“I still dream of Orgonon
I wake up crying
You’re making rain
And you’re just in reach
When you and sleep escape me”.
The second Now album of 1992 picks from the late spring and early summer period. I remember it as the dole era. A time to take stock and move forward. In early June Erasure released their four track EP Abba-esque. It was their first and only number one on the UK singles chart; Sometimes and the Crackers International EP had failed at the final hurdle in 1986 and 1989 respectively. They were big ABBA fans and had covered the Swedes’ material in concert a number of times. Abba-esque contained four tracks – Lay All Your Love On Me, SOS, Take A Chance On Me and Voulez Vous. Take A Chance On Me got the most airplay and is the opening track on Now 22. It did a Two Tribes – entered the chart at #1 and remained there for five weeks. Meanwhile ABBA Gold was released in September and became one of the best selling albums of all time. The double LP was a regular fixture on the Ard Na Greine turntable all through the autumn and winter.
Ce Ce Peniston’s Finally became a self-fulfilling prophecy in March ’92. A remix was needed to propel into the top 10. KC and The Sunshine Band’s Please Don’t Go was covered by Italy’s Double You in January. A sound-alike cover by the British group KWS was recorded and released after record company Network failed to secure UK distribution rights for the Double You version. KWS struck a chord with the record-buying public and hit number one on the UK singles chart for five weeks in May. Unfortunately Double You stalled at #41. Elsewhere Take That’s third single It Only Takes A Minute [a Tavares cover] becomes their first big hit. It’s followed by Nick Berry’s inane Heartbeat theme tune and Snap’s pulsating, memorable and classic Rhythm Is A Dancer. And the momentum continues with the massive electronic monster Something Good from the Utah Saints. Amazing sample of Kate Bush’s Cloudbusting.
The Cure’s ninth album Wish saw them move away from the thrillingly miserable sound of Disintegration. Friday I’m In Love became one of their most well-loved songs, a sugary shiny happy jangle of optimism. Switch to the urban decay of 1960s Ballymena as Marc Almond tackles the phoned-in psychedelia of The Days Of Pearly Spencer while The Beautiful South make a welcome return to the series with the poignant harmonies of Bell Bottomed Tear. There’s a move to a more uptempo groove with Prince’s rather leaden-footed Thunder [appearing here in its overlong album version]. Thankfully the cobwebs in the temple are blown away with the rotating and swirling perfection of U2’s Even Better Than The Real Thing. It wasn’t about the soul act from Liverpool. A #12 chart placing was subsequently bettered when Paul Oakenfold’s Perfecto Mix was released a few weeks later. More about that on Now Dance ’92.
The Shamen’s L.S.I. was their long-awaited but anti-climatic follow up to Move Any Mountain – Progen ’91. Electronic’s Disappointed saw Neil Tennant return to the fold. FAC 348 but eventually emerged on Parlophone; a slow-burner but ultimately uplifting and life-affirming. Equally brilliant is I Don’t Care from Shakepears Sister; a sardonic and dynamic manic pop thrill. 1992 was the year of Carter’s Love Album; Do Ro Me, So Far So Good was the less-polished single from it. Also hard on the ears were Ugly Kid Joe and their garish Everything About You. Redeemer #1: Slipmate + Lime = SL2; On A Ragga Tip was the archetypal old skool repetitive beast. Redeemer #2: The Orb’s Blue Room. Their 39 minutes and 58 seconds single slashed by 90% for the 7″. A floaty ambient masterpiece and they played chess while promoting it on Top of The Pops.
Disc 2 takes a different road. First blood: Richard Marx’s Hazard. A brooding and despondent trip with a mysterious video. Miles away from Right Here Waiting. Elton John appears twice on this CD; the mildly overblown strains of The One and the over-familiar duet with George Michael, Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me. Once again Roy Orbison appears posthumously with his powerful version of I Drove All Night while Oz struts his stuff with the surprisingly catchy Ain’t No Doubt. We stay in the middle lane with Joe Cocker’s passionate Unchain My Heart and Curtis Steiger’s rather dull You’re All That Matters To Me. Wilson Phillips fifth UK hit was You Won’t See Me Cry, a colourless ballad. In keeping with a rather morose vibe are Crowded House who seem to have weather on the brain – their introspective Four Seasons In One Day.
Diva: Annie Lennox released her first solo single Why in May. Its award-winning video shows Lennox sitting in front of a vanity mirror staring at herself. A wonderfully intense track. At the other end of the scale are Diana Ross’ lukewarm One Shining Moment and Vanessa Williams’ cloying Save The Best For Last. Thankfully the compilers take heed of this sentiment with a final flurry of R&B heat. En Vogue’s My Lovin’s is a neat slice of sassy funk while Soul II Soul’s Joy is a laidback and chilled out groover. Lastly we have acid jazzers Incognito and their mood-enhancing cover of Stevie Wonder’s Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing. Talkin’ loud and massive.
“And so we watch the sun come up
From the edge of the deep green sea
And she listens like her head’s on fire
Like she wants to believe in me”.
U2 – Even Better Than The Real Thing
Erasure – Take A Chance On Me
Annie Lennox – Why
Electronic – Disappointed
Lest we forget
Incognito – Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing
Missing tracks and other thoughts
While lauded by many as saving the series, Now 22 isn’t quite as revitalising as it reputation suggests. The first half is largely full of quality pop from all ends of the spectrum. However the second disc is a much more low key affair and curiously only has 15 tracks. Some fabulous gatecrashers then:
Iron Maiden – Be Quick Or Be Dead. Metallic.
Saint Etienne – Join Our Club. Uplifting.
Future Sound Of London – Papua New Guinea. Trippy.
Altern 8 – Hypnotic St-8. Ravetastic.
Curve – Horror Head. Glamorous goth.
Wedding Present – Flying Saucer. Cream of the hit parade.
Flowered Up – Weekender. A true epic and a key observation of club culture. Make this the longest ever track to feature. There was enough space at the end of disc 2.
Promotional poster courtesy of the Now That’s What I Call Music Collectors Group UK.