Friday, 24 April 2015

Annie Lennox 'Love Song For A Vampire'

Chart Peak: 3
YouTube
Following the huge critical and commercial success of Eurythmics, Annie's solo career has started in fine fashion wih Top Ten hits 'Why', 'Walking On Broken Glass' and this February '93 smash from the film 'Dracula'.
This is the song I remember from her double A-sided hit, although some people seem to recall the flipside 'Little Bird' instead. I suppose it boils down to which radio station you were listening to in 1993 if any. I didn't see the film Bram Stoker's Dracula, and probably shouldn't have since I wasn't yet 15 at the time of the UK release date. But the song is actually quite good, with hindsight possibly the best thing she'd done since the early Eurythmics days because it has that haunting, spare quality that I associate with 'Sweet Dreams' and 'Love Is A Stranger', but which they started to lose as they got more bombastic and stadium-oriented. At times, solo Lennox drifts into overproduction but on this occasion she and Steven Lipson knew when to stop (perhaps they were working to a deadline?) and the melody is in the right place to show her voice at its best. Not a song I listen to every day, but a quiet masterpiece.

Also appearing on: Now 22
Available on: The Annie Lennox Collection

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Duran Duran 'Ordinary World (single version)'

Chart Peak: 6
YouTube
'Ordinary World', which made No. 6 in February '93, was the group's biggest hit British single hit since 1985... This epic ballad was also a huge American success.
Start of Disc 2 is a song that mentions a Thursday - and I'm posting on Thursday! It's almost like I planned it or something (I didn't).

'Ordinary World' is a song that confused me a bit in the 1990s because I found myself quite liking it. It's a smooth, melodic-sounding number with a slick production (admittedly slightly dated now, but it was pretty good at the time) and importantly a sadness that gives it a weight most Duran music lacks. Apparently the song is actually about a deceased friend of Simon Le Bon, although I'm not sure whether that was widely-known at the time. Unfortunately, the song has in retrospect become a little over-burdened by the band's own insistence that it's their best work, as part of their insistent campaign that they're not just an Eighties band, etc. Good as the song is, that's a bit too much of a burden for it. Still, they're right to be proud of it, and it is true that the song effectively relaunched their career, at least until they wrecked it again with the dodgy covers album a couple of years later.

Also appearing on: Now 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 14, 25, 31
Available on: Duran Duran [The Wedding Album]

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Hue And Cry 'Labour Of Love'

Chart Peak: 25 (6 in 1987)
YouTube
Hue and Cry are Pat and Greg Kane... 'Labour Of Love' originally made No. 6 in 1987 and this well-acclaimed remix returned them to the chart in March 1993.
Slight anomaly here - although the note refers to "this... remix", and the small print shows a 1993 copyright date, the production credits printed on the disc itself are as the original and indeed it's the original 1987 mix of the track that appears on the disc. I'm not sure whether this is a mistake or not (three of the four formats of the single included the original anyway), but for reference the official lead track of the re-release was the 7" Urban Edit, which sounds amazingly dated now.

Oddly enough, the 1987 version doesn't actually seem that out of place among the early-90s tracks, if only because an extra six years seems less significant when everything's already over 20 years old. There's something that seems increasingly ridiculous about the song though, a slightly overdone pastiche of soul and a sense that it's a bit too in love with its own cleverness, though I admit I could be projecting my own impressions of Pat Kane as a media personality onto his music - I certainly liked the song in 1987, before I understood it.. At least it has a nice sudden ending for the end of Disc 1.

Also appearing on: Now 10, 13, 14, 15
Available on: Labours Of Love - The Best Of Hue And Cry

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Monie Love 'Born To B.R.E.E.D. (Paisley Park Radio Mix)'

Chart Peak: 18
YouTube
'Born 2 B.R.E.E.D.', written and produced in collaboration with Prince, returned British-bornMonie Love to the UK Top 20 in March '93... Her previous hits have included 'Grandpa's Party' and 'It's A Shame'.
After the confusion of the Sunscreem song title, Ms Love (Ms Gooden as she was born) does at least signpost that her title is an acronym; according to the internet it stands for  "Build Relationships where Education and Enlightenment Dominate". I was going to say that this was a relief, given the overtones of a phrase like "born to breed", but then again that actually is what she says. Of course, it's meant in the sense of defending herself against stereotypes about  young mothers, but clearly it's not all she's done with her life. Indeed, she was reportedly the first British rapper to sign to a major label, as well as becoming a successful songwriter and later a DJ. Still, "So ask me again if I need ghetto assistance/There's food on my table and my baby's not wearing pissed pants" is certainly a distinctive lyric.

