Now That’s What I Call Music 41 (EMI / Virgin / Polygram, 1998)

Now 41

Now 41 r

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.

Favourite tracks
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.


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28 Responses to Now That’s What I Call Music 41 (EMI / Virgin / Polygram, 1998)

  1. Feel the Quality says:

    I had mis-remembered this entry as having both sides of the Steps Double-A, surprised they didn’t go with both here. I suppose as they’d already doubled up with Robbie “Twat” Williams and Mel “soon to be G” B, it might have been a bit much. I do have a begrudging affection for Heartbeat. It’s one of those videos that until I’ve seen it, I don’t consider the festive period as started (along with other atrocious videos like The Cheeky Girls Christmas debacle).
    One song I have no affection for whatsoever is Mel B’s solo song. The first time I heard it, I thought it was a demo as it seemed so cheap and unfinished. It wasn’t, it was just crap. Somehow, it went to number 1 but the fact that it didn’t even make the Top 50 selling songs of the year speaks volumes.

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      Tragedy ends up on the massive selling Now 44. Heartbeat has a Christmassy feel alright – we got snow here when I was driving home that December – memories of Heartbeat on the radio (twice or three times). Long journey.

    • Martin Davis says:

      You forgot to mention Tell Me Ma by Sham-Rock which closes the album

      • nlgbbbblth says:

        I had already covered it in a previous review. See the extract that says:
        “18 of these have already been talked about on the following compilations:
        ———————-The Greatest Hits Of 1998: E-17 – Each Time, Lutricia McNeal – Someone Loves You Honey, Sash! – Move Mania, Sham Rock – Tell Me Ma.”

        Terrible track!

        • Martin Davis says:

          Sorry have just spotted this post. I obviously hadn’t read the full blog properly.

          Admittedly I liked the track when I was younger but can sort of see why it ended up being the closing track. It has got me thinking though the majority of the closing instalments on Now albums tend to be much lesser known tracks or much weaker material. Would you agree with this theory?

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  9. Martin Davis says:

    What I don’t get is why “Too Much” was included on this volume when it was nearly a year old having been xmas No1 in December 1997.

    Surely the most logical thing would have been to have “Too Much” on Now 39, “Stop” on Now 40 and “Viva Forever” on this one. Or did it simply maybe become down to a desire by EMI/Virgin to have the latest Spice Girls track on the Now album of the day and no other recent Spice Girls single to hand at the time Now 41 came out, hence a decision was made to use an older one?

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      November Nows often had a couple of tracks from much earlier in the year. It did seem that EMI were anxious to have Spice Girls represented as much as possible so an old track was probably deemed better than none.

      • Martin Davis says:

        The only other instances I’m aware of where this happened were “Any dream will do” (Now 20), ” The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight”, “Too Young to Die” and “One night in heaven” (Now 26)”, “Mmmmm (Now 29) and “Tragedy”, “Baby One More Time”, “That don’t impress me much” and “Kiss Me” (Now 44).

        I guess with “Any Dream” it was the first opportunity for the track to be compiled on a Now album as there had been no summer release and I know its been suggested that the tracklisting may have been designed with millenium parties in mind.

        You previously gave me an explanation as to why “Sidewinder” might have been on Now 26 when it was released after “Everybody Hurts” which was on Now 25 but am not that familiar with the single releases from the other artists I mentioned above.

        • nlgbbbblth says:

          Hi Martin, Now 44 was the one for the millennium parties. Back in 1991, Now weren’t getting Jason or Kylie that often so anything was a bonus.

          • nlgbbbblth says:

            Now 4 also contains tracks from much earlier in 1984 – Doctor Doctor, Hello, Somebody’s Watching Me

            • Martin Davis says:

              My understanding is that with Now 4, a number of tracks that probably would have been included had been nabbed by the rival “Hits Album” meaning EMI/Virgin had to work with what was left?

              • nlgbbbblth says:

                True, they were picking from a smaller pool and acts that had previously appeared in earlier Nows (Alison Moyet, Wham!, Howard Jones, Cyndi Lauper) were on the Hits release.

          • Martin Davis says:

            What strikes me as odd is there were plenty of opportunities to have a Kylie or Jason track on a Now album between Now 12 and Now 17.

            Can only assume Now couldn’t get the rights or maybe there was some other reason?

            • nlgbbbblth says:

              SAW didn’t like to license out their “premium” tracks that often back then.

              • Martin Davis says:

                In response to your comment about Kylie, Jason and S.A.W interestingly M/A/R/R/S were included on Now 10 and Hazell Dean on Now 12.

                On the whole Now 41 is not a bad volume and captures the chart scene of that period well.

  10. Martin Davis says:

    Following on from my earlier post it has occured to me they possibly got it wrong with the Aqua tracks across Now 38-Now 41 too.

    Barbie Girl was seemingly released in October 97, Dr Jones in February 1998 and Turn Back Time sometime before Now 40 came out so surely it would have made sense for these 3 tracks to be on Nows 38-40 respectively and “My Oh My” to be featured on Now 41?

  11. nlgbbbblth says:

    Hi Martin
    M/A/R/R/S were on 4AD – albeit they did sample SAW’s Roadblock.

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