Monday, 31 August 2009

David Jordan 'Sun Goes Down'

Chart Peak: 4


Maybe I wasn't quite the target audience, but I'd forgotten about mid-1980s children's TV show Wizbit until people mentioned that the theme tune sounded a bit like this. It's not the same song as the one by Killing Joke, or the one by Level 42. It's not 'When The Sun Goes Down' by Arctic Monkeys either.

David Jordan seemed to be everyone's idea of a big new star then, and as it was less than two years ago perhaps he still might be. But for now this remains his only hit single, albeit rather a large one. So large indeed, that I was soon heartily sick of it, such was its desperate eagerness to please and insistent "look at me" (well, I suppose it's more "listen to me"...) pleading. Also, there's no excuse for making "groove" a two-syllable word in my book. Apart from that, it probably isn't really that bad, just slightly annoying, and certainly more likeable than the previous two tracks here.

Available on: Set The Mood

Saturday, 29 August 2009

OneRepublic 'Stop And Stare'

Chart Peak: 4


With its earnest refusal to do anything as outre as a tune and inane rhyming-dictionary lyrics ("Stop and stare/ go nowhere/ hear not there/ hear my prayer/ get what's fair/ is that a rabbit or a hare?" yeah, OK, I made one of those up) I'm reluctant to spend more than the four minutes or so that the record itself lasts writing a post about it. Chorus lyric aside, most of this is competent in an artless, antiseptic sort of way, topped off by Ryan Tedder's entirely charm-free lead vocal. The worst of this is that it sounds so pleased with itself as to completely undermine the intended message of existential doubt.

Still, it doesn't enter the same dimensions of awfulness as Nickelback.

Available on: Dreaming Out Loud

Friday, 28 August 2009

Nickelback 'Rockstar'

Chart Peak: 2


I mentioned a few entries ago that I'd been putting off this album. And here's one of the biggest reasons. There probably are other records in the series that I like less than this one, but thanks to its gruesomely long (and of course, quite recent) chart run, I don't think there's a single one I've less looked forward to making myself listen to. Nickelback are hardly easy to like at the best of times, but this terrible attempt at a comedy song is all the worse for its apparent desire to have it both ways; it wants to give the impression that it's mocking stereotyped images of rockstardom but it's also revelling in it. In some respects it resembles the insider's perspective of 'Money For Nothing' but at least that had a good riff, and gave some impression of having been made up quickly: this really wants to be taken seriously as very clever, and invites questions like "Actually, wouldn't it be easier for people to notice you'd made a mistake lipsynching than singing?" I asked an American what that bit about being bottom of the ninth meant: I think she said it was something to do with baseball. And then reminded me that Nickelback are from Canada.

People who watch commercial TV should be glad the advert got banned. My favourite thing about the Duffy record I mentioned earlier is that it prevented this from topping the chart.

And now I've written this post, I never need to listen to it again.

Also appearing on: Now 51, 56
Available on: All the Right Reasons: (Special Edition 2008) plus DVD

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Girls Aloud 'Call The Shots'

Chart Peak: 3


Even though they started nearly 20 years into the history of the Now albums, Girls Aloud can claim the third largest number of appearances (jointly with Phil Collins if you count collaborations and his work as a member of Genesis). Despite their relatively few chart-toppers (only two if you ignore charity records) they've become one of Britain's most efficient hit factories of this century. And they've made (or, at least, been put in front of) some of the most exciting pop music of recent years.

Unfortunately, they've also done this. Second single from the fourth album (the one I never thought they'd do after the Greatest Hits, but they've certainly proved me wrong on that) it's one of their least interesting songs. Not their worst, but at least if it was one of their true misfires (ie most of the ballads, cover versions or cover versions of ballads) there's be something to say. Everything about it, except possibly the lyric, is competent but there's none of the famous Xenomania magic that people like to talk about to show how open-minded they are. If their aim was to fill three minutes and forty-three seconds, they've done it, but otherwise I'm solidly unconvinced.

Also appearing on: Now 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 68, 70, 71, 72, 73
Available on: Tangled Up

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Basshunter 'Now You're Gone'

Chart Peak: 1 (5 weeks)


Sometimes co-credited to DJ Mental Theo's Bazzheadz, for it was he who sped up an instrumental version of Basshunter's Northern European hit 'Boten Anna and gave it an English lyric. Unlike the rather quirky Swedish original (and indeed the German version, which I can sort of understand) which both describe a online chat bot who turns out to be a real person, this version is in more typical boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl territory.

