Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #39

Day 39, and Now! #39 was released on 6th April 1998.

April 1998
This is the way the world looked in April 1998 – warm enough for a barbecue, even in Scotland (not dissimilar to the late April of twenty years later). Holiday caravans haven’t changed much, but I can’t remember the last time I had toasted marshmallows (it’s difficult to find ones that are gelatine-free).

Let’s see what was on the radio twenty years ago this spring.

Now! That's What I Call Music #39
Track 1: All Saints – Never Ever

Classic track, great theme, great lyrics, great video.  All Saints never bettered this.

Track 2: Lighthouse Family – High

My favourite Lighthouse Family track – lovely tune.

Track 3: Janet Jackson – Together Again

Oh, it’s this one.  The tune’s okay, but I’ve always found this track a bit so-so.

Track 4: Spice Girls – Stop

This was never my favourite Spice Girls song – I find the tune pretty irritating.

Fun fact: this was the first of their songs not to go straight in at number one – it only reached number two.

Track 5: Natalie Imbruglia – Torn

I still consider this a classic – it’s a gorgeous tune, but it is a bit overplayed nowadays.

Fun fact: this was actually the fourth version of the song, but it’s the one most people know.

Track 6: Billie Myers – Kiss The Rain

Gorgeous tune, really interesting vocals.  Great stuff.

Track 7: Robbie Williams – Angels

Probably Robbie Williams’ most classic track.  It’s a gorgeous ballad, but again it suffers a bit from being overplayed.

Track 8: Various Artists – Perfect Day

‘Not on Spotify’ Type 2: YouTube Pause.

This was everywhere at the time – first as the BBC Music advert and then as the official Children In Need track for 1997.  Gorgeous, epic semi-cover (because Lou Reed was involved, alongside pretty much everybody else!) of the 1972 classic.

Track 9: Boyzone – Baby Can I Hold You

Pointless ’90s cover of the Tracy Chapman song.

Obligatory ‘I hate pointless ’90s covers’ rant: I’m still really annoyed that it took me nearly two decades to realise that it WAS originally a Tracy Chapman song.

Track 10: Tin Tin Out and Shelley Nelson – Here’s Where The Story Ends

Electronic cover of the Sundays song.  It’s fairly uninspired.

Track 11: Space and Cerys Matthews – The Ballad Of Tom Jones

Loved it then, love it now!  Hilarious theme, great track.

Track 12: Texas – Insane

Great atmosphere – really like this one.

Track 13: Hanson – Weird

Loved it at the time, but only because I was a huge Hanson fan.  Because I was the only one of my mates with cable TV at this point, I remember having to sit in front of The Box channel (‘music television YOU control!’ – I’ve discussed this before) for hours, waiting for the video to come on so I could tape it off the TV and give the VHS to my friend who was an even bigger Hanson fan.  Ah, 20th century technology.

But yeah, anyway, I find the song pretty irritating now.

Track 14: LeAnn Rimes – How Do I Live

Hated it then, still hate it now.  Can’t stand the tune, don’t like the style, just not my cup of tea in the slightest.

Track 15: Shania Twain – You’re Still The One

Again, not my thing.  I don’t like country music, especially not country music ballads.

Track 16: Sheryl Crow – Tomorrow Never Dies

I do love a James Bond theme, and this is no exception.  Great, epic track.

Track 17: Radiohead – No Surprises

Another lovely, melancholy tune from Radiohead.  Great stuff.

Track 18: The Verve – Lucky Man

I’ve never been hugely keen on the droning style of Britpop vocals, and it takes a good song to mitigate them.  This is not quite a good enough song in that respect, although the tune’s okay.

Track 19: Pulp – This Is Hardcore

Great epic atmosphere, lovely instrumentals.  Good stuff.

Track 20: Robbie Williams – Let Me Entertain You

Repeated artist alert!  I’m shaking my head in disapproval, Now! compilers.

However, given that this is the best, most epic, most anthemic track that Robbie Williams ever did, I suppose I can forgive them just this once.

Track 21: Catatonia – Mulder And Scully

Great track – love the theme, love the tune.

Track 22: Cornershop – Brimful Of Asha [Norman Cook Remix]

A classic!  Endlessly danceable, great singalong track.  I’m going to make this one today’s top ‘wedding disco’ song.

Track 23: Run DMC and Jason Nevins – It’s Like That

House style re-working of the 1983 track.  This was everywhere at the time, and the video was great.

Track 24: Wildchild – Renegade Master ’98

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

We already had the original on Now! #32, and this version’s really not that different (other than some additional messy sampling), so I am side-eyeing a bit at its inclusion.

