After the moderately successful comeback that was Hits ’96, Sony and Warner ESP added their names to the bill. By this time the numbering system was replaced in favour of different titles such as New Hits or Fresh Hits and the year following the word Hits. This turned out to be the most successful branding of the series since the first wave of 1984 – 1991. New Hits ’96 holds the distinction for the most consecutive weeks at number 1 in the UK compilation chart since its launch on 14 January 1989. It spent nine weeks at the top.
The four themed quarters were retained. So we start with the season’s biggest smashes. Take That’s feverish cover of How Deep Is Your Love is followed by the slick R&B of Mark Morrison’s Return Of The Mack. Tito Jackson’s three sons called themselves 3T and dropped a honeyed debut named Anything with its sweet acappella intro. Staying jive: Chantay Savage’s chilled cover of I Will Survive. Moving on to the end of the night and a track created as an antidote to those full-on rave anthems: Robert Miles and the dream house of Children. Unforgettable fire – a memory from Pete Tong’s Essential Selection.
The Prodigy’s pure phase (3) commenced with Firestarter in March ’96. A twisted wah-wah sample from The Breeders’ SOS and Close (To The Edit)’s Hey Hey plus an Alexei Sayle vs Bulldog vocal made for a memorable fusion. Also melting together, David Bowie and PSB on their wistful galaxy trip Hallo Spaceboy. “Moondust will cover you”. Let Aussie Gina G show you the way on her endlessly catchy UK Eurovision entry Ooh Aah. . . Just A Little Bit. Suggs is back! And he’s not singing The Beatles. This time it’s a passable version of Simon and Garfunkel’s Cecelia. Also knocking out the covers are PJ and Duncan with Stepping Stone; neatly uptempo and a good rhythm but not Farm.
Part 2: Celine Dion’s dreamy Falling Into You is better than I remember. TLC’s Creep = the bomb, a timeless beat so special. Left Eye: Crazy. Chilli: Sexy. T-Boz: Cool. Coolio counts ’em in on the jaunty 1, 2, 3, 4 Sumpin’ New. Some Now That’s What I Call Music 33 passengers: Cher adopts the breathless urban vocal with One By One while Etta James’ I Just Wanna Make Love To You helps sell Diet Coke by the truckload. And Annie Lennox joins Paul Simon for Something So Right, gorgeously melodic. There’s a throwback to late 1995 on M People’s Search For The Hero and Everything But The Girl’s Missing [also on Hits ’96 – why?]. Elsewhere The Lightning Seeds return with the eminently crankable Ready Or Not while Robson and Jerome serve us the tepid Up On The Roof.
Disc 2 / part 3 lifts off with Don’t Look Back In Anger. I always thought that the “slides away” line should have been tied into referencing the album track from Definitely Maybe. This Britpop / indie section continues with Garbage’s edgy Stupid Girl and Ash’s thrilling key change overload Goldfinger. Upon release, the 1977 LP was sold for £4.49. Go bitter: Skunk Anansie’s caustic Charity before the shoegaze-meets-pop of Lush’s Ladykillers. Here comes the next one – wedding tune! You And Me Song from The Wannadies. Ocean Colour Scene’s The Riverboat Song is suitably bluesy leading into US hardcore haters The Presidents Of The United States Of America – Lump and Dog Eat Dog – No Fronts. Finally there’s a treat – a cool Oasis B-side, their searing take on Slade’s Cum On Feel The Noize.
Part 4: Rock overspill on Goldbug’s Whole Lotta Love (one of seven Now 33 crossovers). Flick of the switch to the filter bassline sound of Gat Decor’s The Passion. Hands in the air for Sasha and Maria’s Be As One plus Meltdown’s positiva house of My Life Is In Your Hands. Progressive trance – Harmonix’s U2-sampling Landslide. Next come the Nightcrawlers and John Reid with the pleasant groove of Should I Ever (Fall In Love). Effortlessly simple and not Garbage-lite are Republica with the mobile phone anthem Ready To Go. Saffron supreme. Party time with Molella and the Outhere Brothers crashing into Technohead’s I Wanna Be A Hippy. Next goal wins: Move Move Move (Red Tribe) from the Manchester United Squad. The FA Cup final song. Free bar and Woodies.
Annie Lennox – Something So Right
David Bowie and The Pet Shop Boys – Hallo Spaceboy
Ash – Goldfinger
Lush – Ladykillers
Oasis – Cum On Feel The Noize
Lest we forget
3T – Anything
Missing tracks and other thoughts
A most enjoyable compilation that mops up the roads not taken by the Now team. Extras:
Gene – For The Dead. Muscular debut 45 and not just Smiths copyists.
Bjork – Hyperballad. Perfect for the final comedown.
Alanis Morissette – Ironic. I hate myself and I want to die.
Rage Against The Machine – Bulls On Parade. From the LP with the yellow / red sleeve.
Mark Snow – The X Files Theme. Better and earlier than DJ Dado.