Now That’s What I Call Music 42 (EMI / Virgin / Polygram, 1999)

Now 42

Now 42 r

Review
Now That’s What I Call Music 42 was released at the end of March 1999. It contained a total of 40 tracks. 10 of these have already been discussed on the following compilations:
Big Hits ’98: The Corrs – What Can I Do.
Hits ’99: Cher – Believe, All Saints – War Of Nerves.
The 1999 Brit Awards: Fatboy Slim – Praise You.
New Hits ’99: Steps – Better Best Forgotten, Mr Oizo – Flat Beat, Blockster – You Should Be, Ace Of Base – Always Have, Always Will, Divine Comedy – National Express, Stereophonics – Just Looking.

Billy Ocean’s exuberant When The Going Gets Tough (The Tough Get Going) made its mark on The Jewel Of The Nile soundtrack while blasting its way to the top of the UK charts during February 1986. 13 years pass and Boyzone decide to cover it for the Comic Relief teleton. The Tough Get Going brackets piece gets dropped – never a good sign – and it’s a pretty rubbish version. The music video cast of shame: Graham Norton, Jo Brand, Phill Jupitus, Mel Smith, Davina McCall, Harry Hill, Steve Collins, John McCririck, Jimmy White, Mystic Meg, Will Mellor, James Dreyfus, the cast of Emmerdale, Adam Buxton and Joe Cornish, and Ulrika Jonsson and Saracen from Gladiators.

Here I go again: Mamma Mia the musical was due and the latest ABBA revival was in full swing. At the recent Brit Awards, Steps, Tina Cousins, Cleopatra, B*Witched and Billie Piper got together and performed a medley consisting of Take A Chance On Me, Dancing Queen, Mamma Mia and Thank You For The Music. You can live without it. Meanwhile the Spice Girls picked up their eighth #1 with the stunning ballad Goodbye. We get the 4:20 Radio Edit. No Geri Halliwell. There’s an air of finality about the promo video with its castle scene and frozen couples. Honeyz pick up the baton with the stunning End Of The Line while Billie Piper buzzes up a sticky ‘n’ sultry groove on Honey To The Bee.

At the same time the affecting Big, Big World was going massive, Emilia was studying Economic History. Bach to good vibes: Tina Cousins’ bangin’ Killin’ Time ’99 followed by Vengaboys and the introspective We Like To Party. Still in division 3, an abysmal cover of Witch Doctor from Dane pranksters Cartoons before a glimmer of light – A+ with Enjoy Yourself. Sample: Walter Murphy’s A Fifth of Beethoven (1976). Another – Deetah’s taut El Paradiso Rico and elements of La Isla Bonita. Bad cover versions continue on Emmie’s More Than This while DJ Sakin’s Braveheart trance and Fool Boona’s formulaic Popped (Iggy can’t save it) are pure muck. There’s a brief respite on the competent Colour The World from Sash! before CD1 ends with Justin’s cloying Over You. Teenage dreams etc.

Another Now album, another Robbie Williams tune. He scooped up Brits for Best Video (Millennium), Best Song (Angels) and Best Male Solo Artist. Strong is average stuff, another smash from I’ve Been Expecting You. Move over: Fly Away saw Lenny Kravitz reach #1, an agreeable concoction of funk rock. Exploding the joint – Armand Van Helden’s filtered house You Don’t Know Me. Great strings! Next The Cardigans’ motorik Erase / Rewind. And the beat goes on: Tony Christie joins the All Seeing I for the tawdry Walk Like A Panther. Shades of Jason King: Terrorvision’s beaty makeover by Mint Royale – Tequila – before The Beautiful South lift us out of the mire on the gorgeous How Long’s A Tear Take To Dry? “The flowers smell sweeter the closer you are to the grave.”

