Now That’s What I Call Music 1998: The Millennium Series (EMI / Virgin / Universal, 1999)

Now Millennium 1998

Now Millennium 1998 r

Review
Theme From Error Orror is one of The Fall’s more obscure tunes. It was initially included on a Manchester compilation called Home which had bypassed me on original release in 1990. However as 1998 was largely devoid of releases from my favourite band (save the Masquerade single in January), I went looking for a fix elsewhere. Thanks to the new fangled search engine Altavista, I found a copy. It’s a percussive tune with free form lyrics about Izzy, Bizzy, Shakespeare – you name it. Sadly errors and mistakes continue on the 1998 edition of Now’s Millennium series. The sleeve notes include a paragraph about U2’s Discothèque which obviously belongs on 1997’s instalment. Secondly – and much worse – numerous copies of CD1 are pressed with the tracks from the 1999 Millennium release.

Every single song has already been compiled and discussed on the following:
Smash Hits ’98: Bamboo – Bamboogie*, Louise – Let’s Go Round Again*.
New Hits ’98: Cornershop – Brimful Of Asha (Norman Cook Remix)*, Oasis – All Around The World, Lutricia McNeal – Ain’t That Just The Way*, Backstreet Boys – All I Have To Give*.
Now That’s What I Call Music 39: All Saints – Never Ever, Lighthouse Family – High, LeeAnn Rimes – How Do I Live, Tin Tin Out – Here’s Where The Story Ends, Billie Myers – Kiss The Rain, Space with Cerys – The Ballad Of Tom Jones, Radiohead – No Surprises.
Smash Hits Summer ’98: Aqua – Doctor Jones**, The Tamperer featuring Maya – Feel It**, Steps – Last Thing On My Mind**.
Fresh Hits ’98: Bus Stop featuring Carl Douglas – Kung Fu Fighting**.
Now That’s What I Call Music 40: Spice Girls – Viva Forever, Eagle-Eye Cherry – Save Tonight, The Mavericks – Dance The Night Away, Fatboy Slim – The Rockafeller Skank, Karen Ramirez – Looking For Love, David Morales presents The Face – Needin’ U, Mousse T vs Hot ‘N’ Juicy – Horny, Billie – Because We Want To.
Now Dance ’98: Jennifer Paige – Crush (Dance Mix)***, Stardust – Music Sounds Better With You***, Vengaboys – Up And Down***, Sash featuring Tina Cousins – Mysterious Times, 911 – More Than A Woman***.
Now That’s What I Call Music 41: Robbie Williams – Millennium, U2 – Sweetest Thing, Boyzone – No Matter What, Honeyz – Finally Found, Culture Club – I Just Wanna Be Loved, Melanie B featuring Missy Elliott – I Want You Back.
* Also on Now 39 / ** Also on Now 40 / *** Also on Now 41.

CD1 ends with the full length album version of All Around The World. Presumably because they had the space to include it. I didn’t buy the 7″ at the time but notice that it’s listed as 6:59 which matches the length of the official video. New Hits ’98 includes the rarer 4:50 edit which also appeared on a promo CD single from Creation. By spring 1998, used copies of Be Here Now started to flood the record shops. One particular outlet in Dublin stopped accepting it fairly quickly, given the number of CDs around. Unsold vinyl copies started to sit in Virgin for ages, well-thumbed and shopsoiled. Six months earlier, many people were queuing outside HMV the night before and obtaining certificates of purchase. The release date in each region was commemorated on the calendar pictured on the cover sleeve and on the back of the CD booklet. By dating the album the band felt it would encourage fans to believe that buying a copy on the day it hit the shops was to participate in some kind of historical event. How things can change for the worse.

White line fever has been largely blamed for the Be Here Know mess. The most common complaints related to the long songs and extremely harsh mastering – listening to the CD on headphones is fatiguing. Lastly, the track selection; even then, Oasis were still knocking out quality B-sides. Let’s take a look at five of them:
Angel Child: This never got past the demo stage and is really the only acoustic track of the era. Stick it before All Over The World.
Flashbax: Total corker even if it does sound a little unfinished.
Going Nowhere: Nowhere near as dense as much of the other material. “Wanna be wild.”
(I Got) The Fever: Three guitars, amazing vocal, total glam stomper.
Stay Young: Someone suggested that this would have been an ideal standalone single (like Whatever) between Be Here Know and Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants. A fantastic pop tune. They sound invincible.
Last year I compiled a follow up to The Masterplan. It’s called Don’t Go Away:
Cloudburst / Round Are Way / Step Out / The Fame / My Sister Lover / (I Got) The Fever / Flashbax / Let’s All Make Believe / It’s Better People / D’Yer Wanna Be A Spaceman / Take Me Away / One Way Road / (As Long As They’ve Got) Cigarettes In Hell / Idler’s Dream
Bonus disc: I Will Believe (Live) / Alive (Demo) / Angel Child (Demo) / Sad Song / Bonehead’s Bank Holiday / Fade Away (War Child)

