Now That’s What I Call Music 41 hit the shops on 23 November 1998. It contained a total of 42 tracks. 18 of these have already been talked about on the following compilations:
Smash Hits Summer ’98: Spice Girls – Too Much.
Fresh Hits ’98: The Corrs – Dreams (Tee’s Radio).
Big Hits ’98: Sweetbox – Everything’s Gonna Be Alright, All Saints – Bootie Call, Aqua – Turn Back Time.
Now Dance ’98: Ace Of Base – Life Is A Flower, Jennifer Paige – Crush (Dance Mix), Billie – Girlfriend (D*Influence Real Live Mix), 911 – More Than A Woman, T-Spoon – Sex On The Beach, Stardust – Music Sounds Better With You, Vengaboys – Up And Down, Touch & Go – Would You?, Fatboy Slim – Gangster Trippin’.
The Greatest Hits Of 1998: E-17 – Each Time, Lutricia McNeal – Someone Loves You Honey, Sash! – Move Mania, Sham Rock – Tell Me Ma.
CD1 starts with a home run of five new tunes. On their marks are Boyzone; the pleasant and inoffensive No Matter What is a song from the 1996 musical Whistle Down the Wind, newly recorded to tie in with the show’s first UK production. Meanwhile Robbie Williams showcases his second LP – I’ve Been Expecting You – with the soaring Millennium. A topical tune for the end of the century with a keen nod to John Barry’s You Only Live Twice – namely a re-recording in a slightly different key instead of a direct sample for cost reasons. Next come The Beautiful South with Perfect 10, a sweet taster for the upcoming Quench. Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott trade verses and ramp up the innuendo. Brilliant.
Originally appearing on the B-side of Where The Streets Have No Name, U2’s Sweetest Thing was written by Bono during The Joshua Tree sessions as an apology to his wife Ali Hewson for forgetting her birthday. The Edge described it as “a beautiful song… which is pop as it should be—not produced out of existence, but pop produced with a real intimacy and purity”. It was re-recorded with some lyrical amendments and released in 1998 as a single in its own right to promote The Best of 1980–1990. The video, directed by Kevin Godley, features Bono taking Ali on a carriage ride along Dublin’s Fitzwilliam Place, and then on to Upper Fitzwilliam Street enlisting a variety of entertainers along the way.
The best concert I saw during the late 1990s was at Dublin’s RDS Showground. The Big Rewind Tour with ABC, Human League and Culture Club. It took place on 3 December 1998 which roughly coincides with when I purchased Now 41. Boy George was in fine form and the melodic I Just Wanna Be Loved is a real treat. Elsewhere Steps gave us their first ballad – Heartbeat – which was paired with their absolutely fabulous version of the Bee Gees’ Tragedy. Heartbeat features Claire and Faye singing the first two verses. Lisa performs the middle eight, followed by Claire. The others join in for the choruses. The video is hilarious; an evil ice queen sending three dwarf guards to kidnap H. It’s followed by the debut of Honeyz and their gorgeous R&B jam Finally Found (Rude Boy Mix).
We go urban on Little Bit Of Lovin’, a sparkling slice of soul from East Ham’s finest, Kele Le Roc. And UB40’s Come Back Darling starts off like a speed garage tune before settling into a wistful plea. On a similar sentiment, Mel B’s I Want You Back – her debut solo single – and one that featured on Why Do Fools Fall In Love. The Spice Girl is ably assisted by Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott on a really dynamic groover that’s scary with a sick beat. CD1 ends with three newbies, a fresh final furlong. There’s another postcard from heaven by the Lighthouse Family – a deep Question Of Faith – followed by Phil Collins competent cover of the Cyndi Lauper hit True Colors. End: Janet Jackson’s moving and emotional ballad Every Time, single #6 from The Velvet Rope. Jam (and Lewis) on.
CD2 starts with the poptastic single version of Billie’s sensational Girlfriend. Further down the road comes The Tamperer with Maya in tow – If You Buy This Record, Your Life Will Be Better – which samples Madonna’s Material Girl. Meanwhile I always thought that Cardigans’ LP was named Grand Tourismo; drop the D and lose yourself in the swirling fat ‘n’ fuzzy bassline of My Favourite Game. Back once again for a third time, James’ Sit Down. 1989 – 1991 – 1998. Apollo 440 at the controls; still can’t top the original Rough Trade single. And in a situation of follow that single, Eagle-Eye Cherry’s slowburning Falling In Love Again. Beside: Sheryl Crow’s cheater classic My Favourite Mistake.
Never fear, Robbie Williams is here. Again. No Regrets tells the story of his time in Take That with backing vocals by the two Neils, Tennant and Hannon. The inlay calls this it “stunning ballad”. A video full of petrol emotion. Hot tip: Space covering We Gotta Get Out Of This Place. Then the return of the anthemic Embrace and My Weakness Is None Of Your Business. Fancy a 10 minute wonder? The Incidentals by Alisha’s Attic was written in that length of time and initially seems to lack the spark of the debut album’s era. But it burrows under and becomes an earworm. More: Dire Straits’ Why Worry is the unlikely sample source for Deetah’s Relax – a gorgeously forgotten treat from the mists of The Green Lizard. And aside from R Kelly’s colourless Home Alone, that’s yer lot.
U2 – Sweetest Thing
The Beautiful South – Perfect 10
Melanie B featuring Missy Elliott – I Want You Back
Deetah – Relax
UB40 – Come Back Darling
Lest we forget
Alisha’s Attic – The Incidentals
Missing tracks and other thoughts
Not a vintage entry but there’s a powerful opening sequence coupled with a few prize nuggets dotted throughout the two CDs. These would have made a real difference:
Faithless – God Is A DJ. Magic then and now.
Moby – Honey. Bessie Jones-sampling and first fruits from the endless Play.
Gomez – Whippin’ Piccadilly. Bring It On, Mercury Music Prize winner.
Divine Comedy – Generation Sex. Narration by presenter and columnist Katie Puckrik.
Paul Weller – Brand New Start. A modern classic as featured on Modern Classics.