chorus annoying, but I’ve always really liked this one.  Classic track.

Track 2: Cyndi Lauper – Hey Now (Girls Just Wanna Have Fun)

Slightly odd chant-along track from Cyndi Lauper that reworks her 1984 classic and hence repeats the title.  For about five years after it was released, this was the only Girls Just Wanna Have Fun I was aware of (urgh, ’90s childhood, you embarrass me yet again) and so I was fairly flummoxed any time somebody talked about how great it was.  The 1984 original, of course, is wonderful, and was featured on Now! #2.

Track 3: Big Mountain – Baby, I Love Your Way

Super irritating chorus, super irritating lyrics!  Not a fan of this one.

Track 4: Take That – Sure

I think this was the point that I started being not-quite-as-hugely-keen on Take That.  I’ve never been a huge fan of this song, largely because of that annoying chorus.

Track 5: Michelle Gayle – Sweetness

Does what it says on the tin – saccharine as anything.  Not keen.

Track 6: Whigfield – Saturday Night

An absolute singalong classic with built-in dance moves that are the best thing in the world when you’re nine.  This was the highlight of every school disco for about two years.

Track 7: MC Sar & The Real McCoy – Another Night

‘Not on Spotify’ Type 2: YouTube Pause (TM).

The fanfare at the start is odd, but at least adds a bit of interest.  The track itself is a solid dance track with great electro lines and so-so vocals, which is fairly standard for dance of this era.

Track 8: Corona – The Rhythm Of The Night

Wonderful, classic dance track – love this one.

Track 9: New Order – True Faith ’94

1994 update of the ’80s classic.  Probably my favourite track from one of my favourite bands, and I’m lucky enough to have seen it live (well, half of it – when New Order played T in the Park 2005, the amps cut out during this track and the crowd had to finish the song for them.  Bernard Sumner then made a crack about Scottish sound engineers being stingy with the voltage, which did not go down well).  Beautiful, classic piece of synthpop.

Track 10: Sophie B Hawkins – Right Beside You

Interesting synth jingle at the beginning, then straight into a solid, atmospheric pop track.  Really nice song.

Track 11: Youssou N’Dour and Neneh Cherry – 7 Seconds

Beautiful track – the vocals on this one are just something else, and that atmosphere is amazing.

Track 12: Lisa Loeb & Nine Stories – Stay (I Missed You)

Gorgeous tune, but it’s a little too acoustic-y for my liking.

Track 13: Crash Test Dummies – Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm

As a kid, I always got this one confused with REM’s What’s The Frequency, Kenneth? for some reason.  I think it was because Smash Hits put the lyrics to the two songs opposite each other in the lyrics section.

Anyway, this is a great track with inspired, whimsical lyrics.  I’ve always liked this one.

Track 14: Louis Armstrong – We Have All The Time In The World

’60s classic (and James Bond associated song) back in the charts due to a My Bloody Valentine cover.  Lovely tune.

Track 15: Robert Palmer – Know By Now

A welcome return to the charts for Robert Palmer – this song is a nice upbeat track with awesome spiky synth hooks and a great atmosphere.

Track 16: REM – What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?

As a kid, I always got this one confused with Crash Test Dummies’ Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm…uh, never mind, you’ve heard about that a few songs ago.

Great singalong chorus, good solid track.

Track 17: Oasis – Cigarettes And Alcohol

I liked Oasis a lot more in the ’90s than I do nowadays – their music has not aged well at all – but this is still a good singalong track.

Track 18: The Rolling Stones – Love Is Strong

Good brooding atmosphere, great guitar lines.  Like this one.

Track 19: The Cranberries – Zombie

Beautiful, classic anthem.  Stunning vocals, stunning lyrics, stunning tune, just wonderful.

Fun fact: in 1998, I named my self-published magazine, which I edited and printed out for my friends for about six years, after a misheard lyric from this song.  (If you’re familiar with my teenage media ventures and are wondering just how deaf someone would have to be to mishear ‘in your head’ as ‘in my head’, well, I am that deaf.)

Track 20: East 17 – Around The World

Really nice tune, lovely instrumentals…annoying chorus.  Seriously, I’d forgotten how much that chorus annoyed me.  Oh well.