Did you know that Kung Fu Fighting has sold a staggering 11,000,000 copies? Back in 1974 there was a chopsocky craze in the cinemas. The films while entertaining were prone to shockingly bad dubbling, excessive violence and fairly cheesy special effects. Most of them originated in either Hong Kong or Taiwan. Kung Fu Fighting was released to cash in on this movement and was produced by Biddu Appaiah. It became his international breakthrough. Unfortunately it became a millstone around singer Carl Douglas’ neck. Born in Jamaica in 1942, he could never shake it off and by the time 1998 came around, his presence on Bus Stop’s impressive cover was inevitable. Naturally, there are fight scenes in the video and Douglas appears after a minute. All together now: “Oh-hoh-hoh-hoah”

English Electric: Tin Tin Out joined forces with Shelley Nelson to record a cover of The Sundays’ Here’s Where The Story Ends. It won them the 1999 Ivor Novello Award for Best Contemporary Song. While the original was delicately constructed and rather wistful, Tin Tin Out’s makeover gives the track a dance element but Nelson’s vocal remains faithful to Harriet Wheeler’s. I love the strings too; they give it a wonderful summery feel. There were a number of remixes spread across different formats, the best is Original Extended Mix.

The Sundays were touring around this time; their third and final album Static and Silence was released in September 1997 with before / after singles, Summertime and Cry. The US version of the album features the stunning So Much, omitted from the UK release and not even included on the Japanese pressing (which does come with three B-sides). Let’s go back to 1990 when the hype was enormous. There was a steady weight of expectation building after the superb debut single Can’t Be Sure which had emerged in early 1989 and topped John Peel’s Festive 50 – beating Pixies, Wedding Present, Stone Roses, Happy Mondays etc. The music press built up the band as true inheritors of The Smiths sound and when Reading, Writing and Arithmetic came out in mid-January 1990, the reaction was gushing. “An alluring slice of lighter-than-air guitar pop, a collection of uncommonly good songs graced by Harriet Wheeler’s wondrous singing.” (Rolling Stone)

Fresh from the break-up of The Smiths in 1987 and the dissolution of The Housemartins in 1988, the indie fans needed a saviour. While the NME were keen to push The Wedding Present as “Smiths’ fans second favourite band”, they were too abrasive and seen as somewhat one-dimensional. However, The Sundays, as their early live performances showed, were a different proposition – managing to sound like “a band who could actually be The Smiths and the Cocteaus IN THE SAME SONG.” (The Quietus) By the end of 1989, anticipation was building as the new decade approached. I remember the release day; yet another cold January day carrying a KG Discs bag around Waterford RTC. The crisp and jangly pop with Harriet Wheeler’s gorgeous vocals matching the weather perfectly. Rough Trade collapsed shortly afterwards and Here’s Where The Story Ends never came out as a single, although it was a big success on the US Modern Rock charts.

Reading, Writing And Arithmetic is a truly dazzling and beautifully cohesive LP. Skin And Bone’s carry-me-away soaring melodic arc and chiming guitars. Here’s Where The Story Ends recalls a sense of sadness from otherwise happier childhood moments: “It’s that little souvenir of a terrible year that makes my eyes grow soft.” And a guitar reminiscent of Cemetry Gates. Can’t Be Sure comes next, an epic of indecision with many hooks and amazing highlight “It’s my life” at 2:35. RT218; check out the 12″ and 3″ CD single for the great lost B-side, Don’t Tell Your Mother. A cheaper alternative may be to pick up the Geffen compilation, DGC Rarities Volume 1. The choppy I Won was given away as a flexi disc with the November / December 1989 issue of The Catalogue. This only heightened the buzz as show after show in Camden was sold out as the year progressed.