Roxette returned after a four year absence with the stirring ballad Wish I Could Fly; 911 serve up an execrable cover of Dr Hook’s A Little Bit More while the soppy These Are The Times (Dru Hill) and My Love (Kele Roc) run out of steam very fast. Thankfully the closing triple play sees a form of redemption. First is Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s Inkanyezi Nezani (The Star And The Wise Man), a track famous from a Heinz Ketchup advert. Which nicely sets the scene for Blur’s Tender (full version from 13), a spellbinding classic which has backing vocals from London Community Gospel Choir. Finally there’s a lovely gesture by Ashley Abram – as a tribute to the late, great diva Dusty Springfield (who died 2 March 1999), we sign off with the timeless You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me. Amazing.

“Come on, come on, come on
Love’s the greatest thing”

Favourite tracks
Spice Girls – Goodbye

The Beautiful South – How Long’s A Tear Take To Dry?

Armand Van Helden featuring Duane Harden – You Don’t Know Me

Stereophonics – Just Looking

Blur – Tender

Lest we forget
Dusty Springfield – You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me

Missing tracks and other thoughts
The booklet contains an advert for the upcoming Millennium Series – “Coming to a shop near you Spring 1999”. It displays the front covers of 16 volumes spanning 1980 – 1995. It’s a welcome distraction given that Now 42 is probably the weakest volume of the entire series to date. In particular, two thirds of CD1 are sub-par which is somewhat reflective of the charts at the time. The second half is an improvement but it’s still well off the usual standard. Here are some suggested improvements:

Aqua – Good Morning Sunshine. You can’t go wrong with a bit of Hair.
Gay Dad – To Earth With Love. Glam rock meets indie. Severely undervalued.
Duran Duran – Electric Barbarella. The Medazzaland era and robot sex dolls.
Mansun – Six. Touched by the hand of Arthur Baker.
Aphex Twin – Windowlicker. Smooth yet erratic. To surf on sine waves.

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Posted in Now That's What I Call Music | 4 Comments

New Hits ’99 (Global Television / Sony / Warner ESP, 1999)

New Hits 99

New Hits 99 r

Review
The 36th volume of the Hits series, New Hits ’99, was released in March 1999. Making the “featuring” section of the front cover were Whitney Houston, Blondie, Steps, Cher, The Corrs, Robbie Williams, Boyzone, B*Witched, Fatboy Slim, Five, Another Level, Savage Garden, N Sync “and many more.”
Just four of the 42 tracks had already appeared on previous compilations:
Now That’s What I Call Music 41: Robbie Williams – No Regrets, Boyzone – No Matter What.
The Brit Awards 1999: Fatboy Slim – Praise You, Pras – Blue Angels.

Hallelujah! B*Witched make it four number ones out of four attempts with Blame It On The Weatherman. Rain symbolizes tears. The weatherman is everyone who didn’t warn Edele that heartbreak is inevitable. Her tears won’t stop falling. The music video was directed by Michael Geoghegan and features the band floating on a large upside-down articulated lorry through a flooded London, picking up numerous floating items from the water and also rescuing a puppy. And then, a most surprising comeback – Blondie’s first single since 1982’s War Child – the driving Maria. A burst of dopamine when Debbie sings “You got to see her.” Next comes the neo-R&B of Whitney Houston’s It’s Not Right But It’s Okay while Steps leave the past behind with the resigned Better Best Forgotten.

After the rather bland ‘n’ grey grooves of Another Level’s I Want You For Myself, comes the punchy Strong Enough, another step in the Cher reboot. Meanwhile Tatyana Ali takes care of scarves, sorry business on the jacked-up Boy You Knock Me Out with TQ rocking the urban sound on the dope Westside. Justin time: making their debut were N Sync on the superb I Want You Back – with its brilliant vocal and beat. It’s a boyband game as Five drop the slick It’s The Things You Do while Mr Oizo’s Flat Beat is a prime example of electro house – all nagging bassline and headbanging puppet. Get into the garage – it’s Shanks and Bigfoot’s most clinical banger Sweet Like Chocolate.