Track 21: Red Dragon and Brian & Tony Gold – Compliments On Your Kiss

Jaunty instrumentals, mid-century retro feel.  Fun track.

Track 22: Chaka Demus & Pliers – Gal Wine

Nice bouncy reggae track, like the tune.

Track 23: R Kelly – She’s Got That Vibe

Good beat, but the tune is pretty dull and repetitive.

Track 24: The Brand New Heavies – Midnight At The Oasis

Nice lounge-y atmosphere and general retro tinge.  Quite like this one, especially the sax solo.

Track 25: China Black – Stars

‘Not on Spotify’ Type 2: YouTube Pause (TM).

Lovely piano intro, great atmosphere, but boring vocals.

Track 26: Music Relief – What’s Going On

‘Not on Spotify’ Type 2: YouTube Pause (TM).

Charity multi-artist cover of the Marvin Gaye classic.  It’s a bit pointless, but, you know, charity.

Track 27: Céline Dion – The Power Of Love

Pointless ’90s cover of the Jennifer Rush classic.  Nothing added here at all other than an irritating dance-influenced spiky bit on the backing track.

Track 28: Kylie Minogue – Confide In Me

Lovely atmospheric track from Kylie, a bit more grown-up than her previous bubblegum pop stuff.

Track 29: Massive Attack – Sly

Great atmosphere, but the tune is pretty dull, and it’s a bit too slow for me.

Track 30: Eternal – So Good

Irritating drum hooks, irritating vocals, dull tune.  Not keen.

Track 31: Ultimate Kaos – Some Girls

Argh, I’d forgotten about this terrible group!  I’ve mentioned before that I find kiddie vocals pretty creepy, especially with a song as overtly sexual as this one.  Eww!

Track 32: Reel 2 Real and The Mad Stuntman – Can You Feel It?

‘Not on Spotify’ Type 2: YouTube Pause (TM).

Boring, repetitive tune, but it’s got a good, danceable beat.

Track 33: M-Beat and General Levy – Incredible

Not enough melody for me.  Is that ‘Wicket, Wicket’ bit at the start a Return of the Jedi reference?  I’d love it if it were, but somehow I doubt it.

Track 34: Shampoo – Trouble

Classic daft track with silly lyrics and fairly terrible vocals.  Still love it though, mainly due to nostalgia.

Track 35: Blur and Phil Daniels – Parklife

Another wonderful chant-along classic from Blur.  There are not many songs where I know all the words, but this track is one of the privileged few.

Track 36: Erasure – I Love Saturday

I love that Erasure were still bringing the synthpop in the mid-’90s.  This is another great tune.

Track 37: Sparks – When Do I Get To Sing ‘My Way’

I’m a big Sparks fan, and this is a great, atmospheric track with an awesome dance beat.  Lovely stuff.

Track 38: 2wo Third3 – I Want The World

‘Not on Spotify’ Type 2: YouTube Pause (TM).

Great dance track!  Wonderful tune, would be up on that dancefloor in the imaginary ’90s disco right now.

Recipe Wednesday: cheat’s pizza and chips

On the Slimming World plan, if I want to order pizza and potato wedges from Dominos, it costs 60 syns.  That’s a lot of syns to have to save for one meal (not that I don’t still do it occasionally!), given that I only have 105 syns to spend in a given week.  As such, one of the first things I did when I started Slimming World was to work out how I could have a lower-syn alternative.  This is the result.

Cheat's pizza and chips
Cheat’s pizza and chips. To make it properly Slimming World friendly, you should also have a side salad to make sure you’re getting your one-third of speed food, but I must confess I don’t always remember to have the salad.

For the wedges: these are standard Slimming World chips/wedges.  Chop potatoes into the desired shape, spray a baking tray with Fry Light, arrange the wedges on the tray and spray some more Fry Light on top.  Bake at 200°C on the top shelf of the oven for 25 minutes.  Free on the Slimming World plan!