Track 25: Bamboo – Bamboogie

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

Oh, it’s this one.  Not the biggest fan of this one, as the lines are pretty messy, but I do like that KC & The Sunshine Band sample.

Track 26: Ultra Naté – Found A Cure

Quite like the guitar riff on the intro of this one, and the vocals are great too.  Good track.

Track 27: Sash! – La Primavera

Great feelgood dance tune, always liked this one.

Track 28: Aqua – Barbie Girl

Great track!  Brilliant theme, brilliant pop tune.  I bought the single of this while on a school trip to France, just because we heard it absolutely everywhere we went.

Track 29: Steps – 5, 6, 7, 8

See, this is the kind of corny faux-line-dance track I can get behind.  Steps were just at the right level of ‘not taking themselves too seriously’ that was perfect for late ’90s pop.

Track 30: Louise – Let’s Go Round Again

Cover of the Average White Band track.  I should find the tune annoying, but I actually quite like it.

Track 31: Chumbawamba – Amnesia

I’ve always loved this follow-up to Tubthumping – it’s another great, danceable track.

Track 32: Camisra – Let Me Show You

Highly irritating vocals, headache-inducing intro, but the main hook is quite pleasant.

Track 33: DJ Quicksilver – Planet Love

The tune’s okay, but the vocal samples are pretty generic.

Track 34: Rest Assured – Treat Infamy

There’s a bit too much going on in this track, but there is quite a soothing atmosphere – right up until the Bitter Sweet Symphony sample kicks in.  Just why?

Track 35: Warren G and Sissel – Prince Igor

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

Really like the instrumentals and the atmosphere, and the rap’s okay as well, but nothing compared to that lovely operatic chorus!  Quite like this one, but it is a bit of an odd mix.

Track 36: Lutricia McNeal – Ain’t That Just The Way

The tune is a little annoying, but otherwise there’s something quite pleasant and feelgood about this track.

Track 37: Prince Buster – Whine And Grine

Reggae track with a bit of a dull tune and an annoying theme.  Not hugely keen on this one.

Track 38: The All Seeing I – The Beat Goes On

Liked it at the time, find it a bit repetitive now.

Track 39: Goldie – Believe

Irritating, messy track – there’s just far too much going on.

Track 40: Backstreet Boys – All I Have To Give

It’s another painfully saccharine track from the Backstreet Boys.  I know they did do ones that were actually quite good, but we’ve not had any on these Now! compilations so far.

Track 41: Vanilla – No Way No Way

Loved it at the time (especially the Muppets-esque ‘mahna mahna’ bit), find the vocals pretty annoying nowadays.

Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #8

Day 8’s Now! compilation was released on 24th November 1986.

November 1986
Um, I’m not sure I can really say that this is what the world looked like in November 1986, given that my face pretty much takes up this whole photo. It’s what I looked like in November 1986, though, and I bet you can’t get dungarees that cute nowadays.

Let’s move onto the music.

Now! That's What I Call Music #8
Track 1: Duran Duran – Notorious

Yup, I still love Duran Duran.  I also wish the Now! compilers would start putting their tracks later in the mix.  I appreciate the need to start with a great tune, but sometimes it’s nice to save the best for last!

The song is one of my favourites (and not just for that Sparkle Motion bit in Donnie Darko that everyone always brings up).  I love the ‘no-no-notorious’ hook, the way the verses build, the funk guitar – great track.

Track 2: Pet Shop Boys – Suburbia

Another great track from Pet Shop Boys – absolutely beautiful chorus and synth line.

Track 3: Aerosmith and Run DMC – Walk This Way

Bit overplayed these days, but still a classic, although I have to say I prefer the original version that Aerosmith did themselves.

Track 4: The Communards and Sarah Jane Morris – Don’t Leave Me This Way

A childhood favourite and one of the first pop songs I learnt to sing along to!  I guess when you’re a toddler it’s easier to hit those high notes.

I discovered while Richard Coles was competing on Strictly last year that he’s responsible for the longest piano solo of the ’80s, which occurs in the middle of this song.  Plus points!

Track 5: Swing Out Sister – Breakout

Nice and upbeat, but there’s something about the vocal that annoys me.

Track 6: Steve Winwood – Higher Love

Charming song, always liked this one.  Great instrumentals, and I love that singalong chorus.

Track 7: Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – (Forever) Live And Die

A bit slower than usual for OMD, but still a lovely tune.

Track 8: Genesis – In Too Deep

Nice epic instrumentals building throughout the song – really like this one.

