Now That’s What I Call Music 26 (EMI / Virgin / Polygram, 1993)

Now 26

Now 26 r

“Way down where the music plays
Way down like a tidal wave
Way down where the fires blaze”

(I Can’t Help) Falling In Love With You was traditionally used by Elvis Presley to end his live sets. UB40’s faithful reworking opens Now That’s What I Call Music 26. This was the first volume to include 40 tracks while the front cover was a cool red background with lights strategically dotted. After treading water with Now That’s What I Call Music 24 and Now That’s What I Call Music 25, this new edition is a vast improvement and in my opinion, is one of the strongest volumes in the entire series.

Very was the fifth Pet Shop Boys album. Initial CD copies were bundled with a six track disc named Relentless – a hedonistic dance trip. The closing song on the main LP was a cover of The Village People’s Go West and has become on their most enduring anthems. It’s followed by Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s Relax which enjoyed another chart run that autumn on foot of Bang! The Best Of Frankie Goes To Hollywood. The sleeve note refers to “this remix” but I can confirm it’s the original 1983 version. M People’s star continued to rise with the uplifting One Night In Heaven while there’s some gorgeous R&B from Eternal [making their first Now appearance with Stay] and SWV’s thrilling Right Here.

CD1, track 7: Boom! Shake The Room by Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince. A busy jam. Meanwhile The Shamen milk another single out of Boss Drum, the ridiculously catchy Comin’ On. The 7″ remix is courtesy of The Beatmasters. Stakko Bo’s lightweight Here We Go remains good fun while Chaka Demus and Pliers’ She Don’t Let Nobody is a relaxing soul-tinged toaster. Tina Turner turns up the heat with her feverish cover of Disco Inferno. Make way for Belinda Carlisle’s return on the rifftastic Big Scary Animal. Placing The Spin Doctors’ Two Princes after it almost makes the latter sound tolerable.

R.E.M. had five UK hits in the nine month period between October ’92 and July ’93. The ebullient Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite followed Drive and Man On The Moon while Everybody Hurts [included on Now 25] would come afterwards. The Levellers make a appearance with This Garden, a stirring tune which blends into James’ taut grooves of Laid. This remarkable sequence continues with the synergic harmonic pop of Crowded House’s Distant Sun. A perfectly-crafted gem. And fresh from supporting The Frank and Walters come Radiohead with Creep: a song that’s almost anonymous here but would become so massive as time went by. For the closing number we go back to hell: Meatloaf’s mysterious and cryptic I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That). Yes, “that”.

“And if the world does turn
And if London burns I’ll be standing on the beach with my guitar”

The second half gets underway with the monstrous sound of Cappella and U Got 2 Let The Music. Next: Haddaway was born in Tobago, grew up in Chicago and moved to Germany in 1987. What Is Love was one of the year’s bestsellers – all over Europe – and peaked at #2 in the summer. 2 Unlimited’s hot off the presses Maximum Overdrive is more of the same while Culture Beat’s explosive Euro dance smash Mr Vain is still massive. Then there’s latin drum madness from an Ibiza holiday session on The Goodmen’s Give It Up. And anarchy in the UK as John Lydon meets Leftfield on the molten groove of Open Up.

CD2, track 7: Boom! Shack-A-Lack by Apache Indian. Could it have been anything else? Also ready for release was Urban Cookie Collective’s frankly awesome Feels Like Heaven. There’s no let up as the Captain Hollywood Project deliver an ecstatic 90s disco sound on More And More. Former Working Week singer Julie Roberts gets busy with storming week while we go back to March for Jamiroquai’s wonderful funk of Too Young To Die. We finally slow things down with Dina Carroll’s lovelorn and devastating ballad Don’t Be A Stranger. The most popular of them all, Take That’s Pray follows, a fond memory from that summer with Gabrielle’s downbeat Going Nowhere coming next.

Lena Fiagbe is a wispy entry in the story of ’93; the bright grooves of Gotta Get It Right spending five weeks in the top 75 and reaching #20 after the earlier failure of You Come From Earth. Soul II Soul’s keep dreaming on the evocative Wish while Lisa Stansfield’s star continues to rise on the atmospheric slowburner So Natural. Elsewhere the Young Americans soundtrack throws up Bjork and David Arnold’s haunting Play Dead. The gentle touch continues: Lenny Kravitz’s lush Heaven Help and Go West’s smokey take on Tracks Of My Tears. And like a moth to a flame, we slip away with Janet Jackson’s ultra-cool dance cut That’s The Way Love Goes. A bittersweet symphony.