For the pizza: for each person, slice two Schar white ciabatta rolls (use one as a Healthy Extra B, 6 syns for the other) in two lengthways, and place on another baking tray.  Mix together some passata, tomato puree, dried basil and dried oregano for the sauce and spread over each ciabatta half.  Split 50g of grated mozzarella per person (a Healthy Extra A) between the ciabatta halves, then top with chopped tomatoes and chopped olives (1 syn for 8 olives).

Once the wedges have had their 25 minutes in the oven, move them to the bottom shelf, and put the pizzas on the top shelf to bake for another 15 minutes.

Oh yeah, and you should make a side salad to make sure you get your one-third of speed food, of course.

When using all Healthy Extras, this meal is only 7 syns, which is a lot less than 60!

Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #28

Day 28, and we’ve reached 1st August 1994 with the Now! compilations.

August 1994
This is how the world looked in August 1994. Beaches have not changed, and neither has my wardrobe, apparently – the leggings/t-shirt/hightops combo is still my daily go-to. These days it’s because I work from home and rarely leave the house, but back then it was because I was an active girl who did things like building sandcastles.

Let’s get on with those summer hits.

Now! That's What I Call Music #28
Track 1: Wet Wet Wet – Love Is All Around

I remember the long, long summer when this was number one for fifteen weeks (which feels like a long time when you’re nine).  I got so sick of it at the time, but I actually think nowadays that it’s quite a nice cover of the Troggs classic.

Google Image Search is failing me on this one, but the highlight of the whole thing was when Smash Hits did a parody cover from the year 2050 with ‘Wet Wet Wet still number one’ as the headline, four skeletons as the image, and a cover price of £21.50 or something.  Well, I thought it was hilarious at the time.  I’ll have to go through my old Smash Hits collection and see if I can find it.

Track 2: All-4-One – I Swear

In summer 1994, I visited the US for the first time with my family.  I’d never been out of Europe before, and so going to North America was super, super exciting – we’re actually flying over a noticeable bump in the Earth’s surface!  We’re going to see all those places from TV shows!  Then I remembered that America was the place with the guns, and so I had a week-long freakout about OMG WHAT IF I GET SHOT.

Anyway, we went to New England for four weeks, none of us got shot, my dad had a good joke with airport security about how he wouldn’t like to have to stab anyone on the plane with his penknife (they laughed and let him take it in the cabin.  Oh, 20th century, you were a different world!), my mum discovered iced cappuccino, we stayed in actual motels and swam in all the swimming pools, we ate silver dollar pancakes for breakfast at the Tremont House Hotel in Boston, and everywhere we went and everything we did, this song played on the radio, the biggest hit of the summer.

For the rest of the year, whenever we heard it anywhere, the wee bro and I would be all like OMG THIS REMINDS ME OF AMERICAAAA and get slightly emotional.

Uh, anyway, the track.  Lovely tune, great sax solo, precious memories.  Can’t beat it.

Track 3: Ace Of Base – Don’t Turn Around

Interesting tune, great jaunty beat.  Like this one.

Track 4: Aswad – Shine

Great Latin-tinged track, gorgeous tune.  Loved it then, love it now, a longtime favourite.

Track 5: The B-52s – (Meet) The Flintstones

‘Not on Spotify’ Type 2: YouTube Pause (TM).

Novelty cover of the classic TV theme tune, released to tie in with the live-action film.  I thought the film was terrible even when I was nine, but I quite like this version of the song.

Track 6: Let Loose – Crazy For You

Smash Hits had a huge bee in their bonnet around this time about how ‘old’ and ‘decrepit’ Let Loose were.  Hang on a second while I depress myself by googling how old the band members actually were in 1994.

Answer: 24, 26 and 27.  Yeah.

The track is edgier and rockier than I remember, with a slight ’80s throwback vibe about it.  I really like it, actually.

Track 7: D:Ream – U R The Best Thing

We already had this one, on Now! #25, which was only three compilations ago!  Did the Now! compilers think nobody would notice this stuff?

Urgh.  See the link for my review.

Track 8: The Beautiful South – Everybody’s Talkin’

Pretty cover of the ’60s classic – good stuff.

Track 9: Marcella Detroit – I Believe

Nice tune, nice instrumentals, but a bit slow.

Track 10: Pretenders – I’ll Stand By You

I’ve always found the tune on this one annoying, and it’s not hard enough to be a rock ballad favourite.  Not a huge fan.