Track 9: Cameo – Word Up

Another classic.  There have been a lot of pointless ’90s, ’00s and ’10s covers in an attempt to replicate the greatness of this song, but nothing has come close to the original.

Track 10: Grace Jones – I’m Not Perfect (But I’m Perfect For You)

I do like Grace Jones, and I really like the atmosphere of this track, especially during the verses.

Track 11: Mel & Kim – Showing Out (Get Fresh At The Weekend)

I’ve got a huge soft spot for Mel & Kim, and I really like this one, even though every time it pops up on Vintage TV Geth complains that they never show Respectable, which he apparently remembers as being a much bigger hit.

Track 12: Jermaine Stewart – We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off

I love this one!  I never actually heard it until 2011, when it re-entered the charts after being featured in a Dairy Milk TV advert.  Great pop track.

Track 13: Jaki Graham – Step Right Up

Probably the best out of the Jaki Graham tracks that the Now! compilers have chosen recently.  Nice upbeat track with a catchy chorus.

Track 14: Janet Jackson – What Have You Done For Me Lately?

Quite a fun tune, but the lyrics annoy me.

Track 15: The Human League – Human

I really like this lovely, introspective track – a bit of a departure from the Human League’s earlier stuff, but really nice.

Track 16: Boris Gardiner – I Want To Wake Up With You

Bit cheesy for my liking, though I like the reggae beat.

Track 17: Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush – Don’t Give Up

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

Lovely duet, lovely tune.  Really like this one.

Track 18: The Housemartins – Think For A Minute

I don’t think the Housemartins did a bad tune, and this is gorgeous as usual.

Track 19: Madness – (Waiting For) The Ghost Train

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

Madness turn their hand to ‘spooky’.  Another one for the Hallowe’en playlist!

Track 20: Status Quo – In The Army Now

I really like the atmosphere of this one, and I’m not the biggest Status Quo fan.  Great track.

Track 21: Huey Lewis & The News – Stuck With You

A bit daft and cheesy, but it’s a nice head-nodder.

Track 22: Big Country – One Great Thing

This is a better Big Country track than has been included on Now! compilations so far.  Nice chant-along chorus.

Track 23: Billy Bragg – Greetings To The New Brunette

I like Billy Bragg’s stuff, though I wouldn’t necessarily add it to a typical ’80s party playlist.  It’s more for post-party listening circa 4am.  This one’s got a nice tune and awesome lyrics.

Track 24: Cutting Crew – (I Just) Died In Your Arms

A favourite from back during my first flush of ’80s nostalgia in the early ’00s – I played it over and over.  I was lucky enough to see Cutting Crew play back in November, and the crowd naturally went absolutely nuts for this one.  I think that was the point that Geth and I decided we were no longer going to be stuck in the upper gallery at the Sage, where the party is decidedly not happening.  Apart from anything else, you can’t take drinks into the upper levels!  This decision turned out to be a good one on Monday night, when we went to the Kim Wilde gig and enjoyed a much more high-energy atmosphere down on the floor.

Speaking of Kim Wilde…

Track 25: Kim Wilde – You Keep Me Hangin’ On

Is it another excuse to post the slightly blurry video I took of Kim Wilde performing this song on Monday night?  I think it is!

I like most stuff that Kim Wilde has done, but this is my absolute favourite track of hers.  Stunning cover of the ’60s classic that brings it storming into 1986 – amazing epic atmosphere.

Track 26: It Bites – Calling All The Heroes

Good pop track, though the messed up beat at the start annoys me a bit.  Great singalong chorus.

Track 27: Doctor & The Medics and Roy Wood – Waterloo

Utterly daft cover.  Sadly, I’m going to have to class it as a ‘pointless ’80s cover’, as it’s just not different enough from the Abba version.

Track 28: Debbie Harry – French Kissin’ In The USA

Okay song, but this has never come close to her Blondie classics for me.

Track 29: Robert Palmer – I Didn’t Mean To Turn You On

I really like Robert Palmer’s stuff, and this one is great – awesome instrumentals throughout.

Incidentally, it’s interesting in today’s climate to hear a song of this theme from a male singer.

Track 30: Paul Hardcastle – The Wizard

More interesting sampling from Paul Hardcastle.  Some great bits of tune on this track.

Track 31: Gwen Guthrie – (They Long To Be) Close To You

Nice gentle cover of the Carpenters track.  Not at all a pointless cover – it’s very different.

Track 32: Nick Berry – Every Loser Wins

Really dislike this one, sorry.  Cheesy ballad that I believe was released as an Eastenders tie-in.  Not a fan.