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.

Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #19

Day 19, and we’ve reached 25th March 1991.

March 1991
This is the way the world looked in March 1991 (actually April, as March was photo-less – we seem to be having that issue a lot at the moment). Rocks and trees are some of those lovely timeless things that haven’t changed since before humans were around and will still be here long after we’ve gone, so I imagine these ones still look the same. I don’t think little girls wear hair ribbons as much as they used to, though (and coats are definitely not as stylish nowadays).

Let’s see what was on the radio at the time!

Now! That's What I Call Music #19

Track 1: The Clash – Should I Stay Or Should I Go

No idea why this early ’80s classic was back in the charts, but I love it – one of my favourite Clash songs – and as chart music quality was rapidly declining at this point, I’ll take what I can get!

Track 2: Scritti Politti and Shabba Ranks – She’s A Woman

Nice tune, but there’s a bit too much going on throughout the track, so it sounds a bit messy.

Track 3: The Source and Candi Staton – You Got The Love

…and my heart just sank as I realised that the Florence & The Machine song from 2009, which I always quite liked, is a pointless ’00s cover of this track.  The lesson: never become complacent about your level of music knowledge.

(This is why I hate pointless covers so much, incidentally – I’ve always felt really aggrieved to learn that chart songs I adored when I was growing up in the ’90s were actually bland, unimaginative, nothing-new, cash-in covers of ’70s and ’80s songs.  While I typically transfer my affection to the original in such cases, I still feel pretty cheated.)

Track 4: The KLF and The Children Of The Revolution – 3AM Eternal

Nice stormy-atmosphere intro, nice vocals, nice chillout track.  Good stuff.

The version I found on Spotify has some random sampling of The Blue Danube in, for some bonus relaxation points.

Track 5: C&C Music Factory and Freedom Williams – Gonna Make You Sweat

One of those ‘ohh, it’s this one!’ moments.  I always just assumed this track was called Everybody Dance Now.  Classic dance tune, anyway, and I’ll be up on the wedding dancefloor for this.

Track 6: Nomad and MC Mikee Freedom – (I Wanna Give You) Devotion

Dull and repetitive dance song with boring sung vocals and uninspired rapping.  Not for me.

Track 7: EMF – I Believe

I really like EMF, and this is a great guitar-driven dance track.  Happily nodding along here.

Track 8: 808 State – In Yer Face

Nice electro track, love the instrumentals on this.

Track 9: Massive Attack – Unfinished Sympathy

Massive Attack were really killing it during this period – really like this one.  The way it builds is beautiful.

Track 10: MC Hammer – Pray

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

This one’s not bad – I quite like the melody on the sung vocals and it’s nice and upbeat.  Could do without the sampling of When Doves Cry, though (I do NOT like it when brilliant classic pop tunes are sampled as backing music in newer songs).

Track 11: Kim Appleby – GLAD

Nice piece of solid pop, a welcome breather from all the dance and hip-hop.  Lovely.

Track 12: Kylie Minogue – What Do I Have To Do?

Another great upbeat pop track from the ever-reliable Kylie (who’s still having chart hits in 2018, incidentally, but we won’t talk about that just yet).

Incidentally, I’m sure most people realise that Kylie Minogue guest starred in an episode of Doctor Who (Voyage of The Damned, 2007), but the only reason I’m pointing that out…

Track 13: Hale & Pace and The Stonkers – The Stonk

…is that Hale & Pace did too (Survival, 1989).  Nice bit of prophetic track-listing there, Now! compilers!

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

Daft novelty track from the comedy duo, which, judging by the lyrics and video, I’m guessing was for Comic Relief.  I actually quite like those guitar instrumentals.

Track 14: 2 In A Room – Wiggle It

Quite like the backing track and the chorus, but the verse is a bit repetitive.

Track 15: Vanilla Ice – Play That Funky Music

I wasn’t aware that Vanilla Ice did an awful cover of the Wild Cherry classic, but I’m not exactly surprised.  It’s very different to the original, so not a pointless cover, but there’s nothing good about all the stuff that’s different, especially not the typically bad rapping.

Track 16: Jesus Loves You – Bow Down Mister

Not a fan of the all-over-the-place vocals in the intro, or the folky guitar bit that follows.  Apparently this was Boy George’s project post-Culture Club.  It’s very different to his previous stuff, and not my cup of tea, unfortunately.

Track 17: Enigma – Sadness [Part 1]

Always love that monastic chanting.  Great classic chillout track.

Track 18: Praise – Only You

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

Another nice chillout track – lovely vocals.

Track 19: Oleta Adams – Get Here

For some reason, they always played this one on the radio on ferries in the early ’90s when I was travelling with my family, so I strongly associate it with cabin bunk beds and pristine white sheets.  Classic ballad, lovely tune.

Track 20: Rick Astley – Cry For Help

Who knew Rick Astley was still having hits into the ’90s?  Wow.

The track’s got a nice tune and a good atmospheric chorus – quite like this one.

Track 21: Robert Palmer – Mercy Mercy Me/I Want You

Good, interesting track from Robert Palmer – great vocals, nice tune.

Track 22: Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes – (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life

The Dirty Dancing soundtrack classic, back in the charts for some reason (I’d like to think that reason was that none of the new stuff being released was anywhere near as good, but I know that music taste is subjective, blah blah boring blah, and so others will disagree.  They’re wrong though – this feelgood singalong number complete with epic sax solo is worth a million repetitive house tracks).

Track 23: The Righteous Brothers – You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’

Another old track back in the charts, this time from the ’60s.  A bit saccharine for me, but it’s such a classic I’ll forgive it.

Track 24: Seal – Crazy

Great epic atmosphere, brilliant tune.  A classic in my book.

Track 25: Banderas – This Is Your Life

Bit of a repetitive dance number, though the vocal melody is quite interesting.

Track 26: Stevie B – Because I Love You (The Postman Song)

Slow track, but it’s got a great atmosphere – I really quite like this.

Track 27: Chris Rea – Auberge

Could do without the ‘music video’ whistling and car noises on the intro.  Just start the track, please.

Once it gets going, it’s quite interesting, if a bit slow.

Track 28: Chris Isaak – Blue Hotel

Typical dramatic atmosphere from Chris Isaak, with some great Spanish-tinged guitar.  Great tune.

Track 29: Free – All Right Now

Slightly annoying chorus, but it is a good chant-along track, especially after a few pints.

Incidentally, an old uni mate whose surname is Allwright once told me that her dad had declared this their official family song.  I did do some googling to see if I could find a good equivalent for mine, but in all honesty I don’t think I’m into the family song thing.

Track 30: INXS – Disappear

Great solid pop song, nice tune, good rockier chorus.  I like this one.

Track 31: Belinda Carlisle – Summer Rain

Really interesting tune with a great atmosphere on the verses – big fan of this.

Track 32: The Railway Children – Every Beat Of The Heart

A little saccharine for me, but the tune is quite nice.

Track 33: Thunder – Love Walked In

Bit more acoustic-y than I usually go for, but I really like the tune and the atmosphere, especially when it goes full-on rock ballad a couple of minutes in.

Track 34: Queen – Innuendo

You can always rely on Queen for a nice dramatic tune.  Good track to end today’s compilation.