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Old Music Friday: reviewing all the tunes released 20 years ago today

Let's journey back to 1997 when music was better

Old Music Friday: reviewing all the tunes released 20 years ago today

It’s never been easier to find new music. You simply load up your Spotify, whack on the New Music Friday playlist and then, after about 10 of the ‘hottest’ new tracks, lose the will to live and declare, “Is this really the best that the music world has to offer these days, it’s a load of bloody noise”.

And the existence of this playlist means that, really, it’s absolutely pointless anyone reviewing new singles. Why would you bother when you could just listen to them yourself? Here you go, do it yourself.

So we’ve decided to do you a better service: review old music instead. If music really was better in the old days, then even some songs which got nowhere 20 years ago are probably better than anything on the New Music Friday playlist. So we’re going digging for gold and reviewing everything that came out this week 20 years ago. Why 20 years? Well, 1997 was pretty great wasn’t it, and 20’s a nice round number. It’s art, we don’t need to justify it any more than that.

OLD MUSIC FRIDAY: New releases on 17/11/97

Bumper week this week with 30 brand new tracks ready for your ears. Let’s go. (CLICK ON THE TRACK NAME TO WATCH THE VID)

Dr Motte & Westbam - ‘Sunshine’

What a way to kick off, this has all the hallmarks of a classic: it will enter the charts next Sunday at number 98, it’s got a low-grade VHS upload of the video on YouTube which is just European clubbers off their nut, it’s called Sunshine, it’s not on Spotify and the comments section is full of stuff like this:

Obviously it’s brilliant and better than everything released in 2017.

RATING: 10/10

Chart position: 98

Queen Latifah - ‘It’s Alright’

A solid slice of mid-’90s soul ‘n’ R ‘n’ B. Very mid-era Janet Jackson. Yeah, doesn’t really go anywhere but nice enough. Good and accurate comment on the YouTube video.

RATING: 6/10

Chart position: 86

Mainstream - ‘Privilege EP’

Never heard of this, it’s not on Spotify and one video (complete with .wmv title and misspelled ‘Maintream’) exists on YouTube. Is this a hidden gem? A classic lost to the ages? No it’s not. It is however, a mashup of Oasis, The Seahorses and Shed Seven, released just after Britpop died, only nowhere near as good as any of them. I hope they got a million quid record deal and were then immediately dropped after this crashed in at number 85.

RATING: 4/10

Chart position: 85

Orange Orange - ‘Beautiful Day’

Bloody hell, Orange Orange. Remember them? Well, you probably don’t but you might remember Upside Down who, way before Pop Idol and all the rest, were a boy band who were the subject of a documentary which showed them being put together. I remember the public, having never been exposed to the dark underbelly of the pop world before, were horrified. Anyway Upside Down, appropriately enough, went belly up when their label went bankrupt and then they regrouped as Orange Orange with, according to Wikipedia, “no further success”. Anyway, this actually isn’t bad. Reminds me of ‘Colorblind’ by Darius which is obviously amazing. Good tune this, could easily have been done by One Direction two decades later.

RATING: 7/10

Chart position: 79

Capricorn - ‘20 Hz (New Frequencies)’

Yeah it’s another faceless housey one with a load of bells, then what sounds like a typewriter falling down some stairs for a couple of minutes. You’d need to be on a lot of drugs for this one to make sense which, fortunately, people in the ‘90s probably were. After that it all goes a bit ‘Josh Wink’ which is obviously excellent. Proper dance music this.

RATING: 6/10 (would have been 7 without the typewriter)

Chart position: 73

Truce - ‘Nothing But a Party’

What’s going on here? This is the same sample as ‘Juicy’ by Notorious B.I.G. isn’t it? (Yes, Dave, it is.) A quick look on Wikipedia and bugger me, I thought I recognised that vocal - Truce were, apparently, an all-girl UK trio including Michelle Escoffery - later to sing on the amazing Artful Dodger hit ‘Think About Me’. This is quite good little soulful pop track, not as good as ‘Juicy’ though. Worth investigating.

RATING: 7/10

Chart position: 71

98 Degrees - ‘Invisible Man’

Don’t remember this lot but they look like a Backstreet Boys/N ‘Sync US boyband affair, though clearly nowhere near as successful. In fact, watching the video they all look like budget bandmember versions of their all-conquering cousins. This is a glorious cheeseballad with lyrics about a girl they like who doesn’t seem to notice him (readers, he is the ‘invisible man’. Another great YouTube comment:

RATING: 7/10 (would have been 6 but there’s a brilliant Boyz II Men spoken bit near the end)

Chart position: 66

The Cure - ‘Wrong Number’

This was one of those extra ‘hits’ added onto a greatest hits compilation in order to get the fans to buy the whole album. Except, after crashing in at number 62, it wasn’t exactly a hit. Sounds like a Garbage B-side, not Robert Smith’s finest hour.

