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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12 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

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