Now That’s What I Call Music 1990 (EMI / Virgin / Polygram, 1993)

Now 1990

Now 1990 r

Review
“The game is about
Being effective
Being aggressive
Winning the ball
Getting it on with the play
We’ll put ’em under pressure”
.

It’s impossible to look back at 1990 without focusing on that glorious summer and our participation in the World Cup. The Republic of Ireland Football Squad released Put ‘Em Under Pressure shortly before before the tournament commenced. It reached #1 on the Irish singles chart on 31 May and remained there for 13 weeks before being deposed by Bombalurina on 30 August. The track was produced by U2’s Larry Mullen and featured an intro by Clannad’s Moya Brennan. It is frequently assumed that the guitar intro was a straight sample of Dearg Doom by Horslips; however this is not the case – it was re-recorded with Anthony Drennan on lead guitar. The title was a catchphrase of then manager Jack Charlton, whose soundbites were sampled for the verse while the chorus was a combination of the familiar football chant “Olé Olé Olé” and a reworking of Ally’s Tartan Army (Scotland’s unofficial theme for World Cup 1978). Forever in our hearts.

The 10th Anniversary series edition for 1990 concentrates on introspective and romantic numbers for the first 10 songs or so. Now That’s What I Call Music 18 is the most common source. The Beautiful South’s unique duet between Dave Hemingway and Brianna Corrigan – the bittersweet A Little Time – reached #1 in October and the primary reason they shifted so many copies of the Choke LP. Roxette’s slow-crunching ballad It Must Have Been Love and The Righteous Brothers’ Unchained Melody both appeared in two the year’s massive box-office hits – Pretty Woman and Ghost. Sinéad O’Connor’s Nothing Compares 2 U was #1 as I turned 18 and will always be associated with that celebration. Elsewhere Elton John’s Sacrifice reminds me of languid summer nights and open car windows while Deacon Blue deliver an impeccable I’ll Never Fall In Love Again.

Eric Clapton provides the guitar work on Phil Collins’ powerful ballad I Wish It Would Rain Down. I think that the But Seriously era deserves a re-appraisal. UB40’s sincere reading of Kingston Town is followed by the atmospheric instrumental Lily Was Here courtesy of David A Stewart and Candy Dulfer. There’s a shift to more uptempo material with Wilson Phillips and the sparkling pop of Hold On before Belinda Carlisle’s juggernaut-on-45 (We Want) The Same Thing blasts off. The lighter mood continues with The B-52s party-out-of-bounds anthem Love Shack before a severe quality drop on Suicide Blonde and The Anniversary Waltz (Part 1). The inlay describes the latter as a “stonking medley”. Swap the o for an i and you’d be closer to the mark.

The Madchester / indie dance vibe is thinly spread across the two discs. The Inspiral Carpets broke through with the charts and McGonagles’ floor with their sixth 45 This Is How It Feels. The Liverpudlian LA’s slot in beside them, the timeless melody of There She Goes. Next are Londonbeat and the FYC-tinged uptempo dance pop of I’ve Been Thinking About You [slightly trimmed – 3:33]. And then it’s time for a pair of beauties originally included on Snap! It Up – Monster Hits 2: They Might Be Giants and the infectious Birdhouse In Your House. Alannah Myles with her sultry pole-dancing cracker Black Velvet. Disc 1 ends with Del Amitri’s engaging tale of drab everyday life, Nothing Ever Happens. A poetic song for our age, just as relevant now as late 1989 / early 1990.

“The needle returns to the start of the song
And we all sing along like before”
.

Disc 2 brings us into the club zone with two chart toppers early on: Killer, Adamski’s melancholy electronic ode to solitude and Snap’s crunchy beats of The Power. The latter is the first of four tracks that were served up on the fantastic end-of-year round up that was Smash Hits 1990. In the middle are The KLF and the jacked-up stadium house of What Time Is Love? It reached #5 and would mark a glorious 18 month period of mayhem and serious chart heat for the duo. While one of the extended 12″ mixes made its way onto the seminal Now Dance 903, the single version evaded capture at the time so its inclusion is vital now. As I’ve said before, the three volumes of Now Dance that emerged during 1990 are essential when analysing the year’s musical directions.

Trip on this: Technotronic were a shoe-in to appear here; Get Up (Before The Night Is Over) reached #2 in February. It was also Hammertime so U Can’t Touch This fits like a glove while the Adventures Of Stevie V and their Dirty Cash (Money Talks) is still an ingenious hybrid of funkiness. One of the sounds of late summer ’90 was the addictive beat of Bass-O-Matic’s Fascinating Rhythm: hearing it now gives me goosebumps and flashbacks to London. Elsewhere there’s Mantronix’s smooth groove of Got To Have Your Love and seriously soulful covers of Fantasy and I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For by Black Box and The Chimes respectively. The sequence climaxes with the DNA dancified bootleg makeover of Tom’s Diner. Suzanne Vega loved it.

It’s back to the earlier half of the year and Now That’s What I Call Music 17 for the next two tracks, both Mute artists – Erasure and Depeche Mode. Blue Savannah is uplifting and life-affirming while Enjoy The Silence has become more like a transcendental hymn. The latter was also part of Now 17’s indie sequence [side 2 of the vinyl] which leads onto another brief snapshot of baggy times: EMF’s Unbelievable, all driving and swaggering grooves. This is followed by The Farm’s prescriptive Groovy Train, given a magic whizz by Terry Farley. I think the quartet would have worked better together.

