Thursday, 19 August 2010

E'Voke 'Runaway'

Chart Peak: 30


This record was off to a bad start, because even the name of the act irritated me. I've always found these sort of quirky dance-act spellings a bit of a pain; I can just about forgive N-Trance as a recogniseable pun on the word "trance" but I've never heard of a "voke". It'd be like Jarvis Cocker calling his band P'ulp.

Speaking of N-Trance, this single is a fairly obvious copy of their frequent hit 'Set You Free'. Apparently both of E'voke were actresses, one of whom was in Eastenders for a while, but I don't remember either them or the song from the time. In fact, I barely remember it from ten minutes ago when I last listened to it. It's an underwhelming end to what has otherwise been one of the best albums I've ever covered on here, in my biased opinion. You can find out for yourself with this embedded playlist (may not work outside the UK), which covers as much as I could find of the album.

Available on: Wow (What a Rush) Vol.9

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Wild Colour 'Dreams'

Chart Peak: 25

The Perfecto production team of Oakenfold & Osborne are behind this massive club cover of the Fleetwood Mac standard 'Dreams'... It is the latest hit for the label who have had a great year with hits from Grace, B.T. and the Perfecto Allstarz amongst others.
I don't suppose you'd expect a lot of modesty from people who adopted the stagename Perfecto, but I presume it's somehow related to the press released that there's no mention of the nominal performer in that sleeve note. There is a picture of a crouching woman with corkscrew hair, who I suppose is meant to be Wild Colour, but no indication of what her name might be. The Internet doesn't seem in any rush to tell me either.

They might have been onto something with the idea of covering this song in a dance style. A couple of years later the Corrs scored their breakthrough UK with their version as remixed by Todd Terry (him again!) whilst Deep Dish went the whole hog in 2006 by bringing in the actual Stevie Nicks to sing it again and were rewarded with a Top 20 appearance. But this attempt peaked one place lower than the original during a far shorter run and without the excuse of coming off a multi-million-selling album. Believe me, I'm no great fan of this song in any version, but whoever the singer is could at best be accused of misreading the lyric, failing even to notice the pseudo-mystical elements of it. And the backing track smacks of hubris, merely recycling the most generic mid-nineties dance production elements. It deserved to be no more of a hit than it was.

Available on: Perfection - a Perfecto Compilation: Mixed Live By Paul Oakenfold

Monday, 16 August 2010

Happy Clappers 'I Believe'

Chart Peak: 7 (original version 21)


I could hardly escape remembering this one, as it was a hit three times in four years, and there was the extra aide-memoire of so many other songs of the same title charting around that time. What I hadn't fully recalled was how heavily they laid on the gospel motifs, although that's not entirely surprising given the title.

Of course, it's not really a gospel record, just a dance track that borrows those trappings. Fundamentally, it's much the same idea as The Original - a decent chorus repeated ad infinitum. I have to admit I don't mind this one as much as post, possibly because I can appreciate the joyful mood more in this case. Still not a record I love but it seems more like fun. According to Wikipedia, one of the former Clappers is now a chef who makes a pudding without flour.

Available on: Put Your Hands Up: the Biggest Club Anthems of All Time

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Candy Girls 'Fee Fi Fo Fum'

Chart Peak: 23


A record I didn't realise I knew until I listened to it, unless it just sounds very similar to something else. Certainly, one of the "girls" was Paul Masterson, who's got a long CV of appearances with various collaborators and pseudonyms (the other member of the act was Rachel Auburn). To me, it sounds like a lot of synth noises and some boring MCing (from Candice Jordan) but I'm prepared to believe it would have been more enjoyable in a club. Not a big pop hit though.

Available on: This Is... 1995

Friday, 13 August 2010

The Human League 'Don't You Want Me? (Red Jerry 7" remix)'

Chart Peak: 16 [original version 1 in 1981]


Well, it's another record that's making its second visit to chart here, but the gap's been a little longer than for Goldie, since 'Don't You Want Me' was of course the Christmas Number One 14 years earlier. By the mid-90s, the League were on another label and enjoying their most successful run of singles in ages, so inevitable their former record company cashed in with a Greatest Hits album and re-release of the most famous track on it, as was still the fashion in those days. In an apparent attempt to attract a younger audience, the lead track on the single was aSnap remix, and the disc also included the similar mix by Red Jerry (who I freely admit I'd never heard of) that appears here. It's only listed as such inside the booklet though, so woe betide anyone who bought the album and expected to get the original.

I really do mean that. As I mentioned in passing when referring to the Farm version, I don't actually like the original version of this record at all, but I'll spare you the full rant here. One thing I will give it credit for, though, it that it's pretty much in time with itself, whereas neither of these remixes seems to stay in sync properly. It's tempting to suspect that neither of them put a lot of time or effort into it. What they've ended up with is something that will please neither fans nor haters of the original; even that chart position belies a pretty short run, only three weeks in the entire Top 75.