Track 11: Stiltskin – Inside

The only version on Spotify is a live version, which would normally warrant a YouTube Pause (TM) (I hate live versions of stuff – if I want to hear it live, I’ll go see the band), but I’m a bit pushed for time tonight so I’m being lazy with this one.

That guitar riff is absolutely classic, so I hope they put a real version on Spotify soon so I can add it to my playlist.

Track 12: Blur – Girls And Boys

Classic chant-along Britpop anthem.  Brilliant song from a brilliant album.

Track 13: M People – Renaissance

Great beat, but the tune is pretty repetitive.

Track 14: Eternal – Just A Step From Heaven

Like the atmosphere – this is a nice track when it’s not the slightly irritating chorus.

Track 15: Toni Braxton – Another Sad Love Song

Fairly generic pop ballad.  Not keen on this one.

Track 16: China Black – Searching

Nice jaunty beat, but the tune’s a bit so-so.

Track 17: Dawn Penn – You Don’t Love Me (No, No, No)

Great, classic track – loved it then, love it now.  You can’t not sing along to that chorus.

Track 18: Chaka Demus & Pliers – I Wanna Be Your Man

Annoying vocals, annoying tune.  Not a fan.

Track 19: Erasure – Always

Quality synthpop as ever from Erasure, but due to this song playing on the radio during a bout of carsickness en route to the caravan (I probably wasn’t actually sick, just really nauseous due to reading in the backseat, but those associations are strong), I…still feel sick when I hear it.

Track 20: Seal – Prayer For The Dying

Lovely track from Seal – beautiful atmosphere, beautiful tune.

Track 21: The Grid – Swamp Thing

Like that banjo line – fairly solid dance track.

Track 22: Two Cowboys – Everybody Gonfi Gon

Two slightly country-inspired dance tracks in a row, but it turns out I don’t mind country-inspired so much when the Eurodance is this good.  Great track, wonderful electro instrumentals.

Track 23: MAXX – Get-A-Way

Another great dance track.  I may have to start making a list of requests for the next time I find myself at a ’90s night!

Track 24: Reel 2 Real and The Mad Stuntman – Go On Move

Classic bassline!  The rest of the track’s not really anything special, though.

Track 25: The Prodigy – No Good (Start The Dance)

Not the first track to sample the ’80s classic You’re No Good For Me, but definitely the best.  Classic stuff.

Track 26: Cappella – U And Me

Great atmosphere, great beat, great dance track.  I’d forgotten how good 1994 was for dance!

Track 27: Haddaway – Rock My Heart

Pretty similar to What Is Love, but as that one’s a stone-cold classic I’m not complaining.  Brilliantly danceable stuff.

Track 28: 2 Unlimited – The Real Thing

Another great dance track – how many of these were there at the time?  Love those slightly eerie instrumentals.

Track 29: Sonic Surfers – Don’t Give It Up

I’m starting to feel like I’m in a nightclub.  Was everything a dance track in summer 1994?  Maybe I was so busy hearing Wet Wet Wet and All-4-One everywhere that I just didn’t notice.

This one is…another great dance track, believe it or not!

Track 30: DJ Miko – What’s Up

Irritating dance remix of 4 Non Blondes’ What’s Up (see Now! #25 for my review of the original version).  This is a song that very definitely did not need to be turned into a generic dance track.  Not keen on this treatment.

Track 31: Clubhouse and Carl – Light My Fire

Danceable beat, jauntily camp vocals, atmospheric synth lines – this one’s a lot of fun.

Track 32: Tony Di Bart – The Real Thing

Two tracks with the same name on the same Now! compilation!  I feel like we’re back in the title-inspiration-starved late ’80s again.

This one’s not as good as the identically-named 2 Unlimited song, but it’s still a good dance track, and I’m still on that dancefloor in the imaginary nightclub.  I’m not sure whether that Bee Gees lyric (‘if I can’t have you/I don’t want nobody, baby‘) is homage or theft, though!  (Wikipedia calls it ‘sampling’, but the tune is totally different.)

Track 33: CJ Lewis – Sweets For My Sweet

Annoying chorus alert!  Good dance beat though.

