Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #38

Day 38 takes us to 17th November 1997 with our Now! compilation marathon.

November 1997
This was how the world looked in November 1997 (actually September – it was another autumn where we didn’t really take any photos). I still have that jumper – it’s had a few recent reprieves from wardrobe culls!

Let’s see what was tearing up the charts at the time.

Now! That's What I Call Music #38
Track 1: Chumbawamba – Tubthumping

The ultimate in singalong classics, and a feature of every school disco and a lot of post-school discos in subsequent years.  Brilliant track.  Also, this album version that I’ve found on Spotify has a Brassed Off sample at the start, which makes it even better.

Track 2: Spice Girls – Spice Up Your Life

One of my favourites from the Spice Girls – really like this upbeat, danceable song.

Track 3: Hanson – Where’s The Love

Considering that I played Hanson’s Middle Of Nowhere album non-stop for about a year, the fact that I couldn’t remember this song shows you how forgettable it is.  I sort of remember it now I’m listening to it again, but I doubt it’ll stick in my brain long.

Track 4: Boyzone – Picture Of You

I’ve never really liked this one – the tune has always annoyed me.

Track 5: Backstreet Boys – As Long As You Love Me

It should be too saccharine for me, but I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for it, largely because I always liked the video.

Track 6: Eternal – Angel Of Mine

Absolutely beautiful tune – love this one.

Fun fact: American singer Monica did a completely pointless cover of this that sounds pretty much identical, which was a huge hit in the US, so that’s the version that most people across the pond know.

Track 7: Lighthouse Family – Raincloud

Great, interesting instrumentals, but the tune on the vocals is a bit dull.

Track 8: Janet Jackson – Got ‘Til It’s Gone

Love that Big Yellow Taxi sample…but in all honesty, nowadays it just makes me want to listen to Big Yellow Taxi instead.  I remember my dad getting similarly frustrated whenever it came on the radio at the time, ’cause you can’t improve on the original Joni Mitchell track.

Track 9: The Brand New Heavies – You’ve Got A Friend

Dull cover of the Carole King song (which was pretty dull to begin with) with an irritating funk bit over the top.

Track 10: All Saints – I Know Where It’s At

I quite like most of All Saints’ stuff, but this one’s got an annoying tune.  Not keen.

Track 11: Louise – Arms Around The World

Interesting Eastern-tinged instrumentals in the intro, and a nice synth riff running through the verses.  Shame the vocals are so generic.

Track 12: Gala – Freed From Desire

It’s not the kind of thing I normally like, but I’ve always quite enjoyed this one – I like the atmosphere.

Track 13: Sash! and La Trec – Stay

Great electro lines, but the vocals are a bit overblown.

Track 14: Dario G – Sunchyme

Love this electro track – lovely feelgood tune.  Only just realised right now that the sample is Life In A Northern Town – but it’s done really well, so I won’t moan.

Track 15: Tina Moore – Never Gonna Let You Go

Horrendous nails-down-a-blackboard vocal opening!  Then the rest of the track is repetitive and irritating.  Not keen at all.

Track 16: Hot Chocolate – You Sexy Thing

We’ve had this one already, on Now! #9.  I’m keeping an eye on you, Now! compilers!  I’m guessing this was back in the charts due to The Full Monty.

As ever, see the link for my review.

Track 17: N-Trance and Rod Stewart – Da Ya Think I’m Sexy

Slightly messy semi-cover of the 1978 classic.  There are far too many vocal lines going on, but somehow it works.

Track 18: LL Cool J – Phenomenon

Good head-nodder, quite like this one.

Track 19: 911 – Party People…Friday Night

I’ve always quite liked this one, if only for the jaunty days-of-the-week bit in the chorus (I have a similar soft spot for 7 Days by Craig David, but I’m sure we’ll get to that later).

Track 20: Ricky Martin – María

I started studying Spanish the year after this, so I was a huge fan of Ricky Martin and had all his albums.  This one is a great, danceable, Latin-flavoured track, an early indicator of the Latin pop craze that would characterise the turn of the millennium.

Speaking of which…

Track 21: Bellini – Samba De Janeiro

…here’s another.  Absolutely classic trumpet line, great dance track.

Track 22: DJ Quicksilver – Free

Oh, it’s this one!  Really like the electro lines on this – great tune.

Track 23: Wet Wet Wet – Yesterday

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

Utterly pointless cover of the Beatles classic.  There is nothing different about this version at all except for an irritating country-tinged twangy guitar instrumental in the middle.

