Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Depeche Mode 'I Feel You'

Chart Peak: 8
Consistent hitmakers since 1981, Depeche Mode have now had 20 Top 20 hits in Britain following the success of 'I Feel You' (no. 8 in February '93)... The group are also one of the biggest live acts in the world.
Second of only three Now appearances from DM, and whilst the three songs that made the grade aren't necessarily their best-known work they do give quite a flattering account of the band's work. 'I Feel You' was the first single from their first Number One album Songs Of Faith And Devotion, and showcases their new rock-oriented direction. Even more so than I thought, actually - I'd always assumed that Alan Wilder playing drums in the video was an affectation, but it turns out he really did play live drums, albeit that they were subsequently re-edited to produce a slightly unrealistic sound. Indeed, it's because Depeche Mode were synth-poppers playing at making rock music that this track sounds so odd and dramatic - I almost wish they'd stripped (no pun intended) the track even further down to concentrate on the riff and Dave Gahan's impassioned if not very melodic vocal. Still it's distinctive and I'd probably listen to it more often if they'd included the radio edit without that screechy feedback at the start.

Also appearing on: Now 17, 62
Available on: The Best Of Depeche Mode, Vol. 1 (Remastered)

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Lenny Kravitz 'Are You Gonna Go My Way'

Chart Peak: 4
'Are You Gonna Go My Way', No. 4 in March '93, is Lenny's biggest British single to date... As well as being a successful solo performer, he has co-written/produced worldwide hits like Madonna's 'Justify My Love' and Vanessa Paradis' 'Be My Baby'.
It's a fun little game to watch the video for this song and try to work out how many other people Lenny Kravitz fancies himself as. Jimi Hendrix obviously, then he's waving his dreadlocks around like Bob Marley and showing off that he has a female drummer in a way that slightly reminds me of Prince, and he talks over his own vocal like Marvin Gaye did on What's Going On, whilst the crown of bright lights descending towards him suggests he might even have thought he was Jesus. Perhaps this is intended to be a joke, but even so he doesn't come over as a modest man. In reality, as opposed to the video, he actually played the drums on this track himself which is why I suspect that flaunting the lady drummer was a Prince wannabe move - it's also why I don't blame her for how boring the drumming on this track actually is. Kravitz certainly knows his music history and has technical skill, and he's come with an undeniably strong riff for this song but he seems to lack the imagination to do anything really exciting with it, the key change in the second verse is about as far as it goes. Maybe if he'd recorded live there'd have been more of a feel to it.

Also appearing on: Now 26, 42
Available on: Greatest Hits [Explicit]

Monday, 4 May 2015

Genesis 'Invisible Touch (live)'

Chart Peak: 7
'Invisible Touch' originally made No. 15 in 1986... This "live" version was a No. 7 hit in November '92 and haved the way for two successful "live" albums for Messrs. Banks, Collins and Rutherford.
Two consecutive live tracks here, which must be unusual in the Now series, although the effect is lessened somewhat on vinyl and cassette editions where they're on opposite sides. Though little-remembered now, this single is notable as the last Top 20 hit by Genesis, and their last Top 30 with Phil Collins - they did oddly go back to their previous album for the pointless Number 40 hit 'Tell Me Why' in 1993, and they scored a final hit with Ray Wilson on vocals in 1997 - as well as because it outcharted the original studio track in the UK. That probably tells you something about the state of pop in 1992, a year of historically low sales and a time (like now) of hefty pre-release promotion which favoured established acts with loyal fans willing to rush out in release week for the limited-edition numbered 7" and CD single. This version peaked higher but lasted only half as long on the chart.

A slightly shorter version of a performance from Hanover in Germany, this rendition is notable for being transposed to a lower key than the original to fit Collins' changing vocal range. He also replaces the lyric "mess up your life" with "fuck up your life", which is of course bleeped on my copy of Now 24, though I've heard rumours of some copies leaking out uncut; he compromised with "screw up your life" on TotP. As I mentioned when I wrote about the studio version a few years ago, 'Invisible Touch' is not a song I'm especially fond of, but at least this version seems to have a bit more energy than the original. Still a bit of a curio really, but an interesting enough way for Genesis to make their last (collective) appearance in the series.

Also appearing on: Now 1, 7, 8, 9, 21, 23
Available on: Live - The Way We Walk Volume One: 'The Shorts'

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Simply Red 'Lady Godiva's Room' (from Montreux EP)

Chart Peak: 11
'Lady Godiva's Room' was one of the tracks on Simply Red's Montreux EP... I teas the last of five 1992 chart singles following 'For Your Babies', 'Wonderland', 'Thrill Me' and 'Your Mirror'.
The Montreux EP was of course so-called because it was recorded at the well-known Swiss jazz festival. Strangely, although the group performed a full-length set (available as a bonus DVD on some re-issues of the Stars album) with several of their hits, only four tracks were released at the time and three of them were cover versions. Well, OK, Simply Red doing cover versions isn't that unusual (the aforementioned Stars was one of their few all-original albums) but that wasn't the most obvious commercial move. 'Lady Godiva's Room' was the only original song on the release and even then it was a B-side from several years earlier, which would be the second time Mick Hucknall went back to the B-side cupboard: 1988's single 'I Won't Feel Bad' had been the flipside to the original release of 'Holding Back The Years' three years before.  'Lady Godiva's Room' was also the fourth track in the sequence, although it was the promoted track from the EP, even getting a proper video. I'm not sure how they expected to recoup that from a single that wasn't even promoting an album, but they would have had plenty in the bank from Stars.

