February 18, 2020
Compilation: 100% Hits Volume 18
Released: 1995 – EMI
Number of tracks: 17
Number one singles: None
Top ten singles: 3
Best track: "Country House" by Blur
Hidden gem: "Downtown Venus" by PM Dawn
When I picked up Smash Hits '94 and Hit Machine 8, I also found 100% Hits Volume 19 in the same op shop and passed it up. Looking at the tracklisting, other than Blur's "Charmless Man", most of the songs were rubbish. That's part of the reason why my cutoff year for these chart compilations is 1995; it seems pop music took a large dip in quality after that year. I'm not sure if it's a coincidence but 1995 was my last year of high school and once I started uni the following year I started listening to more alternative music on Triple J because the stuff in the charts largely didn't cut it for me any more. And so, I made a mental note to myself that if I ever found 100% Hits Volume 18 it would be the last from that series I would get. And eleven days later, I got it.
It's a shame because it really is the low point of the series thus far, hence the low rating. One reason for this is it only has 17 tracks, and a comparatively short running time at around 66 minutes. There are no number one singles on it — its biggest hits are "Fairground" by Simply Red and "I'd Lie For You" by Meat Loaf, both of which reached number 7. Four songs on here didn't even chart, and of the remaining thirteen, the average chart position is number 21.
But hey — that doesn't necessarily mean the songs themselves aren't good. For a start, it opens with Queen's "Heaven For Everyone", put together after the sad loss of Freddie Mercury 4 years earlier, and it got to number 15 in Australia. Then comes "Sunshine After the Rain" by Berri, a pretty good dance track but it would have been better if they'd written more than 3 lines of lyrics!
"Somethin' 4 Da Honeyz" (man, it hurt to type that out) by Montell Jordan is sexist rubbish (would a line like "Call up your girlfriends, and you know there always tends to be an ugly one, but bring her too" fly nowadays?) Then comes Shaggy, who sucks bigtime, but he at least insists on announcing his name at the start of each one of his songs so you can reach for the skip button.
Some of the artists here I'd never heard of: Dana Dawson and Billie Ray Martin. Portrait I'd forgotten. I was surprised the PM Dawn track was unconventional and quite good, given their former sadsack wuss-rap output, and I expected to dislike Chris Isaak's number 9 hit "Baby Did A Bad Bad Thing" (I don't remember liking it first time around) but that was pretty good too.
Blur's "Country House" (a UK number 1, number 28 in Australia) is right towards the end for some reason, and the final track is Tina Turner's James Bond theme "Goldeneye", which I had totally forgotten about. It is a pretty good way to finish proceedings here though.
The CD has quite an elaborate 20-page booklet with one song's lyrics on each page, with corresponding album info. Just to show you it ain't all bad. Also take a look at the typeface used on the cover — that font was everywhere in '95 and '96, wasn't it? But overall, this ain't as great as previous compilations, which proves gauging the popularity of chart music at any given time is, pardon the pun, hit and miss.
February 13, 2020
Compilation: Kool Skool
Released: 1991 – Columbia
Number of tracks: 16
Number one singles: 1 — "Do The Bartman" by The Simpsons
Other top ten singles: 2
Best track: "Spin That Wheel" by Hi Tek 3
Hidden gem: "Unity" by Sound Unlimited Posse
(Just so you know, the above photo is of the CD in a freezer. 'Kool', get it? Never let it be said I don't go for realism in my review photos.)
So, here we have Kool Skool. I saw it on eBay, read the tracklisting and decided to get it (the asking price of $2.33 didn't hurt) even though I hadn't heard of it. In the handful of ARIA charts I have from 1991 it doesn't show up in the Compilations top 5 at all, and it's unusual in that it isn't a chart compilation, more of a genre compilation (house/rap/hip-hop). Even more unusually, it both starts and ends with novelty songs. And even even more unusually, it covers tracks from over a year's span ("Spin That Wheel" was charting in June 1990 and other tracks were charting in late 1991 and into early 1992).
Because of this album not charting (I assume), I have no idea when in 1991 it was released. This is important for dorks like me who like to order their CD collections. The 47 chart compilations I have so far are arranged in order of release, to the best of my knowledge. I assume this was released in late 1991 around the time Columbia released Video Smash Hits Dance Mix. For convenience's sake I've placed it between Wiggle N' Sweat '91 and Yo!...Let's Go!
Right, on to the CD itself. It breaks convention by not opening with its highest-charting single, but instead a rather silly (but entertaining nonetheless) novelty song entitled "I'll Be Back" by the deliberately-misspelled Arnee & The Terminaters, obviously inspired by Terminator 2. Rage never used to play the video for this song, if there even was one (I just checked. There isn't), and I never heard it when listening to Take 40 Australia on radio 6PM at the time, so I had never heard this song before. It doesn't exactly enjoy a good reputation but I don't mind it, really – it features the word 'cack' in the lyrics after all.
The other novelty song is of course "Do The Bartman", which ends this CD. I'm not sure what Nancy Cartwright thought when she was asked to perform this rap as Bart Simpson, but she does a good enough job. Most of the enjoyment, of course, comes from watching the music video. It topped the charts in five countries and went top 5 in seven more.