Although I remember quite a few of her earlier hits, it never really occurred to me that she was anything other than American, which in the context of late-80s UK rap might have been taken as a compliment. This track isn't really cut from the same cloth, although I probably wouldn't have noticed it much anyway. Though a decent-sized hit in itself, it was her last big UK success.

Available on: In a Word Or Two

Monday, 20 April 2015

Sunscreem 'Pressure US'

Chart Peak: 19
YouTube
Lucia, Paul, Darren, Rob and Sean are Sunscreem... 'Pressure US' is their 4th hit in recent times and has followed 'Love U More', 'Perfect Motion' and 'Broken English' into the charts.
Because the sleeve of Now 24 is all in capitals, as is that of the original single, it's not entirely clear whether this track is called 'Pressure Us' or 'Pressure US' and I've seen both versions used but the latter seems the more common. It's also the more logical since this is a reworking of an earlier single called 'Pressure'. The remake was occasioned by the American Top 40 success of their previous single ' Love U More', a rare achievement for a British techno act then (or ever, really). Mind you, they are somewhat closer to a typical rock band, or at least to early-90s dance-rock outfits like Jesus Jones and EMF (also relatively successful in the US) than to more faceless rave acts. They even have a very of-its-time looking performance video.

It's a good song, if slightly dated now, but it proved to be their last big hit before their career lost momentum and drifted into a leagacy unfinished albums and bankrupt record labels. Officially they still exist but haven't been heard from in a while.

Available on: Pressure US

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Capella 'U Got 2 Know'

Chart Peak: 6
YouTube
Cappella is actually Ettore Foresti... He is Italian and had a hit in Britain a few years ago with 'Helyom Halib'... 'U Got 2 Know' charted instantly at No. 22 after just one week of release.
Although Foresti was fronting the act at the time of their late-80s hits, he doesn't seem to have anything to do with this track. He's obviously not really on it, as all the vocals are sampled and he's not in the video either. After this single, a British duo were brought in to work as the public face of the act, though understandably they weren't allowed into the studio. If Cappella was really anyone it was producer Gianfranco Bortolotti who is the one constant through the history of the name.

'U Got 2 Know' borrows heavily from John McGeoch's guitar riff on 'Happy House' by Siouxsie & The Banshees (apparently they later successfully sued for a writing credit, although since McGeoch isn't a credited writer on the original I'm not sure whether he benefitted). It's not the most obvious basis for a house track, to be sure, but it does have a persistent quality about it right enough and this is a record that seems to do what it's aimed at.

Also appearing on: Now 26, 27, 28
Available on: U got 2 know album

Friday, 17 April 2015

2 Unlimited 'No Limit'

Chart Peak: 1
YouTube
2 Unlimited - Anita Dels and Kid Ray Slijngaard are from Amesterdam... They are, of course, the first Dutch duo to top the UK chart since Pussycat in 1976 and 'No Limit' is the latest in a string of hits that started in 1991 with 'Are You Ready For This'.
A pedant writes: Pussycat (who topped the chart with 'Mississippi') were a trio, and the first 2 Unlimited hit was called 'Get Ready For This'. It's on Now 20.

Another track that was released in the UK by PWL, though of course it didn't originate there. Pete Waterman was, however, responsible for the UK edit which, like most of the act's early hits, dropped Ray Slijngaard's rap; he's pretty much left to chant "Techno techno techno techno!" Is this even techno? I never understood dance subgenres. That said, having heard the original version of the track, I wouldn't call the rap a great loss.

'No Limit' - sometimes wrongly referred to as No Limits, which was the title of the parent album - is another of the handful of songs I remember from the time, not only because it was a massive Number One hit but because its rather limited lyrical content was an easy target for parody. I probably agreed at the time but now I look on it with a less jaundiced eye - and of course I know that the version with more lyrics isn't better. It's certainly catchy and has more energy than the West End track, even if I don't want to listen to it every day.

Also appearing on: Now 20, 21, 25, 26, 27, 28, 30
Available on: Unlimited Hits & Remixes