Now That’s What I Call Music 1991: The Millennium Series (EMI / Virgin / Universal, 1999)

Now Millennium 1991

Now Millennium 1991 r

My 1991. Three fantastic Irish singles ranked as follows:
1 A House – Endless Art (Bingo EP 12″)
2 Would Be’s – My Radio Sound’s Different In The Dark
3 The Frank and Walters – Walter’s Trip (EP1 12″)
I also saw some brilliant gigs:
Whipping Boy (a few times in The Underground)
Would Be’s in The Baggot Inn with The Sultans of Ping FC
A House and The Frank and Walters in McGonagles
Curve in McGonagles and a signing session in Comet beforehand
Pixies – Point
Wedding Present – SFX
Dinosaur Jr, Carter USM, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, Therapy?, Blur – all in McGonagles
Feile 91 – Ride, The Farm, The La’s, The Mock Turtles, Black Francis, Happy Mondays

The vast majority of the songs here have already been discussed in the following reviews:
Now That’s What I Call Music 19: Source featuring Candi Staton – You Got The Love, Oleta Adams – Get Here, Enigma – Sadeness Part 1.
The Hits Album: Crystal Waters – Gypsy Woman, Kenny Thomas – Thinking About Your Love.
Now Dance ’91: Right Said Fred – I’m Too Sexy, Heavy D and The Boyz – Now That We’ve Found Love, DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince – Summertime, Cathy Dennis – Touch Me (All Night Long), Incognito featuring Jocelyn Brown – Always There, Young Disciples – Apparently Nothin’, Omar – There’s Nothing Like This, Quartz featuring Dinah Carroll – It’s Too Late.
Smash Hits 1991: Extreme – More Than Words, Amy Grant – Baby Baby.
The Greatest Hits Of ’91: The Waterboys – The Whole Of The Moon.
Now That’s What I Call Music 20: James – Sit Down, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – Sailing On The Seven Seas, Pet Shop Boys – Where The Streets Have No Name (I Can’t Take My Eyes Off You), Erasure – Love To Hate You, Salt ‘N’ Pepa – Let’s Talk About Sex, PM Dawn – Set Adrift On Memory Bliss, U2 – The Fly, Roxette – Joyride, Scorpions – Winds Of Change, Julian Lennon – Saltwater, Jason Donovan – Any Dream Will Do, Monty Python – Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life, Vic Reeves and The Wonder Stuff – Dizzy.
Now That’s What I Call Music 21: Brian May – Driven By You.
Now That’s What I Call Music 1991: The Wonder Stuff – The Size Of A Cow, Mike and The Mechanics – Word Of Mouth.

Hats off to Ashley Abram for the opening track – Queen’s The Show Must Go On. In the light of Freddie Mercury’s death, many compilations showcasing this period tend to use Bohemian Rhapsody (re-released 9 December 1991) – including the 1991 10th Anniversary set. The Show Must Go On was released on 14 October, just six weeks before Freddie said his last goodbyes. The intention was to promote the new compilation Greatest Hits II while the lyrics focus on cryptic allusions, metaphors and other figures of speech, making it somewhat difficult to understand. In the end, we get a sense of determination, the furious desire to live (“I have to find the will to carry on with the show”) in spite of vanishing strength (“inside my heart is breaking”) The video consisted of a montage of clips from earlier Queen videos – spanning the previous 10 years. This, along with the manner of the song’s lyrics, continued to fuel long-running media reports that Mercury was seriously ill, although it was still officially denied that anything was seriously wrong.

Tag vs Tig: either way it’s a playground game that involves three or more players chasing other players in an attempt to “tag” or touch them, usually with their hands. Usually when a person is tagged, the tagger says, “Tag, you’re it”. By 1991, I’d outgrown the game – but while queuing outside Dublin’s McGonagles to get into the Blur gig, I saw teenagers in baggy jeans playing it. Leisure taken to a new level. There’s No Other Way had been released a few months earlier – just before the hysteria of the National Stadium Morrissey show – and ploughed and infectious groove with its beat ‘n’ tambourine. Immaculately produced by Stephen Street, it reached #8 in the UK charts, and by the time the band played Dublin, another single (the disowned Bang) and an endearing debut LP were in my collection. However the band’s popularity was already waning and they would remain under the radar until the release Girls & Boys in 1994. During that three year spell, Blur would release their best work – the Popscene 45 and the great lost Britpop LP Modern Life Is Rubbish – along with several smashing B-sides. “Bang goes another year.”