On the Ministry Of Sound label – Brandon Block AKA Blockster’s house meets disco take on the Bee Gees’ You Should Be Dancing. The past keeps coming back to haunt us: the underrated Dreaming is the 19th and final single from M People, the second single lifted from their greatest hits album. Elsewhere Savage Garden’s I Want You gets another push after the success of Truly Madly Deeply and To The Moon And Back. Next comes the uptempo and positive This Kiss, a crossover hit for Faith Hill. Equally upfront, Ace Of Base’s Motown sound on Always Have, Always Will – the intro samples The Supremes’ Where Did Our Love Go and The Four Tops’ I Can’t Help Myself. Last one before half-time: Isaac Hayes or Chef’s Chocolate Salty Balls (PS I Love You), the Christmas #1 all the way from South Park. We get the rare radio version which comes with an extra verse.

CD2 starts with a remixed version of Runaway, which was originally released in September 1995 as The Corrs’ debut single. The Tin Tin Out Remix sees the bass moved into the foreground, standing out but not overpowering the gorgeous vocals. The Barenaked Ladies rather unsubtle One Week comes next before we slip inside the indie disco. First up are the Manic Street Preachers and the bruising You Stole The Sun From My Heart described by Nicky Wire as “a mix of New Order and Nirvana.” And then the jaunty National Express by The Divine Comedy, based on Neil Hannon’s observations of life from the window of a coach. To a song for shop assistants by the Stereophonics, the wistful Just Looking before Garbage’s memorable juggernaut, the glam stomp of When I Grow Up.

Bang on: Underworld’s menacing advance that is Push Upstairs. Definitely one of their most atmospheric creations, a progressive pre-millennium tension reliever. Slotting in after, the armageddon meets psych bop Mystical Machine Gun from Kula Shaker. Next: the powerful house blast that’s Supercar’s Tonite and the loopy disco sound of Mirrorball’s Given Up. Which nicely leads into Cevin Fisher and (You Got Me) Burning Up which features diva vocals by Loleatta Holloway. More of the same – Soulsearcher’s freshly served anthem Can’t Get Enough before an updated version of Inner City’s 1988 classic masterpiece Good Life. One for summer fiestas everywhere.

Time for some old skool funk with a new twist; the party jam Candy from Big Willie Style, utilising Will Smith’s trademark friendly ‘n’ humorous pop-rap with classic Cameo samples. Following this, the Psycho-inspired Gimme Some More from Busta Rhymes. The rap is frantic, the video has a nightmarish Looney Tunes edge. Jam on with Ginuwine’s brutal What’s So Different which comes with top Timbaland production. And there’s more local R&B – Kleshay’s pleasant jam Rush – and in its wake, slow dance time. We get A Touch Of Love – another single from Cleopatra’s debut LP and then, Ultra’s top 10 breakthrough Rescue Me. Finally it’s breakfast time with Johnny Vaughan and Denise Van Outen,the presenters of the Channel 4 show, getting together to cover Especially For You.

Favourite tracks
N Sync – I Want You Back

Manic Street Preachers – You Stole The Sun From My Heart

Garbage – When I Grow Up

Underworld – Push Upstairs

Busta Rhymes – Gimme Some More

Lest we forget
Kula Shaker – Mystical Machine Gun

Missing tracks and other thoughts
The 1999 spring tide brings forth a fresh and most satisfying journey. I wouldn’t have objected if the following trio made the team:

Unkle featuring Ian Brown – Be There. Another rich dance meets indie clash.
George Michael featuring Mary J Blige – As. Ladies and gentlemen – doppelgängers.
Beth Orton – Stolen Car. A suitable example of the late-period VH1 style.

Posted in Hits series | 5 Comments

The 1999 Brit Awards (Columbia, 1999)

Brit Awards 99

Brit Awards 99 r

Review
The 1999 Brit Awards were the 19th edition of the biggest UK pop ceremony and took place on 16 February at the London Arena. The host was Johnny “Big Breakfast” Vaughan. The accompanying album contained 39 tracks and was the 11th in the series.

