Now Dance ’98 (Virgin, 1998)

Now Dance 98

Now Dance 98 r

The 18th entry in the Now Dance series is just credited to Virgin Records with their commercial marketing arm working with Ashley Abram’s Box Music Limited. Please note that the following tracks have already been discussed in previous reviews:
Smash Hits ’98: Bamboo – Bamboogie.
New Hits ’98: Cornershop – Brimful Of Asha (Norman Cook Remix), Run DMC Vs Jason Nevins – It’s Like That.
Now That’s What I Call Music 39: Janet Jackson – Together Again, Tin Tin Out – Here’s Where The Story Ends, Spice Girls – Stop, Camisra – Let Me Show You.
Smash Hits Summer ’98: The Tamperer featuring Maya – Feel It, Perpetual Motion – Keep On Dancin’ (Let’s Go).
Fresh Hits ’98: Tzant – Sound Of Wickedness.
Now That’s What I Call Music 40: All Saints – Lady Marmalade, Billie – Because We Want To, Lucid – I Can’t Help Myself, Fatboy Slim – The Rockafeller Skank, Barbara Tucker – Everybody Dance (The Horn Song).
Big Hits ’98: Steps – One For Sorrow, Love Station – Teardrops, Alexia – The Music I Like, Energy 52 – Cafe Del Mar.

In an unusual move, we get two mixes of the same track – Stardust’s Music Sounds Better With You. A coming together of producers Thomas Bangalter (Daft Punk), Alan Braxe (who dropped Vertigo on the Roule label in 1997), and singer Benjamin Diamond. It uses a sample of Chaka Khan’s Fate and is one of the greatest house tunes ever and owned the summer of 1998. Utterly sublime. Memories of moving into Belgrave Square and caning this over my morning coffee and cigarette. Disc 2 also has the DJ Sneak Mix, a fine deep house effort. The music video is directed by Michel Gondry, is set in Texas and depicts the story of a boy building a model airplane while his parents argue. He watches a music show on television and Stardust appear during the top 5 countdown. Analogue / digital love.

Bus Stop serve up another 1970s reboot in the form of You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet featuring the original’s singer Randy Bachman. It’s no Kung Fu Fighting and not even the rap can save it. Meanwhile Fatboy Slim blow up the joint with the explosive big beat thrill fest Gangster Trippin’ which samples Ann Robinson’s You Did It, DJ Shadow’s Entropy, Dust Junkys’ Beatbox Wash and the X-Ecutioners’ Word Play and The Turntablist Anthem. Next comes Billie’s Girlfriend and in a nice touch, the D*Influence Real Live Mix which was on the second CD single. Great jam. Happiness reigns for Ace Of Base on the endlessly upbeat Life Is A Flower while T-Spoon’s Sex On The Beach is ultra catchy. Even 911’s disco by numbers version of More Than A Woman can’t scorch the positive vibe.

Jennifer Paige’s debut single set the charts and most of Los Angeles’ radio stations on fire. While it’s a fine pop song in its own right, the harder-edged Dance Mix with its sweet bass groove is the one to own and is thankfully included here. Ibiza favourite On Top Of The World (credited to producers Diva Surprise featuring Georgia Jones) and Baby Bumps’ feverish Burnin’ keep the house fires alight. Closing out the first half is DJ Quicksilver with the sunny side up trance of Timerider. I remember it blaring out of Abbey Discs on a scorching hot day that summer. This short version is taken from the promo CD single.

Disc 2 starts with a bang – Sash! featuring Tina Cousins with the evocative EDM of Mysterious Times. Equally rush-inducing is Nalin and Kane’s Beachball; here we get the 7″ edit of the Tall Paul ’98 Remix. Jazz club: Touch & Go with Would You? “I’ve noticed you around / I find you very attractive / Would you go to bed with me?”. Nice. Jungle tip for Luniz’s I Got 5 On It remixed by Urban Takeover, Aphrodite and Micky Finn which became the single’s main mix. It rolls over a beefed up original sample taken from Club Nouveau’s Why You Treat Me So Bad. In tandem, the wicked Cutfather and Joe Remix of Sexy Cinderella by the late Lynden David Hall plus Rosie Gaines’ squelchy I Want U.

Let’s go. Binary Finary equals Matt Laws and Stuart Matheson. 1998 is a trance banger, another tune that had endless remixes. I love the simplicity of the original radio edit. Hot on the heels of love: Storm’s eponymous epic. Also known as Jam and Spoon. After the Music Sounds Better With You DJ Sneak reprise, Marc Et Claude’s progressively dreamy La kicks in. And another belter – Blue Adonis’ insane Disco Cop featuring the delightful Little Miss Max. From obscurity to global reach: last orders are soundtracked by Vengaboys’ jaunty Up And Down.

