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 #21

Day 21, and Now! #21 was released on 13th April 1992.

April 1992
This is the way the world looked in April 1992. If you’re thinking it looks a bit ’80s, that’s because this shiny new-to-us holiday caravan was a few years old when we bought it, and so its original features are actually of a similar era to those of the gorgeous late ’80s house in which Geth and I now live. That TV was definitely not new either (I don’t think they were even still making black and white TVs in 1992).

Let’s have a listen to the stuff that soundtracked those ungodly-long-to-a-seven-year-old three-hour car journeys to the caravan!

Now! That's What I Call Music #21
Track 1: Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody

Absolute classic, the ultimate in epic atmospheres.  A welcome return to the charts made it the Christmas number one for 1991.  Beautiful piece of work.

Track 2: Wet Wet Wet – Goodnight Girl

Wet Wet Wet definitely into their slower, more introspective ’90s phase.  Some lovely vocals here.

Track 3: Shakespear’s Sister – Stay

Beautiful, classic song, with both vocalists used to brilliant effect.  Absolutely adore this one.

Track 4: The Temptations – My Girl

There seems to have been a bit of a trend in the early ’90s for ’60s classics coming back into the charts, though I think this example probably had something to do with the My Girl film.  Lovely track, anyway.

Track 5: Simply Red – Stars

Nice instrumentals, but the vocals and tune on this one annoy me.

Track 6: The KLF – Justified And Ancient

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

Bit of a messy track, with too much going on.  Not keen on the tune to the vocals either.

Track 7: Madness – It Must Be Love

Re-release of Madness’ awesome 1981 cover of the Labi Siffre song.  Great to have this song and its fabulous sax solo back in the mix!

Track 8: Genesis – I Can’t Dance

Great rock-edged head-nodder from Genesis.  Love that singalong chorus, not to mention the classic shuffle in the video!

Track 9: Julia Fordham – (Love Moves In) Mysterious Ways

Nice piano instrumentals, but it’s too much of a slow, dull ballad otherwise.

Track 10: Crowded House – Weather With You

I’ve always liked the atmosphere of the verses on this – lovely guitar and vocals.

Track 11: Right Said Fred – Deeply Dippy

Typically daft track from Right Said Fred – nice tune on the bridge though.

Track 12: Mr Big – To Be With You

Argh, annoying vocals from the start, and that chant-along chorus only makes it worse!  Never been a fan of this one – too cheesy for me.

Track 13: Everything But The Girl – Love Is Strange

Everything But The Girl are a bit hit and miss for me.  This one’s too slow and too repetitive as far as I’m concerned.

Track 14: Roxette – Church Of Your Heart

Solid pop-rock as ever from Roxette – nice tune, good head-nodder.

Track 15: Brian May – Driven By You

Nice upbeat rock track, suitably epic lines going on.  Really like this one.

Track 16: The Wonder Stuff – Welcome To The Cheap Seats

I actually had this one in my head earlier today because the interview I was transcribing for work contained the phrase ‘we’re in the cheap seats’.

Anyway, the song is an absolute belter and one of my favourite Wonder Stuff tracks.  Stunning folk-rock instrumentals, singalong chorus, and bonus backing vocals from Kirsty MacColl.  Beautiful.

Track 17: The Jesus & Mary Chain – Far Gone And Out

Great upbeat rock track – Jesus & Mary Chain are another band that nailed that ’90s sound early on.

Track 18: James – Born Of Frustration

Love this tune and the way it builds – that trumpet hook is truly epic!

Track 19: The Cure – High

Lovely, sweet track from the Cure – gorgeous tune.

Track 20: Shanice – I Love Your Smile

The vocal hook on this one has always annoyed me, and that rap is awful and misplaced.  It gets one point for the sax solo, though.

Track 21: The Pasadenas – I’m Doing Fine Now

Pleasant, inoffensive cover of the ’70s classic.  A little dull for my tastes, though.

Track 22: Kylie Minogue – Give Me Just A Little More Time

Another generic cover of a ’70s track.  Not a fan of this trend.

Track 23: East Side Beat – Ride Like The Wind

Nice atmosphere, good upbeat dance track.

Track 24: 2 Unlimited – Twilight Zone

Typically epic dance from 2 Unlimited – great track.

Track 25: The KLF and The Children Of The Revolution – America: What Time Is Love?

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

An annoying doubling-up-the-artist faux pas from the Now! compilers – we’ve not had one of those for a while!

Unfortunately, this track is just as messy as the earlier one in my book – some nice samples, but they get drowned out by the cacophony.

Track 26: Clivilles & Cole – A Deeper Love

This one’s a bit generic – the piano instrumentals and vocals sound like pretty much every song that was released around this time.

Track 27: Opus III – It’s A Fine Day

Really like the vocal melody on this one.

Track 28: Erasure – Breath Of Life

Another perfect piece of synthpop from Erasure – those synth lines are to die for.

Track 29: MC Hammer – Addams Groove

Daft novelty track to tie in with the Addams Family film.  Still better than most of the stuff MC Hammer did.

Track 30: Salt-N-Pepa – Expression

Not enough in the track to keep my interest here – pretty much Salt-N-Pepa-by-numbers.  I do quite like the line ‘excuse us while we rap’, though.

Track 31: CeCe Peniston – We Got A Love Thang

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

Annoying vocals, generic tune.  Not a fan.

Track 32: Paula Abdul – Vibeology

Like the instrumentals, but the song structure is a bit messy.  Also, that I-can-only-imagine-it’s-a-pregnancy-reference ‘in the funky way’ hook is insanely annoying.

Track 33: Alison Limerick – Make It On My Own

Not enough melody for me here – this one’s pretty dull.

Track 34: Tina Turner – Way Of The World

As is typical with most Tina Turner songs of this era, this one’s a bit slow and dull for me.  Nice sax solo though.

Track 35: Curtis Stigers – I Wonder Why

Mega sax intro, but it can’t save this boring, saccharine ballad.  Not for me.

Track 36: Diana Ross – When You Tell Me That You Love Me

And we’re back to an overblown, slow ballad to close the compilation.  Nice tune, but it’s just too cheesy for me.