Like the previous year, there were just two Now albums in 1991. However Ashley Abram was kept busy as EMI released two volumes of a short-lived series named Awesome!! in February and October respectively. Both contained 20 tracks and while there were some overlaps with Nows of the period, Awesome!! and Awesome!! 2 are essential in documenting the chart stories of the 1990/1991 era. Once again the artwork and design is credited to Quick On The Draw with sleevenotes in the classic Now style.
Let’s kick it. Vanilla Ice’s Under Pressure-sampling Ice Ice Baby topped the charts in the UK and the US. Fun, fun, fun. 2 In A Room was a Dominican hip hop, freestyle music and hip house duo from Washington Heights, New York. Their hot club hit Wiggle It continues the cheese flavour with a smoking groove. Are you ready? The KLF finally hit the promised land with a remix of their 1989 track 3AM Eternal. A slamming beat and a great one to run to. Classic Vegas ‘n’ Elvis sample at the end.
And to Soho. Take the riff from The Smiths’ How Soon Is Now? and layer it over a Soul II Soul rhythm track. The result was the rather tripped-out Hippychick which blends into The LA’s reactivated Mersey paradise chime classic There She Goes. We continue with Liverpool and The Farm. All Together Now was their war song; Peter Hooton wrote the lyrics in his early 20s after reading about the extraordinary events on the Western Front during Christmas 1914. It is fundamentally a song about peace and reconciliation. The indie dance sequence continues with Jesus Jones’ crunchy International Bright Young Thing and Pop Will Eat Itself’s surreal black country classic X, Y & Zee.
The Dream Warriors exploded with the self-referential hip hop of My Definition Of A Boombastic Jazz Style. Quincy Jones would be proud. People’s Instinctive Travels And The Paths Of Rhythm remains one of the early 90s’ best rap albums. Can I Kick It? was wicked and sampled Walk on the Wild Side [Lou Reed], What a Waste [Ian Dury], Spinning Wheel [Lonnie Smith], Dance Of The Knights [Sergei Prokofiev] and Sunshower [Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band]. Seal had first come to our attention as the singer on Adamski’s Killer; Crazy was his first solo hit, a somewhat apocalyptic journey into sound. Meanwhile a cover of a 1978 Earth, Wind and Fire’s Fantasy propelled Black Box into the UK top 5 during November 1990. Also re-shaping were Tongue ‘N’ Cheek who, assisted by DNA, gave Patrice Rushen’s Forget Me Nots a euphoric makeover.
Hammer time: U Can’t Touch This spun the riff from Super Freak and went mega stateside. Kim Appleby’s first 45 reached #2 in late ’90 – Don’t Worry and its upfront coping mechanism. Next up are The Beloved; still drawing from Blissed Out and the comforting Ibizan vibes of It’s Alright Now. The beat goes on with 808 State’s frenzied Cubik and Yazoo’s blindingly and heavily synthesised update of Situation. There’s a pullback to more traditional fare for the final pair: Roxette’s underrated rocker Dressed For Success and The Beautiful South’s tale of relationship disintegration A Little Time.
In conclusion, Awesome!! plays like a fantastic mix tape. Ashley’s sequencing is on the money and there’s a nicely subversive final track [A Little Time] which nicely contrasts with Now That’s What I Call Music 18 where it’s used to open the first disc. Dig this.
“But I never said I would stay to the end”.
The KLF – 3AM Eternal
808 State – Cubik
Pop Will Eat Itself – X, Y & Zee
Lest we forget
Yazoo – Situation (Remix)