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.

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.