Rave on: the seeds of K-Klass were sown when Carl Thomas and Andrew Williams formed Interstate and supporting 808 State on their 1988 tour. After seeing them in Chester and the next week at the Hacienda, Russ Morgan and Paul Roberts spent the night partying with them before going back to Andrew’s gaff to look at his studio equipment. All four of them began recording as K-Klass and dropped their demo tape into Eastern Bloc. They were signed on the spot and put out the Wildlife EP in 1990. A move to Deconstruction followed within 12 months and Rhythm Is A Mystery became a hit at the second attempt – it’s original release on Creed (12,000 copies sold) was enough to get them the big transfer and #3 on the national chart. A testimonial: “When you have 18 years, you still believe in many, many things: Love, peace, justice…When I go back to 1993, I bring back my memories and see the diference along the years. So sorry, but times are changin’. This is the beautiful power of music: you can go back to your memories and feels it still fresh. Anyway, this is a essential house track in any collection, where all instruments and Bobbi Depasois vocal make a perfect combination.” (V Kubrick)

After the Temple Of Lowe Men tour, Neil Finn took a break from Crowded House and started to record some songs with his older brother and former Split Enz bandmate Tim Finn. The original intention was to include these tracks for a Finn Brothers album. Once these sessions were complete, Neil teamed back up with Crowded House members Nick Seymour and Paul Hester to write and record the band’s third album. However Capitol Records rejected most of the new Crowded House songs, so Neil asked Tim if the band could use some of the new Finn Brothers songs. Tim agreed, on condition that he would join the band, although he has since claimed he meant this as a joke. In any case, the group that returned to the studio included Tim as a full band member. The end result, Woodface, is the first of two classic Crowded House albums (the other being Together Alone). However, Fall At Your Feet (included here) is the only solo Neil tune, a stellar pop moment. “This song is longing in it’s deepest form. The words are magic, a symphony of seduction and wanting. If I ever heard a song that would make and man or woman melt, this is it. Beautiful. Utterly beautiful.” (Marian Main)

“These four blokes thrash around with their loud guitars and what-not and manage to make lots of gloriously groovy pop songs. . . They’re clearly not very pleasant young men, but they’ve made a fine LP.” (Smash Hits)
That was 1988 and The Eight Legged Groove Machine. I first heard The Wonder Stuff on the Dave Fanning show. He played Give, Give, Give Me More, More, More and A Wish Away on successive nights. On my next trip to Dublin it was mine, £7.99 from the Virgin Megastore. The second record Hup was just as good, and a memorable – venue bursting at the seams – gig at the SFX followed. And we got two brilliant standalone singles before and after Hup: Who Wants To Be The Disco King? and Circle Square. 1991’s Never Loved Elvis was their most dense album; less immediate but once hooked, totally memorable: Mission Drive, Sleep Alone, Here Comes Everyone – all gutsy harmonies and riffs for the ever-growing moshpit. The Size Of A Cow is endlessly addictive – their biggest earner.

“A glorious musical mélange, an inspired melding of synth pop soar, 2-Tone yore, and glam rock roar, the anthemic chorus to the fore with a fist-in-the-air punch that shouts out for more.” (Dave Thompson)
“One definite redeeming number from Sugar Tax. . . glam-styled beats underpinning a giddy, playful romp that showed McCluskey still hadn’t lost his touch entirely.” (Ned Raggett)
“The 21st greatest song of 1991.” (MTV Europe)
“Somewhat unconvincing.” (A Pop Fan’s Dream)
In the past couple of years I’ve started to re-appraise the 1990s work of Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark. My vinyl copy of Sugar Tax was played twice in 1991 and promptly filed for 25 years. Out it came last Christmas and its hidden depths – the plaintive Apollo XI, the re-work of Neon Lights, the stately All That Glitters. And never has an earworm sounded so good – the rocking boat shanty Sailing On The Seven Seas with its wise words “People try to drag us down, so we learn to swim before we drown!”

