Now That’s What I Call Music 20

220px-Now_20

Released- 18th November 1991

Music History

The first Now album to feature the iconic Now! Logo. It took eight years and twenty volumes to get there, but at long last, we’ve escaped some of the hideous design choices of the last 19 volumes. In actual music, tragically, possibly the most charismatic frontman, and definitely the most versatile singer in rock passes away. Even 24 years on, Freddie Mercury is a pretty big loss.

Me History

I am 7 1/2. I’m not entirely sure what I was up to at this age. I think I joined MENSA! I had to sit in a big exam hall and do a pattern recognition test. Perversely, I’ve always quite liked exams, you have no interruptions and can just get on with it. I feel I’ve been on an intellectual downward spiral since about then.

If I had to save one track from this album, it would be far too difficult. I don’t want to this time round, as I feel I’d be doing a disservice to three other equally good songs, or at least songs that are important to me. However, as I have set myself this stupid, arbitrary rule, that track would be… Sit Down by James, for the sheer summery joy of the whole affair, and the special place it holds in my own life. As hinted above, if I could, Prince, Monty Python, Justified Ancients of Mu-Mu and Voice of the Beehive could all have been my choice, so it came down to a five sided coin toss…

Track by Track Breakdown

Vic Reeves & The Wonder Stuff : “Dizzy”

Bouncy, stonking great opener. Vic Reeves is of course more famous as half of a comedy act with Bob Mortimer but had several hit singles in the 90’s, the other being a great cover of The Monkees I’m a Believer. Even better, as a qualified barrister, Bob Mortimer offered his legal services to Jarvis Cocker after he mooned Michael Jackson at the Brit Awards. Uvavu.

Belinda Carlisle : “Live Your Life Be Free”

It has a lot of big anthem things going on, but they come together all a bit muddled and underwhelming. Dissapointing after a few great tracks over the past few years.

U2 : “The Fly”

Without the U2 brand and good production, this would be the dullest 12 bar blues pub band noodle in existence. Sub par.

Pet Shop Boys : “Where the Streets Have No Name (I Can’t Take My Eyes off You)”

An improvement on the U2 song, and the strange way it interpolates Can’t Take My Eyes Off You is slightly discordant, and a little sinister, completely subverting the warmth of the original. While their cover of Always on My Mind was recently voted the greatest cover of all time, I would say that this makes the stronger argument for the Pet Shop Boys talents.

Erasure : “Love to Hate You”

Absolutely brilliant. Not hard when you’ve shoplifted the chords from I Will Survive, but brilliant nonetheless.

Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark : “Sailing on the Seven Seas”

Rhythmically interesting, with some interesting Egyptian sounding scales (myxilodian?), the only thing lacking is a good singer. Still, a damn fine effort.

Simply Red : “Something Got Me Started”

They say nearly everybody who saw the Sex Pistols at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester went away and formed bands. Most missed the point and formed copycat punk bands. Only Morrissey and Mick Hucknall understood, and went away to do what they wanted to, being themselves, and not apologising for it. Even if it makes you very uncool. So all credit to Mick Hucknall. Without hipster prejudice, you can see that the songs are fantastic.

Lisa Stansfield : “Change”

Dullard makeweight balladry. As George Michael once said, if you’re going to do it, do it right.

Zoë : “Sunshine on a Rainy Day”

Marginally better than Stansfield but still terribly tedious. It’s like they want me to give up!

Salt-N-Pepa : “Let’s Talk About Sex”

The most fun song about AIDS ever. Limited field really. But it a genuinely great fun song, and Salt n Pepa continue a great run of singles. In fairness, the timing is a bit off, what with Freddie Mercury passing away this very month, but I’ll forgive it.

Color Me Badd : “I Wanna Sex You Up”

Another victory for entertaining sequencing here! Fnarr. Average song, with a puerile attitude to sex, but on the plus side, a Slick Rick sample!

Kenny Thomas : “Best Of You”

You can hear pop moving from it’s 80’s form into 90’s on this one. Slightly less artificial synths, but almost more fake for its polish. By the way, the song is crap.

Prince & The New Power Generation : “Gett Off”

FINALLY (and probably due to rights issues), Prince gets on a Now! album as a performer (he has previously been a songwriter, most brilliantly for Nothing Compares 2 U). It’s a filthy piece of funk, opening with a screech, and following this with his brand of glorious perviness. Absolutely smashing. As Prince hates YouTube, here is British rap wunderkind (and fellow Millwall fan) Scroobius Pip covering it.

Rozalla : “Faith (In the Power of Love)”

For the life of me I can’t work out why some generic house tracks are great and some aren’t. Same bouncing piano and soul vocals over a four to the floor beat. This one is good.

