Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Mica Paris 'One'

Chart Peak: 29
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
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
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]
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
'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]
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
'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

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

2 Unlimited 'Here I Go'

Chart Peak: 22
Due for release on 13th March '95, 'Here I Go' is the storming new single from hugely successful Dutch duo Anita and Ray.
It's not the smallest hit on Now 30, but this is one case of an upfront dance track. that didn't do the business chartwise. It's hard to say whether this is a surprise or not: on the one hand, 2 Unlimited were one of the most consistently successful acts on the Eurodance scene, but conversely this meant they were releasing a third single from an album that had gone straight in at Number One some nine months previously which obviously meant that a lot of potential buyers already had this song, albeit in a slightly different mix.

As a song it doesn't deviate much from their standard formula, with Ray Slijingaard's raps now being left intact on the UK radio edits. His Dutch accent is a little more prominent that on some of their hits, but otherwise there's nothing out of the ordinary about it. No musical reason for this to have been their first single to miss out on the Top 20, but equally no reason for it to have overcome the handicap of prior sales.

Also appearing on: Now 20, 21, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28
Available on: Here I go

Monday, 8 September 2014

Deuce 'Call It Love'

Chart Peak: 11
Deuce are Kelly, Lisa, Paul and Craig... Their first single, the pop/dance stomper 'Call It Love' reached No. 11 in February '95.
Among the more forgotten hitmakers of the mid-1990s, Deuce are now remembered - if at all - for the fact that one of them (Lisa Armstrong) subsequently married Ant McPartlin, the taller half of Ant And Dec. They were, though, originally convened by manager and popular TV pundit of the time Tom Watkins as a vehicle for his work experience employee Kelly O'Keefe, and Watkins not only appears in the song's video himself but persuaded his biggest client of the time, East 17's Tony Mortimer, to show up if not to look like he wanted to be there.

With hindsight, Deuce's primary colours, mixed-gender lineup and dance moves look a bit like a dry run for the later success of acts like Steps and Scooch: indeed after they were dropped by their original label, Deuce did work with Mike Stock, who later formed Scooch. They never seemed to reach the critical mass of success needed to keep this kind of act going though and on this evidence they didn't really deserve to either. Neither the material nor the performance is really noteworthy enough.

Also appearing on: Now 31
Available on: On the Loose

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Rednex 'Cotton Eye Joe'

Chart Peak: 1 [1 week]
'Cotton Eye Joe' was conceived by Swedish producer Pat Reniz... Rednex hail from Brunkeflo City, Idaho (USA) and their deadly combination took this hillbilly hoedown to No. 1 in the UK in January '95.
It's not entirely clear how straight-facedly this note was written, but needless to say none of Rednex actually were American. The public lineup at this point were all Swedes (as were the producers and presumably the session musicians actually playing on the tracks) and the 23 people who have apparently passed through the stage lineup in the last 20 years have included Dutch, German and even British performers, to say nothing of the entirely separate franchise operating in Australia and New Zealand.

Knowing that this is an outsider's view of American stereotypes (there was also a spin-off CD-ROM game called Inbred With Rednex), it does seem a bit ethically dubious although it must be said that enough Americans saw the funny side for it to be a Top 30 hit over there, though that success was unsurprisingly a one-off; just in case you ever need to know this in a pub quiz, they did have a second UK hit with the near-identical 'Old Pop In An Oak'. You probably don't need me to tell you that this is an awful record, combining all the worst elements of Eurodance and country as well as adding a terrible attempt at an accent. One imagines that a lot of the appreciation of this track here might have been ironic - it's big with darts fans apparently - but I can't even bring myself to like it on that basis. It's about as appealing as the album cover, which shows the "band members" heads floating in a chamber pot that's being urinated into.

The song itself is naturally a lot older, a North American folk song that predates the (US) Civil War and is more commonly known as 'Cotton-Eyed Joe'. It became a popular dance number in the South though the plasticity of folk songs is shown by the fact that Terry Callier recorded a version which is not really recognisable as the same piece as the Rednex version and thus they haven't killed the song. Still, I do sometimes wonder whether the producers feel they've spawned a monster: they put the band up on eBay in 2007, though it failed to sell.

Available on: Sex & Violins

Friday, 5 September 2014

Perfecto Allstarz 'Reach Up (Papa's Got A Brand New Pigbag)'

Chart Peak: 6
This driving adaptation of Pigbag's 1982 hit by the famed Perfecto production/DJ/remix crew of Oakenfold and Osborne was both a huge club and pop hit... It stormed to No. 6 in March '95.
Side Three of vinyl and cassette versions ends with this groove-cramming eleventh track. It was yet another inclusion in the short list of dance tracks I liked in 1995, despite the creepy animated skeletons in the video. Mind you, at that time I was largely unfamiliar with the original 'Papa's Got A Brand New Pigbag' and my less sophisticated tastes at that time would in any case have been less keen on the jazzier elements of that track. With hindsight, though, this is a very simplified toned-down version of the song, with a load of reverb on the percussion, an organ overdub (not a bad idea) and vocal sample presumably added to give the song its title. It's not a bad version as such, but neither is it a very creative one and to claim it as an original work under a new title is hard to justify. It hasn't aged well.

