The Hits team repeated their Hits ’96 trick by releasing Hits ’97 a week before Christmas. 19 of its 40 songs are marked with an asterisk, the explanation stating “exclusive tracks” – presumably meaning that this was the first time for the tune to appear on a compilation.
Part 1 – once again – starts with Robson and Jerome. Their cover of What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted is mighty fine, soulful to the last. Mark Owen flies solo with the sweet and emotional Child. Full length 5:06 rather than the shorter radio edit. The Fugees do a passable Marley on No Woman, No Cry and also appear on the next tune, Simply Red’s take on Aretha Franklin’s Angel which was used to promote the former’s Greatest Hits LP. Pick of the pops: Donna Lewis’ haunting, throbbing, sensual I Love You Always Forever. More romance: Celine Dion’s so-right ballad It’s All Coming Back To Me Now, Backstreet Boys’ harmonious I’ll Never Break Your Heart and Gary Barlow’s tortured Forever Love.
Part 2: Mark Morrison’s melancholy 2-step Trippin’ is most enduring. Party all night with Peter Andre’s Flava and enjoy a torrid comedown with Kaleef’s MTV Raps staple Golden Brown produced for Pete Waterman. Stay on the dope show: Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s Ist Of Tha Month with 3T’s earnest I Need You providing some quality ballad action. Four for the floor now; the irrepressible Gina G and I Belong To You followed by Robert Miles’ gentle soundscape One And One. The uptempo finish is provided by Livin’ Joy and Clock.
Part 3: Bypass the tank-tops to the inspirational wakka-wakka sound of Kula Shaker’s Hey Dude. Waiting for the evening to fall. Reef’s Place Your Hands is awfully turgid but the Britpop section redeems itself with Kevin Carter, the Manics’ tribute to the South African photojournalist. Seize the day with the Lightning Seeds roadtrip accessory What If… From the sublime to the grotesque; Neil Hannon’s deeply cynical romantic nightmare The Frog Princess. Ocean Colour Scene’s deeply heartfelt tune The Circle. Sleeper’s self-explanatory Statuesque with its steering wheel chorus. Lastly, it’s another Oasis b-side; the delightful acoustic thrill of D’Yer Wanna Be A Spaceman. Find it on the Shakermaker 7″, 12″ or CD.
Part 4: The Prodigy law down the law with intense Breathe. Next come Faithless and the cracking Insomnia. Then Felix’s zombie-like banger Don’t You Want Me sounding harder and faster with every re-boot. Meanwhile Everything But The Girl looked back to 1990 with Todd Terry providing a perfunctory remix of Driving. Luther Vandross drops some velvet soul on Your Secret Love whereas Enya floats away On My Way Home. Desperate: Suggs’ No More Alcohol plus Ant and Dec doing When I Fall In Love. Elsewhere Jimmy Nail fails to reach his usual standard on the so-so Country Boy. And who remembers Emmerdance? The Woolpackers’ Hillbilly Rock Hillybilly Roll is predictably appalling.
We end on a poignant note. The final track is a specially-adapted cover of Bob Dylan’s Knocking On Heaven’s Door in memory of those who died at Dunblane on 13 March 1996. The single reached #1 as this compilation was released. All sale proceeds were donated to Save The Children, Childline and The Children’s Hospice Association Of Scotland. And this one is a true exclusive as Hits ’97 remains the only compilation to feature the song.
Kula Shaker – Hey Dude
Manic Street Preachers – Kevin Carter
Divine Comedy – The Frog Princess
Sleeper – Statuesque
Oasis – D’Yer Wanna Be A Spaceman
Lest we forget
Donna Lewis – I Love You Always Forever
Missing tracks and other thoughts
Another solid collection and it’s great to get a snapshot of late 1996 hits that were too late for Now That’s What I Call Music 35. Although Babybird’s You’re Gorgeous, Clock’s Oh What A Night, Deep Blue Something’s Breakfast At Tiffany’s and The Charlatans’ One To Another were already included on the still-recent Huge Hits 1996. Some alternatives:
Warren G featuring Adina Howard – What’s Love Got To Do With It. Genius of love.
Snoop Doggy Dog featuring C Wilson – Snoop’s Upside Ya Head. Wordy rappin’ da hood.
Super Furry Animals – The Man Don’t Give A Fuck. Long live Robin Friday.