This is a record which seems determined to set two sides of my nature against each other: the curmudgeon who wants to lay into an easy target and the contrarian who wants to talk up a record that people seemingly love to hate. Well, in the end that annoying little "Ready for take-off!" sample (in English in all three versions) seems to clinch it for the curmudgeon, but I'd have to make an effort to hate this.

Also appearing on: Now 70, 71
Available on: Now You're Gone - The Album

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Rihanna 'Don't Stop the Music'

Chart Peak: 4


As I publish this blog under my own name, it may not come as a great surprise that this track is one of the reasons I hesitated to cover this album. It didn't seem like a great idea a few months ago to be posting negative things about her music.

It's fortunate that, at least now, this is one of the songs of hers I'd be least negative about anyway. At the time it was pretty annoying, thanks to heavy airplay and the repetition of that sample from Michael Jackson's 'Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' (ironically, also a fourth single); but in an alternative universe where this wasn't a hit, or maybe even where it wasn't the fourth of seven singles from the album, it would actually be quite effective in conjuring an atmosphere of anticipation. Her voice is at its least irritating here too. Of course, it's still not as good as the original 'Wanna Be Startin' Somethin', or perhaps I should say the original 'Soul Makossa'.

Also appearing on: Now 62, 63, 64, 65, 67, 68, 70, 71, 72 (with T.I.), 74 (with Jay-Z and Kanye West)
Available on: Good Girl Gone Bad

Monday, 24 August 2009

Duffy 'Mercy'

Chart Peak: 1 (5 weeks)


I've been putting it off for a while (for various reasons, some of which will soon become clear) but it's finally time to bring this blog into the 21st century. Perhaps it would have been more logical to ease myself in with an album from early in the decade, but Now 69 suggested itself for the good reason that I actually found both discs dumped in a recycle bin not long after it was released. Waste not want not, I thought, and decided to liberate them. In fact, this was at the time the fastest-selling Now album ever, but Now 70 overtook it.

As this track made its chart debut exactly 18 months ago, it probably doesn't need much in the way of introduction; and my favourite thing about it is a bit of a spoiler for a future post. I doubt I can tell anyone who reads this anything about the record, indeed, so all I can really try is to say what I think of it. Well, it's not bad. I'm usually suspicious of anything that seems heavily hyped, especially when it's talked up as being "real" but the less you think about that, the more likeable this becomes - a good but insubstantial pop song with some nice keyboard sounds; indeed, big airplay hit as this was it seems to lose a lot on the radio. I'm less keen on the mumbling in the background, which sounds slightly phony, and her vocal on this track isn't in my favourite register. There are other tracks by her I like more but I don't mind this one. So sue me.

Also appearing on: Now 70, 71, 72
Available on: Rockferry

Friday, 21 August 2009

Sydney Youngblood 'I'd Rather Go Blind'

Chart Peak: 44


Looking through the list of tracks, I wondered how an almost entirely dance-oriented second disc would run into a version of this famous ballad standard. Hearing it for the first time on YouTube, I got my answer: Mr Youngblood (not his real name, you know) had in fact squared the circle somewhat by dancifying the song a bit, recalling the style of his first two hits 'If Only I Could' and 'Sit And Wait'.

Unfortuntely, this is a song I've never been fond of in any form, which protects me from hearing this as any sort of sacrilege, but also would demand a brilliant version to impress me. And that's not what we have here, although it's passable I suppose. The record-buying public weren't impressed either (or if they were, they'd already bought this album, which was released before the single) and his Top 40 career was over.

Also appearing on: Now 16
Available on: Feeling Free

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Electribe 101 'Talking with Myself'

Chart Peak: 23


'Talking With Myself' is such a famous record that I was mildly surprised to see how small a hit it was. At least, I was surprised until it occured to me that I didn't really know the song either, though of course I was aware of Billie Ray Martin from her later solo career. I didn't know the rest of the band were from Birmingham though.

Actually, I think I quite like this, but it may take longer to grow on me than the exercise allows. It's a song that encourages words like "moody" and "sultry" more than references to dancing.