Favourite tracks
Stardust – Music Sounds Better With You (Radio Edit)

Jennifer Paige – Crush (Dance Mix)

Binary Finary – 1998

Storm – Storm

Nalin & Kane – Beachball (Tall Paul ’98 Remix)

Lest we forget
Blue Adonis – Disco Cop

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Big Hits ’98 (Global Television / Sony / Warner ESP, 1998)

Big Hits 98

Big Hits 98 r

In a first for the series, Big Hits ’98 was released in September. That meant it avoided a clash with the Now team who generally released albums in March (sometimes April), July (occasionally August) and November. It remained at number one on the UK compilation charts for five weeks. Just four of its 40 tracks had already been compiled – on these:
Now That’s What I Call Music 39: LeeAnn Rimes – How Do I Live.
Now That’s What I Call Music 40: Peter Andre – Kiss The Girl, The Mavericks – Dance The Night Away, Fatboy Slim – The Rockafeller Skank.

The Five machine steamrolls on with Everybody Get Up. The sample is I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll; Joan Jett and The Black Hearts version my most treasured 7″ single of 1982. Even in 1998, this sounded like a throwback with its high school video. Next up: All Saints and their third #1 Bootie Call, a raunchy R&B groove while it’s a case of second time lucky for Savage Garden’s To The Moon And Back. The latter is a somewhat dark trip that deals with alienation from society and the ongoing search for romantic love. Meanwhile Another Level pull off a surprisingly erotically perky cover of Silk’s Freak Me. Staying on a g-string tip: Sweetbox’s slushy Bach-based Everything’s Gonna Be Alright. Isn’t he lovely? Will Smith’s fresh take on Just The Two Of Us focuses on a father and son relationship.

The covers continue with Cleopatra taking on I Want You Back. You don’t need a second listen. Much better are Kleshay and the smooth and emotional R&B of Reasons, a #33 placing and not well remembered. Mind you, it was Trevor Nelson’s lick pick of the week. Heavy hitters Destiny’s Child drop With Me but I think the London girls have the edge. More unsung heroes: Ultra (named after the Depeche Mode LP) and their bouncing boy band banger The Right Time. Want deep lyrics? Look no further than Des’ree and Life:
“I don’t want to see a ghost
It’s the sight that I fear most
I’d rather have a piece of toast
Watch the evening news”

Say who? Matthew Marsden played the mechanic Chris Collins in Coronation Street. His underrated single The Heart’s Lone Desire pops up on Big Hits ’98. Great voice plus melancholy vibe = winner. Perfect for inclusion on This Life. Then Catatonia’s gorgeously dreamy Strange Glue followed by Garbage’s bendy, shapely I Think I’m Paranoid, as taken from Version 2.0. Things get ugly fairly fast: Rod Stewart’s turgid cover of Primal Scream’s Rocks, Suggs’ super loose ‘n’ ugly I Am and the bloody Mavericks. Saved! There’s a last minute equaliser from Depeche Mode and the haunting ballad Only When I Lose Myself which was the new song on their second singles compilation.

“Spanish bombs rock the province
I’m hearing music from another time”

The Guinness Book Of Records lists If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next as the number one single with the longest title without brackets. After a two year absence, the Manic Street Preachers had returned with a most stirring anthem. The song is about the Spanish Civil War and the idealism of Welsh volunteers who joined the International Brigades. The song takes its name from a Republican poster of the time, displaying a photograph of a young child killed by the Nationalists under a sky of bombers with the stark warning “If you tolerate this, your children will be next” written at the bottom.

More: Jamiroquai’s swirling Deeper Undergound, a delightful funk odyssey. And those Manic remixers, the Sonic Stealth Orchestra are here in their Apollo 440 alter-ago with the breakbeat meets rock Lost In Space. Memory Of A Free Festival provides the foundations for Dario G’s Sunmachine. Bowie permitted his vocals to be sampled and Tony Visconti plays the flute. Cutting no corners; The Corrs made ensure that What Can I Do was a success by getting Tin Tin Out to remix the original and add orchestral strings by the Duke Quartet. Less: I really don’t dig Simply Red’s bloodless cover of The Air That I Breathe while Celine Dion plus The Bee Gees equates to blandness on the dull Immortality.