Track 34: Bitty McLean – Dedicated To The One I Love

Feelgood reggae-tinged cover of the ’50s classic.  Nice track.

Track 35: Salt-N-Pepa and En Vogue – Whatta Man

Absolutely classic collaboration, great track with a fabulous singalong chorus.

Track 36: R Kelly – Your Body’s Callin’

Found R Kelly and his penchant for underage girls creepy then, still find him creepy now.  Some things don’t change!

The song’s boring, anyway.

Track 37: The Brand New Heavies – Dream On Dreamer

Oh, it’s this one!  Nice upbeat track, great tune.  Like this song.

Track 38: Juliet Roberts – Caught In The Middle

This one was ALSO already on Now! #25!  I hope they were offering partial refunds to people who’d bought both compilations!

See link for review, yadda yadda.

Track 39: Glo-Worm – Carry Me Home

Irritating lyrics, but the tune and atmosphere are quite nice.

Track 40: Pet Shop Boys – Absolutely Fabulous

More great synthpop from Pet Shop Boys, released to tie in with the TV show.  We always watched the show in our house, so I’ve appreciated this one ever since.

Good intentions

Every time I find myself mired in an all-encompassing work project for a few weeks, I always find myself thinking longingly of all the time I will have when I’m done with said work project.  I will use that time for writing!  All the writing!  I will finish the three incomplete novel drafts I’m working on!  I will get back to submitting all my completed ones to agents!  I will write those three poetry collections, and those two stage plays, and that screenplay, and those two non-fiction pitches, and all the short stories in the world!  I will write and write and write!

Except this never happens.  Oh, sure, I get some writing done when I can squeeze a spare hour here and there, but it always seems like there’s something that’s more of a priority, like sorting out the house, or sleeping in, or catching up with one of my daft projects like my ongoing systematic attempt to watch the video of every single UK chart hit of the 1980s in alphabetical order, or reading online forums, or playing video games, or watching TV so I can clear space on the digibox…you get the idea.

At the moment, I’m not doing any of that stuff.  I’m working twelve-hour days, seven days a week, on a client’s project, and so other than work I am sleeping, eating, running, blogging, keeping myself clean and presentable, and that’s it.  And I suppose it makes me wonder: why am I willing to drop everything in my life for weeks at a time to work for someone else, but not for myself?

(It’s not because the clients pay me better.  I mean, they do, but I’m still clinging onto the hope that one day someone will pay me for my own writing, not just my editing of other people’s work, and I will only achieve that if I work hard at it.)

Next week there will be no writing (other than blogging, which I sort of see as different).  There will be catching up of all the essential stuff I’ve been neglecting for the last few weeks, and there will be getting ahead with stuff in preparation for a busy weekend.  There may, however, be planning of writing, which is a beautiful way to feel like you’re making progress when you’re not.

The week after will be the real test – seeing if I can apply the same discipline to ‘normal’ time as I can to a busy work period.  We’ll see how it goes.

Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #27

Day 27, and today’s Now! compilation was released on 28th March 1994.

March 1994
This is the way the world looked in March 1994. TVs were still box-shaped, walls were still wallpapered, and I was clearly getting to my awkward-looking phase (although I’m going to give myself points for the cute dress, clearly an ’80s hand-me-down from someone).

Let’s see what that TV might have been showing when I switched on Top of the Pops on a Thursday night!

Now! That's What I Call Music #27
Track 1: Ace Of Base – The Sign

Great tune, interesting lines.  Happily chair-dancing along here.

Track 2: Chaka Demus & Pliers, Jack Radics and Taxi Gang – Twist And Shout

Fairly uninspired cover of the ’60s classic – I’d go as far as to call it pointless.  Nothing much added other than some reggae vocals over the top.

Track 3: D:Ream – Things Can Only Get Better

Is there anyone who doesn’t associate this one with its use for the campaign of New Labour in 1997?

In late April 1997, a few days before the election, I went to the Usher Hall in Edinburgh with my family for a Labour Party rally.  Once we’d gawked at the famous politicians hanging about outside (George Robertson!  I’ve seen him on the telly!), we went inside, found our seats and waited for the show to start.  I asked my dad excitedly if maybe D:Ream would come on stage and perform Things Can Only Get Better.