Oh, and I've spent two days trying to remember which instrumental trance hit that intro reminds me of, but it's not exactly an easy thing to check. Anyone else know?

Also appearing on: Now 1, 8, 13, 30, 31
Available on: Greatest Hits [includes the Snap mix]

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Goldie 'Inner City Life'

Chart Peak: 39 [originally 49 in 1994]


Former graffiti writer Goldie is arguably the most influential and charismatic figure on the hardcore jungle scene... Top tune 'Inner City Life' is due to be re-activated on 30th October 1995
It's perhaps a little too easy now to forget that there was a time when Goldie was taken a bit seriously than he now is, and when drum n'bass was seen as an exciting upcoming music that was about to become massive. In the end it didn't quite turn out that way, with the style seemingly drifting into an advertiser's cliché before it had properly arrived overground, but it certainly made an impact here in London. I remember the cool kids at my school had Metalheadz logos drawn all over everything and they were all listening to the album Timeless. Of course, I wasn't really interested at the time while I was devoting my attention to Cast, but this one song I did remember.

Diane Charlemagne contributes vocals to this track as she did for Wildchild, but this time singing more conventional lyrics (for which she earns a writing credit). Still, the overall impression I get isn't one of a linear song: it's a sort of mood piece where the voice is just another element to be played about with. And the finished production is evocative of, well, inner-city life I suppose, or at least what I imagine it must be like. It's not just the one-dimensional oppressive view you might expect, at least not to my ears: there's a warmth and a strong sense of pride and defiance amid all the confusion. It's the sort of record that leaves me awestruck at the imagination and the fascinating things that can be done by manipulation of sound. I don't know a lot of Goldie's other work, and not all of what I have heard has impressed me, but for these four minutes or so the effect is sublime. Still not much of a hit though; maybe they'd have been better off releasing it in the summer.

Also appearing on: Now 39
Available on: Timeless

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Wildchild 'Renegade Master'

Chart Peak: 11 [original version 39]


In another of those coincidences that couldn't have been planned at the time, both this and the Josh Wink track were subsequently bigger hits in remixed versions; in fact this is already on its second release here, but as far as I can tell the radio versions are identical, it's just that they replaced the original title 'Legends Of The Dark Black part 2' with a more obvious reference to the lyric.

Unlike 'Higher State Of Consciousness', 'Renegade Master' was a track I was enticed by the possibility of getting my hands on when I encountered this disc. I can't really remember whether I liked it in 1995 (I suspect I didn't) but I do remember my a bit of a running gag in our house as to what the "ill behaviour" was: coughing and pretending to blow your nose, I think we concluded. Anyway, in the subsequent years I'd acquired rather fond memories of the track and was looking forward to re-acqauinting myself with it. And then when I got this home I was mildly disappointed: even though I knew this wasn't the same as the 1998 Fatboy Slim remix, that somehow seemed to have overlapped with my memories of this version and I must have been expecting something with the same sort of immediate punch and force. Instead I got this mellower version that seemed to wrongfoot me and - ironically - sounded like a remix of itself.

A few more listens, though, and I started to warm to this version with its more interesting mood, warm bass and slightly jazzy feel. It seems like a good one for headphones actually. I can still understand why the 1998 version was the bigger hit, but I don't know whether I could say which one I actually preferred now. Unfortunately, and I think uniquely, Roger McKenzie died suddenly while Now 32 was still at the top of the charts, making his other appearances in the series posthumous ones. This Top Of The Pops performance is presumably one of the last pieces of footage of him: he's the one pretending to sing, although the small print in the booklet reveals that it was in fact Diane Charlemagne.

Also appearing on: Now 35, 39 [with a remix of this track]
Available on: It's Like That! [Explicit]

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Josh Wink 'Higher State Of Consciousness'

Chart Peak: 8

Philadelphia's own Josh Wink creates "unique sounds of music ranging from ambient to deep house and from acid jazz to so experimental electronic grooves"... This cut was huge on import and then became a Top 10 pop hit on official release.

I was quite pleased at the opportunity to buy Now 32 for 50p. For one thing, it settled my indecision as to which of the three 1995 Now albums I should cover on this blog, and for another it included a few tracks that I wouldn't have minded having my own copies of. The one thing that gave me slight pause was the realisation that I'd get stuck with this song that I've already written about on Now 34 (surely the fastest repeat in the history of the series?) and which I've never liked anyway. There was one silver lining though, in that at least I could check which version I was getting here: it seems to be the radio edit from the original UK single, which is logical enough. Unlike the original and the now more familiar 1996 remix, this version has overdubbed vocals (by Sonique, according to Wikipedia), though not the sort of obviously after-the-event verses and choruses that tend to be tacked onto dance records. Most of it is actually wordless, until the word "consciousness" begins to appear and takes over the track, as well as a few other impressionistic phrases. And I have to admit, it does make the song sound a bit more palatable, which was presumably the whole point of doing it. Mind you it's also fairly short.