The other fourteen songs that come in between are more authentic examples of rap (except for George Michael and New Kids On The Block [their music was bloody awful, wasn't it?] which contain no rapping whatsoever), and at the risk of sounding like a boring old fart, rappers were actually better back then and I'll see anyone outside who disagrees! There's Freedom Williams, with his solid delivery, the humorous exploits of Young MC, the harder edge of Public Enemy (I'm glad they didn't censor the "Get that shit!" line) and one of two female MCs (three if you count Nancy Cartwright) in Nikki D. The other one of course being Ya Kid K who reigns supreme over them all. Ya Kid K is the one. The only rapper not really up to snuff is Candyman in "Knockin' Boots", a song that doesn't seem to have a proper ending. LL Cool J is also okay but his song here "Around The Way Girl" doesn't do him justice — it's pretty soppy stuff. Although I suppose his entire schtick is based around the premise that 'Ladies Love Cool James'.
Special mention must be made of Sound Unlimited Posse who were one of the few flying the flag for Australian hip-hop in 1991! Nowadays hearing rap in Aussie accents is pretty lame (I'm sorry, but it is), but those guys did it well, with a nice female singer to boot. Yo DJ!
February 7, 2020
Compilation: Hit Machine 8
Released: 1995 – BMG
Number of tracks: 20
Number one singles: 1 – "Another Night" by M.C. Sar & The Real McCoy
Other top ten singles: 8
Best track: "Dead Eyes Opened" by Severed Heads
Hidden gem: "Can't Get Enough" by Supergroove
Hit Machine 8 is a pretty solid compilation, and there's only one song that is eminently skippable, which I'll get to. These are all songs that charted at the tail end of 1994 into early 1995. When I was watching Rage and found that M.C. Sar had entered the charts with "Another Night", I thought hey, these are those same guys who did a cover of Technotronic's "Pump Up The Jam" back in 1990 with a dodgy German-accented rap (and I actually bought the cassingle of it!). When "Another Night" shot up to number 1 I'll bet few people knew them from that cover — and it's this song that opens the CD. It's nice and catchy enough, but it's always seemed like a somewhat sad song to me. "When the night is gone I'll be alone", the lyric that ends the first stanza of the chorus, is a rather depressing sentiment to be expressed in such an up-tempo song. But, as has been proved, techno and dance music isn't 'happy-clappy' all the time. "Mr. Vain" is another example of a lyrically dark techno song.
Next comes the song that you should skip if you hear this album: "Short Dick Man" by 20 Fingers feat. Gillette. I don't know who Gillette is or was, and I don't much care, but the song is repetitive, irritating, and about two minutes too long. Then there's the offensive aspect to it; just imagine if it was a dude singing about a woman's anatomy! The song would never be a hit and he'd be pilloried for it. But that aside, there are a fair bit of explicit lyrics in this song which aren't cut out, and there was even a 'radio friendly' edit of this song which they called "Short Short Man". I'm not the type who insists that swearing should be edited out on pop music compilations, but it has been on past releases — The Steppers, Snoop Doggy Dogg, Cypress Hill and Denis Leary have all had singles with the 'F-word' censored on albums like these, so why should bloody Gillette, of all people, be the one who gets away with it?
There at least two dance covers on here: "Total Eclipse Of the Heart" (Nicki French) and "Sky High" (Newton, which seems to rip off Corona's "The Rhythm Of The Night" in its intro). Possibly "Cotton Eye Joe" (Rednex) as well. Then there are updated versions of two '80s hits. The first of these is Arrow's reworking of "Hot Hot Hot", a song which always reminds me of a pool party I went to circa 1995, and the remix of Severed Heads' "Dead Eyes Opened" — I would definitely not have chosen it as the best out of these 20 songs if I'd listened to it in 1995, but I've come to appreciate it more over the years.
I'd forgotten Londonbeat's "Come Back" even though it reached the top 20 here, and "Sooner Or Later" by gf4 (the 'sexier' version of Girlfriend) was actually better than I remembered, even if the lyrics could be a little less middle-of-the-road. And it's good to hear Ya Kid K (is the one) on Technotronic's "Move It To The Rhythm", a song I don't remember hearing at all back in '95, and only tracked it down thanks to the internet, but that was ages later, dude.
Ween's "Voodoo Lady", one of my favourite songs by them, is also on here, with its great manipulated feedback breakdown in the middle. Ween were geniuses and I'll see anyone outside who disagrees! Boom Crash Opera remind us they were a damn fine rock/funk outfit with "Tongue Tied", but my hidden gem "Can't Get Enough" is the clear rock winner. What happened to Supergroove? They clearly had a lot of talent and deserved to be bigger than they were.
An entertaining enough way to spend 75 minutes! (But skip that Gillette track, it sucks.)
