Indie Top 20 Volume 22 (Beechwood Music, 1995)

By the time Indie Top 20 Volume 22 arrived, the Shine series was gathering momentum as the compilation of choice for certain members of the alternative set. In their overview, Beechwood describe their latest outing as “another eclectic upfront collection of the most outstanding tracks from the vibrant UK indie chart.” Once again the design changed, the consistency of the previous four volumes swept aside for images of subbuteo men.

I was football mad in the early 1980s. Only in threes; Shoot! every week, The Rothmans Football Yearbook at Christmas and Subbuteo as often as I could. It wasn’t a game you could play on your own so usually it was against one of my neighbours. Typically we played on a bedroom carpet – very hard on the knees with all kinds of pins & needles, dead legs and cramps an inevitable outcome. Sometimes we had the luxury of using a wooden table, much more comfortable and less change of falling on top of the pitch and crushing the players. The selection of teams in Fitzmaurice’s of Waterford was poor; Stoke City was as exotic. However we used to paint out own; the gold of Brazil being particularly memorable with numbers in blue marker on the base; the tiny stickered numbers you could buy would always fall off. I had the scoreboard while my friend had floodlights and corner kickers.

“The reliable alternative” kicks off with Wake Up Boo! You’ve heard it a thousand times before and it’s impossible to play with fresh ears now. Echobelly’s Great Things is possibly their weakest moment, an anti-anthem of personal goals while my opinions on Sleeper’s Vegas & Teenage Fanclub’s Sparky’s Dream can both be read on Shine Too review. Then there’s the lesser spot Julian Cope hit-ish, the plaintive Try Try Try, lifted from the uneven 20 Mothers. Next: Ash’s frenzied yet so cruel Kung Fu which towers over the baffling Wannadies B-side – a cover of Blister In The Sun while Intastella’s treatment of Frank Valli’s The Night is equally clumsy. Equally insipid are Powder and the clíched Afrodisiac. Thankfully disappointment is avoided when you play Heavy Stereo’s glam stomper Sleep Freak. A slowburner – it took me years to click with it – it really packs a groovy punch.

Dubstar’s melancholic dreampop masterpiece Stars is a track that reeks of time, place and circumstance. They supported Erasure on their 1996 tour – “Cheers, thanks a lot” – and Disgraceful was the soundtrack to a number of self-made flat get togethers. Next are The Charlatans, still survivors, but then ploughing through their fourth album, reeking of the Stones. That’s perfectly sequenced into the epic poetry in motion of The Verve and their marvelously moody On Your Own, lifted off A Northern Soul. I think Ruby hold the record for worst attended gig ever – rumours that only three people showed up for their Olympia show. Paraffin has been remixed by Red Snapper which certainly improves on the original. By then both of my Silverfish t-shirts had been stolen and with that, an era had ended.

The Belly timeline roughly coincides with my spell in UCD. Gepetto reminds me of the dark winter of ’92 with Star a sparkling January gem in Mount Pleasant Avenue. King touched down in February ’95, before the spiraling madness and chaos that ensued later in the spring. Seal My Fate was the final single before the break up, searing & intense, a perfect sign-off. Elsewhere Garbage’s Subhuman is a rare misstep, abrasive without the sweet heart while Mansun’s Take It Easy Chicken (awful title) comes with a powerful riff that carries the whole tune. For the closing trio, things go a little flat. Done Lying Down’s Chronic Offender manages to be one of the least memorable singles of the ’90s while the Supermodel tune is turgid inferiority complex rubbish. Finally Perfume wrap things up with the shimmering & spectral Yesterday Follows You that manages to wipe out the sour taste of the previous pair of no-hopers. “He flicked to kick. And I didn’t know.”

Favourite tracks
The Verve – On Your Own

Ash – Kung Fu

Belly – Seal My Fate

Lest we forget
Heavy Stereo – Sleep Freak

Posted in Indie Top 20 | Leave a comment

Instrumental Moods (Virgin, 1995)

As winter 1995 approached, Virgin released another new age compilation to sooth our souls. Instrumental Moods is yet another contemporary soundtrack with Enya, Mike Oldfield, Enigma all namechecked on the inlay along with “themes from The Choir, Inspector Morse & The Deer Hunter.” Six of its 20 tracks had already featured on earlier volumes in the series as follows:
Moods: Kenny G – Songbird, Barrington Pheloung – Inspector Morse Theme, Ennio Morricone – Chi Mai
Moods 2: Fleetwood Mac – Albatross
Pure Moods: Enigma – Return To Innocence
Celtic Moods: John Anderson Concert Orchestra – Riverdance
While Senses, released by Polygram TV in 1994 is where you will find my thoughts on Incantation – Cacharpaya, Giorgio Moroder – Love Theme From Midnight Express, John Williams – Cavatine (Theme From The Deer Hunter).