“And the man who pretends he knows it all
is destined to a Mighty Fall”

Favourite tracks
Leftfield / Lydon – Open Up

M People – One Night In Heaven

James – Laid

Crowded House – Distant Sun

Janet Jackson – That’s The Way Love Goes

Lest we forget
Belinda Carlisle – Big Scary Animal

Missing tracks and other thoughts
Now That’s What I Call Music 26 is a totally killer selection with very few lows. Disc 1 begins with some heavy hitters before getting into catchy crowd-pleasers and a most interesting indie / rock sequence. CD2 is even better; switching from full-on dance anthems to a chilled downbeat selection for its second half. A couple of tracks are out of place timewise namely Pray and The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite but no matter. And to keep things fresh, the compilers decided to go for almost 25% of new or just about to be released tunes – a decision that paid off. I found it very hard to pick favourite tracks and I honestly don’t know how I could fit these in but here’s a few other suggestions:

Visage – Fade To Grey (1993). The year of the remix.
Paul Weller – Wild Wood. Solo coming-of-age.
Kate Bush – Rubberband Girl. Bounces back.
Depeche Mode – Condemnation. A gospel stomp.
Phil Collins – Both Sides Of The Story. The Millennium series 1993 is your friend for this and the Modfather.


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27 Responses to Now That’s What I Call Music 26 (EMI / Virgin / Polygram, 1993)

  1. cosmo says:

    The best Now of ’93. Almost plays like a “Now 1993 Vol. 2”, due to it scooping up some of the year’s defining hits from the previous 6 months.

    As you say, a VERY high hitrate here, chock full of crackers. Some personal favourites include PSBs, M People, Eternal, Radiohead, Culture Beat, Juliet Roberts (who was last seen in the Top 40 a full 10 years earlier, as the vocalist on the Funk Masters’ “It’s Over”), Jamiroquai, and Janet Jackson, with whom this album ends on a high, with a killer groove masterminded by Jam & Lewis.

  2. Feel the Quality says:

    The low points of this album come from covers. Tina Turner’s Disco Inferno is laughable and Go West slaughtering Tracks of my Tears is one of the worst travesties in music. Shame really, as a quite like their early 90s “Renaissance” with Faithful and the excellent King of Wishful Thinking.
    This Now was part of that strange period from 22-29 when they started coming up with some truly bizarre inclusions that normally wouldn’t appear but due to the extra tracks needed, gained inclusion. I’m a fan of this as we might not have had certain artists being compiled with the shorter listings. Like The Rolling Stones on 29, Tori Amos on 27, The Levellers here, Crash Test Dummies on 29. They make mention of 29 having an eccentric tracklisting on Now-Decades and they’re not wrong. And it’s what makes it one of my favourites.

  3. nlgbbbblth says:

    Good point re the bizarre inclusions – the need for 40 tracks certainly scooped up some oddities. Now 29 is another high point; the initial disappointment in the new slim packaging quickly disappeared when I played it.

  4. Pingback: Hits ’93 – Volume 4 (Telstar / BMG, 1993) | A Pop Fan's Dream

  5. Pingback: Now That’s What I Call Music 27 (EMI / Virgin / Polygram, 1994) | A Pop Fan's Dream

  6. Pingback: Now That’s What I Call Music 29 (EMI / Virgin / Polygram, 1994) | A Pop Fan's Dream

  7. Pingback: Now That’s What I Call Music 1993: The Millennium Series (EMI / Virgin / Universal, 1999) | A Pop Fan's Dream

  8. Andrew Chinnock says:

    There are a couple of surprising early fades on cd 2, to save a few seconds here and there. Pointless as there’s more than a minute of space still available.

  9. Martin Davis says:

    Remember getting a second hand vinyl copy of this from a car boot sale around Easter 2001. The kind old lady running the stall let me have it for something like 50p or £1.00.

    Also got Now 29 on tape that day- or at least I thought I had. On closer inspection turned out the wrong tapes were in the box and I’d got the second cassette of Now 26 and the first cassette of Now 27.

    At the time I first heard this most of the tracks were new to me with the only familiar tracks being the ‘Frankie Goes To Hollywood’, ‘REM’ , ‘Culture Beat’ and ‘Meatloaf’ tracks. Admittedly my favourite track on the album when I got it was the REM track.