Track 24: George Michael – You Have Been Loved

Lovely tune, but it’s a bit slow for me.

Track 25: The Verve – The Drugs Don’t Work

Depressing in a bad way.  I’ve never been keen on this one.

Track 26: Oasis – Stand By Me

This track has a really irritating chord change sequence in the chorus that messes up the time signature in an infuriating way.  It’s been driving me nuts for over twenty years, and as such, I’m not a fan of this song.

Example of a song that messes up the time signature in a nice, pleasant way: Golden Brown by the Stranglers.  I think I’ll go listen to that once this compilation is done.

Track 27: Embrace – All You Good Good People

Nice tune, but I’m not keen on the vocals, as they sound kind of droning.

Track 28: Faithless – Don’t Leave

I really liked this one at the time ’cause I had it on the A Life Less Ordinary soundtrack.  It’s still a good tune.

Track 29: Radiohead – Karma Police

Great tune, but I’m not hugely keen on the theme.

Track 30: Moby – James Bond Theme

I have often said throughout this Now! marathon that I love a James Bond theme.  This is slightly different, as instead of being a new song released for a James Bond film, it’s an electro cover of the main theme.  It’s okay, but you shouldn’t really mess with a classic.

Track 31: PF Project and Ewan McGregor – Choose Life

Dance track with Ewan McGregor’s ‘choose life‘ monologue from Trainspotting over the top of it.  The track itself is pretty awful, so the monologue is the only bit that’s of interest.

Track 32: Robbie Williams – Lazy Days

Annoying dregs-of-Britpop tune.  Not keen on this one.

Track 33: Ash – A Life Less Ordinary

Another one that’s (obviously) off the A Life Less Ordinary soundtrack.  Great chorus, but the verses are pretty boring.

Track 34: Texas – Black Eyed Boy

Great beat, great tune.  One of my favourite Texas tracks.

Track 35: Meredith Brooks – Bitch

Loved it at the time, makes me cringe a bit now, mainly because my friends and I all loved to adapt the lyrics when literally bitching about other girls at school.  Growing up is a good thing.

Track 36: Jon Bon Jovi – Janie, Don’t Take Your Love To Town

Irritating tune, not a fan of this one.

Track 37: Ocean Colour Scene – Better Day

Lovely tune, great atmosphere – a longtime favourite.

Track 38: Cast – I’m So Lonely

Dreary, depressing tune.  Not keen.

Track 39: Conner Reeves – Earthbound

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

The vocals are far too saccharine for me, but the tune’s quite nice.

Track 40: Peter Andre – Lonely

Another slow, cheesy tune.  Blurgh.

Also, while Cast (see above) are so lonely, Peter Andre is just lonely full stop.  I’m pretty sure this was deliberate on the part of the Now! compilers…

Track 41: Boyz II Men – Four Seasons Of Loneliness

…especially now that Boyz II Men have both of them beat by being lonely all year round.  It shouldn’t be a competition, guys!

The piano instrumental on this one’s quite nice, but in general it’s yet another ballad that’s too slow and too saccharine for my liking.

Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #9

Day 9 equals Now! #9, which was released on 23rd March 1987.

March 1987
This is how the world looked in March 1987. Well, it did in our house; maybe other people had moved on from the endless brown furnishings. I’m not sure that every toddler was lucky enough to have such an excitingly squishy new toy to play with that month, either *poke poke poke*. Sadly, said toy is not displayed on my display shelves with my other stuff from the ’80s. It is now over six foot tall and resident in Canada, and I only get to see it occasionally 🙁

Here are some tracks that may have floated into my tiny brother’s tiny ears.

Now! That's What I Call Music #9

Track 1: Jackie Wilson – Reet Petite

I hear this one regularly every Christmas period due to its status as the 1986 UK Christmas number one.  As a result, it’s slightly Christmas-associated in my book, and also slightly annoying.

Track 2: Mental As Anything – Live It Up

I wasn’t familiar with this one.  Nice chorus, good upbeat track.

Track 3: Simply Red – The Right Thing

This one’s a bit repetitive for me, though I like the instrumentals.

Track 4: Erasure – Sometimes

This is Geth’s go-to Erasure DJing track, so I kind of associate it with 2.55pm in a goth club.  Great tune, though.

