New season, new beginnings. For their spring ’97 release, the Hits team dropped the four part layout and restored the century. New Hits 1997 was released in April, one month after Now That’s What I Call Music 36. Six common tracks [911 – The Day We Found Love, Sash – Encore Une Fois, The Blueboy – Remember Me, Peter Andre – Natural, The Source featuring Candi Staton – You Got The Love, Damage – Love Guaranteed].
It’s an exotic start as Smoke City serve up the atmospheric Bond-esque Underwater Love. After the rain comes sun, after the sun comes rain again. Then some soul-searching from Toni Braxton on Unbreak My Heart before the spirit of Peter Sarstedt is revived with No Mercy’s cover of La Bouche’s Where Do You Go. The R&B continues: En Vogue’s Don’t Let Go (Love), Whitney Houston’s Step By Step and 3T’s smooth Gotta Be You. Gina G gets the pulses racing on Fresh while Michelle Gayle works out an effective maudlin strummer Do You Know. Undisputed pop gem: Mark Owen’s upbeat and catchy Clementine. Back to the groove on Fugee La and Mark Morrison’s filthy steamer Moan and Groan.
The laidback vibe pushes on with Lisa Stansfield’s loved-up The Real Thing and that East 17 / Gabrielle duet. Celine Dion’s introspective version of All By Myself is followed by The Beautiful South’s Rotterdam, a throwback from Now That’s What I Call Music 35. Mostly bitter. The Thin White Duke goes for the jungle sound on the clattering breakbeats of Little Wonder. Mini (Brit) pops: Reef make a decent song in Consideration. Elsewhere it’s the taut radio edit of the Manics’ Australia coupled by the Lightning Seeds super sweet Sugar Coated Iceberg. Last: the ambient mysticism of Govinda by Kula Shaker. Special K.
Disc 2: Shake your booty to Funky Green Dogs scattershot murk-techno Fired Up. The Blueboy’s soul throwback Remember Me, Sash’s trance meltdown Encore Une Fois plus another remix of You Got The Love. Meanwhile Tori Amos’ Professional Widow really started to soar in the house parties and clubs during spring ’97. The reason: a fantastic Armand Van Helden mix. The Course crank up The Fugees’ Ready Or Not into an oblique floor-filler while Apollo 400 jazz up the drum ‘n’ bass on the shimmering Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Dub complete with Van Halen samples. The riff is chosen well as Republica crash in with the mobile phone anthem Ready To Go. Soundtrack for a generation.
DJ Kool, Biz Markie and Doug E Fresh jam hot on Let Me Clear My Throat. The break is courtesy of The 45 King. I caned this almost every day during the first few months of 1997. Next the feverish cheese of N-Trance’s D.I.S.C.O. Meanwhile the Backstreet Boys hang tough on the message-heavy Quit Playing Games (With My Heart). More: the slick ballad sound of OTT’s Let Me In and Babyface’s Everytime I Close My Eyes. Less: le grind to Ginuwine’s tricky hip hop Pony plus MC Lyte’s block beatin’ Cold Rock and Party. Bad: Clock’s anodyne It’s Over. Late night final goes to Shola Ama’s popped-in, souled-out cover of Turley Richards’ You Might Need Somebody. One for Jazz club. Nice.
DJ Kool – Let Me Clear My Throat
Manic Street Preachers – Australia
Lightning Seeds – Sugar Coated Iceberg
Kula Shaker – Govinda
David Bowie – Little Wonder
Lest we forget
Reef – Consideration
Missing tracks and other thoughts
New Hits 1997 is a decent spring selection. More chocolates for the box:
Madonna – Don’t Cry For Me Argentina or failing that the Mike Flowers Pops.
Tricky – Tricky Kid. Moody boys uptown etc.
Gene – We Could Be Kings. Somebody’s second favourite band.
Warren G – I Shot The Sheriff. Phenomenal.
Armand Van Helden – The Funk Phenomena. Go with this after Professional Window.
Fugees – Rumble In The Jungle. Way better than Fugee La.