Available on: Sunset To Sunrise

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Tongue 'n' Cheek 'Tomorrow'

Chart Peak: 20


Tongue N' Cheek could safely be filed among the acts whose names I remember hearing more than any actual music. Extensive research tells me that they were a British soul/dance act who were big on the club scene but only managed three Top 40 singles, of which this was the biggest. Even the Wikipedia article doesn't seem sure exactly when they split up.

Once I finally managed to hear a version of 'Tomorrow' without radio jingles played over it, it proved to be a rather decent slice of upbeat late-eighties-style RnB, the sort that goes down nice and easy without touching the sides. Probably sounded rather good in a club, and it's perfectly acceptable outside one too, but not the kind of thing I personally would cross the road for. Minus a few points for that lame rap in the middle.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Orbital 'Chime'

Chart Peak: 17


Supposedly recorded for less than a pound on their dad's cassette deck, 'Chime' was the first hit for Orbital (picked up by a major label after a limited release the previous year) and might at the time have seemed like just another rave hit; and yet somewhere down the line the Hartnoll brothers became one of the most enduring and well-regarded acts in dance music, as well as being one of the first electronic acts to really conquer the live arena. It's tempting to say that this single marks all that out, but I'm not really qualified to account for that.

In fact, instrumental music is difficult to write about at the best of times, but what I can tell is that there's more complexity to the sound than in a lot of dance music; the main figure is repeated throughout, but there are shifting details revealed on closer inspection. It doesn't really stay with me after I've heard it the way some of their tracks did, but there's something strangely addictive about the experience. It doesn't literally say anything at all, since there are no lyrics and the title is generic, but it generates more of a feeling than a lot of the dance tracks on these albums.

Also appearing on:
Now 37
Available on: Halcyon: The Platinum Collection

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Adamski featuring Seal 'Killer'

Chart Peak: 1 (4 weeks)


The song that first introduced Seal to a grateful nation (he's not billed on the front cover, but this was a big launchpad for him)and perhaps the best argument for his career. Although he's undoubtedly a talented man, a lot of his music is too bland for my liking, whilst Adamski was prone to novelties and not much of a singer. Between the two of them, though, they had one outstanding moment of creativity, and one of the few songs associated with rave that really seems to mean something. I'm not sure what, admittedly, but there's more to think about in here than the rather inane rebellion of a lot of that music. Apparently that section at the end which I found utterly incomprehensible at the time says "Racism in among future kings can only lead to no good", which suggests a reading of the song as a lament for predjudice and the human tendency to divide ourselves.

Of course, it loses a lot of this credibility with that rather silly bit in the middle that goes "the way you wanna bi-bi-bi-bi-bi-bi-bi..." but perhaps that helps to make it more memorable, along with the distinctive and slightly off-the-wall sounding bassline. Seal obviously became the bigger star of the pair, but the relative dullness of his later solo version (one of four Top 10 readings of the song in ten years) proves how genuine a team effort this was. Maybe if it were widely available as a download it would sell quite well.

Seal also appears on: Now 19, 28, 31, 53 (with Jakatta)
Available on: Killer - The Best Of

Friday, 14 August 2009

D Mob featuring Nuff Juice 'Put Your Hands Together'

Chart Peak: 7


Fourth and last Top 20 for Dancin' Danny D (or Daniel Kojo Poku), which seems a fairly impressive achievement for a dance act of this time. Indeed I can remember several of his/their tracks, including this one, but I can't remember who Nuff Juice was.

Still, whoever did it, 'Put Your Hands Together' is a decent enough slice of commercial dance. The lyrics are decidedly stupid, but the energy is enough to make this pleasant for the four minutes it lasts, though not to make much difference to your life in the long run.

D Mob also appear(s) on: Now 13, 15, 16
Available on: 90 Club Hits From The 90's

Thursday, 13 August 2009

E-Zee Posse featuring MC Kinky 'Everything Starts With an 'e'

Chart Peak: 15 (69 in 1989)


Maybe I'm reading a bit too much into this, but I think there maybe some references to drug use on this track...

One of the most successful releases on Boy George's More Protein label (he also contributes backing vocals), this is a track that I definitely wasn't hearing on the radio at the time, thanks to the controversial title. I'm not sure it was much of a loss though, as this seems to sum up a lot of the sort of things I dislike about this era of dance music, not least the slightly annoying Jamaican/Yorkshire accent adopted by Kinky. There's also a definite smugness about the record that I find deeply annoying - if they want to take drugs, that's up to them, but it's not really all that interesting to me. And it's not as if they've snuck the allusion in subtly enough to claim they're being subversive either.