There’s a new age rush on Yeha-Noha (Wishes Of Happiness And Prosperity) by the German musical project Sacred Spirit. This tribal number is sung by Navajo elder Kee Chee Jake from Chinle, Arizona. Pipes of peace. Throwing back the apple to 1987 was Enya with The Celts. Sung entirely in Irish, it was the theme song to the 1986 BBC documentary The Celts. The haunting video of the song was filmed at Bodiam Castle. The LP was re-issued in ’92 and The Celts reached #29. The B-side of the single, Eclipse, is the song Deireadh An Tuath (found on The Celts album), played backwards. Don’t stop etc. Meanwhile Mike Oldfield’s Sentinel is a restructured, shorter version of the track from Tubular Bells II. The piece itself is a re-imagining of the introduction theme from Oldfield’s 1973 album Tubular Bells. There’s a crescendo tease that’s handled perfectly; if you want more I strongly recommend the companion sets The Studio Albums 1992-2003 and The Best Of 1992-2003. Sometimes, it is a good idea to go back and revisit the past.

The sultry sound of Santana stands out, the expertly-played Samba Pa Ti, going straight to your soul. Next are Adiemus and their eponymous number that featured in the Delta Airline advert. It was written in 1994 by Karl Jenkins with South African singer Miriam Stockley chosen as a lead vocalist due to her wide range of intonation while Purley resident Mary Carewe took over additional vocals. The London Philharmonic Orchestra were also involved. The song is also often misattributed to Enya, primarily due to the memorable television advert for Pure Moods (US) featuring both Adiemus and Orinoco Flow. It’s followed by that live version of The Shadows’ Don’t Cry For Me Argentina that also featured on Reflections, another easy compilation that also includes a number of these Instrumental Moods tracks. Far better is Geoffrey Burgon’s haunting theme to the 1981 television adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s novel, Brideshead Revisited – a score that will make you long for times you’ve never experienced and people you’ve never met.

Jim Parker’s Theme From Soldier Soldier is a pleasant interlude and takes me back to Monday nights from the early ’90s, before Robson & Jerome got involved. And celebrating its 60th birthday in 2021, Acker Bilk’s relaxing Stranger On The Shore still packs a punch, evoking nostalgia across the ages. New for the time, Zbigniew Preisner’s Theme From People’s Century was a memorable piece of music for a fine history series. Finally Panis Angelicus (Latin for Bread of Angels) is the penultimate strophe of the hymn Sacris Solemniis written by Saint Thomas Aquinas for the feast of Corpus Christi. César Franck’s arrangement – as used in the BBC series The Choir (also 1995) – features a wonderful vocal by 12 year old soprano Anthony Way. He was backed by the Gloucester Cathedral Choir and the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra. Released by PolyGram label Decca, the soundtrack album went platinum, selling 350,000 copies worldwide and spent 15 weeks at the top of the UK Classical chart. Very much of its era and rarely included on other comps.

In 1997, the US version of Instrumental Moods was released with an identical sleeve which omitted the “featuring” details. It’s almost completely different to the UK release with just one common track – Santana’s Samba Pa Ti. Otherwise it’s chock-full of goodies like 3rd Force – In The Full Moon Light, Enigma – Knocking On Forbidden Doors, Ottmar Liebert – Barcelona Nights, Cusco – Montezuma, Sacred Spirits – Dawa (Cradlesong), Eric Serra – Heat (from The Fifth Element), Jesse Cook – Tempest, Eric Johnson – Cliffs Of Dover, Neal Schon – Midnight Express, Massive Attack – Weather Storm, Afro Celt Sound System – Sure As Not (Full Whack Dub), Vanessa Mae – Widescreen, Ennio Morricone – Gabriel’s Oboe (from The Mission), David Lanz – Cristofori’s Dream, Craig Chaquico – Gathering Of The Tribes. Check it out here. This really is some glorious sounding stuff.

Meanwhile in 1996, the same sleeve was also used for Pure Moods 2 (Sweden) which is another diverse selection with unique tunes like Alan Silvestri – Forrest Gump Suite, Sacred Spirit – Tor-Cheney-Nahana, Deep Forest – Marta’s Song, Angelique Kidjo – Agolo, Enigma – Principles Of Lust, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan – Mustt Mustt (Massive Attack Remix), Cecilia Vennersten – Det Vackraste, Michael Ó Suilleabháin – Lumen, Oliver Shanti & Friends – Fight Without Fear, Secret Garden – Nocturne, Dana Dragomir – Mio My Mio, Björn J:Son Lindh & Staffan Scheja – Spirits Of Europa, Supernova – Gold.