Steps fought a hard battle against the Manic Street Preachers and led at the mid-week stage. However One For Sorrow had to settle for a #2 spot; another ABBA inspired slice of comforting pop. From the film Sliding Doors came Aqua’s slow paced Turn Back Time. Contrast – the trance rush of Alexia’s The Music I Like. Garage days revisited: Jocelyn Brown’s decent shout at Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, Martha Wash’s Catch The Light and Love Station’s Teardrops. Shooting out the lights are Solid Harmonie and the super catchy I Wanna Love You. Elsewhere N-Trance tackle Guns ‘N Roses – Paradise City while Hi-Rise and Echobeatz respectively destroy I Believe In Miracles and Mas Que Nada. Like Now 40 we end with No Tengo Dinero; the Hits team using the cut price Los Sombreros.

Café del Mar: the melody is based on Struggle for Pleasure by Belgian composer Wim Mertens. The track was first released in 1993 by the trance project Energy 52. It is named after the famous bar located in Ibiza. It’s instantly recognisable due its very distinct melody and has been remixed numerous times over the last 20 years. You’ll also know it from 1999 film Human Traffic while it topped Mixmag’s 100 Best Tunes list in 2001 and also made #1 on the the BBC’s Top 20 Dance Tracks Of The Last 20 Years (2011). I’ve heard it on every sun holiday I’ve been on – notably Star Beach, Hersonissos. Good times.

Favourite tracks
Solid Harmonie – I Wanna Love You

Garbage – I Think I’m Paranoid

Catatonia – Strange Glue

Depeche Mode – Only When I Lose Myself

Ultra – The Right Time

Lest we forget
Matthew Marsden – The Heart’s Lone Desire

Missing tracks and other thoughts
The 33rd Hits album is an enjoyable listen but too heavily reliant on cover versions. They could have ditched four of them and used these instead:

Puff Daddy featuring Jimmy Page – Come With Me. Kashmir treat off Godzilla.
The Audience – I Know Enough (I Don’t Get Enough). Fresh-faced SEB indie sound.
Placebo – Pure Morning. Raw power.
Madonna – Drowned World (Substitute For Love). From her Ray Of Light masterpiece.

Posted in Hits series | 6 Comments

Now That’s What I Call Music 40 (EMI / Virgin / Polygram, 1998)

Now 40

Now 40 r

The Now series reached another milestone with the release of its 40th volume on 3 August 1998. 20% of its songs reached number one on the UK chart and we get treated to a double whammy from rising pop stars All Saints. My opinions on this set of a dozen tunes can be read from the following:
New Hits ’98: Natalie Imbruglia – Big Mistake.
Smash Hits Summer ’98: The Tamperer featuring Maya – Feel It, Aqua – Doctor Jones, Steps – Last Thing On My Mind, Janet Jackson – I Get Lonely, Massive Attack – Teardrop, Perpetual Motion – Keep On Dancin’ (Let’s Go), Imaani – Where Are You?
Fresh Hits ’98: Bus Stop featuring Carl Douglas – Kung Fu Fighting, Lutricia McNeal – Stranded, Catatonia – Road Rage, Baddiel, Skinner & Lightning Seeds – Three Lions ’98.

The Grease Megamix first reared its ugly head in December 1990. This ghastly staple of weddings and bad discos was put together by PWL’s Phil Harding and Ian Curnow. It was released in 1998 when the film turned 20 and in case you’ve been living under a rock, features the three biggest hits from the Grease soundtrack: You’re The One That I Want, Greased Lightnin’ and Summer Nights. Of more artistic merit is Viva Forever, a tired and emotional ballad from the Spice Girls. Yahoo: “A tear-jerking flamenco guitar and lush strings weave into this break-your-heart, I Will Always Love You ballad with a touch of Madonna about it.” Shades of Like A Prayer’s Spanish Eyes. In its wake, Karen Ramirez’s evocative cover of Everything But The Girl’s Looking For Love and then Billie Piper’s cheeky call ‘n’ response pop classic Because We Want To. #1 at 15 years old.

“Do you want to sleep with me tonight?” is a translation of a French question asked by Eleventh Hour, Labelle, Sabrina and now All Saints. A passable entry. Stay smutty with the relentless grind of Mousse T vs Hot ‘N’ Juicy – Horny. And now for one of the most inspired Now sequences ever: The Groove Generation featuring Leo Sayer – You Make Me Feel Like Dancing followed by Bus Stop’s reboot of Kung Fu Fighting. The GGs are CP, Kipper and Carlos and they revamp the ’70s disco classic with a choice rap and extremely funky grooves. Kung Fu Fighting sees the main man, Carl Douglas, get into the action himself. Staying with glitter are Ultra Nate and their string-soaked New Kind Of Medicine.