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Actually I’ve changed my mind re Clock’s cover of It’s Over. I like it now.
Leaving it here a bit randomly, but there is some minor interest in the catalogue numbers of the Hits series following its resumption with Hits 96. Those with a RAD prefix were compiled by Nic Moran at Global. Those with a MOOD were, I believe, compiled by someone at Sony. The MOOD releases tend to suffer more with poor editing but good track separation (though if you listen to the last couple of seconds of tracks, there is some early fading). The RAD versions tended to have very little editing but, in Nic Moran style, he liked having tracks quite close together, though this improved as the series wore on. Later on, after Moran had gone and Global disappeared (after Hits 2000) Warner took over production.
I might be an anorak, but I find how compilers actually went about recording their albums really fascinating. Moran obviously learned his craft. Arthurworrey just botched things for no reason. Ashley Abram? No idea.
Hi Andrew – that is seriously great info. Never realised that. Agree re Arthurworrey, poor stuff. Where do you stand on Pure Hits ’97? In or out?
You may have seen my Ashley Abram interview already but if not – https://www.classicpopmag.com/2018/07/now-then-now-thats-what-i-call-music/
Appreciate the question! Interesting interview with Abram. Not sure what I learned but fascinating anyway.
Pure Hits 97 – I bought it the day it came out. My instinct was that it was Telstar and Univeral showing they could come out with a worthwhile compilation and was showing some muscle to the Now and Hits series, with a vain hope that people would remember the Hits 93 logo. For what it’s worth, that isn’t a part of the Hits canon. Telstar had a fantastic 1992 and went for the hits market in partnership with BMG. This was a new venture, not an attempt to recreate the old partly unnumbered Hits series.
I dispute that the Global/Sony/Warner series was really the heir of the 80s/early 90s version. The companies involved were the same, but I think it was an idea by Nic Moran (you know how much I rate him) to produce a Now rival. He could never have done that at Dino. Musicologists have attached the new Hits albums to the old series. I disagree. I feel this was a brand new attempt. No consecutive numbers unlike the Nows. Titles concentrated on the years. If there was an attempt to continue a compilation series, there needs to be references to that in the titles.
I rate Pure Hits 97 as a compilation. It was the best Telstar had managed in a few years. Hardly anything edited badly, good and contemporary track selection. It paved the way for their successful Box Hits 98 series, which just about matched the Hits 98 series. They produced some very good compilations and there’s no doubt that Universal saved Telstar at the time.
In 1999 Universal bought out Polygram, joined forces with the NOW brand and Telstar went with BMG/Warner/Sony. Telstar made too many bad decisions and went bust.
Could a compilation company survive today like Telstar or Dino did? I don’t know,
Thanks Andrew, much appreciate you taking the time to give your evaluation
Yes, a good compilation and definitely not canon.
In terms of whether the post-93 releases are part of the ongoing series – I take your point re Nic Moran but surely the later numbering (Hits 50 etc) surely suggests a continuation – however loose that may be.
I think the days of the likes of Telstar / Dino surviving now are slim. Market too compressed.
I’ll leave another thought regarding this. Hits 50 came out 2 weeks after Now 49. I always thought it tried to cash in on this.
With regard the numbering, if the Wikipedia page is right, Hits 50 was the 48th release. It includes Hitz Blitz, which surely couldn’t be considered. Chartbusters was probably more worthy contender. Telstar released a poorly edited and compiled Hits Album 1997 that hasn’t been considered. Also, all the Huge Hits compilations have been included as part of the sequence on Wikipedia, but they’re basically a greatest hits of the 3 hits albums of the year, rather than being the next volume in the series with all new tracks.
I need a lie down after all that! Hope you’re keeping safe.
Hi Andrew, all fair points. Dance Hits 2000 and Big Club Hits (released autumn 2001) seem to have been pulled from the canonical list. As have the later dance / club releases – if included, they bring it to an even 50. Agree it’s quite tenuous but I do consider Hits Blitz as belonging.