Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Mica Paris 'One'

Chart Peak: 29
YouTube
Mica is one of Britain's top female vocalist with hits such as 'My One Temptation', 'Like Dreamers Do' and 'Where Is The Love'... Her stunning interpretation of U2's 'One' is due for release on 27th March '95.
A funny thing about 'One' is that the original U2 version never made it to a Now album (chronologically it would have gone on Now 21, and there are other U2 songs on the albums either side) but it's appeared as a cover version twice: here and as part of the Lighthouse Family's medley on Now 50. They didn't go for the hat trick and feature the Mary J Blige version though, fortunately. It's also a curiosity that of all the hits Mica Paris had, this gets to be her only appearance in the series, especially as with hindsight it's not the track she'll be remembered for.

This cover, produced by Oakenfold and Osborne (aka the Perfecto Allstarz) was her first single for new label Cooltempo but ended up a one-off with no album emerging until 1998, and then this track wasn't even on it. Presumably the single's poor performance led to to a major stylistic rethink, or maybe they just wanted to wait until Britpop was out of the way. There is something decidedly 1991 about this track - obviously 'One' was originally released that year (as an album track; it didn't come out on single until 1992) and the production and arrangement are redolent of 'Unfinished Sympathy'. Unfortunately this makes the whole thing seem a little forced, lacking the easy style of her best work.

Available on: The Best Love... Ever ! Vol. 2

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Pato Banton with Ranking Roger 'Bubbling Hot'

Chart Peak: 15
YouTube
Due for release on 27th March '95,'Bubbling Hot' is Pato's follow-up to the No.1 'Baby Come Back'. ... He is joined by The Beat's Ranking Roger on this uplifting pop reggae tune.
If you were asked to guess who would be the only person to appear twice on this album, Pato Banton probably isn't the first name to spring to mind but here he is, fresh from his Sting collaboration. This was his second hit as lead artist, though of course he'd been recording for more than a decade already; indeed his first studio appearance was another duet with Ranking Roger on a Beat album track.

The note is right to call this return of the duo "uplifting pop reggae" and I can well imagine there was a pleasing nostalgia for long-term fans. It's certainly jolly but perhaps a little lightweight. Cute video though, uploaded by one of the actors who appears in it - he seems to specialise in playing chefs in TV commercials. Quite nice at this point in the album to hear people not taking themselves too seriously.

Pato Banton also appears on: Now 29 (with Ali and Robin Campbell), 34
Available on: Collections (Domestic Only)

Monday, 15 September 2014

Ultimate KAOS 'Hoochie Booty'

Chart Peak: 17
YouTube
Haydon, Nico G, Jomo B, Jayde and Ryan are Ultimate KAOS... 'Hoochie Booty' was the 2nd Top 20 smash for the teenage Londoners following 'Some Girls' into the chart in early 1995.
I don't normally do embeds on here but I've made an exception for this great piece of archive from January 1995, back in the days when a charting single was a physical disc or cassette, Top Of The Pops was on a Thursday and computer monitors were huge pale grey things. It's an excerpt from family-friendly factual series How Do They Do That? which uses this very single as an example of how sales were collated and presented: presumably this was intended as a form of promotion by Polygram themselves, or maybe somebody just wanted to make Des Lynam say the phrase "Hoochie booty" repeatedly. Incidentally, the chart featured is the same one I referred to before with 'Protection' and 'Glory Box' next to each other. It's also 'Cotton Eye Joe's only week at the top, which is why I didn't wax too nostalgic.



It seems kind of fitting that Ultimate Kaos appear next to Bobby Brown, since they were obviously intended to be a 1990s version of New Edition. If their Wikipedia entry is to be believed, they were originally convened by Simon Cowell as early as 1989 as backing dancers for Sinitta, although this seems hard to reconcile with their young ages - that entry also says they were signed to Sony Music from 1990-6, which is clearly untrue. What we can say with certainty is that they were a young black boy band who were obviously designed to be a bit more "street" than their rivals: they toured with Take That, presumably thanks to Cowell's connections, but I suspect they'd have rather been playing to the East 17 fanbase. This is a competent enough pastiche of the style but there's something both ridiculous and faintly distasteful about hearing a group with an average age of 14 singing about going out to clubs and leering at girls. If you like it though, the whole album's on Youtube.