RATING: 4/10

Chart position: 62

702 - ‘No Doubt’

Never heard this one before but this is great - slap bang in the middle of that TLC/Eternal/SWV sound. Looks like they never released their album in the UK, shame. Yep, enjoyed this one.

RATING: 8/10

Chart position: 59

R.I.P. Productions - ‘The Chant (We R)/R.I.P Productions’

The YouTube comments look promising:

Where’s this bassline then guys? YESSSSS, there it is. This is the sound of Romford in 1998; best believe I almost certainly heard this blasting out of an XR2i at some point that year. Absolutely begging for some MCing over the top. Get your classics on and let’s have a night out.

RATING: 7/10

Chart position: 58

Jungle Brothers - ‘Jungle Brother’

Nice O’Jays sample, quality bit of old skool hip-hop this. Makes me a little teary-eyed that sort of thing was ten-a-penny back in 1998. What do we get now? Autotune and mumbling.

RATING: 7/10

Chart position: 56

Teenage Fanclub - ‘Start Again’

Ah, a comforting bit of proper indie from a proper indie band. Once saw them at Truck festival. Remember them being solid but unspectacular. Basically like this song.

RATING: 5/10

Chart position: 54

Erykah Badu - ‘Appletree’

Bloody hell remember when Erykah Badu came along? She was one of the coolest cats I’ve ever seen and Baduizm was obviously brilliant. How did this only get to number 47? Oh, it was the third single so everyone probably had the album already. OK, ‘people of 1997’, you’re off the hook this time.

RATING: 8/10

Chart position: 47

BT - ‘Love, Peace and Grease’

Ah a comforting bit of electronica from BT. Like most of his tracks (well, I haven’t listened to anything he’s done in about 20 years so I presume it’s still the same) it’s quite nice and groovy without ever really going anywhere.

RATING: 6/10

Chart position: 41

Rosie Gaines - ‘I Surrender’

This intro to this sounds exactly the same as eternal banger ‘Closer Than Close’ so I’d bet my house on this being the follow-up single, in classic ‘90s ‘follow-up to a hit that’s basically the same song’ style. And…. yes there it is, it’s the next single. Is it as good as ‘Closer Than Close’? Well, it’s a slightly less good version of it so I guess you could say it’s… closer than close to being as good. Thank you, thank you.

RATING: 7/10

Chart position: 39

Way Out West - ‘Ajare’

YES, this is brilliant. Never heard this before and this is a trancey banger with lovely squelchy bassline, good vocal sample, bit of scratching, LOVELY JOB ALL ROUND.

HANG ON THERE’S AN AIRHORN ON THE RECORD. Yeah, this would be number one if it came out today.

RATING: 10/10

Chart position: 36

Missy Elliott (featuring Da Brat) - ‘Sock it 2 Me’

God Missy Elliott was brilliant wasn’t she? Not too sure about those last couple of singles she put out in the last few years but it was nice to have her back wasn’t it? Anyway, this was her second ever single with a lovely brass sample and classic before-he-got-too-fat-and-rich-and-gave-up Timbaland production. And the video’s got Missy and Lil’ Kim paying homage to Mega Man. What more do you bloody want?

RATING: 9/10

Chart position: 33

Finley Quaye - ‘It’s Great When We’re Together’

What. A. Song. Genuinely one of the greatest songs ever written. Simply beautiful. If only he hadn’t got into all the crack. Stay off the crack kids. Stay off the crack and just write songs like this and the world will be a better place.

RATING: 10/10

Chart position: 29 (which is a disgrace)

Woolpackers - ‘Line Dance Party’

Tell you what, one of the good things about modern times is that the novelty single has practically died out. Which means we don’t have to endure aural atrocities like this. Why was line dancing a thing? Did we all lose our minds? Anyway, the Woolpackers were formed of three members - Steve Halliwell, Billy Hartman and Alun Lewis - so Wikipedia informs me, of Emmerdale - with their first album called - wait for it - Emmer Dance. And it went gold. What was wrong with everyone? Still, I suppose we do have Bradley Walsh and Nick Knowles as viable recording artists these days so maybe nothing’s really changed.

RATING: -100/10

Chart position: 25

Salt N Pepa (featuring Rufus Moore) - ‘R U Ready’

Not the classic Salt N Pepa sound this, bit more ‘1997’ than their earlier old skool stuff; this is very Lil’ Kim and they look more like an R ‘n’ B girl band in the vid. But you can’t argue with a bit of funky bassline and a proper party-starting chorus.

