The Best Of Dance ’97 (Telstar, 1997)

Best Of Dance 97

Best Of Dance 97 r

Telstar’s Best Of Dance ’97 contains 44 tracks or “The year’s greatest dance anthems.” You’ll have already read my thoughts on many of these tunes in previous reviews:
The Best Of Dance ’96: Tori Amos – Professional Widow.
Smash Hits Mix ’97: The Prodigy – Breathe.
Now That’s What I Call Music 36: The Blueboy – Remember Me, Sash – Encore Une Fois, DJ Quicksilver – Bellissima, The Source featuring Candi Staton – You Got The Love, B.B.E. – Flash, Robert Miles – One On One.
New Hits 1997: Apollo 440 – Ain’t Talkin’ About Dub.
Now That’s What I Call Music 37: Brainbug – Nightmare.
Pure Hits ’97: Conner Reeves – My Father’s Son, Clock – You Sexy Thing, Byron Stingily – Get Up (Everybody), Basement Jaxx – Flylife.
Fresh Hits 1997: Olive – You’re Not Alone, Rosie Gaines – Closer Than Close, Backstreet Boys – Everybody.
Now Dance ’97: Gala – Freed From Desire, The Course – Ready Or Not, Staxx – Joy, 2 Eivissa – Oh La La, Chicane – Offshore ’97, N-Trance featuring Rod Stewart – Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?, Moby – James Bond Theme.
The Greatest Hits Of 1997: Erykah Badu – On and On, N-Tyce – We Come To Party.
Huge Hits 1997: Dario G – Sunchyme, Coolio – Ooh La La.
Now That’s What I Call Music 38: Sash featuring La Trec – Stay.

Rock on: Blackstreet’s Fix is a real treat as it features Fishbone, as well as a rap by Ol’ Dirty Bastard and ad-libs by Slash. Guns ‘n’ Roses return to Slane Castle today. More than this: Carrilo’s banging take on Samba De Janeiro. Never gets old. Moving on: Stretch ‘n’ Vern’s crucial Get Up! Go Insane in which house music meets the intensity of big beat with a hip hop attitude. The names have been changed to protect the innocent: Silvester Stretch (Stuart Collins) and Jules Vern (Julian Peake). Grooves – Michelle Weeks’ lung-busting euphoric soul Don’t Give Up and Mama Mystique’s illsick Tremendous; Q Ball and Curt Cazal in the mix. +8: Livin’ Joy’s long forgotten Deep In You, a nice slice of mellow magic.

1997 was the era of the superclub; the peak year for magazines like Muzik and Mixmag. Flashback to 1989: in late 1996, Coldcut and Lisa Stansfield’s People Hold On was remixed by British producers Dan Bewick and Matt Frost AKA The Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. It charted higher than the original version. Heavily inspired by Armand Van Helden’s radical reworking of Tori Amos’ Professional Widow. No skool like an old skool – Red 5’s epic I Love You. . . Stop is the sound of numerous all-nighters. Sing it back. Equally nostalgic, the ’97 update of Jaydee’s classic Plastic Dreams. That mega David Morales sound. Elsewhere Show Me Love from Robin S also gets a reboot with a funkier twist.

Roy Davis Jr featuring Peven Everett – Gabriel. Has stripped-down soul ever sounded so wonderful? A timeless spiritual creation that will make your house vibrate. We get the Live Garage Edit (the video below is the full version). Another garage classic comes from TJR with Xavier – the sublime Just Gets Better. Camden Palace days. And for those who prefer some speed with their garage I give you the twisted grooves of the Fabulous Baker Boys’ Oh Boy. Dope on plastic. Grime forever. Meanwhile there’s the murky sound of the Funky Green Dogs’ Fired Up before the hardcore climax from the Porn Kings – Up To No Good. National joyriders’ anthem. Everybody needs a 303.

Favourite tracks
Roy Davis Jr featuring Peven Everett – Gabriel (Live Garage Edit)

TJR featuring Xavier – Just Gets Better (TDR Dub Radio Edit)

Fabulous Baker Boys – Oh Boy (Ramsey and Fen Remix)

Red 5 – I Love You. . . Stop

Stretch & Vern – Get Up! Go Insane

Lest we forget
Porn Kings – Amour (C’mon)

Posted in Best Of Dance | 3 Comments

Big Hits (Global Television / Sony / Warner ESP, 1997)

Big Hits.jpg

Big Hits r.jpg

The 30th volume of the Hits series, Big Hits, was released in December 1997. It was released instead of the usual Hits end-of-year album with the following year as a prefix – like Hits ’96 and Hits ’97. i.e. we were expecting Hits ’98 but got this instead. Future Big Hits albums would be released in September, starting from 1998 onwards.