Track 5: Robbie Nevil – C’est La Vie

It’s a bit dull, but there’s something I quite like about it, maybe just ’cause it’s been featured on so many ’80s compilations I’ve heard.

Track 6: Hot Chocolate – You Sexy Thing

This was a hit again ’cause it had a new remix for its tenth anniversary, though I can’t work out whether it was the original or the remix that was featured on this compilation.  Classic tune either way.

Track 7: The Blow Monkeys – It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way

I’ve always liked this one – great chorus, great saxophone riffs.

Incidentally, the Blow Monkeys are going to be supporting Level 42 at that gig at the Sage Gateshead in October!  I should really stop going on about said gig on here and go buy tickets instead.

Track 8: The Housemartins – Caravan Of Love

One of my favourite Housemartins tracks – lovely a cappella cover of an Isley Brothers song from the previous year.

Track 9: Boy George – Everything I Own

Hmm, not for me, this one.  Boy George has basically brought the ‘annoying’ aspect of Culture Club songs into his solo career.

Track 10: UB40 – Rat In Mi Kitchen

Nice jaunty, daft tune.  Love the whimsy of this one.

I should, however, point out that as a professional editor, I absolutely hate that misspelling of ‘my’ in the title.  Just why?

Track 11: The Gap Band – Big Fun

Like the atmosphere of this one, though the samples and vocals are a bit dull.

Track 12: Five Star – Stay Out Of My Life

I’m not a huge Five Star fan, and I find this one pretty dull, though some of the instrumental hooks are quite interesting.

Track 13: Pepsi & Shirlie – Heartache

It’s a bit pop-by-numbers, but I really like that the girls from Wham! got to go and have some hits by themselves (great vocals too now that they’re not playing second fiddle to George Michael!) before fading into obscurity again.

Track 14: Bananarama – Trick Of The Night

Love that sax intro, love the atmosphere of this one.  Great track.

Track 15: Berlin – Take My Breath Away

Another one from my original ’80s playlist circa 2001.  A bit overplayed due to the Top Gun connection, but a stunning pop ballad.

Track 16: Freddie Mercury – The Great Pretender

Wonderfully cheesy over-the-top dramatic number.  I’d expect no less from Freddie Mercury.

Track 17: Ben E King – Stand By Me

Nice ’60s classic – back in the charts, I believe, due to the film of the same name.  Lovely singalong track.

Track 18: Curiosity Killed The Cat – Down To Earth

Nice slightly laid-back track.  It’s a bit ‘background’ for me, but I do like it.

Track 19: The Communards – So Cold The Night

A slightly more dramatic one from the Communards, with a great epic atmosphere.

Track 20: Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley – Jack Your Body

Like the tune, but the vocal sample is really irritating!

Track 21: Taffy – I Love My Radio (Midnight Radio)

Great synth line, great catchy vocals!  Will be adding this to the playlist.

Track 22: Nick Kamen – Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever

Lyrics a bit cheesy for my liking, though the tune is quite nice, and that sax solo is great.

Track 23: A-ha – Manhattan Skyline

Interestingly slow verses before it kicks in with a great upbeat chorus.  Nice epic atmosphere, great track from A-ha.

Track 24: Westworld – Sonic Boom Boy

Quite a fun wee track, good chant-along head-nodder.

Track 25: Bon Jovi – Livin’ On A Prayer

Hair metal headbanging time!  Most definitely a guilty pleasure.  This was a Cav classic circa 2001-2002 (i.e. played regularly at the Cavendish, a godawful cheap nightclub in Edinburgh that sold VK Apple alcopops for £1 each, resulting in a thousand hangovers during that era.  Ah, teen years.  The club still exists but, several name changes later, is now called Atik).

Track 26: Genesis – Land Of Confusion

Probably my favourite Genesis song – I love this one!  Bonus points also for the Spitting Image video.

Track 27: Europe – The Final Countdown

More headbanging, another guilty pleasure, and also, incidentally, another Cav classic (see above).  I can almost taste the VK Apple, which is not a good thing.

Track 28: Gary Moore – Over The Hills And Far Away

Love this folk-tinged bit of classic rock!  I’ve spent my adulthood in goth clubs hearing the Nightwish cover, but I prefer this original version.

Track 29: Ward Brothers – Cross That Bridge

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

Nice bit of upbeat pop, currently chair-dancing here.  Great synth in the instrumentals.

Track 30: Pretenders – Hymn To Her

Great lyrics, though the track is a bit slow for me.  Nice tune too.

Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #2

Day 2, and today’s collection was released on 26th March 1984.  I briefly just now considered adding a daily ‘fun fact’ to this feature about what was going on in the news at the time, but frankly that would probably be so depressing that I doubt I’d still be functioning by July, so let’s make it a contemporary picture from the ol’ family album instead.

March 1984
This was the way the world looked in March 1984, with Grundig TVs and vinyl collections and houseplants everywhere! My dad is still into building harps and other folk instruments, proving that some things don’t change.

Right, on with the music!

Now That's What I Call Music #2
Track 1: Queen – Radio Ga Ga

I love Queen and their shamelessly anthemic rock, and this chanty, clappy track is no exception.  Sing along!

Track 2: Nik Kershaw – Wouldn’t It Be Good

I prefer The Riddle, but this one’s still a great track, especially for the video with the dodgy ’80s special effect applied to Kershaw’s suit.

Track 3: Thompson Twins – Hold Me Now

It’s nice ’80s pop, but I don’t find this one particularly exciting.

Track 4: Matt Bianco – Get Out Of Your Lazy Bed

I wasn’t familiar with this one.  Fairly typical for Matt Bianco, that ’50s rock ‘n’ roll style done on ’80s synths.  Not playlist-worthy, but a good bouncy track.

Track 5: Carmel – More, More, More

Two mid-century throwback tracks in a row (this one has more of a ’60s lounge feel) are making me crave some straightforward ’80s synthpop.  Come on, Now! compilers…

Track 6: Madness – Michael Caine

…and it’s Madness.  That’ll do in a pinch!  A little more sedate than most Madness tracks, but I love the tune.

Track 7: The Flying Pickets – Only You

The original version by Yazoo is my favourite song of all time (I walked down the aisle to it).  I love this a cappella version too, though it has become a bit too associated with Christmas for this time of year due to its status as the UK Christmas number one for 1983.

Track 8: Nena – 99 Red Balloons

I always hear the original German-language version of this song, 99 Luftballons, in goth clubs, proving that goths will dance to anything if it’s in German.  I do like this one, though.

Track 9: Cyndi Lauper – Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

Slightly cheesy admission: I used to listen to this song every day after work in 2001 when I started my first job aged sixteen, purely due to the lyric ‘when the working day is done‘.  I’m nothing if not literal.  It was around then that I was first getting into ’80s nostalgia and had cultivated an appropriate ’80s playlist using Audiogalaxy (remember that?).  This was a highlight, though I consider it a bit overplayed nowadays.

Scary time statistic: 2001 was the exact midpoint between 1984 and 2018.  Ouch.

Track 10: Tracey Ullman – My Guy’s Mad At Me

I love this one mainly for the video featuring contemporary Labour leader Neil Kinnock.  From my 2018 whimsical millennial viewpoint, I really like the fact that he used to do stuff like that, though I can understand why it resulted in the mid-’80s British populace not taking him seriously enough.

Politics aside, there is also a pleasing quantity of 20th century telephones in the video, and I am a huge geek for 20th century telephones.

Oh yeah, and there’s a song here too!  It was originally a Madness song from 1979, and though I love Madness, I think I might actually prefer this version for the unexpectedly gentle intro.

Track 11: Matthew Wilder – Break My Stride

This one is often featured on BBC coverage of running events, so I’m quite fond of it for that reason.  It’s probably a good thing that my clumsiness with constantly knocking headphones out means that I can’t listen to music while running, because my running playlist genuinely would be stuff like this, rather than properly hi-tempo ‘run faster’ music.  Who wants to work out to boring modern trance when you can have Gassenhauer and the Chariots Of Fire theme tune?

Track 12: Julia & Company – Breaking Down

A bit disco for me, but a pleasant background track.

Track 13: Joe Fagin – That’s Livin’ Alright

It’s very dad-rock, not really my kind of thing.

Track 14: Hot Chocolate – I Gave You My Heart (Didn’t I)

There was a point a few weeks ago when Geth was complaining about Vintage TV always playing Hot Chocolate’s dafter tracks (the channel’s current favourite seems to be Girl Crazy) rather than their serious songs.  I was like, ‘Geth, NO ONE listens to Hot Chocolate for their serious songs!’  I do stand by my point that they’re better at party tracks than ballads, but in recent weeks I have developed a liking for It Started With A Kiss, and this one’s all right too, what with its pleasantly lazy sax solo.