Favourite tracks
Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – Sailing On The Seven Seas

Queen – The Show Must Go On

Blur – There’s No Other Way

The Wonder Stuff – The Size Of A Cow

Lest we forget
Crowded House – Fall At Your Feet

Missing tracks and other thoughts
I’ve said it before, this is a difficult year to anthologise. But Now That’s What I Call Music 1991: The Millennium Series does a good job. A fantastic opening tune which then leads into a couple of re-booted oldies (The Whole Of The Moon and Sit Down) before a synth pop double (PSB on their seventh succesive trip and then Erasure) plus a superb and lengthy dance sequence taking in R&B, hip hop and some crucial club sounds. CD2 leads with guitars – only faltering once (solution: move Sit Down and drop in Rozalla’s Everybody’s Free (To Feel Good)) – with Oleta Adams’ Get Here ushering in a dreamy closing montage. There’s seems to be more of a reliance on the second half of the year while the worst selling Now volume in the entire series gets short shrift with just three inclusions – although it was the spring release so predominately consisted of late 1990 singles. Wish list: Urban Soul – Alright and Sophia Lawrence – Love’s Unkind. Repeat again: check out Awesome!! and Awesome!! 2 for more great 1991 memories.

Although it’s not perfect, I think this Millennium volume > 10th Anniversary. There are 24 overlapping tracks – Source featuring Candi Staton, Oleta Adams, Enigma, James, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, Erasure, Salt ‘N’ Pepa, PM Dawn, Roxette, Scorpions, Julian Lennon, Jason Donovan, Monty Python, Vic Reeves and The Wonder Stuff, Right Said Fred, Heavy D and The Boyz, DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince, Cathy Dennis, Crystal Waters, Kenny Thomas, Amy Grant, The Waterboys, The Wonder Stuff, Mike and The Mechanics. There were just two regular Now albums released in 1991 and 16 of their tracks are featured on the Millennium entry while Brian May’s Driven By You was on 1992’s Now 21. The Hits series just gets two slots compared to four on Now That’s What I Call Music 1991. Elsewhere there’s a whopping eight selections from Now Dance ’91.

There were 17 number ones in 1991. We get four while the 10th Anniversary set had six. Thankfully U2 are represented with The Fly, the compelling first 45 from Achtung Baby. #1s sorely missed: Iron Maiden – Bring Your Daughter To The Slaughter, The KLF’s 3AM Eternal. Licensing Bryan Adams would also have been a coup. Other notable omissions: Seal’s Crazy, Massive Attack’s Unfinished Sympathy, Oceanic’s Insanity, The Prodigy’s Charly, The KLF’s Last Train To Trancentral. It was the year that punk broke: Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit + Pearl Jam – Alive also played their part while who can forget the four utterly fantastic albums from Creation: Primal Scream – Screamadelica, Teenage Fanclub – Bandwagonesque, My Bloody Valentine – Loveless, Saint Etienne – Foxbase Alpha. Surely one representative from this quartet could have been included?

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13 Responses to Now That’s What I Call Music 1991: The Millennium Series (EMI / Virgin / Universal, 1999)

  1. Feel the Quality says:

    This is one of the cases where the 10th Anniversary version far exceeds its Millennium counterpart. This one isn’t bad by any stretch, but it’s one of the least played of the series for me as there’s plenty more compilations that sum up the year better.
    Also, the 10th Anniversary one has Living Colour on it, so it wins by default.

    Bryan Adams is the obvious omission here. A few others… Prince – Gett Off, Divinyls – I Touch Myself, Marc Cohn – Walking in Memphis and as much as it pains me to say it, Chesney Hawkes. Like him or loathe him, that song was everywhere.

    Although I wouldn’t argue for their inclusion here, I’d like to give a shout out to a couple of songs from Now 19 and 20 that never set the charts on fire but have since become favourites of mine : Thunder – Love Walked In and Glass Tiger – My Town. Something about both of those songs fills me with nostalgia for 1991.

    One final point. Between the two 1991 compilations we have Bohemian Rhapsody and The Show Must Go On. No argument for the quality of the songs, and of course in the case of the former, it’s a classic. But I think These are the Days of our Lives is short-changed. It’s a beautiful song and when watching the video if you don’t well up with tears when Freddie looks down the lens and says “I still love you” then I’m not sure you’re a human being.

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      Good morning FTQ! Have to say that Living Colour track is a classic and definitely one of the best on the 1991 10th Anniversary set. Overall, as I said, it’s a hard year to pin down – the main Smash Hits release and the sole Hits Album were partially mixed while Telstar’s Greatest Hits ’91 is patchy. That Glass Tiger tune has grown on me recently – must revisit Thunder. Now 19 does really get short-changed here.