Just over half the tracks (21) had also featured on the following compilations:
New Hits ’96: Republica – Ready To Go.
The Best Of Dance ’96: Tori Amos – Professional Widow.
Now That’s What I Call Music 36: The Source featuring Candi Staton – You Got The Love.
New Hits 1997: No Mercy – Where Do You Go.
Smash Hits Summer ’97:  R Kelly – I Believe I Can Fly.
Now That’s What I Call Music 37: Eternal – I Wanna Be The Only One, Robbie Williams – Old Before I Die, Coolio – C U When U Get There, En Vogue – Don’t Let Go (Love).
Fresh Hits 1997: Olive – You’re Not Alone, Paula Cole – Where Have All The Cowboys Gone.
Now Dance ’97: N-Trance featuring Rod Stewart – Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?
Huge Hits 1997: Dario G – Sunchyme, Ricky Martin – Maria, Tina Moore – Never Gonna Let You Go.
The Greatest Hits Of 1997: Backstreet Boys – As Long As You Love Me.
Now That’s What I Call Music 38: Louise – Arms Around The World (Remix on Now Dance ’97), Oasis – Stand By Me, Faithless – Don’t Leave, Peter Andre – Lonely.
Smash Hits ’98: Aaron Carter – Crush On You.

Beth Brennan was a character in Neighbours. She made her debut screen appearance in the episode broadcast on 6 January 1992. She married Brad Willis in 1993, and the couple left Erinsborough for Perth shortly afterwards. She was played by Natalie Imbruglia who launched her singing career in late ’97 with a storming cover version of Ednaswap’s Torn. The video – shot in a apartment – was rated second best of all time by MTV Italy. The song is a pop classic, a folky vibe that now sounds like textbook 1990s nostalgia. Also new to the game were Five, the latest boyband sensation whose debut single, the catchy Slam Dunk Da Funk was a decent blend of rap and pop. Get on down.

M People’s Fantasy Island is probably their most obscure single. It was released in one of the busiest weeks of the year with 15 of the top 40 songs being new entries. They were competing with Boyzone, The Verve and Kylie Minogue, to name a few. #33 was its soulful reward and nothing to do with Tight Fit. Next comes Gary Barlow with the underrated Open Road; almost angelic in its delivery. And before having a successful football career with Newcastle United, Shola Ama was all about the R&B on the tender Who’s Loving My Baby. In vogue, Dannii Minogue with the supremely slick Everything I Wanted.

Are You Jimmy Ray? This amusing tune’s video juxtaposed Ray’s rockabilly image with a trailer park setting as stereotypical hip hop video women in sports jerseys and football shorts danced behind him. Link Wray, Sting Ray, Fay Wray. . . shake it down anyway you want. Let’s get serious, it’s Steven Houghton’s competent cover of Wind Beneath My Wings. As featured in London’s Burning. “And Manchester United are champions again.” CD1 finishes with Reds United’s Sing Up For The Champions. These were truly grim days to be a Manchester City fan. 1997/98 was the season when they slipped into the third tier despite winning their final game 5-2 against fellow droppers Stoke City.
“Are you watching Macclesfield?”

Kula Shaker’s 1997 started well with four Brit Award nominations and a victory in the British Breakthrough Act category. Shortly afterwards, they released what would turn out to be their biggest hit, a cover of Hush (originally written by Joe South for Billy Joe Royal, and most famously performed by Deep Purple), which peaked at number 2. It was also used on the soundtrack to seminal slasher flick I Know What You Did Last Summer. Things went pear-shaped with Crispian Mills naive swastika comments. In retrospect there was no malice intended and a full apology was given very quickly. Unfortunately that wasn’t sufficient for some people, many of whom hold it against the band ever since.

Lou Reed’s Perfect Day was featured in Trainspotting, a welcome push some 24 years after its initial inclusion on Transformer. A new version was then recorded as a Children In Need single but sadly, it’s the original that’s included here. Don’t get me wrong – great tune but already own it from a variety of sources. Presumably the intention was to ensure buoyant sales for the charity cover. Continuing on the tender trip are the Lightning Seeds with the gentle strum of What You Say. And big beat crashes in with the Propellerheads monstrous cover of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. David Arnold in the house.

Shocking news: As I write this I have learned that Robert Miles has left us. Freedom with Kathy Sledge is gorgeously chilled, a relaxing trip but bittersweet with its references to destiny. Elsewhere Huff and Herb’s Feeling Good builds an epic Balearic groove with a gorgeous Nina Simone sample while 187 Lockdown serve up some wicked speed garage on Gunman. What a bassline! And brighten up your day with the mellow sounds of Finlay Quaye’s It’s Great When We’re Together. Remember it from Cold Feet. Drift off to be pure moods vibe of Enya’s wonderful Only If. Finally it’s the other Ms Minogue with the spiky groove of Did It Again. Big up for Indie Kylie.