Available on: Brazil Beats

Thursday, 4 September 2014

JX 'You Belong To Me'

Chart Peak: 17
Mystery man JX who had a big club and national hit last year with 'Son Of A Gun' returns on 13th March '95 with thisn powerful raver 'You Belong To Me'.

JX is such a "mystery man" that there's a picture of him in the sleeve note, admittedly hiding behind vocalist Shena. It is true that all the credits are to his stage name rather than his real one (which proves to be Jake Williams) but perhaps the greatest mystery is that despite the run of hits in the 1990s (and a one-off comeback hit in 2004) he never released an album in this guise.

 'You Belong To Me' is the one hit of his that I don't really remember, and coming back to it now I'm not wholly surprised as it's certainly a less impressive composition than his other big ones. It sounds curiously up to date in 2014, but as a song it fails to do the business for.

Also appearing on: Now 31, 34
Available on: You Belong To Me

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

N-Trance 'Set You Free'

Chart Peak: 2 [83 in 1993, 39 in 1994]
'Set You Free' is one of the success stories of 1995 with the single having sold around 1/2 million copies to date... N-Trance are Dale, KO and singer Kelly Llorenna.
Certainly not the first time I've written about N-Trance, indeed not even the first time I've written about 'Set You Free' as it reappears on Now 50. Like the Nightcrawlers track this was a regular on music TV in 1994-5 and, well, I might have to take back what I said about the video for 'Push The Feeling On' looking cheap, it's 'Thriller' compared to this. They didn't even pay for the fireworks, they just happened to be in town when they happened.

Having been released every year from 1992 to 1995 (and several times since), this song has a strong reputation as a dance classic and whilst I can see what people like about it, the more familiar it gets the less I enjoy it. It's just not that interesting, frankly. I tend to prefer N-Trance when they're more ridiculous over this rather straight stuff.

Also appearing on: Now 32, 38, 50 [same track]
Available on: Best Of

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Clock 'Axel F'

Chart Peak: 7

Masterminded by Manchester DJ Stu Allan, 'Axel F', which had reached No. 7 by 12/3/95, is Clock's 3rd UK chart hit following 'Keep The Fires Burning' and 'The Rhythm' last year... Clock are rapper DC MC and Latania Mitchell.
I'm slightly surprised this is the first time I'm writing about Clock here, given their lengthy run of success in the second half of the decade. 'Axel F' (officially a double A-side with 'Keep Pushin', a title Nightcrawlers never quite got round to) was in fact their fourth Top 75 single but their third Top 40 and first Top 20. It's also one of nine cover versions they charted with, apparently more than anyone else managed in the 1990s.

Although Clock were clearly patterned after 2 Unlimited, with unseen producers making the backing tracks and a male/female rap/vocal duo fronting the act, this particular track is actually mostly instrumental, with only occasional vocal samples popping up to give it some colour. It's interestingly bounced around the stereo spectrum too. Mostly the track is just a pumping version of the famous soundtrack hit and I'm surprised to say that I rather enjoy it. Actually my favourite of the three versions of the tune on Now albums.

Also appearing on: Now 31, 35
Available on: Big Tunes Back To The 90s 2

Monday, 1 September 2014

Corona 'Baby Baby'

Chart Peak: 5
Corona are Italian writer/arranger/producer Francesco Bontempi and vocalist Olga De Souza.. They had a huge hit with 'Rhythm Of The Night' in 1994 and 'Baby Baby' - due for release on 27th March '95 - is hotly tipped.
It's notable that quite a few of these dance tracks are appearing somewhat upfront; the tracks were included even though they had yet to prove themselves as hits at time of going to press. Of course, this was easier to do with dance tracks that were already successful in clubs than with other types of music.

This is the second track in a row that I don't recall, and in this case it's not even a cover of a song I knew (although it's not actually an original either - Bontempi recycled the song from a 1991 flop by another of his acts, Joy & Joyce). I even seem to have lost all memory of the cover version by Sunblock that went Top 20 in 2007. The reason is that this song is profoundly unmemorable. I sometimes feel a bit mean saying this because I realise that there are people who love this sort of track and I don't begrudge them their pleasure in it - it just seems too context-dependent. It's not even as interesting to me as other Corona tracks. At least De Souza looks like she's having fun in the video.

Also appearing on: Now 29, 32
Available on: The Rhythm of the Night