Now That’s What I Call Music 26 ended 1993 on a high. The 27th volume, released on 28 March 1994, builds on the momentum and is an evocative snapshot of the spring charts. Seven of its tracks had already featured on Hits ’94 – Volume 1 [D:Ream, K7, EYC, Tori Amos, 2 Unlimited, Bitty McLean, Shara Nelson] while there’s a crossover of nine tunes with Now Dance ’94 – Volume 2. Purchased along with Hole’s Live Through This.
It’s a strong opening sequence with Ace Of Base leading the pack on The Sign. This was covered by lo-fi heroes, The Mountain Goats. Two #1s follow: Chaka Demus and Pliers’ reggae take on Twist And Shout and D:Ream’s pumping power of positive thinking anthem Things Can Only Get Better. The good vibes continue on East 17’s It’s Alright, their biggest hit to date. And then it’s a lover spurned: M People’s Moving On Up is an uptempo track about progression. Elegant Slumming wins the Mercury Music Prize. Eternal’s Save Our Love is quality soul; a mature second smash for the London girls. Enigma’s Return To Innocence brings with it an epic transcendental air, a worthy Cretu creation.
Making their way over from Now That’s What I Call Love are the Bee Gees and Wendy Moten. For Whom The Bell Tolls is classic Gibb, all soaring harmonies while Come In Out Of The Rain is a simple yet powerful soul ballad. Bring in the new with Dina Carroll’s fabulous 31 December classic The Perfect Year. Keeping the couples on the dancefloor is Phil Collins with his plaintive and almost-forgotten Everyday. Quickly following the Both Sides man is Richard Marx’s emotional ballad Now And Forever. Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We was The Cranberries’ debut. We get the lovely Linger. Steely Sundays.
Tori Amos learned to play the piano at two and half years old. It shows. Cornflake Girl is stunning; a Hammer horror story of mutilation. We get the longer album version; check out Hits ’94 – Volume 1 for the single edit. Meanwhile The Beautiful South claim the middle ground between Andrew Lloyd Webber and The Clash. Good As Gold (Stupid As Mud): an life-affirming funeral song. Time to wig out as Meat Loaf unleashes Rock And Roll Dreams Come Through. Then its the razor-stomp urban energy of Primal Scream’s Rocks. There’s a belated look towards the remnants of the grunge on the Gin Blossoms’ slight Jealously. CD1 ends with the Smashing Pumpkins and the spirit-breaking Disarm.
“And like all the boys in all the cities
I take the poison, take the pity
But she and I, we soon discovered
We’d take the pills to find each other”.
So what was Doop all about? A crazy happy house tribute to the Charleston; the brainchild of Ferry and Garnefski. Tipped to reach the national top 10, it made #1 during March. Another cert was Wonderman, Right Said Fred’s puzzling collaboration with Sonic The Hedgehog. It’s fun but only got to #55. Cappella’s Move On Baby ups the game; dazzlingly awesome Euro dance. Equally inspirational is Culture Beat’s pounding Anything while 2 Unlimited storm the barricades on Let The Beat Control Your Body. Turn on the ragga: Reel To Real saucy I Like To Move It and K7’s prophetic Come Baby Come.
Credit To The Nation’s Teenage Sensation is full of Midlands promise. The hip hop mavericks would later join forces with Chumbawamba on Enough Is Enough. Less crucial are E.Y.C. but The Way You Work It has NKOTB-style charm. Next comes Bitty McLean introspective Here I Stand. Neatly mirroring Enigma, Deep Forest’s Sweet Lullaby is based around a traditional Baegu lullaby from the Solomon Islands and uses a vocal sample originally recorded by ethnomusicologist Hugo Zemp in 1970. The lyrics refer to a young orphan being comforted by his older brother despite the loss of their parents. Meanwhile Bjork’s Violently Happy emerges from Debut, a brisk and euphoric rush.
Shara Nelson’s third solo hit Uptight is quality R&B. One of the genres key newcomers, Gabrielle, racks up another success – the gentle Because Of You. Elsewhere ex-Young Disciple and stepdaughter of Bobby Byrd, Carleen Anderson blows the roof off with the monumental Nervous Breakdown. Juliet Roberts’ frantic I Want You is disco throwback while Urban Cookie Collective take to the seas with the energetic Sail Away. Next are Degrees Of Motion who reissued their club classic Shine On just as Now 27 was going to press. We conclude with the somewhat unknown Joe Roberts singing his Donny Hathaway-influenced Lover. A smooth choice of dessert to top off a satisfying meal.
“Well, I went to school in Olympia, and everyone’s the same
And what do you do with a revolution?
You just forget your name”.
M People – Moving On Up
Bjork – Violently Happy
The Beautiful South – Good As Gold (Stupid As Mud)
Smashing Pumpkins – Disarm
Lest we forget
Deep Forest – Sweet Lullaby
Missing tracks and other thoughts
Another strong selection [especially disc 1] with numerous high points and a clear sense of cohesion all through. I’ll give you a half-dozen more of my favourites from the era:
New Order – Spooky. Balearic spirit resurrected.
Elastica – Line Up. Taking the sound of Wire into the charts.
Toni Braxton – Breathe Again. Quality soul.
Crowded House – Locked Out. Remembering Reality Bites.
Inspiral Carpets featuring Mark E Smith – I Want You. The Dutch East India company. . .
Janet Jackson – Because Of Love. Ideal end.