2 Unlimited : “Get Ready for This”

Totally didn’t realise they had an absolute classic prior to No Limit. The perfect companion to C&C Music Factory on Now 19. It’s training montage time, bitches!

Moby : “Go”

Diane, remind me when he makes a comeback in the early 2000’s that the best thing Moby ever did was remix Laura Palmer’s Theme from the Twin Peaks soundtrack. While it’s hard to credit Moby with the talent behind this, which belongs to Angelo Badalamenti’s excellent score for the series, I can’t deny that I enjoy this track far too much.

The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu : “It’s Grim Up North (Part 1)”

No other group but the KLF (who can’t stick to a name!) could get away with combining a list of northern cities, industrial noise, a dance beat, and a rousing chorus of Jerusalem. Absolutely brilliant. Again. Three different names, three classic tracks.

P.M. Dawn : “Set Adrift on Memory Bliss”

Surprisingly good for a repurposing of Spandau Ballet’s True with a beat. Really good in fact. Possibly because True is brilliant.

Paul Young : “Don’t Dream (It’s Over)”

Just listen to the Crowded House version. This version is worthless.

Enya : “Caribbean Blue”

It’s not even music. It’s a bunch of relaxing noises made for homeopathy waiting rooms. Proof that people are fools.

Julian Lennon : “Saltwater”

I stuck up for him on his previous entry, but here it’s clear that he’s trying to cash in on his surname here, lifting Beatlesesque sounds, and reducing them to a sales technique.

Paula Abdul : “Rush Rush”

There is some really weak balladry going on on this volume. Weaker than the fifth brew off a teabag, and about as palatable.

Jason Donovan : “Any Dream Will Do”

I wanted this single so badly when I was seven. Sadly, it was too expensive for my pocket money in Woolworth’s, and in the decent record shop, Sound House, they were far too cool to have accounted for my dreadful taste in Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals. So thanks to both of these dearly departed stores, I dodged a real credibility bullet there!

Cathy Dennis : “Too Many Walls”

Kind of a nothing song really. Not bad, but nothing really going for it either. She clearly improves in time, as she wrote Toxic for Britney, Can’t Get You Out of My Head for Kylie and I Kissed a Girl for Katy Perry. Hat doffed!

Alison Moyet : “This House”

Ooh it goes big in the chorus and it goes big well. Glorious melodrama.

Marc Cohn : “Walking in Memphis”

It’s a brilliantly composed song. The piano line actually creates a brilliant sense of motion, so when the chorus comes in, your brain is actually feeling like it’s walking. It wouldn’t normally be my kind of thing, but I can certainly appreciate the craftsmanship that went into it.

Glass Tiger : “My Town”

Sounds like the credit music to particularly weak romantic comedy starring Michael J Fox and Phoebe Cates.

Scorpions : “Wind of Change”

Most of the song is pretty weak. But the whistling bit is transcendent. Full marks for that alone. It sounds like the perfect music to walk off into the sunset to.

INXS : “Shining Star”

Cripes. Offing himself is probably the most interesting thing Michael Hutchence ever did. More bland swagger from INXS.

Roxette : “Joyride”

Followed by yet more bland faux rock addichood from Roxette. Yawn.

James : “Sit Down”

This is the third song I ever performed in front of people, at a concert at school, aged around 13, and the first I think I performed well. A joy of a summery song, by a massively underrated band. With their pop sensibility combined with a strange sense of snark, and oddness, they really deserved to be so much bigger.

Voice of the Beehive : “I Think I Love You”

An absolute joy, which I fell in love with retrospectively from Less Than Jake’s excellent ska-punk cover from the Scream 2 soundtrack. This version is a more blustering beaty pop song, but no less lovable for it.

Slade : “Radio Wall of Sound”

It pains me as a Slade fan, but their best days are gone by this point. Also, nowhere near enough Noddy Holder or badly spelt title for my liking.

Monty Python : “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”

I got this record as a Christmas present. I loved this song, especially as a seven year old, for the transgressive joy of the fact it contains the line, “Life’s a piece of shit, when you look at it”. As an adult, I actually prefer the B side, I’m So Worried, which has some of the most hilarious false endings and ridiculous lines of any Monty Python song. By the way, the song is still great, and the Life of Brian is still one of the greatest comedy films ever, no matter how overquoted it is.

Don McLean : “American Pie (Full Length Version)”

He’s not a the messiah, he’s a very naughty (and overlong, and bloated, and boring) boy. Now piss off!

Final verdict

19.5 off of 35 balls, or 56%. A return to above average form after a pretty weak last installment.

This article is part of a series, chronicling a foolish attempt to chronicle the history of modern pop, through the Now That’s What I Call Music series. All the previous articles, and some other fun stuff, can be found here.

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