Available on: Lucky for Some

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Bizz Nizz 'Don't Miss the Partyline'

Chart Peak: 7


Apparently Bizz Nizz were a precursor to 2 Unlimited, conceived by Belgian producers Jean-Paul DeCoster and Phil Wilde. Before that world-beating success, though, they made this, which I thought of as a rave record; feel free to laugh at my twelve-year old ignorance here. It does try to cash in on the atmosphere, though, with the dubbed on crowd noises and the echo.

And maybe I'm just writing this post in a generous mood, but I think it's OK. Certainly not a weighty piece of music by any means, but in its wholehearted silliness it's actually quite enjoyable; better than a lot of songs that try and fail to say more than this. Even if I now have suspicions as to exactly what sort of partyline they might be referring to.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Mantronix feat. Wondress 'Got to Have Your Love'

Chart Peak: 4


Don't remember this video at all. Maybe it was a bit too racy for TV back then, although it is an early example of 90s videos where they're not really sure what to do with the producer and he just has to stand around looking moody.

The song itself is much more like it though. A track I particularly remember liking at the time, probably because of the bassline (which actually isn't that bassy) and the way the track is built around it. I always rather liked the way it appeared at the start and let the rest of the arrangement saunter along when it was good and ready. Although a lot of the rest of the song is a bit by-the-book, there's something remarkably skilful about it and I can't help enjoying it. I've even laid down another 99p for the download, which raises my total spend on this blog towards the ten pound mark. My favourite on Disc 2 so far.

Available on: The Best Of 1985-1999

Monday, 10 August 2009

JT & The Big Family 'Moments In Soul'

Chart Peak: 7


Dance records I remember but could never have named, part 2.
'Moments In Soul' is a sort of junior 'Adventures Of Grandmaster Flash On The Wheels Of Steel', patching together various samples from recent tracks (well, 'For The Love Of Money' wasn't very recent, but something had probably sampled it around that time).
Unfortunately, it's not a brilliant advert for anyone's mixing abilities, and sounds rather sluggish; even more so now than at the time. I'm glad I listened back in case it ever crops up in a quiz, but otherwise it's an unfortunate relic.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Jam Tronik 'Another Day In Paradise'

Chart Peak: 19


I know just what you've been thinking about this album: not enough Phil Collins songs on it. Well, I probably don't need to remind you of the original, which seems to have eluded the Now albums, but it's likely to be a while since you've heard the German techno version that followed hot on its heels.

Had this version been recording in the English-speaking world, it might have seemed an attempt to satirise the pomposity of the original (which I have to admit liking at the time) but realistically, it's more like a straightforward effort to make a danceable version of a popular song you couldn't otherwise dance to - in which context, perhaps this is rather too tame a version, not actually that much faster than Collins played it, and with much the same drum machine pattern.

Available on: Italo Rarities

Friday, 7 August 2009

Cliff Richard 'Stronger Than That'

Chart Peak: 14


Cliff's first new hit of the 1990s, although his duet with Van Morrison was still in the chart at the turn of the decade (and if you want to be really pedantic, this was available on an album in 1989). It was the follow-up to his Stock Aitken Waterman collaboration 'I Just Don't Have The Heart' (on Now 16) and whilst this was helmed by long-serving collaborator Alan Tarney, it sounds like an attempt to follow the fashions of the time - if not a full-on SAW pastiche, it certainly wants to sound somewhere near contemporary, which must be about a last hurrah for Cliff trying to be fashionable before he turned into the slightly pathetic nostalgia act he is today - he certainly didn't try to go baggy or grunge or two-step, and yesterday I heard the world premiere of his new single. It's a version of 'Singing The Blues'!

Back in 1990, though, he was still trying to be a competitive pop star, and he had the camp backing dancers to prove it. I didn't think I remembered this track, but listening to it, it did come back to me. As that suggests, it's not a very memorable track but I suppose I can't really complain about it either. At least he was still trying then.

