Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #34

Day 34 brings us to Now! #34, which came out on 12th August 1996.

August 1996
This is the way the world looked in August 1996 (actually July – we seem to be short of photos again for 1996). Sunlounger, Walkman and speakers, dodgy cycling shorts ‘n’ swimsuit combo – a perfect late 20th century summer’s day.

Let’s hear those summer hits!

Now! That's What I Call Music #34
Track 1: Spice Girls – Wannabe

At eleven, I was exactly the right age for the Spice Girls, and from the moment this first song of theirs came out, I adored them.  I bought every single and every album in HMV on the day they came out, I had every single Spice magazine (still do), I had the limited edition Spice Girls Impulse body spray.  I was a huge fan, to put it mildly, and I remember carefully writing down the lyrics of this song and editing it over the course of several months, trying to work out what they were saying (I’ve mentioned before that I’m no good with being able to hear lyrics, and a lot of it was so nonsensical that there were endless arguments in the playground about what the words were – it was only when the album came out in December, complete with lyric insert, that I was able to confirm them properly).

Nowadays, I find this first track pretty cringeworthy – they did much better songs later on.  I still remember how much I loved it at the time, though, the summer I moved from primary school to high school.  Interesting times.

Track 2: Robbie Williams – Freedom

Pointless cover of the George Michael track.  Although Robbie was my favourite member of Take That and I was gutted when he left, I find his solo stuff can be a bit hit and miss, and this cover doesn’t add anything to the original.

Track 3: Peter Andre and Bubbler Ranx – Mysterious Girl

Quite liked it at the time –  nowadays I see it as a ‘so-bad-it’s-hilarious’ classic.

Track 4: Dodgy – Good Enough

I was never hugely keen on this one, though I quite enjoyed it when we saw them live at Beautiful Days in 2013.

Track 5: Ocean Colour Scene – The Day We Caught The Train

I adore Ocean Colour Scene (they were my favourite band for quite a while in my teens) and this is an absolute classic – great tune, great instrumentals, great lyrics.

Track 6: Larry Mullen Jr and Adam Clayton – Theme From Mission: Impossible

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

The two less famous members of U2 taking on the Mission: Impossible theme for the film version.  It’s perhaps slightly rockier than the original, but not hugely different.  I’ll give it a pass, though, ’cause you wouldn’t want a classic theme like this to be changed too much.

Track 7: Underworld – Born Slippy

Really liked it at the time, find it dated and annoying now.

Track 8: JX – There’s Nothing I Won’t Do

Quite like the tune on this dance track, but the vocals annoy me.

Track 9: Gina G – Ooh Aah (Just A Little Bit)

The UK’s Eurovision entry for 1996.  Loved it at the time, find it irritating now.  I’m finding that’s a bit of a theme with 1996.  I must not have been hugely discerning at eleven.

Track 10: Pianoman – Blurred

Nice piano lines, as you might expect – the rest of the track is a bit messy, especially the misplaced sample from Blur’s Girls And Boys.

Track 11: Livin’ Joy – Don’t Stop Movin’

Oh, it’s this one.  The vocals are at least interesting, but I find the style irritating and a bit generic.

Track 12: Louise – Naked

Finally a decent one from Louise – great solid pop track.

Track 13: Mark Morrison – Return Of The Mack

Classic tune, quite like this one.  It’s been sample-covered horribly by at least two different ’10s artists, but I’m sure we’ll get to those later.

Track 14: 2Pac and Dr Dre – California Love

Really like this one!  Great song, love that chorus.

Track 15: Pato Banton – Groovin’

Dull tune, dull vocals, not keen.

Track 16: Reel 2 Real – Jazz It Up

Quite a funky danceable beat, but it’s a bit of a dull tune.

Track 17: Maxi Priest and Shaggy – That Girl

Nice jaunty vocals, but that sample of Booker T & The MGs’ Green Onions is super repetitive.

Track 18: Los Del Mar – Macarena

No, that’s not a typo.  Los Del Mar were basically a tribute band that only existed in order to cover Macarena by Los Del Rio (who were themselves little more than a one-hit wonder).  Maybe the Now! compilers couldn’t get the rights to the original.

The cover is pretty pointless – it’s pretty much note for note the River Fe-Mix version of the original.

Track 19: Umboza – Sunshine

Another misplaced sample, this time Bamboléo by the Gipsy Kings.  The rest of the track is fairly generic.

Track 20: Josh Wink – Higher State Of Consciousness

We’ve had this already, on Now! #32, which was only a couple of compilations ago!  That’s just lazy.

Urgh.  See the link for my review.

Track 21: Todd Terry, Martha Wash and Jocelyn Brown – Keep On Jumpin’

Messy semi-cover of the ’70s hit, with samples and random lines all over the place.  It’s pretty awful.

Track 22: Robert Miles – Children

I’ve always loved this one!  Gorgeous electro tune.

Track 23: George Michael – Jesus To A Child

Lovely, melancholy song from George Michael.  Beautiful tune.

Track 24: Oasis – Wonderwall

A little late to the party for the Now! compilers, as this was more of a late 1995 hit, but it’s a classic, probably the best song Oasis did in my opinion, and so still very welcome.

Track 25: The Bluetones – Slight Return

Oh, it’s this one!  Pleasant tune, happily nodding along right now.

Track 26: Paul Weller – Peacock Suit

Dull tune, very dad-rock.  Not keen.

Track 27: Bon Jovi – Hey God

I normally like Bon Jovi, but I find this one a bit uninspired.

Track 28: Bryan Adams – The Only Thing That Looks Good On Me Is You

Found it annoying at the time, just find it a bit so-so now.

Track 29: Belinda Carlisle – In Too Deep

Nice instrumentals, but the vocal is pretty dull.

Track 30: Suggs – Cecelia

Loved this reggae-tinged cover of the Simon & Garfunkel classic at the time, still love it now!  Great track.

Track 31: Blur – Charmless Man

I’ve always found the tune to this one a bit annoying.  Not my favourite Blur track.

Track 32: Suede – Trash

Good head-nodder from Suede – really like this one.  Great singalong chorus too.

Track 33: Joan Osborne – One Of Us

That old-timey American traditional rhyme at the start is super annoying, but the song itself is an absolute classic – great tune.

Track 34: Crowded House – Instinct

Nice tune, really like this one.

Track 35: Lighthouse Family – Ocean Drive

Feelgood track with an awesome singalong chorus.  Lovely.

Track 36: Tina Turner – On Silent Wings

Dull tune, dull ballad.  Not a fan of this one.

Track 37: Everything But The Girl – Wrong

Good beat, but I’m not keen on the tune.

Track 38: OMC – How Bizarre

I’d forgotten about this one!  Pleasant, jaunty track, really like it.

Track 39: Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – Walking On The Milky Way

Lovely tune, really interesting track.

Track 40: Space – Female Of The Species

Loved it at the time, love it now.  I remember endless arguments in the back of the car about whether the lyric was ‘more deadlier‘, which was what it sounded like, or the grammatically correct ‘more deadly‘.  I think I argued for the latter position, just because I couldn’t believe a professional band would write such a horrendously wrong sentence (ah, childhood innocence).  A quick google just now tells me it was indeed the latter, but it really does sound like the former.

Track 41: Cast – Walkaway

Nice tune, but a bit slow for me.

Track 42: Boyzone – Coming Home Now

Liked it at the time, find the tune pretty irritating now.

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.

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.