Music Review: Now! That’s What I Call Music #20

Day 20’s Now! compilation was released on 18th November 1991.

November 1991
This is the way the world looked in November 1991 (actually October, so we’re in the wrong month with the photos for the fourth day in a row. Maybe my parents were always too distracted by TV adverts for Now! compilation releases to take any photos during those months?) It’s more timeless rocks, just like yesterday, for which I apologise. My dress with the pompoms was super cute though…and I still have that scrunchie.

I doubt any of the following tracks will be as pleasing as my pompom dress, but let’s have a listen anyway.

Now! That's What I Call Music #20

Track 1: Vic Reeves and The Wonder Stuff – Dizzy

Big Wonder Stuff fan – have seen them fairly often – so I really like this cover of the Tommy Roe classic that they did with Vic Reeves.  There’s enough folky instrumentals here to make it quite different from the original – good stuff.

Track 2: Belinda Carlisle – Live Your Life Be Free

Vocals are a bit overblown here for my liking, but I do like the track, especially the rockier edge.

Track 3: U2 – The Fly

Urgh, the ’90s, when U2 got boring.  Dull tune, repetitive vocals, no fun anymore.

Track 4: Pet Shop Boys – Where The Streets Have No Name (I Can’t Take My Eyes Off You)

And speaking of U2…being a synthpop nut, I do actually prefer this cover to the original.  Sorry, Bono & Co.

Track 5: Erasure – Love To Hate You

Another solid synth track from Erasure – gotta love that I Will Survive sampling.  This is a good example of a sample from a classic tune being used in a track that actually suits it.

Track 6: Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – Sailing On The Seven Seas

I’m a huge fan of OMD’s stuff, and this is a good solid track, even though it’s not quite as synthy as their earlier work.  Great chant-along vocals.

Track 7: Simply Red – Something Got Me Started

I know I said before that the ’80s are my favourite Simply Red era, but this is definitely my favourite individual song of theirs.  Great instrumentals, wonderful atmosphere on the vocals, nice upbeat tempo, and that sax-into-piano solo is mega.  Love it.

Track 8: Lisa Stansfield – Change

Dreary vocals, boring backing track.  Not a fan of this one.

Track 9: Zoë – Sunshine On A Rainy Day

Something about the vocal annoys me here.  I’m not keen on the tune either.

Track 10: Salt-N-Pepa – Let’s Talk About Sex

This was a favourite for kids in my class to sing loudly in my primary school playground in 1991, probably because it was risque and hence kind of rebellious in the thinking of a six-year-old.

I think it was also popularised by the ‘Let’s Talk About Juice’ version in the Fruit-Tella advert (was it Fruit-Tella?  Let me google that a minute.  Um, googling was inconclusive, but it did tell me that it was definitely Fruit-Tella that did the ‘I’m Too Juicy’ takeoff of Right Said Fred’s I’m Too Sexy, so I’m fairly sure they must have done this one too).

I will probably end up doing a whole post soon about how advertising doesn’t work in this respect.  I remember pretty much every TV advert shown during my ’90s childhood, but I can hardly ever remember what the exact product was that they were advertising.

Track 11: Color Me Badd – I Wanna Sex You Up

Bit of a repetitive one, but I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for it due to it being another one that was used in Britain’s Got The Pop Factor.

Track 12: Kenny Thomas – Best Of You

It’s a nice upbeat tempo, but I find the song a bit dull.

Track 13: Prince and The New Power Generation – Gett Off

Prince is another artist who really went downhill in the ’90s as far as I’m concerned.  Not enough melody or joy for me here.

Track 14: Rozalla – Faith (In The Power Of Love)

Nice upbeat dance track, and that sax solo is lovely.  Some really interesting instrumentals here.

Track 15: 2 Unlimited – Get Ready For This

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

Absolute classic dance track from childhood – played at every birthday party in the early ’90s, often during pass-the-parcel in order to ramp the adrenaline up.

Track 16: Moby – Go

Nice epic atmosphere, though the track is a bit repetitive.

Track 17: The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu – It’s Grim Up North [Part 1]

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

This is another alias of the KLF, incidentally.  Good brooding dance track, really like this one.  That Jerusalem sampling is inspired.

Track 18: PM Dawn – Set Adrift On Memory Bliss

Okay a cappella intro, but then we’re straight into the misplaced sampling of Spandau Ballet’s True with awful spoken word and cacophonic clashing vocals over the top.  Just terrible.

Track 19: Paul Young – Don’t Dream (It’s Over)

Utterly pointless cover of the Crowded House classic from a whole five years earlier.  Why did people even buy covers like this?  Surely the original was still available to buy on an album in the record shops!

Track 20: Enya – Caribbean Blue

Beautiful chillout track from Enya – lovely stuff.

Track 21: Julian Lennon – Saltwater

Really nice instrumentals, though the vocals are pretty dull.

Track 22: Paula Abdul – Rush Rush

Nice tune, but it’s a bit slow for me.  Interesting violin solo, though!

Track 23: Jason Donovan – Any Dream Will Do

This was too cheesy for me even as a six-year-old, though lots of my classmates loved it, which meant we had to sing it in music class a lot.  Blurgh.

Track 24: Cathy Dennis – Too Many Walls

Again, solid pop, but I’d prefer it if it were a bit more upbeat.

Track 25: Alison Moyet – This House

Obligatory ‘going to see this artist soon!’ squee.  Well, if you can count next February as ‘soon’…

Beautiful slow ballad with an epic, dramatic atmosphere and gorgeous lyrics.  Hope she plays this one when I go see her!

Track 26: Marc Cohn – Walking In Memphis

Classic, beautiful song – absolutely love this one.

(I even have a real soft spot for the later Cher cover, though that one really is pointless – it’s just this version with Cher’s vocals on top.  Anyway, I won’t get ahead of myself in case it features later.)

Track 27: Glass Tiger – My Town

Cheesy pop-rock, pretty generic.  Not a fan.

Track 28: Scorpions – Wind Of Change

Lovely epic atmosphere, great rock ballad.

Track 29: INXS – Shining Star

Nice interesting track from INXS – great vocals, good build to the song, nice sax towards the end.

Track 30: Roxette – Joyride

Another great upbeat bit of pop-rock from Roxette – great stuff.

Track 31: James – Sit Down

A classic bit of ’90s indie.  When I saw them at Beautiful Days in 2009 they actually finished with this one, which is apparently not at all usual, because being their biggest hit it’s the one they’re sick of.  I do like it, though.

Track 32: Voice Of The Beehive – I Think I Love You

Really like those guitar instrumentals, and the atmosphere is great.  This is probably the best version of the Partridge Family track as far as I’m concerned – it’s so different and so interesting.

Track 33: Slade – Radio Wall Of Sound

‘Not on Spotify’ Type 1: lazy tribute version substitute.

Slade’s earlier stuff is amazing to me, but this track is a bit rock-by-numbers, though I do like that singalong chorus.

Track 34: Monty Python – Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life

Not sure why this classic Life of Brian soundtrack song was back in the charts, but here it is.  Pleasant diversion, but it’s a bit ‘novelty’ for me.

Track 35: Don McLean – American Pie

Often back in the charts since its original 1971 release, this is a great classic to end on!  Beautiful lyrics, lovely tune, absolutely worth its eight-minute-plus running time.

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.