“Look into my eyes”.
Out with the new: in with the old. Now That’s What I Call Music 1991’s opening salvo comprises of four consecutive tracks all enjoying a second bite at the cherry. Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody was an inevitable choice of reissue after Freddie Mercury’s death in November. It topped the charts for nine weeks over December 1975 and January 1976, this time it repeated the trick for five weeks at the end of ’91. April’s The Best Of The Waterboys ’81 – ’90 was promoted by a reissued Whole Of The Moon which had previously reached #26 in 1985; this time around the big music rose to #3. Just above it were James and their signature tune Sit Down, all revitalised and baggyed-up. And forever in blue jeans while they combat rock are The Clash with Should I Stay Or Should I Go.
Rock music: Living Colour were never a favourite of mine but Love Rears Its Ugly Head is an exception – the Soul Power remix is a laidback tune with a Sly Stone swagger. It’s followed by the sentimental power ballad Wind Of Change, Mike And The Mechanics’ driving Word Of Mouth and Roxette’s likeable Joyride. Meanwhile The Wonder Stuff were hitting their stride on LP #3 Never Loved Elvis; the stomping Size Of A Cow went top 5 and they’d also make an appearance on the second disc. Stars: the first of five hits from the multi-platinum album was the passionate Something Got Me Started. Tears: Lenny Kravitz’s super end-of-night anthem It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over. Pair this one with Living Colour and slide away with PM Dawn’s dreamy Set Adrift On Memory Bliss.
The beats move up a notch with the basement disco of Gypsy Woman and Amy Grant’s sugar-coated Baby Baby. And into orbit on one of the year’s hottest club hits You Got The Love featuring Candi Staton’s distinctive vocal. Then there’s a rapid slowdown with Paul Young and Zucchero’s unusual duet Senza Una Donna. It’s a long from I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse down. The ballads continue with Oleta Adams expansive R&B jam Get Here before Julian Lennon’s awkward stick in the spoke, the miserable Saltwater. The 19th and closing song belongs to Sri Lankan-born Beverley Craven: the bewitching Promise Me which, like Crystal Waters, also appeared on The Hits Album.
“All I heard was Niagara falling down”.
CD2 is primarily geared towards the dancefloor. Three of the opening quartet were snapped up by Ashley Abram for Now Dance ’91: Right Said Fred’s swinging I’m Too Sexy, Cathy Dennis’ vital Touch Me and Rozalla’s ravetastic Everybody’s Free (To Feel Good). Flying the flag for Now That’s What I Call Music 20 are the lightweight Let’s Talk About Sex from Salt ‘N’ Pepa and 2 Unlimited’s robotic Get Ready For This. Also in the zone were Oceanic; Insanity started selling in Warrington, picked up airplay in Manchester clubs and went nationwide in October. Another try again effort was Move Any Mountain (Progen ’91) from light shows specialists The Shamen. It reached #4 in August after the tragic death of Will Sinnott. “Last Will and Testament” was the tacky NME headline.
1991 saw The KLF live the dream and have three massive hits. 3AM Eternal reached #1 and was followed by Last Train To Trancentral and Justified And Ancient. Amazing. Now That We’ve Found Love was a summer smash for Heavy D and The Boyz while C&C Music Factory give us Things That Make You Go Hmmm. Classic break. And the groove goes mellow when DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince slip inside this house with Summertime. Epic use of Kool and The Gang sample. Move slightly forward on Zoë’s Sunshine On A Rainy Day. And back to early ’91 for the Now That’s What I Call Music 19 flagbearers: Enigma with the unique and unforgettable Sadeness Part 1. And Seal, four hits over the next 12 months, the first being the haunting Crazy. Cherish the loss of your senses.
Kenny Thomas’ Thinking About Your Love comes off as workmanlike R&B; tough to love. Jason Donovan’s technicolour blast Any Dream Will Do is a gentle lullaby that sets up Erasure’s powerful chorus liner Love To Hate You. Kylie Minogue is never far away; still flying the SAW flag on the funky Shocked. We end with a trio from Now 20: Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark’s somewhat unconvincing Sailing On The Seven Eyes was an unlikely smash. Vic Reeves and The Wonder Stuff with a wigged-out version of Dizzy. And to close we come face to face with Monty Python’s Always Look On The Bright Side Of The Life. Once again it’s the re-recorded radio mix with the alternate lyrics. In yer face.
“I quietly observe standing in my space
Seal – Crazy
Rozalla – Everybody’s Free (To Feel Good)
The Shamen – Move Any Mountain (Progen ’91)
Enigma – Sadeness (Part I)
Lenny Kravitz – It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over
Lest we forget
Living Colour – Love Rears Its Ugly Head
Missing tracks and other thoughts
1991 is a difficult year to anthologise. None of the main compilations fully nailed it at the time and Now That’s What I Call Music 1991 just falls slightly short. CD1 begins sluggishly despite the big ticket items and veers off the path erratically with Amy Grant and Julian Lennon. Ideal replacements could have come from (i) Terminator 2: Guns ‘N Roses with You Could Me Mine and (ii) the rugby World Cup: Kiri Te Kanewa’s peace together anthem The World In Union. The second disc is much more consistent but would have benefited from including early ’91 classics such as Banderas’ one-off This Is Your Life and Massive Attack’s marvellous Unfinished Sympathy. I’d also make a case for Essex boys The Prodigy and their PIF ode Charly.
Exactly half of the 40 tracks were compiled on 1991’s Nows: six from Now 19 and 14 from Now 20 while Bohemian Rhapsody ended up on Now That’s What I Call Music 21. And five more were originally included on Now Dance ’91 with the sole Hits album of the year represented by four songs. Other contributors were Smash Hits 1991 [Baby Baby, Insanity and Move Any Mountain – none truncated here] and The Greatest Hits Of ’91 [The Whole Of The Moon, Things That Make You Go Hmmm]. So there are five strays – all on the first disc: Love Rears Its Ugly Head, Word Of Mouth, Size Of A Cow, It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over, Senza Una Donna (Without A Woman).
17 tracks held the #1 position in 1991 with just six included here although Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me did end up on the 1992 edition. Bryan Adams stayed on top for a staggering 16 weeks from 13 July until U2’s The Fly knocked him off on 2 November. Both are absent although (Everything I Do) I Do It For You being on A&M was always going to cause a problem. Meanwhile Achtung Baby was one of the most important LPs of the decade with five superb 45s taken from it. Failure to include any of these on the 10th Anniversary series of 1991 or 1992 is disappointing. Elsewhere I’d have substituted Innuendo or These Are The Days Of Our Lives for Bohemian Rhapsody while at least one of April and May’s #1s, The One And Only and The Shoop Shoop Song should be on this. It was also the Dangerous era. Black Or White was a crucial cut but an impossible dream.