Also appearing on: Now 29
Available on: Ultimate Kaos

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Bobby Brown 'Two Can Play That Game'

Chart Peak: 3 [38 in 1995]
YouTube
Bobby hit big a few years back with hits such as 'My Prerogative', 'Every Little Step' and 'Don't Be Cruel'... 'Two Can Play At That Game' is due for a welcome re-release on 20th March 1995.
For a change, one track I definitely remember from 1995 (although the original 1994 release passed me by) - it was ubiquitous that summer and I particularly remember asking a more musically educated classmate to explain why the chorus sounded so odd. Apparently he goes to a very unlikely note on the word "play".

The version featured here and in the video is the K-Klass remix of the original album version, though sources seem to differ as to whether this version was the lead track on the original 1994 single as well. I'm inclined to  believe that it was because even that release date was almost two years after the song first appeared on his album Bobby, which was widely seen to have underperformed. Compared to the original rather dense New Jack Swing production, this mix is certainly more mainstream and you can tell why it was considered to have better chances as a single. It certainly plays up the song's innate catchiness. Whether it's better is a matter of taste but I will say that of the two tracks on Now 30 by American singers with the forename Robert who have complicated personal lives including high-profile relationships with female singers who are now dead... I like this one a lot more than the R. Kelly one.

On a note of trivia, this was his first appearance since Now 16 and it was co-written by David Guppy, who is also on that volume as Redhead Kingpin.

Also appearing on: Now 15, 16, 31
Available on: Kisstory 2014

Friday, 12 September 2014

Sean Maguire 'Suddenly'

Chart Peak: 18
YouTube
'Suddenly' is the 3rd hit for actor and TV presenter Sean Maguire... It followed 'Someone To Love' and 'Take This Time' into the Top 30 in March '95.
Whatever else you might say about Sean Maguire, you can't accuse him of not making an effort to be a pop star. Over the two-and-a-half years his record deal lasted, he tried various ways to turn his familiar face (from Grange Hill and Eastenders) into a chart career, from cover versions to power ballads to a Britpop pastiche style and a possibly ill-advised attempt to sing live on Top Of The Pops. Parlophone had enough faith not to drop him when his first album spent a week at the very bottom of the Top 75 chart.

'Suddenly' (not a Billy Ocean cover) finds him in the light swingbeat mode that was the default setting for teen-oriented male stars in the mid-90s, accompanied by a video where he wears the appropriate uniform. It's all set, except the song itself which is poor and lacks a strong chorus. His vocal, while not terrible (though he may have had the benefits of studio techniques) isn't really suited to the style of the song either and like a lot of this second disc it's instantly forgettable.

Available on: Greatest Hits

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Nicki French 'Total Eclipse Of The Heart'

Chart Peak: 5 [54 in 1994]
YouTube
Jim Steinman's 'Total Eclipse Of The Heart' was originally a No. 1 for Bonnie Tyler in 1983... Nicki's version was a Top 5 smash in January/February '95.
Not just a UK Top 5, but it went on to peak at 2 in the US, at a time when few big British acts were having major success over there. 19 years later, I have to wonder what on earth people were thinking. The selling point of the original Jim Steinman production was surely its very grandiosity, something audible even in the 7" edit that was on the very first Now That's What I Call Music. This version (the innacurately-titled "Full On Vocal Mix") offers only a cheap-sounding backing track of the sort that would soon be heard behind Robson & Jerome (Mike Stock worked with both acts) but at least in their case the success could be explained away by their non-musical fame.

Nicki French wasn't famous before this hit, although she was a well-established session and backing singer. To be sure, she is a good singer but she doesn't seem to be particularly interested in the song and everything about this release - including the video, where the backing singers don't resemble the voices on the track - sounds like the minimum possible effort. I can only presume that people were buying this for the many club remixes on various formats.

Available on: Total Eclipse of the Heart (Deluxe Edition)

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

(MC Sar &) The Real McCoy 'Run Away'

Chart Peak: 6
YouTube
'Run Away' made No. 6 in January '95 for O-Jay (Olaf Jeglitza) and Patsy (Patricia Petersen) AKA the Real McCoy. It was their second big British hit following 'Another Night'
Confusingly, there are three people in the photo above that text that describes the act as a duo (the other one would be Vanessa Mason) and in fact O-Jay has subsequently claimed that the female vocals on this track (and the remainder of their album) wasn't by either of those women but by session singer Karin Kasar. That's the world of Eurodance for you. Indeed the producers later replaced the entire line-up of the act, as also happened to 2 Unlimited.

Perhaps it's not surprising that they sound so paranoid on this track, a lyric clearly based on Nineteen Eighty Four that even mentions "Big Brother is watching you". It's not a bad song  for what it is but it doesn't live up to the standard of their biggest hit. Unusually for this type of music it was their second Top 3 hit in the US.

Also appearing on: Now 29
Available on: Run Away