I still wouldn't say I liked it (after all, I disliked this version before I'd heard the other one) but I feel sort of relieved that it wasn't as bad as I expected.

In a curiously topical postscript, the current Number One single at time of writing doesn't sound a million miles from a vocal version of this. Hope I don't get anyone sued there.

Another version of this track appears on: Now 34
Available on: Pete Tong Essential Classics [2CD]

Monday, 9 August 2010

Alex Party 'Wrap Me Up'

Chart Peak: 17


The "long awaited" follow up to the huge hit 'Don't Give Me Your Life'. Well, it certainly had been quite a while since that single came out in February, but I don't know how much people really do wait for the follow-ups to big dance hits. It certainly doesn't seem like there was a huge rush to purchase this.

The vocals (by one Shanie Campbell) are actually quite decent here, but it doesn't really seem like they had three memorable tunes in them (the other one was the much re-worked 'Alex Party/Satuday Night Party/Read My Lips) and the whole thing falls flat. No wonder I couldn't tell whether I'd heard this before or not.

Also appearing on: Now 30
Available on: Alex Party (download EP)

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Whigfield 'Big Time'

Chart Peak: 21

Top Danish singer Whigfield aims for her 5th UK smash with the ludicrously catchy 'Big Time'... Her previous hits include the legendary 'Saturday Night' and 'Think Of You'.
They can't have written that with a straight face, can they?
It's not very surprising that dimishing returns were setting in by the time of the fifth Whigfield single, and even the chart position it did manage was presumably helped by the fact that it was released here as a double A-side with her version of 'Last Christmas'. I was still a bit surprised at just how bad this track turned out to be though. You know you're not onto a winner when it starts with her singing "hi-de-hi-de-hi-de-hi-de-hi-de-ho", although I suppose that makes it a logical way to follow the Outhere Brothers track. The rest of it is very very vaguely Caribbean-sounding, in a way that seems to prefigure 'Coco Jamboo' by Mr President, but this is nowhere near as good as even that. And it seems to drag on for hours too.

According to her Wikipedia entry "it has been demonstrated on numerous occasions that Whigfield does do her own vocals, whilst touring in Brazil with a live band and being requested to sing live by Neil Fox, a UK DJ. She sung all her own songs, not vocals by Annerley Gordon or somebody else." And I'd be inclined to believe that because, after all, if you were going to fake the vocals, you'd make them sound better than this. In case the name sounds familiar, Annerley Gordon co-wrote the lyrics (yes, apparently it took more than one person) and also has a credit on the Corona track from this album. She subsequently had a hit of her own as Ann Lee.

Also appearing on: Now 29, 31
Available on: Whigfield

Friday, 6 August 2010

The Outhere Brothers 'La La La Hey Hey'

Chart Peak: 7

'La La La Hey Hey Hey' was the third Top 10 UK hit in 1995 for Chicago's Outhere Brothers... It made No 7 In September and followed 'Boom Boom Boom' and 'Don't Stop (Wiggle Wiggle)'.
Of course those first two hits were both Number Ones. And they were both near-inescapable at the time, particularly in school playgrounds once word got around that some of the versions available were a bit naughtier than the ones you could hear on the radio. Indeed, their album 1 Polish, 2 Biscuits And A Fish Sandwich is the last one I can recall being actually seized by the authorities due to obscene content (it was later replaced by the sanitised Outhere Brothers Party Album).

In contrast, I don't remember this record at all. And now I've listened back to it I know why. Apparently there are some rude words in the original edit of the track, but I couldn't even tell where they've been cut out of this version. It's a slightly more Eurodisco sound than their two biggest hits, but that's about the most there is to be said about this very uninspired track where even the call-and-response vocals fall flat. In fact, I think I might have spent longer writing this post than they spent writing the song.

Also appearing on: Now 30, 31
Available on: Grandmix: the 90's...II

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Soul II Soul 'I Care (Soul II Soul)'

Chart Peak: 17

Written by legendary funk songwriter Juni Morrison (Funkadelic/Ohio Players, etc) and featuring the vocals of Charlotte Kelly, 'I Care' entered the chart at No 17 on 15th October '95.
It's often said that Soul II Soul had a pivotal impact on music at the end of the 1980s; one of the first acts to combine soul, dance and hip-hop, one of the first British "urban" acts to cross over to the USA, one of the first to produce a recognised classic album in the shape of Club Classics Vol 1. And I can't really argue with any of that, despite my shameful failure to have actually heard that album.