Track 15: Snowy White – Bird Of Paradise

A bit slow for me, but it’s a nice tune.  I do like the epic guitar solo in the middle as well.

Track 16: Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Relax

This one was actually a childhood favourite due to its re-release in 1993 (and subsequent inclusion on another compilation, The Greatest Hits Of 1993, which was the first album I ever bought for myself, on cassette).  As an adult it’s one of those wedding DJ songs where I can’t resist dancing.

Track 17: Eurythmics – Here Comes The Rain Again

I love Eurythmics, especially their more melancholy numbers like this one.  Synth line + Annie Lennox’s voice = instant win.

Track 18: Howard Jones – What Is Love?

Great song, more lovely synth, pretty video shot in Paris.  1984 in a nutshell.

Track 19: The Smiths – What Difference Does It Make?

The Smiths are one of my ‘soundtrack of 2003-2004’ bands, when I was busily acquainting myself with the entire back catalogues of every major goth and indie band from the ’80s.  I always liked this one as it’s quite jaunty.

Track 20: Fiction Factory – (Feels Like) Heaven

Nice pleasant jingly track, fairly standard ’80s pop.

Track 21: Re-Flex – The Politics Of Dancing

Good head-nodder, but nothing special for me.

Track 22: Thomas Dolby – Hyperactive!

Great, unusual song for the time.  Love that bassline, the high vocal on the chorus, the trumpets, the general bizarre atmosphere of the track.

Track 23: China Crisis – Wishful Thinking

Nice comforting synth, nice dreamlike vocal, generally nice background music.  Not one I could dance to, but a lovely tune.

Track 24: David Bowie – Modern Love

I love Bowie, but this is on the duller side for me.  Let’s Dance is the real stormer on that album in my view.  I do like the ‘get me to the church on time‘ lyric, though.

Track 25: Culture Club – It’s A Miracle

I’ve always found Culture Club a bit hit and miss, and this one’s a miss in my book.  There’s something kind of annoying about it, probably due to the overly-upbeat instrumentals and Boy George’s cheesy lyrics and…yeah, this one is too much even for me.  Sorry.

Track 26: The Rolling Stones – Undercover Of The Night

It’s driving me nuts that the title isn’t written as Under Cover Of The Night.  I realise it’s deliberate, in order to add to the sexual meaning of the song, but it’s still painful to read.

As for the song itself, it’s classic Rolling Stones with added ’80s guitar and funk bass.  What’s not to like?

Track 27: Big Country – Wonderland

I have to be in the right mood for Big Country; a lot of the time (today included unfortunately) the guitar instrumentals drive me mad.

They’re emblematic of a sound that was very particular to Scottish pop-rock in the ’80s – it’s difficult to explain, but when I come across a Scottish pop-rock band from that era that I’m not familiar with, I can always tell they’re Scottish without looking it up (and it’s not an accent thing, they all sing with transatlantic accents).  Some day I’ll work out what the exact musical reason is, but for now I’m just going to call it a superpower.

Track 28: Slade – Run Runaway

One of my favourite songs from one of my favourite bands (huge glam rock fan here)!  Brilliant shout-along anthem.

Unfortunately, Slade have never got round to putting their music on Spotify (sort it out, record label that I can’t be bothered to look up right now!).  This meant I had three options for reviewing this song: 1) wade into the dumping ground that is our study and open all the boxes in there trying to find my Slade CDs; 2) find the song on YouTube; or 3) just add a tribute version into the Spotify playlist instead.  I went with the extremely lazy 3), just so I wouldn’t have to pause my playlist.  Sometimes, I am just as terrible as everyone else in this wretched decade of convenience.

Track 29: Duran Duran – New Moon On Monday

Without looking ahead to the track listings on the next few Now! editions, I imagine the first few entries of this blog feature are all going to feature the words ‘I love Duran Duran’ somewhere.  This one is no exception.  I love Duran Duran, especially their first three albums with the classic lineup, and I love this song.  Epic chorus, great instrumentals, daft video (especially the ridiculous 17-minute version).  Brilliant ’80s fun.

Track 30: Paul McCartney – Pipes Of Peace

My eye is twitching at having to listen to an unabashedly Christmas song out of season (this one was featured on our family’s favourite Christmas compilation, That’s Christmas, which I grew up with in the ’90s, so it’s very associated with the festive season for me).  Lovely song…when it’s December.