RATING: 7/10

Chart position: 24

Mary J Blige - ‘Missing You’

Classic bit of Babyface smooth-as-silk R ‘n’ B production. Just got to the end and I don’t remember a single thing about this song but it was very enjoyable nonetheless.

RATING: 6/10

Chart position: 19

The Firm (featuring Dawn Robinson) - ‘Firm Biz’

Well this is excellent, not heard of this one before but The Firm were a hip-hop supergroup - and this banger features AZ, Nas, Foxy Brown and former En Vogue singer Dawn Robinson. It’s all great but Foxy steals the show on her verse.

RATING: 9/10

Chart position: 18

Robert Miles (featuring Kathy Sledge) - ‘Freedom’

What will this be then? A bit of industrial metal? Maybe some baggy? Spot of hip-hop? Nah, it’s some tasteful piano-led blissed out electronica. Mind you, perhaps I’m being unfair, since getting Kathy Sledge from Sister Sledge in on vocals which is a move you would not have expected and it works bloody well. A very nice track indeed.

RATING: 7/10

Chart position: 15

Shola Ama - ‘Who’s Loving My Baby’

Tell you what, what an absolute Ban Ki Moon ‘You Might Need Somebody’ was eh? Absolutely massive. This is a bit dullsville though. Autopilot R ‘n’ B slow jam. Sorry Shola, ama bit bored of this one.

RATING: 3/10

Chart position: 13

Louise - ‘Let’s Go Round Again’

Good god, somehow I never knew that this happened. Louise-from-Eternal covered one of the greatest disco tracks of all time: ‘Let’s Go Around Again’ by Average White Band. This sounds exactly as you’d expect a late ‘90s ex-girl band-member cover of ‘Let’s Go Round Again’ to sound and it is utterly pointless.

RATING: 1/10 (the original is obviously 10/10)

Chart position: 10

Aaron Carter - ‘Crush On You’

The Justin Bieber of his day, brother-of-Backstreet-Boy-Nick Aaron Carter was nine years old when this track, taken from his self-titled debut album, came out. Nine years old, the poor sod. He sounds like Mickey Mouse and obviously it’s sort of terrible but also sort of brilliant. YouTube, as ever, sums it up.

RATING: 0/10 or 10/10

Chart position: 9

Prodigy - ‘Smack My Bitch Up’

The best Prodigy song, the third best Prodigy video, an absolute, total masterpiece which is approximately 300,000 times better than ‘Galway Girl’ by Ed Sheeran. No, double that. And double that. And just keep going. Total genius, but you didn’t need me to tell you that did you?

RATING: A million/10

Chart position: 8

Lutricia McNeal - ‘Ain’t That Just the Way’

Absolutely no recollection of this and it got to number six apparently. OH HANG ON, just got to the chorus and I do remember this one. Great little tune, originally a hit in Sweden in 1977 apparently. So there you go.

RATING: 8/10

Chart position: 6

Steven Houghton - ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’

For the second time, good bloody grief. This guy was in London’s Burning (ask your grandad kids, it was basically Fireman Sam with affairs) and managed to hit number three with this utterly pointless version of ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’. Still, it is, objectively, a great song and this was back in the days before we’d been bludgeoned with it every Saturday on The X-Factor so you can see why it was a hit back then. Still, we’re reviewing in the present day so this gets a big fat minus a million points.

RATING: -1,000,000/10

Chart position: 3

Various Artists - ‘Perfect Day’

Ah, the good old charity single, originally put together by the BBC as an advert for themselves (very BBC) before being released for Children in Need and which was a guaranteed seller. Obviously, like all of these multi-voice ones they do not stand up to much repeat listening. HOWEVER, it is a pretty stellar line-up: Bowie is, of course, effortlessly cool; Shane McGowan hilariously honks out ‘it’s such fun’; Huey Morgan tries to be cool; Dr John is cool (“such a poifect day”); Ian Broudie sings exactly how he always sings; Gabrielle does “I’M GLAD I SPENT IT WITH-A-YOU” and Heather Small unleashes the volume in the outro.

However, what we’re here for: it is any good now? Hmm, probably not.

RATING: 5/10

Chart position: 1


Finley Quaye - ‘It’s Great When We’re Together’

Prodigy - ‘Smack My Bitch Up’

Dr Motte & Westbam - ‘Sunshine’

Way Out West - ‘Ajare’

Missy Elliott (featuring Da Brat) - ‘Sock it 2 Me’

The Firm (featuring Dawn Robinson) - ‘Firm Biz’

And, sort of, half the time: Aaron Carter - ‘Crush On You’