Favourite tracks
Gary Barlow – Open Road

Huff and Herb – Feeling Good

Propellerheads featuring David Arnold – On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

187 Lockdown – Gunman

Enya – Only If

Lest we forget
Robert Miles featuring Kathy Sledge – Freedom

Missing tracks and other thoughts
A very diverse selection but the following tunes would also have enhanced Big Hits:

Will Smith – Men In Black. Massive film tie-in.
Missy Misdemeanour Elliott – The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly) or Sock It To Me.
Ginuwine – When Doves Cry. Ace cover.
Wu Tang Clan – Triumph. Highlight from the sprawling WTF.
Busta Rhymes – Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See. Abbey Discs jam.

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Smash Hits ’98 (Virgin, 1997)

Smash Hits 98

Smash Hits 98 r

By 1997, the Smash Hits franchise was struggling. Its heyday had been the 1988 – 1993 era, each annual instalment a vital snapshot of the year’s pop highlights. Now the sleeve design was a moody purple and orange space theme with hardly any artist photographs (just six on the back inlay), song notes or biographies. Ashley Abram was still dealing the cards in association with Virgin Commercial Marketing.

Consequently the vast majority of the tracks had already been snapped up as follows:
Now That’s What I Call Music 36: Kavana – I Can Make You Feel Good, Blur – Beetlebum, No Doubt – Don’t Speak.
Smash Hits – Summer ’97: Damage – Wonderful Tonight.
Now That’s What I Call Music 37: Ultra Nate – Free, Fun Lovin’ Criminals – Scooby Snacks, Coolio – C U When U Get There, Boyzone – Isn’t It A Wonder, Texas – Halo, Seahorses – Love Is The Law, 911 – The Journey.
Pure Hits ’97: The Cardigans – Lovefool (Tee’s Radio – original on Now 37), Blackstreet – Don’t Leave Me, Peter Andre – All About Us.
Fresh Hits 1997: Rosie Gaines – Closer Than Close.
Now Dance ’97: Spice Girls – Spice Up Your Life, PF Project featuring Ewan McGregor – Choose Life, Chumbawamba – Tubthumping, Hot Chocolate – You Sexy Thing, George Michael – The Strangest Thing ’97, Gala – Freed From Desire, N-Trance featuring Rod Stewart – Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?, Bellini – Samba De Janeiro, Moby – James Bond Theme.
The Greatest Hits Of 1997: Backstreet Boys – As Long As You Love Me, N-Tyce – We Come To Party, Conner Reeves – Earthbound.
Now That’s What I Call Music 38: Sash featuring La Trec – Stay, 911 – Party People, Friday Night, Janet Jackson – Got Til It’s Gone, Eternal – Angel Of Mine, Meredith Brooks – Bitch, Oasis – Stand By Me, All Saints – I Know Where It’s At.

“What do I get, oh-oh, what do I get?”

Let’s Go Round Again was a late disco smash for the Average White Band in 1980 – even though it sounded like something from 1974. Sadly Louise’s cover lacks the sparkle of the original; the most memorable thing about it is choreography in the video which looks like it was shot in a nuclear power station. Equally uninspired is Shaggy’s watery take on Piece Of My Heart. Of more interest, Bamboo’s Bamboogie; funky house with a video of 1930’s cartoons such as Techno Cracked (1933), Insultin’ the Sultan (1934), Pup’s Picnic (1936), The Hound and the Rabbit (1937), Pup On A Picnic (1955), Paw’s Night Out (1955).

Here comes a soulsaver: Robbie Williams’ Angels – a hot new track in December 1997 – stopped his career from floundering and became the biggest selling single of his career. The monochrome video was largely filmed from the air; Robbie walks around a beach, stares at the sky, kicks a football and rides a motorbike with a woman whilst a helicopter flies around them. At the 2005 Brit Awards, Angels was voted by the public as the best song in the past 25 years of British music. In a survey by UK digital television station Music Choice, Britons chose it as the song they’d most like to be played at their funeral. Not bad for a tune about condoms.

Romo time: so who can recall Catch? Fronted by 18 year old Toby Slater, whose father was in The Mojos. Bigged-up on Radio 1’s Evening Session and a memorable appearance on Top Of The Pops where their neon logo stood out – 1997 and they already had a # Hashtag in their name. They were from a future we couldn’t even imagine. Bingo is a deadly pop tune, delivered in laid back style. Elsewhere Kavana makes a second appearance with the cryptic M.F.E.O. while Aaron Carter’s weirdly-sung cover of The Jets’ Crush On You is repellent with its chipmunk style vocals. The cringe is definitely real.

Favourite tracks
Robbie Williams – Angels

Bamboo – Bamboogie

Sash featuring La Trec – Stay

All Saints – I Know Where It’s At

Moby – James Bond Theme

Lest we forget
Catch – Bingo

Posted in Smash Hits | 6 Comments