As the record progresses the songs almost blend into each other. Indeed the music feels like it’s tripping over itself on Hideous Towns. Marvel to I Kicked A Boy’s gentle acoustics. Listen to them haunted by the ghost of Johnny Marr on A Certain Someone. My Finest Hour’s wonderful lyric “The world it shows me up, My clothes they show me up.”. Finally there’s the textured Joy with its shifting guitar and bass line. A 12″ promo exists, a video was made and the track was chosen as the closing song on Beechwood’s Indie Top 20 Volume 9. In summary, The Sundays’ debut is overflowing with yearning, nostalgia and sadness – all hanging together with seeming effortlessness.
“Imagine England in 1990, sitting in your student bedsit in London in a holey cardigan, watching the rain streak the windows, clutching a cup of tea and reflecting on life’s frustrations with a mood of romantic, melancholic sentimantality and you get somehwere close to capturing the essence of this album.” (Tungsten Duvall)
“What a wonderful record, its like a celebration of simplicity because they understand that sometimes the greatest moments of your life is when you just happen to find a pound in the underground.” (Yakubu)

rsz_sundays

Favourite tracks
Tin Tin Out featuring Shelley Nelson – Here’s Where The Story Ends

Billie – Because We Want To

Sash! featuring Tina Cousins – Mysterious Times

Lighthouse Family – High

Lest we forget
Bus Stop featuring Carl Douglas – Kung Fu Fighting

Missing tracks and other thoughts
This edition of the Millennium series leaves a lot to be desired and is one of the weakest in the entire run. It doesn’t help that quite a few of the tracks included are over-played and simply not that good. The first half is fairly competent aside from the garish Mavericks sound. Props for including the winsome Viva Forever. They’re fairly mean on the Brit pop though; where are Placebo, Catatonia, Pulp’s This Is Hardcore, Hurricane #1 – Only The Strongest Will Survive, Bernard Butler’s Stay, Ian Brown’s My Star, The Verve’s Lucky Man or anything from the Manic Street Preachers? Disc 2 is like being on holidays on Star Beach, Crete – and not being in control of the sound system. If I never hear 911’s More Than A Woman or Horny, it’ll be too soon. While it’s brilliant to hear Kung Fu Fighting, it really needs to be followed by The Groove Generation featuring Leo Sayer – You Make Me Feel Like Dancing. Accept no other substitutes.

There were three regular Now albums released in 1998 and 34 of the songs here appeared on them (some were included on other compilations first). There were 30 number ones in 1998; 10 are on this (same number as 1997). Of the missing 66%, most lamented are Cher’s Believe, Spacedust’s banging Gym & Tonic, anything by B*Witched, Jamiroquai’s Deeper Underground and It’s Like That. But aside from those, there’s so much more not here. Deep breath clubbers: Faithless – God Is A DJ, The Prodigy – Smack My Bitch Up, Dario G – Carnaval De Paris (the spirit of France ’98). New pop: Matthew Marsden – This Heart’s Lone Desire, Natalie Imbruglia – Smoke, Hanson – Thinking Of You, Solid Harmonie – I Want You To Want Me or To Love Once Again. The final comedown: a 45 from Air’s Moon Safari, Massive Attack’s amazing Teardrops or Portishead’s Only You.

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5 Responses to Now That’s What I Call Music 1998: The Millennium Series (EMI / Virgin / Universal, 1999)

  1. Feel the Quality says:

    The end of the first disc is a pretty good run. It could have been improved by adding Pure Morning by Placebo and the McNamara masterpiece that is Come Back to What You Know.

    I know it’s over-long and over-produced but I have a soft spot for All Around the World. It may have been a disappointment but the release of Be Here Now was a defining moment in music, it genuinely seemed like the whole country was out buying a copy on release day. I don’t ever recall an album having that much impact on everyday life. It was undoubtedly the beginning of the end for Oasis and they’d never come close to those heights again, even if musically they’d surpass the album pretty easily later on.

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      I definitely prefer the first half. The Embrace track was one I forgot about – even though it was their biggest hit. I do like parts of Be Here Know – All Around The World is excellent. As you say it really was an event; one of a kind.

  2. cosmo says:

    You don’t like the Mavericks’s tune here?! I love it! To me, another of the better tracks of the late 90s!

    I actually quite like CD2’s listing. A rather decent dance selection there. (I also like Mousse T,’s Horny, one of


  3. cosmo says:

    (I also quite like Mousse T.’s Horny, one of the seminal house sounds of that summer.)

    But, yeah, one of the weaker entries in the series – because it is one of the weaker years for music, along with the follwoing year. And yet, I prefer this to any of the individual Now volumes of that year (and I actually prefer Telstar’s Greatest Hits of 98 to this!).

  4. Pingback: Now That’s What I Call Music 1999: The Millennium Series (EMI / Virgin / Universal, 1999) | A Pop Fan's Dream

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