Perhaps the surprise here is how good the track sounds now. I'm in the relatively small number of people who think Simply Red had already peaked by the end of the 80s, although of course this song was written by 1987. It has a mystique that is rare in Mick Hucknall's work and although it sounds similar to a few of his other songs of this era (possibly why it was only a B-side originally) it's one of his best compositions in my opinion. The lyric, with its continued refrain "the honeymoon is over" is more intriguing than his typical attempts to pastiche old soul songs or his sappy "socially conscious" stuff. Really this song was a bit too good to bury.

Also appearing on: Now 5, 7, 9, 20, 21, 23, 32, 33
Available on: Men And Women [Expanded] (studio version)

Friday, 1 May 2015

Dina Carroll 'This Time'

Chart Peak: 23
Dina first charted in 1991 as featured vocalist on Quartz's 'It's Too Late'... Her solo career has already produced numerous hits such as 'Ain't No Man', 'So Close' and 'This Time' which features the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.
I think this may have been another failed bet: her previous three solo singles had all gone Top 20 so this was probably expected to follow them there, particularly as it was a sentimental ballad released in February. In the end it didn't do so well, ending up the least successful of the six singles from the album and has left little impact on posterity - I'm sure I've never heard it outside the confines of this album and the YouTube link I've just looked up. Mind you, Dina Carroll seems a bit of an overlooked pop star generally, despite an impressive run of success in the early 90s.

Strangely, 'This Time' doesn't seem as opulent a production as the presence of a big orchestra (or at least its string section) would suggest. Somehow the rest of the arrangement feels a little bit cheap, possibly thrown together on synthesisers. Carroll herself is in fine voice but the song doesn't seem to go anywhere and it feels like a bit of a waste.

Also appearing on: Now 24, 27, 35, 43
Available on: The Very Best Of... (UK single CD)

Thursday, 30 April 2015

The Beloved 'Sweet Harmony'

Chart Peak: 8
The Beloved are Jon Marsh and his wife Helena... 'Sweet Harmony', a No. 8 hit in early '93, became the biggest single in the group's history, following other previous chart records such as 'Hello' and 'The Sun Rising'.
Although of course those earlier hits were the product of an earlier line-up, featuring Jon Marsh and Steve Waddington before the latter was replaced by Mrs Marsh. The slightly overexposed photo in the CD booklet here shows Jon Marsh only, and of course he is overexposed in a different way in the song's (in)famous video, where he sings amid a large number of female models without a stitch of clothing between them. Helena Marsh apparently isn't in this video either, although she did appear in the clip for their later single 'Satellite' and, if Wikipedia is to be believed, also in a hidden sex tape released on VHS video collection of earlier singles. She's visible (fully clothed) in the background of the Top Of The Pops performance.

Slightly creepy video aside, the song doesn't really have a lot to recommend it, being a fairly generic set of hopeful sentiments mumbled over monotonous synth pads. It's not got the ethereal strangeness of 'The Sun Rising' and it's not even an irritating but catchy novelty like 'Hello'. Maybe it sounded better on drugs.

Available on: The Sun Rising

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

PM Dawn 'Looking Through Patient Eyes'

Chart Peak: 11

PM Dawn are Prince Be/The Nocturnal and DJ Minutemix/J.C. The Eternal (AKA brothers Attrell and Jarrett Cordes)... 'Looking Through Patient Eyes' reached No. 11 in March '93 and follows previous hits such as 'Set Adrift On Memory Bliss' and 'A Watcher's Point Of View'.
Although nobody would have known this at the time, two consecutive acts who are largely remembered as one-hit wonders but actually had multiple Top 40 appearances (five in both cases, in fact). This was their second and final Top 20 hit here, though they hadn't been consecutive. Like the signature hit 'Set Adrift On Memory Bliss' the song is based on an Eighties hit by a British act; in this case it's 'Father Figure' by George Michael (which some people thought might have been about child abuse, in a further coincidence). Clearly this song is about a different father entirely, though and whilst it's far from unusual for rappers to use religious imagery or to profess to belief, fewer have gone so far as this with a song so directly aimed at God it seems almost like eavesdropping for the rest of us to hear it. I'd like to think it did more for Prince Be himself than it did for me, although his subsequent history hasn't been especially lucky: he fell out with his brother a few years later and a series of severe health problems have forced him to retire from performance.

Also appearing on: Now 20
Available on: The Bliss Album