Also appearing on: Now 6, 10, 15, 16
Available on: Stronger

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Jimmy Somerville 'Read My Lips (Enough Is Enough)'

Chart Peak: 26


We've met Jimmy Somerville on this blog before in his famous guise as a purveyor of dubious cover versions. 'Read My Lips', the title track of his first solo album, finds him in the more admirable form of aggrieved campaigner.

So far as I can deduce the subject matter is - not unusually for him - sexuality, and in particular the public response to AIDS. "What we need is money, not complacency!" he trills, before promising that "The power within, we can use it to win". Deeply admirable, and it's certainly a good thing that it got to be so widely heard (I remember it as a big radio hit, despite the surprisingly low chart position). But perhaps in places the desire to make it danceable undermines the impact. Sometimes I wish his obvious talent had found its home in a different musical style, but I guess he knew what he was doing.

Also appearing on: Now 16, 18, 31
Available on: Small Town Boy: The Best of Jimmy Somerville, Bronski Beat & The Communards (Which says For A Friend on the cover, but never mind).

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

49ers 'Don't You Love Me?'

Chart Peak: 12


Well, since you ask...

It turns out that their other, bigger hit 'Touch Me' is actually a song I remember from my schooldays, although I'd never have been able to tell you who it was. For whatever reason, though, it eluded the Now albums and so we're left with this follow-up which went in one ear and out the other. Not the worst track on here, but a distinct nonentity, if that's not a contradiction.

Lonnie Gordon 'Happening All Over Again'

Chart Peak: 4


This record sounds almost aggressively 80s, which isn't necessarily a good thing as late as 1990. No prizes for guessing (even if you don't read the YouTube description) that this is a Stock Aitken Waterman production; what I hadn't previously known was that the song was originally written for Donna Summer, but ultimately unused. It sort of makes sense though.

You don't need to read a lot of this blog to notice that this isn't the first sort of music I gravitate towards, and much of its charm remains opaque to me. I have to give it some credit for the fact that I remembered it after all this time. But nobody really seems to be that bothered about this and there's a sense of going through the motions about it, which even extends to the suspiciously cheap-looking video (and the remarkably poor miming, which is the other thing I remember from the time). There's a slightly annoying yelping sound all the way through I could have done without too.

Available on: The Pop Years 1990-1991

Monday, 3 August 2009

Technotronic feat. MC Eric 'This Beat Is Technotronic'

Chart Peak: 14


Buyers who found the second side of the record a bit too alternative were doubtless reassured by this return to Europop at the top of Side 3. 'This Beat Is...' was the third UK hit for Technotronic, and each had had a different vocalist: even at the time I thought MC Eric was a bit of an odd name for a rapper, although I didn't realise at the time that he was Welsh. At the opposite end of the decade he attempted to be taken more seriously under the new stage name of Me One.

Anyway, back to the record. I remember hearing this a lot back then, and noticing that they were dropping their own name into the chorus, which I somehow imagined was intended to assume familiarity with their previous material; as if they were saying "We know you like Technotronic, so here's some more Technotronic." Indeed, I'm surprised to see now that it was so much smaller a hit than the ones that preceded it. And this despite its being popular enough in some places to inspire a rival version by Daisy Dee, released in the UK at the same time - it narrowly missed the Top 75.

Technotronic also appear on: Now 16, 18
Available on: More Greatest Hits of the 90's

Saturday, 1 August 2009

The Quireboys 'Hey You!'

Chart Peak: 14


And so the second side of the album, hitherto obviously dominated by "alternative" music, veers rather rockwards with these last couple of tracks. Although I obviously remember the Quireboys as a name, I don't think I'd actually heard this track before I looked it up on Amazon to provide the link below. The fact that one reviewer described them as "arguably slightly more talented" than Dogs D'Amour didn't instantly inspire confidence.

OK, now I feel like I have a better idea of why people liked Faith No More.

Rather as I suspected, 'Hey You' is macho rock at its most dislikeable, all big hair, cliches and casual sexism. It's hardly surprising that none of the women in the video appear in the same shot as the band themselves. I'd go into more detail, but I'm unwilling to go back and listen to this rot again. Still, enough people disagreed for this to be one of five Top 40 singles for the band; their last chart appearance was in 2005, when they reached 88 with a version of 'Tears In Heaven' intended as a spoiler for a version by some actual choirboys.

Available on: A Little Bit of What You Fancy/Bitter Sweet & Twisted