Dad, perhaps not wanting to get my hopes up, shook his head.  ‘Nah,’ he said.  ‘I think they’re a bit too famous to come and do that.’

And for the most part, the rally didn’t feature anyone as famous as D:Ream.  There were a lot of comedians I’d never heard of doing semi-funny sketches, and then the main event was an hour-long speech by Tony Blair that was revered in the press the next day as showing him to be a ‘man of the people’, as he had come out from behind the lectern and put his hands in his pockets, which apparently gave him the air of someone having a chat down the pub.  Ah, 1997 media.  Anyway, the speech captured my twelve-year-old attention for a whole hour, so it can’t have been bad.

What was much better, though, was that as soon as Blair left the stage to rapturous applause, D:Ream bounced on and launched into Things Can Only Get Better.  I grinned at my dad, and my dad grinned at me, and it was one of those awesome moments.  I’ve reminisced about seeing a lot of these Now! tracks played live by the bands, but this was the one I saw first.

Back in 1994, however, there was no political bent to this song – it was just an awesome pop track that I adored watching on Top of the Pops, with Peter Cunnah in his brightly coloured plaid suits.

And skipping forward to the 2010s, it will never stop being hilarious that the keyboardist from D:Ream eventually became Professor Brian Cox.  Not ever.

Right, back to my usual one-line reviews about epic atmospheres, head-nodders and annoying choruses.

Track 4: East 17 – It’s Alright

Speaking of epic atmospheres!  That melancholy piano intro is just stunning.  Then it bangs into a classic dance track with a great chant-along chorus.  Loved it at the time, still love it now.

Track 5: M People – Moving On Up

Nice feelgood tune, great singalong chorus – good stuff.

Track 6: Eternal – Save Our Love

I quite like those bells tolling at the start, but the vocals are too overblown for what is a fairly mediocre tune – which is very typical of mid-’90s pop, I find.

Track 7: Enigma – Return To Innocence

Yup, it’s the overplayed chillout track.  I’ll give it a pass for being used to good effect on Britain’s Got The Pop Factor.

Track 8: Bee Gees – For Whom The Bell Tolls

I normally like the Bee Gees in all their eras, but this one is too slow for me, although the tune is nice.

Track 9: Wendy Moten – Come In Out Of The Rain

It’s everything I dislike in a ballad – slow, saccharine, overblown vocals, zero edge, generic tune.  Don’t like this one at all!

Track 10: Dina Carroll – The Perfect Year

The music channels have defined this one as a Christmas song by featuring it in all their Christmas playlists, so I am most definitely feeling the seasonal dissonance right now.  It’s another slow ballad from Dina Carroll, and I’m still not a fan, even with that sax solo.

Track 11: Phil Collins – Everyday

Nice piano intro, gorgeous tune.  Really like this one.

Track 12: Richard Marx – Now And Forever

Lovely tune, but it’s just far too slow and acoustic-y for me.

Track 13: The Cranberries – Linger

Lovely tune, typically gorgeous vocals from Dolores O’Riordan (RIP 🙁 ).  Geth and I used to play this one a lot when we were DJing our Motherfolker night at Mr Modos circa 2010.  Good times.

Track 14: Tori Amos – Cornflake Girl

Great tune with really interesting piano lines and nice jaunty vocals.  Good stuff.

Track 15: The Beautiful South – Good As Gold (Stupid As Mud)

Nice bouncy tune, quite like this one.

Track 16: Meat Loaf – Rock And Roll Dreams Come Through

One of my favourites!  We had it on a Top Gear compilation, and as a result it’s one of my favourite Meat Loaf songs (and I unashamedly adore Meat Loaf, so there’s stiff competition).  For me, it evokes fast cars driving along cliffside roads in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night.  Wonderful track, especially that epic squealing sax solo.

Track 17: Primal Scream – Rocks

Absolutely classic track – great singalong chorus, great tune.

Track 18: Gin Blossoms – Hey Jealousy

Nice tune, but the chorus annoys me slightly.