Favourite tracks
Mike Oldfield – Sentinel (Single Restructure)

Adiemus – Adiemus

Acker Bilk – Stranger On The Shore

Lest we forget
Geoffrey Burgon – Brideshead Revisited

Posted in Moods | Leave a comment

Shine 3 (Polygram TV, 1995)

Where Shine Too was “Brilliant”, the third volume screamed “Dazzling” on the inlay tagline. Namechecked artists – Oasis, Blur, Supergrass, Pulp, Menswear, Sleeper, Cast, Gene, Echobelly, Lightning Seeds. The first two releases are shown as “also available”. This is one of my favourites, mixing the fabulous, the familiar & the forgotten to great effect.

Like Oasis, Pulp made it three appearances out of three and take their turn to kick off. Common People needs no introduction; yes, it is the single version here. We got the B-side Underwear on the previous volume of Shine. My favourite sleeve on Different Class is the one of Candida; still the album that 1995 must be measured against. Note that deluxe edition only includes the demo of Ansaphone; if you need the regular mix, check out the 2CD French pressing from the time. Oasis inferior Roll With It is next, a record defined by its B-sides Rockin’ Chair and It’s Better People. Oh for another Masterplan (2): see my review of Now That’s What I Call Music 1998: The Millennium Series for more on that subject. Completing the front-loading are Supergrass and the buoyant banger Alright, bringing me back to the balmy late nights on Moyne Road. Dropping down a gear in terms of immediacy come the Lightning Seeds and the jolly genius of Marvellous, a #24 hit from the cramming ‘n’ panic era. “Wake up – this is the time – you know I’m right.”

Sleeper’s What Do I Do Now? is a fantastic slice of wistful indie pop that’s played perfectly, less barging than normal and all the better for it. A Thoughtforms for the mid-90s. Next are Menswear and the hollow fizz glam of Stardust. Reminds me of Rí-Rá’s dark corridors and the prospect of “work in six hours” – when the answer was to order another vodka. Another biggie called Alright; this one by Cast from the superb All Change, the best selling debut in Polydor’s history. And Garbage as the misery pours down on the shimmering Only Happy When It Rains. “You wanna hear about my new obsession? I’m riding high upon a deep depression.” Moving on, next come Echobelly on the impossibly catchy King Of The Kerb which in turn blends into Ash’s absolutely joyous rush of Angel Interceptor, from a time when each of their stunning singles seemed better than the last. Bringing down this heady sequence are Blur and their late ’94 single End Of A Century, a mostly melancholy mediation and brave choice rather than giving us Country House yet again.

The Stone Roses were on the festival circuit during the summer of ’95, touring The Second Coming. However we go back five years here and it’s the 7″ mix of One Love. Out of place but welcome seeing as the band couldn’t be bothered including it on their £££ super deluxe edition of the debut album. It’s followed by one of the most underrated 45s of the time, the Boo Radleys’ gorgeous part-psych From The Bench At Belvidere. Meanwhile, Gene continue to build and build with the majestic Olympian, title track of their perfectly formed debut. Over to Dean Mitchell: “Quite simply one of the most perfectly crafted slices of indie pop every created. The way it caresses you as it builds and then that spine tingling climax.” Killing me every time is the line where Martin Rossister sings “I can only be normal with you.” The large format booklet that comes with the LP reminds me of the one in the Nick Drake Fruit Tree set, originally released as a 12″ x 12″ package. J Creed.

It’s a matter of taste but I think that The Charlatans’ Just When You’re Thinkin’ Things Over is a perfect summer 45. The CD single contains two tracks remixed by the Chemical Brothers. Underrated and almost forgotten now – steamrolled in the battle for number one. It was the third single from their self-titled fourth LP and was included on both Melting Pot and Forever compilations. Next come The Levellers and the raucous Fantasy, more enjoyable than usual in these fine surroundings. Meanwhile Marion’s Let’s All Go Together sounds almost goth-like in its delivery, memories of a long-gone mixtape in Richie’s. Plus it’s great to hear Shed Seven’s twisty epic Where Have You Been Tonight for the first time in years. Next it’s The Wannadies and the endearing spiky banger Might Be Stars. Live forever etc. Finally, we end with an oldie – Step On – presumably included because of its inclusion on their contemporary compilation Loads. The Discogs entry for Shine 3’s notes it as “Step On ’95” but to me it sounds just like the 5:19 version on Pills ‘N’ Thrills And Bellyaches. A Black Grape would have been better but was presumably difficult to licence. Only a sucker could think that this party would ever come to an end.

Favourite tracks
Gene – Olympian

Lightning Seeds – Marvellous

Ash – Angel Interceptor

Lest we forget
Sleeper – What Do I Do Now?

Posted in Shine | Leave a comment