    I also remember thinking for ages this was the last album to get a vinyl release. Quite simply because the track blurb on subsequent volumes states “From the CD/Tape” and doesn’t make reference to LPs. Was actually rather shocked when I found the vinyl releases actually went up to 35 and included Now 1993 and Now 1994.

    Now 1993 confused me big time as the accompanying text in some instance said “From CD/Tape” and in some instances said “From CD/Tape/LP”. I assumed for ages that such albums never got a vinyl release although the only one I remember finding proof of was the Bluebells Greatest Hits album that “Young at Heart” came off of.

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      1993 was vinyl’s nadir in terms of sales. New LPs were selling in very small quantities. I would do a trawl of Dublin’s record shops every Saturday and there were very few of us buying new vinyl. So much so, it was quite easy to pick two copies of new albums. The Now albums would sit in Virgin or HMV for weeks on end; only one person I knew was still buying them on vinyl. While CDJs didn’t arrive in clubs until 1994, all DJ booths had a CD player at that point. 38 minutes of music per side makes for a very poor-sounding record.

      The “From CD/Tape” was just laziness. Even though sales were down, most albums were still getting a vinyl release. I remember my local shop getting 250 copies of U2’s Zooropa in on release day – just two LPs – I bought both.

      Fast forward 26 years and the same people who eschewed LPs for cassettes and CDs back then are now BAVJs – Born Again Vinyl Junkies. They’ve gone totally anti-CD and throw a tantrum if a new multi-disc box set doesn’t come out on vinyl.

      • Martin Davis says:

        Once again thanks for an interesting response.

        I find it interesting how over the years vinyl has gone from being unfashionable to becoming much sort after.

  10. Martin Davis says:

    I cant help but wonder why the decision was made to include “The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight” on Now 26 when it had come out before “Everybody Hurts” which appeared on Now 25.

    Was it maybe a ‘Thompson Twins’ situation like on Now 4 where EMI/Virgin couldn’t get the rights to the latest REM single or did it come down to the fact the latest one at the time of Now 26 (can’t remember if it was “Man On The Moon” or “Nightswimming” didn’t chart very high? Or is there maybe another reason such as “Sidewinder” fitting better alongside the other tracks on Now 26?

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      Hi Martin,
      Man On The Moon was just released at same time as Now 26 so would have been a more logical fit. While the November volume has a habit of featuring tracks from early in the year, I don’t think that was the reason here. I imagine Warner Brothers were reluctant to license Man On The Moon on the basis that its inclusion could affect sales of the film’s soundtrack album which came out the same day as Now 26.

      • Martin Davis says:

        Hi again Paul

        Thanks for responding. The suggestion you have given does make sense. Had no idea “Man On The Moon” was included in a film. Guess you learn something new everyday.

  11. Andrew Chinnock says:

    Hi Paul, Happy New Year etc!

    A thought about the inclusion of ‘What Is Love’ by Haddaway. As covered before, the BMG tracks on here were taken from Hits 93 volume 3 with the newer Take That, M People and Haddaway stuff on volume 4. Haddaway’s ‘Life’ had already been well compiled up to this point by Telstar and Dino, possibly others, so I can’t see many reasons for BMG refusing permission for it to appear on here. By the time this was released ‘What Is Love’ was long gone and it had featured on seemingly every compilation that summer! It had also appeared on Best Dance Album In The World 1 and Now Dance 93: The Best Of, so I wonder if Abram thought sod it, I’ll use it again!

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      Hi Andrew
      Many happy returns!
      Possibly the winter volume covering a few tracks from much earlier that had missed out – a common enough ploy.

      • Andrew Chinnock says:

        I was just looking at a reply on another thread considering release dates of tracks. I think Mr Vain could have been replaced by Got To Get It – after all, Mr Vain appeared on virtually everything around that time. I’d have also taken off Captain Hollywood Project and replaced it with the Time Frequencies’ ‘Real Love 93’ and put The Prodigy’s ‘One Love’ instead of Juliet Roberts, who only lasted a week in the top 40. Would have been an edgier opening half of disc 2!

  12. Martin Davis says:

    I can’t help but wonder why “Both Sides Of The Story” didn’t make it to Now 26 whereas follow up track “Everyday” which I’m assuming didn’t chart as high did? Was it maybe the case that “Both Sides” was released too late to be included on Now 26 whereas by the time Now 27 came out they decided to go for “Everyday” which was the more recent track?

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