We’re on the last lap and on the inside is Blue Pearl with the fiery Naked In The Rain. A #4 hit for Big Life. We finally get a SAW tune with Kylie Minogue’s stupendously brilliant Better The Devil You Know which was taken from my favourite LP of hers, Rhythm Of Love. The vibe sticks around for joy on Kim Appleby’s cruising positivity anthem Don’t Worry. I remember Mel who passed away during January 1990. We reach the finishing line with two songs sequenced together like they were on Now 17: Paula Abdul’s Opposites Attract and Beats International’s Dub Be Good To Me. File both under jam hot.

“Dilegua, o notte! Tramontate, stelle!
Tramontate, stelle! All’alba vincero! Vincero! Vincero!”

Favourite tracks
Kylie Minogue – Better The Devil You Know

Bass-O-Matic – Fascinating Rhythm

The KLF featuring The Children Of The Revolution – What Time Is Love?

Londonbeat – I’ve Been Thinking About You

Deacon Blue – I’ll Never Fall In Love Again

Lest we forget
Del Amitri – Nothing Ever Happens

Missing tracks and other thoughts
Sing when you’re winning: Now That’s What I Call Music 1990 is another fine entry in the 10th Anniversary series. The action builds gradually with a well-crafted selection of big romantic hits before a more lively selection of pop and rock while making room for the Deacon Blue and Del Amitri tracks was a masterstroke. On CD2 there’s a fairly generous helping of dance tracks with many of the biggies making an appearance. 1990 was when SAW slide off their perch but Lonnie Gordon’s Happenin’ All Over Again deserved to make the grade rather than just having Kylie flying the flag alone. It was also a time for the imperial autumnal awesomeness of the Pet Shop Boys’ Behaviour; wouldn’t So Hard have sounded fantastic between Blue Savannah and Enjoy The Silence?

23 of the 40 tracks were compiled on 1990’s Nows: nine from Now 17 and 14 from Now 18. The Hits series was represented with seven songs; five from Monster Hits 2 and two off The Hit Pack. Other contributors were Smash Hits 1990 with four [The Power, U Can’t Touch This, Groovy Train and Naked In The Rain] and a sole entry from The Greatest Hits Of 1990 [Technotronic’s Get Up]. Five numbers missed out on being included on the canon UK compilations of the year: I’ve Been Thinking About You, Nothing Ever Happens, What Time Is Love?, Unbelievable and Better The Devil You Know.

18 tracks held the #1 position in 1990 but only seven are here. The major omissions are New Order’s World In Motion, Maria McKee’s Show Me Heaven and New Kids On The Block’s Hangin’ Tough. Elsewhere we have the usual Madonna issue with Vogue while it was a smart move to use Better The Devil You Know instead of Tears On My Pillow. And Ice Ice Baby should have followed U Can’t Touch This. More missing in action: Betty Boo, Deee-lite’s amazing Groove Is In The Heart, other Madchester movers like 808 State, The Charlatans, Happy Mondays, Stone Roses, even Candy Flip. Once again, the Millennium series would go a little bit further for baggy grooves. Lastly a return to Italia ’90: Nessun Dorma is sorely missed. A final memory from Genoa: “The nation holds its breath”.

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6 Responses to Now That’s What I Call Music 1990 (EMI / Virgin / Polygram, 1993)

  1. cosmo says:

    Another fine compilation, which would be enhanced by adding Lonnie Gordon (on the Millennium version thankfully she appears), Halo James, New Order (again on the MIllennium series), Guru Josh, Deee-Lite, Steve Miller Band, Betty Boo, and Craig McLachlan. And Maureen Walsh if we’re gonna push it. Oh, and although Better the Devil You Know was the bigger hit; I actually much prefer Step Back in Time. (Which we do in this very place! :P)

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      Ah yes – Halo James. A favourite of mine and a solid album. I think both the Kylie tracks are great; glad they went for Devil as Step Back In Time was already on Now 18.

  2. Feel the Quality says:

    So Status Quo is “stinking” yet you previously sang the praises of Big Fun? Ok then. As bad as The Anniversary Waltz is, I’d rather listen to it a hundred times than ever hear a trio of bell-ends trying desperately to sing a piece of mawkish tat over a crappy S/A/W drum beat #39. But different strokes and all that.
    As you said, this volume really does a good job of summing up 1990. As mentioned World in Motion and Nessun Dorma should have been on here but with the exception of maybe a couple Of Madchester tracks, it’s spot on. The only change I would make is to swap Sacrifice for Healing Hands. The first song may have been the more played and remembered but Healing Hands seems doomed to fall into that category of “Double A side tracks that are obviously treated as the B-side even though they’re as good as and in some cases better than the “lead” track”. Sacrifice was already on Now 18 and has turned up on other Compilations over the years, Healing Hands is almost seen as the bastard step child.

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      Yes I did. Ultimately it comes down to opinions / preferences but I do think that Big Fun’s A Handful Of Promises [the one that most people don’t remember] is a fine pop song. I own a few Status Quo LPs but really feel that they lost their way in the 1980s. As a general point, this trawl through the pop music of my youth has reinforced a lot of what I already liked but there have been surprises and overlooked tunes coming to the surface.

      You’re right about Healing Hands; the only compilation I’ve got it on is one of the German Hitbreakers; it’s almost been written out.

  3. nlgbbbblth says:

    Speaking of Madchester, Rave I will be reviewed tomorrow. A 1991 double CD compilation on EMI Electrola which focuses on 12″ mixes.

  4. Feel the Quality says:

    As bad as some of the Quo 80s stuff was, it’s light years ahead of the cack they put out in the 90s. The 80s albums were definitely a move away from their rock days towards more a pop sound but at least some of the songs were catchy pop songs (the hook from Marguerita Time is especially so). I’d rather listen to that or In the Army Now than “Jam Side Down” or “Come on you Reds” (which makes the original Burning Bridges seem like a masterpiece in comparison).

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