Track 19: Smashing Pumpkins – Disarm

Love those bells at the start – well, I love all the instrumentals in this track!  Great epic atmosphere, great song.

Track 20: Doop – Doop

Wonderfully silly novelty song.  I loved watching this one on Top of the Pops because of the girls’ colourful outfits – I’m not sure how many years it was before I realised it wasn’t actually them singing on the track.

Track 21: Right Said Fred – Wonderman

Great synthy dance track, typically silly vocals.  Really like this one.

Track 22: Cappella – Move On Baby

Good solid dance track, nodding along to this right now.

Track 23: Culture Beat – Anything

Nice epic slow synth bit to start, and then it kicks into the interesting vocal melody, and then we have dance track liftoff.  Great track.

Track 24: 2 Unlimited – Let The Beat Control Your Body

2 Unlimited starting to get a bit samey now, although it’s still very danceable.

Track 25: Reel 2 Real and The Mad Stuntman – I Like To Move It

Another lifelong favourite!  I always sing this when I’m impatient for people to hurry up (in my head, obviously, because I’m a coward).  Great hooks, great danceable beat.

Track 26: K7 – Come Baby Come

This one’s a bit repetitive for me, although I do like some of the instrumentals, and the chanting bits.

Track 27: Credit To The Nation – Teenage Sensation

That whistling at the start is super annoying, and the rest of the song is not really anything to write home about.

Track 28: EYC – The Way You Work It

‘Not on Spotify’ Type 2: YouTube Pause (TM).

I remember pretty much every word of EYC’s Smash Hits interviews during this period, especially the one they did about different brands of cola, but I don’t really remember any of their songs.  This one’s okay, though – not a bad piece of pop, if a little generic.

Track 29: Bitty McLean – Here I Stand

‘Not on Spotify’ Type 2: YouTube Pause (TM)

Nice jaunty beat, but the tune’s a bit dull.

Track 30: Deep Forest – Sweet Lullaby

Nice atmosphere, good bit of chillout.  Vocals are awful though.

Track 31: Björk – Violently Happy

Great epic atmosphere as ever from Björk – really like this one.

Track 32: Shara Nelson – Uptight

The tune’s a bit dull, but the beat’s alright for nodding along to.

Track 33: Gabrielle – Because Of You

Good head-nodder, nice tune.

Track 34: Carleen Anderson – Nervous Breakdown

Interesting tune, quite like this track.

Track 35: Juliet Roberts – I Want You

Love that epic intro, great atmosphere, solid dance track.

Track 36: Urban Cookie Collective – Sail Away

Another great dance tune from Urban Cookie Collective – the chorus is a little repetitive, but the beat is great.

Track 37: Degrees Of Motion and Biti – Shine On

Nice beat, but the vocals are a bit much for me, and the tune’s a bit dull.

Track 38: Joe Roberts – Lover

‘Not on Spotify’ Type 2: YouTube Pause (TM).

Dull, slow tune, though the atmosphere’s quite nice.

Suddenly summer

I can’t be sure, because the days are sort of melting into each other at the moment (only three more twelve-hour shifts!  I can do this!), but it seems that we’ve had about two weeks in a row where the weather’s actually been quite nice – warm, sunny, blue skies.  There are also lots of flowers in our new garden, mostly weeds like dandelions, but still flowers.  The ice-cream van shows up every day around one o’clock in the afternoon with a creepy jingle straight out of a horror film.  And Geth’s actually been mowing the lawn.  It’s beginning to look a bit like it might not be winter anymore.  In fact, leaving aside the only-just-beginning-to-bud leaves on the trees, it’s beginning to look like summer.

I’m pretty happy about that.  The winter was so long and awful (still snowing in early April) that it was starting to feel like it would never end.  But because of that, it sort of feels like we’ve skipped spring and gone straight to summer, which I’m thrilled about (I don’t like typical British springs – wet, windy and not yet warm enough!).  This has meant that I’m actually starting to get excited about all the stuff I’m doing in the summer – I’m just a bit worried about having enough time to prepare for it!

Of course, sod’s law means that as soon as I’m done with work at the end of this week and can actually go outside, the nice weather will disappear.  At least that should mean that it won’t be too warm for running at the weekend!