      I’ve already written my review for 1992 and have given These Are The Days Of Our Lives a shout out there. That Freddie clip gets me every time.

    • Stephen Burnet says:

      Hi Paul – sorry long time no speak. Still read the blog with regular interest as it’s the only bookmarked web page I have on my iphones home screen!
      1991 was my all time favourite year for musoc and I must have made 5/6 of my ‘own’ compilations covering this period. Some great comments too by the other readers and it’s hard not to disagree with the 10th Anniversary editions supremacy here (and yes, Living Color is a show stopper – soul mix – of course)
      Personally I preferred Jan-June of this year, but as you mention, this period is under represented here.
      Ralph Treavant, Scritti Polliti and Bomb The Bass could all add value to this compilation.
      Also De La Souls second single of 91’ ‘Rollerskating Jam…..Saturday’ would have been a very nice leftfrield entry.
      Have a great evening and thank you for your fabulous content
      Steve B

      • nlgbbbblth says:

        Hi Steve, good to hear from you. Great call on the De La Soul – remember it from the Dance Energy show on BBC2. That second album of theirs didn’t get the credit it deserved. Also agree re Scritti Politti and Bomb The Bass – certainly would have enhanced this too.

  2. cosmo says:

    To me too this is slightly better than the Anniversary equivalent. Very probably the best of the Millennium volumes covering the 90s.

    What chiefly distinguishes this this is the dance selection on CD1, such as Crystal Waters, Incognito and Omar. But then again, I’m an acid jazz/jazz house lover, so I must be biased!

    And the “mainstream pop” and rock sequences on CDs 1 and 2 respevtively are also very well done. (Must admit I was surprised to see Blur on here, I has been under the impression they didn’t break through until the Britpop explosion of a couple of years later.)

    Agreed on Urban Soul being a pin-pointy omission, along with Massive Attack. And Brothers in Rhythm, Lisa Stansfield, and Simply Red.

    The Show Must Go On was, as I’ve said it, the perfect swansong for Freddie before he suddenly went.

  3. nlgbbbblth says:

    Yes Cosmo, top dance selection on the first disc. I was also pleasantly surprised at the inclusion of Blur. Leisure-era gets dismissed but it was enjoyable.

  4. andynoax says:

    Disc 1 is pretty good. Disc 2 is rather dull though, isn’t it? Though a definite plus point for Mike & The Mechanics – and it’s not very often I’d say that! The Crowded House track is also brilliant and should’ve been a mich bigger hit. I would’ve given the Scorpions & Julian Lennon tracks the push.

    I also would’ve picked Pandora’s Box for the OMD track and as I hate the PSB track I would’ve deliberately gone for ‘…Seriously’ instead!

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      Definitely CD1 is the stronger of the two. Really not a fan of Saltwater. Pandora’s Box would have worked equally well too. I’d have liked DJ Culture or Was It Worth It for the PSB entry.

  5. Andrew Chinnock says:

    Hi Paul, Agreed about 1991 being a difficult year to nail. Interesting you thought this better than the 10th anniversary. I look at them both and think the opposite. Not enough dance on the millenium version in a dance heavy year.

    This might be interesting or not, but I work it out that 18 of the 34 tracks on Greatest Hits 91 were in the year’s top 100. 19 of the 40 on S Hits 1991. 34 of the 40 on Now 1991 (10th). 30 of the 36 on Now 1991 (millennium).

    I also thought Awesome 2 was a better soundtrack to the year than Now 19 or 20. 19 is still more of a favourite, 20 never did it for me, even though that was my first Now.

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      Hi Andrew – good point re dance tunes. Now Dance ’91 got a lot compared to Now 20 too. Interesting point re top 100 tracks. Implies that Greatest Hits 91 had a more “less predictable” selection?

      Still play the Awesomes a lot; really live up to their name.

  6. Andrew Chinnock says:

    Hi Paul, hope you are keeping well. Just a couple of small points. It’s a pity that they’ve re-used the extended (and edited) version of ‘Thinking About Your Love’.

    One about Amy Grant’s ‘Baby Baby’. I recently obtained the cd single and was surprised that it was 4 minutes long. I remember hearing the track on the radio back when it was released and the versions found on Smash Hits 1991 and both Now 1991s are the ones I remember. The 7″ vinyl edit is the same as the version on the mentioned compilations. Both the vinyl and cd single list the remix as the ‘Not Getting Over You Mix’, yet the cd single is almost half a minute longer.

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