However, not much than five years later, when I became a serious music fan, they were one of the many acts struggling to live up to important early material. And whilst it might seem a bit naff to drop the band's name into the chorus of the song, at least it does serve some purpose in making the otherwise fairly generic track recogniseable. It's not entirely surprising in retrospect that this proved to be their last major hit: they managed two more minor Top 40 singles, one of which was a remix of 'Keep On Movin' for no apparent reason. Maybe they just wanted to remind us who they were.

Also appearing on: Now 15, 18, 22, 26, 31
Available on: Soul II Soul Vol.5 - Believe

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Eternal 'Power Of A Woman'

Chart Peak: 5


Their first single since the departure of Louise, and as with the Blur and Oasis singles, they seem to have kept them apart to avoid a resumption of hostilities. 'Power Of A Woman' is probably the closest they came to the apparent intention of creating a British En Vogue (except that there were usually four of them). Evidently the power of a women doesn't actually extend to writing songs, as this was penned by two blokes, but the remaining members of the band had a decent enough set of pipes between them and whilst utterly insubstantial this is less woeful than many other girl-group records (even many of their others, in fact).

Also appearing on: Now 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 33, 35, 36, 37, 38
Available on: Essential Eternal

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Everything But The Girl 'Missing'

Chart Peak: 3 (original version 69 in 1994)

Everything But The Girl Are Tracey Thorn & Ben Watt... This Todd Terry remix of 'Missing' has been huge in Europe (No. 1 in Italy for 6 weeks) and is due for UK release on 16th October 1995
You do have to wonder whether the placement of this particular track as the eighth on Disc Two suggests a slight underestimation of the success it was going to have. In the event it went straight into the Top 10 and kept climbing until it peaked at 3 a month later, and stayed in the Top 20 into 1996. Last I heard it was still the biggest-selling single ever to peak at 3. And if anything it was an even bigger hit in the USA, becoming the first single to last a full year on the singles chart.

One thing I remember about this is that, knowing it was a remix, I was quite surprised to hear the original version and realise how different it wasn't. The waters are muddied a little by the fact that this vid is titled as the remix (record companies, eh?) but that is in fact the 1994 single/album version, and it's already much dancier than any of their previous big hits, with the insistent beat and the thumping bass. Apparently, having become fans of dance music, they deliberately wrote this song to be remix-friendly (there are of course several other less famous mixes of it too). If anything, Todd Terry's version is actually more spacious than the original, leaving a bit more space for the haunted lyric.

And although we've all heard this song too many times to notice it now, this is a remarkably depressing lyric, a protagonist compelled seemingly against her will to keep revisiting the haunts she shared with a childhood friend. A friend so distant that she apparently wouldn't even know whether they were still alive: "Could you be dead?/You always were two steps ahead" is the sad centrepiece of the text. Perhaps this friend is, literally or metaphorically, her own younger self: either way, there's something quietly tragic about the way she keeps going through this ritual to no avail. The chilly electronic backing seems to help rather than hinder the effect; indeed that seems to be the main selling point here as I can't really envisage anybody actually dancing to this version.

It's well-known that the success of this single enabled EBTG to pursue the dance direction further on their last two albums, and on the subsequent solo projects. Moreover, for about the next five years there seemed to be a Todd Terry remix of absolutely everything, even the duo's earlier single 'Driving' (a cash-in by the record label they'd just left). Sadly, most of them seemed utterly generic and made me forget why I'd ever liked this.

Also appearing on: Now 21, 34
Available on: Like the Deserts Miss the Rain

Monday, 2 August 2010

The Original 'I Luv U Baby'

Chart Peak: 2 [Number 31 on first release]

Originally a No. 31 hit in January, 'I Luv U Baby' stormed back into the UK chart at No. 2 in August - why?... Serious turntable exposure in continental discotheques apparently.
In fact, having (re-)entered at 2, this single slipped to 3 in the famous chart fifteen years ago this month when Blur and Oasis occupied the twop two positions. And there's a whole story there, it could be said: this sort of music was every bit as much the sound of the 1990s as Britpop, or for that matter grunge or gangsta, but it rarely seems to written about as much, though enough time has now passed for it to sell well on nostalgic compilation albums.

That said, I can't entirely blame people's habit of bypassing this sort of music because it's not all that easy to write about. There isn't a lot to say about this track except that it has a decent hook repeated far, far too often. And that's about all there is to it. Throw in the obvious gag about how inaccurately-named the act is, and I'm about done here.

Available on: Now Dance Anthems