Many of its songs have already been covered here. You’ll find them on:
New Hits ’98: Natalie Imbruglia – Big Mistake, Another Level – Be Alone No More, Five – When The Lights Go Out, Cornershop – Brimful Of Asha (Norman Cook Remix).
Now That’s What I Call Music 39: Billie Myers – Kiss The Rain, Radiohead – No Surprises.
Smash Hits Summer ’98: Massive Attack – Teardrop.
Fresh Hits ’98: Catatonia – Road Rage.
Now That’s What I Call Music 40: Eagle-Eye Cherry – Save Tonight, All Saints – Lady Marmalade.
Big Hits ’98: Des’ree – Life, Manic Street Preachers – If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next, Jamiroquai – Deeper Underground.
Now Dance ’98: Lynden David Hall – Sexy Cinderella (Cutfather and Joe Remix), Billie – Girlfriend (D*Influence Real Live Mix).
Now That’s What I Call Music 41: Robbie Williams – No Regrets, The Beautiful South – Perfect 10, Sheryl Crow – My Favourite Mistake.
Hits ’99: The Corrs – So Young, B*witched – Rollercoaster, Will Smith – Miami.

Daysleeper was the lead single for R.E.M.’s 11th LP, the much undervalued Up. It’s sung from the point of view of a night shift worker and deals with the disorientation of time and circadian rhythm in such a lifestyle. Or crashing out when others are at work. Surely the solution is not to go to bed when you get home from a night shift? Music from another room: Savage Garden’s rather lush Truly Madly Deeply, a song that takes me back to a different lifetime. Pras drops some quality hip hop on the slammin’ Blue Angels while Hinda Hicks’ I Wanna Be Your Lady is a prime slice of sensual R&B, a Blackmarket slow jam. Elsewhere the inclusion of 1983’s Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) is due to the nomination of Eurythmics in the Outstanding Contribution To Music category.

The 1999 Brit Awards is great for gathering up some of the missing tracks that I wanted to see on 1998’s Now and Hits albums. There’s Alanis Morissette’s Thank U, a terrific and hypnotic tale of spiritual awakening with a crystalline melody. Next come Air and Kelly Watch The Stars, all retro electronics and table tennis. Their debut LP, the long-awaited Moon Safari remains a superb AM listen. Meanwhile Lauryn Hill’s crucial Doo Wop (That Thing) comes off as classic rap meets neo soul uptown. The journey continues for Fatboy Slim and Praise You which features samples from Camille Yarbrough’s Take Yo’ Praise (vocal), JBL’s Balance And Rehearsal (piano) and from an old Disneyland compilation, It’s A Small World (guitar). Staying big beat: the Propellerheads’ frantic Bang On.

From the soundtrack of Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels comes E-Z Rollers’ wicked jungle blaster Walk This Land. Down votes to Fun Lovin’ Criminals and the inexplicably popular Love Unlimited before Beck’s gorgeous Tropicalia which was lifted from his masterpiece Mutations (beloved of Blue Jam). Mercury Music prize champions Gomez’s Whippin’ Piccadilly is a sheer joy, beefed up drumbeat for single release. The distinctive sound of Flood is on PJ Harvey’s uptempo A Perfect Day Elise, lead 45 for Is This Desire? The indie disco sees us home – there’s Placebo’s grinding raw power of Pure Morning. And free from the shackles of The Stone Roses and Suede are Ian Brown and Bernard Butler. My Star is nicely played space rock; see you in Asda. And we close with an epic: Stay.
Select magazine nailed it on their singles review page, February 1998: “A classic rock collage: descending chords a la Dear Prudence, Whatever, The Changingman, an impassioned middle eight that sounds almost gospel-esque, a huge arrangement, and plaintive lyrics, sufficiently simple to need no deciphering whatsoever.”

Favourite tracks
Alanis Morissette – Thank U

Gomez – Whippin’ Piccadilly (Turbo Version)

Lauryn Hill – Doo Wop (That Thing)

Air – Kelly Watch The Stars

Lest we forget
Bernard Butler – Stay

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