Postcards From Heaven begat Lost In Space, a relaxed, soulful jam from the Lighthouse Family – complete with heavily religious iconography in the video. Also ploughing a downbeat furrow are Boyzone on All That I Need; additional production by Rude Boy, Andy Bradfield, Trevor Steel, and John Holliday. Elsewhere All Saints second number is a superb take on the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Under The Bridge while K-Ci & Jo-Jo’s All My Life is pure gorgeous, an awesome bump. Sticking to R&B, Sparkle sounds like its name, a stripped-down cautionary tale. Closing the first half is Peter Andre and Kiss The Girl, taken from Disney’s The Little Mermaid; a cloying and uninteresting effort.

CD2 starts with a throwback to 1985: Don Henley’s nostalgic and elegiac look at lost youth and aging, The Boys Of Summer. It won best video of that year at the MTV Music Awards. Shot in monochrome, it shows the main character of the song at three different stages of life (as a young boy, a young adult and middle-aged), in each case reminiscing about the past relationship. The crucial line: “A little voice inside my head said don’t look back, you can never look back.” at which point, each of the three people look back in turn. He also has a pop at Grateful Dead stickers on a Cadillac; an automobile that apparently is a right wing status symbol. The video is absent from YouTube, otherwise it would be first in line.

I can’t get excited about The Mavericks and their turgid timex texmex country Dance The Night Away. Next is the gentle strum of Eagle Eye Cherry’s Save Tonight – “Fight the break of dawn” always gets me. Big anthem spot: Embrace’s deadly serious Come Back To What You Know followed by The Verve’s Sonnet – described in the booklet as “the single that never was.” Not quite. In early 1998, Hut asked The Verve to put out another 45 from Urban Hymns. The band disagreed. Unusually, Hut pressed them on this matter, and so the band finally agreed to release Sonnet, but only in a format that would make it ineligible for chart recognition. It ended up coming out as part of a set of four 12″s (the other three being Bittersweet Symphony, The Drugs Don’t Work, Lucky Man). A cardboard mailer held ’em all. However, sales of an imported format resulted in it charting at #74.

Straight out of Chester came Mansun with a half dozen top 40 hits in just over 12 months. Legacy sounds almost immortal now, built on an amazing riff and a rather creepy promotional video. Back to football, time to score one more – Vindaloo was the work of a Britpop side project called Fat Les AKA Damien Hirst, Keith Allen and Alex James. Watch out for a young Lily Allen in the video. Unofficial piss up anthem. Yes, oh yes: The Rockafeller Skank featuring the repeated line “Right about now, the funk soul brother / Check it out now, the funk soul brother”, a truncated vocal sample of rapper Lord Finesse on the Vinyl Dogs’ Vinyl Dog Vibe. Also added: Just Brothers – Sliced Tomatoes, The Bobby Fuller Four – I Fought the Law, John Barry and his Orchestra – Beat Girl, Art of Noise featuring Duane Eddy – Peter Gunn.

Banger time: David Morales presents The Face – Needin’ U. Perfect summer holiday blaster. In step, Lucid’s I Can’t Help Myself, the sound of a thousand house parties. KAM decks carried down basement steps and placed on the kitchen worktop. Also caned in those sunny months was Barbara Tucker’s uplifting Everybody Dance (The Horn Song). You’ve never too far away from a bad disco cover; this time its star of the Saturday Night Fever stage production, Adam Garcia murdering Night Fever. Lastly, a pair of glorious failures. 1) Kerri-Ann’s likeable Irish #1, Do You Love Me Boy. All the airplay in the world didn’t help. 2) Los Umbrellos – No Tengo Dinero. Catchy in the worst possible way.

Favourite tracks
Spice Girls – Viva Forever

Lighthouse Family – Lost In Space

Embrace – Come Back To What You Know

Mansun – Legacy

The Verve – Sonnet

Lest we forget
The Groove Generation featuring Leo Sayer – You Make Me Feel Like Dancing

Missing tracks and other thoughts
Now 40 is a lot better than I remember with some crackers and impeccable sequencing from the maestro Ashley Abram. Even the rubbish is placed together. Some more songs:

Bluetones – If… Classic single from their enigmatic second album.
Air – Kelly Watch The Stars. Retro electronics and table tennis.
Cornershop – Sleep On The Left Side. Low, fat grooves.
Beastie Boys – Intergalactic. The triumphant return and Hello Nasty prelude.
Hanson – Thinking Of You. Lost in the sands of time, a beautiful noise.


Posted in Now That's What I Call Music | 26 Comments