Now That’s What I Call Music 17 (EMI / Virgin / Polygram, 1990)

Now 17

Now 17 R

“I’ve seen the future and it will be
I’ve seen the future and it works
And if there’s life after, we will see
So I can’t go like a jerk”

The first Now album of the 1990s was released on 23 April. The three balls were still there but had transformed into a large and somewhat garish computer-generated image. We were back to 32 tracks with the artist plugs a curious mix of the old and new – Erasure, Paula Abdul, Phil Collins, UB40, Tina Turner, Beats International, Happy Mondays, Depeche Mode, Technotronic, Bizz Nizz, Candy Flip, Rebel MC “plus many more”.

The first quarter (side 1) is a mixed bag. Erasure’s third single from Wild! was the understated Blue Savannah with its beautiful soaring melody. Master of Ceremonies not Micro Cassette: The Rebel MC established himself as one of Britain’s top rappers in 1989 with two smash hits for Double Trouble – Just Keep Rockin’ and Street Tuff. Better World features the voice of Michelle Jones and is a real roller-skating jam. Reset the Atari! Bust some moves with Paula Abdul’s super fresh funk of Opposites Attract before Lindy Layton’s honeyed voice comes in on the jam hot Dub Be Good With Me.

UB40 went back to labouring for love with a surprisingly decent version of Kingston Town. And now it’s a time for youth: Candy Flip’s steely remake of Strawberry Fields Forever. Candyflipping: simultaneous E + LSD. Purple Ohms and Strawberrys. White doves like a ray of sunshine. Illict dancing under the moonlight. Amen breaks with sunrise. Then there’s a jarring comedown with Tina Turner’s nervous tale I Don’t Wanna Lose You – not saved by a remix. Eric Clapton provides the guitar work on Phil Collins’ dramatic ballad I Wish It Would Rain Down complete with the big choir.

It was a time when two worlds collided. Indie and dance. Side 2 captures the vibe in a similar way that the spirit of house music is preserved on Now That’s What I Call Music 11. Call the cops: it’s the 7″ mix of Step On. The Happy Mondays take John Kongos’ He’s Gonna Step On You Again and twist it into something timeless. Next up is Loaded, Andrew Weatherall’s remarkable remix of Primal Scream’s I’m Losing More Than You’ll Ever Have [originally featured on 1989’s eponymous LP]. Ingredients included samples from The Wild Angels [Peter Fonda] the vocal sample from The Emotions’ I Don’t Want to Lose Your Love, the drum loop from an Italian bootleg remix of Edie Brickell’s What I Am and some elements of the original. It’s really beautiful.

March 1990 was also the time of Violator; Depeche Mode’s masterpiece. They had finally made their Now debut. Enjoy The Silence remains superlatively magnificent and an absolutely haunting performance. No doubt – Right Here, Right Now is probably Jesus Jones most well-remembered song. However Real, Real, Real is thoroughly catchy with a great guitar. Panic at the disco: This Is How It Feels was the Inspiral Carpets’ breakthrough. The taster for Life; the gig at Dublin’s McGonagles took place on the day before the debut LP was released. The crowd were so enthusiastic in their dancing that they broke the floor. A song for those who cannot cope; a Madchester classic.

Shine On was the House Of Love’s debut single. It was released in 1987 and was compiled on NME’s Indie City during 1988. By February 1990 the band were on a high. The eponymous debut LP was very well received and people raved about the previous year’s tour. Destroy The Heart, Christine, Safe and Love In A Car being the performance highlights. A new version of Shine On saw them make Top Of The Pops. The second album had a butterfly on the sleeve and became known as Fontana. Our spirits are then lifted by Faith No More’s epic From Out Of Nowhere before the final curveball of The Quireboys and the rocking tune that is Hey You.

“A little bit of what you fancy doesn’t do you any good at all”.

Disc 2 is the dance zone. This Beat Is Technotronic was their third single and was a comparative chart failure that only reached #14. Vocals by MC Eric. Produced by Jo Bogaert, Artwork by Patrick F Cypen. Photography by Koen Kampioen. When I initially heard the name Lonnie Gordon I thought she was of Dionne / Aretha / Diana / Donna vintage. To an 18 year old Lonnie sounded like an “old” name. Happenin’ All Over Again is one of my favourites SAW productions and the 12″ mix is great too. The 49ers followed up Touch Me with the Jody Watley-sampling Don’t You Love Me while Jimmy Somerville achieves his third solo hit with the defiant disco of Read My Lips (Enough Is Enough). Meanwhile the inoffensive Stronger Than That made it five decades of chart success for Cliff Richard. Re-release this for Christmas 2014 I hear you cry.

1990: time of the dance cover. Jam Tronik’s version of Another Day In Paradise by Jam Tronik hit the top 20 less than six months after Phil’s original complete with the drum loop from Raze’s Break 4 Love. JT And The Big Family’s Moments In Soul is a strange one; building on the Art Of Noise’s Moments In Love while chucking in elements of Soul II Soul and Milli Vanilli. It’s followed by Mantronix and the furious beats of Got To Have Your Love. And then it’s down to Bizz Nizz with the formulaic Don’t Miss The Partyline. Much better is Everything Starts With An E from the E-Zee Possee and MC Kinky. Produced by Jeremy Healy and a slowburner from Ibiza ’89. Banned from the airwaves. Nicked Robinson Crusoe theme. Also rhyming and stealing were D-Mob – grabbing the O-Jays’ Put Our Heads Together for the uptempo house of Put Your Hands Together.

“It’s the loneliness that’s the killer”.

Killer was Adamski’s breakthrough single and also introduced us to Seal. It was just released as Now 17 was going to press and ended up at #1 during May. A belter just before Italia ’90, now clubbed to death. They said that Orbital were mysterious and had close links with the M25 motorway. Chime saw the Hartnoll brothers appearing on Top of the Pops wearing Anti-Poll Tax T-shirts. Not even an attempt at miming. Tomorrow was Tongue ‘N’ Cheek’s anodyne follow-up to the club smash Encore. It’s followed by some “deep house, trance dance and hypnotic soul” – Electribe 101’s marvellously memorable Talking With Myself. Billie Ray Martin provides the haunting vocal. True chill. And the end comes with Sydney Youngblood’s heartfelt I’d Rather Go Blind.

“Love is a promise, love is a souvenir
Once given never forgotten, never let it disappear”

Favourite tracks
Primal Scream – Loaded

Candy Flip – Strawberry Fields Forever

Orbital – Chime

Electribe 101 – Talking With Myself

Lest we forget
Lonnie Gordon – Happenin’ All Over Again

Missing tracks and other thoughts
Overall it’s a fairly winning selection by the Box Music team. Side 2 captures the Madchester zeitgeist and could possibly have been improved if the final two tracks [Faith No More and The Quireboys] were replaced. The first candidate has to be the Stone Roses. They need to be there. Take your pick from Fools Gold, Elephant Stone or Made Of Stone – all three charted during the November 1989 to March 1990 period. Alternatively the AA side What The World Is Waiting For could also be considered.

Pick from one of these two for the other indie side slot:
Electronic – Getting Away With It. Beautiful and literate.
The Farm – Stepping Stone. Somewhat clunky now but a groover then.

And three other midfield generals:
Tears For Fears – Advice For The Young At Heart. Wish I had listened.
Belinda Carlisle – Runaway Horses or La Luna. Her third solo album unleashed six 45s.
The Cure – Pictures Of You. Neat single edit of longing.


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6 Responses to Now That’s What I Call Music 17 (EMI / Virgin / Polygram, 1990)

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