Compilation: Smash Hits '94
Released: 1994 – Columbia
Number of tracks: 20
Number one singles: 1 – "The Sign" by Ace Of Base
Other top ten singles: 10
Best track: "Doop" by Doop
Hidden gem: "Light My Fire" by Club House
Smash Hits magazine, the Australian edition that is, was marking its tenth anniversary in 1994, and at the end of the year (although the CD shows no copyright year) they released their annual compilation. So, what was cranking the magazine staff's cheese wheel that year? For the most part, high energy (or hi-NRG if'n ya wanna be a bit wanky about it) dance music. It'd be a pretty decent rave if you cranked out some of these tunes in quick succession. You've got "The Key: The Secret", the ace rave anthem coming out of the UK courtesy of Urban Cookie Collective; "Satisfy The Groove", a bit of piano-house from Culture Shock; "The Winner Is..." from Australian techno crew Southend with Nik Fish, which celebrated Sydney winning Olympic Games hosting rights (I lived in Perth then, so I didn't give a shit); Corona's "The Rhythm Of The Night" and Doop's signature Charleston-meets-techno tune; and Culture Beat's underrated third single "Anything" which I must point out has a music video that supposedly takes place on March 17, 2020 which is just over a month away.
If the cartilage in your joints isn't worn out after all that, there's a bit more dance music at a slightly slower tempo from 3 The Hard Way, Beverly, Tag Team, Dr. All-Bran (he'll keep ya regular), and Jam & Spoon. Good stuff there, except the Beverly tune is just a techno-fied version of '80s hit "The Power Of Lurve". Then there's "Steppin' On" by Sexing The Cherry, which was almost going to be my hidden gem rather than the Club House track, as it was the only other song I hadn't yet heard, but "Light My Fire" is more stylistically varied and has some killer pianner riffs and whatnot. Plus one of the blokes from 49'ers is behind it. What's not to like?
Lighter moments come towards the tail end, from Frente (nothing against "Bizarre Love Triangle", but I wish they'd put "Lonely" on instead), and the Badloves, before The Poor wind things up with their antics involving, but not limited to, requesting more alcoholic beverages from servers in dining establishments. And being Smash Hits, there's Take That and Peter Andre in there as well. Because if they were left out there'd be teenage girls rioting in the streets of Darlinghurst. And we can't have that, oh dear me no!
Smash Hits: I miss you. Oi!
February 5, 2020
Compilation: Hit Machine 3
Released: 1993 – Festival Records
Number of tracks: 20 (2020202020202020...etc)
Number one singles: None
Top ten singles: 1
Best track: "Somebody Dance With Me" by DJ Bobo
Hidden gem: "Harness Up" by Died Pretty
Here comes the third Hit Machine compilation, the one that dispelled any doubt as to whether uniquely-named chart compilations were dead and gorne. They were. From now on (well, from Hit Machine 2 on if'n ya wanna be pedantic about it) it would be Hit Machine and 100% Hits vying for supremacy in the chart comp game. This particular release features 20 tracks, and as you can see above, a very prominent repeated '20202020' motif in the cover art — quite apt for the first compilation I found in 2020!
This compilation is rather unusual for two reasons. The first it that it features no number one singles at all and only one top ten single — the rather excellent "The Key: The Secret" by Urban Cookie Collective which starts the CD and might possibly be the only chart hit with a colon in the title. I get the feeling this album was released during Meat Loaf's endless domination of the charts so there was little movement at the top.
The second reason is that 11 of the 20 tracks are by Australian artists; over half of it is local content and I don't recall this being true for many other compilations. Those 11 tracks, even though most of them didn't chart, are pretty good songs as well. Most of them I hadn't heard before: the Died Pretty track being my fave, "The Right Time" by Hoodoo Gurus is also rather ace and even Dazza Braithwaite manages to rock out on "The World As It Is"!
They put Soul Asylum's "Runaway Train" as the second track. It's certainly a fine song, and I admire the band's efforts in using its video to try and find missing young people (with different versions made for different countries), but I can't say listening to it is a pleasurable experience because of the sadness associated with runaways and abductions and so on. That scene at the end of the video where a baby gets abducted, followed by a photo of a missing baby (in the U.S. version) is heartbreaking, and the scene at the start with the abused child's drawing (which is not present in all versions) creeped me out to the point where I stopped following the charts for the remainder of 1993, lest I see that unsettling drawing again. That was around the time I stayed up all night to watch Rage for the one and only time.
This is quite a genre-diverse album; it's got rave anthems (DJ Bobo, Urban Cookie Collective), Eurodance (Haddaway), indigenous-meets-dance (Yothu Yindi), alt-rock with French lyrics (?) (Baby Animals), R&B girl groups (S.W.V., and Destiny's Child can get stuffed compared to this trio), gangsta rap (Ice Cube, surprising to hear "The Message" sampled), folk-pop (Deborah Conway) and even reggae (The Black Sorrows, and I would never have guessed it was them).
There's a song by Australian girl-group Girlfriend on here, and guess what — I rather like it! Now I'm no fan of theirs, in fact I found their stupid big hats annoying and I wasn't into their 1992 singles at all, but this track, "Heartbeat", which peaked at number 36, actually is rather good music-wise, almost sounding like video game music (and I don't mean chiptune). In fact the first few seconds has this atonal sort of sound to it which I wish had been kept up throughout the whole song.