Saturday, 9 February 2013

The Best Of 1991 - part 1

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If there's one song that dominated music in 1991, it's Bryan Adams' "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You". It held the number 1 spot in Australia for 11 weeks (only relinquishing the position after it was deleted by Bryan's record company), in the US for 7 weeks and in the UK for a record-shattering 16 consecutive weeks. Needless to say it wound up as the year's top single for the year in all three countries.

Blur: a token indie act amongst a sea of pop and R&B

It doesn't, however, earn a place among my favourite songs for the year - I always found it a little bit too sappy. Some of the singles it prevented from reaching the top of various charts around the world are, however, among my top 100 for 1991. And, like my list for 1990, it's a chart heavily influenced by the tracks I heard on American Top 40 and UK Chart Attack.

Number 100 "Do Anything" by Natural Selection
We start with the long-forgotten duo of Frederick Thomas and Elliott Erickson, who hit number 2 in the US with this song featuring the vocals of Madonna backing singer Niki Haris. Like many American Top 40 hits that year, the song picked up some additional radio play in Australia and ended up a top 10 hit here as well. There was a sole follow-up single, "Hearts Don't Think (They Feel)!", but I didn't think much of it at the time and, after my first listen in over two decades, I have to agree with my 16-year-old self.

Number 99 "Vibeology" by Paula Abdul
Mentioned below

Number 98 "There's No Other Way" by Blur
The future Britpop megaband got off to a good start in 1991, with this, their second single, reaching the top 10 in the UK. They wouldn't return there for another three years and the release of Parklife's "Girls & Boys", which is also the song that gave them their first hit in Australia. "There's No Other Way" is the only appearance of a British indie rock song in my top 100, although The Wonder Stuff and The Mock Turtles both managed a place in my top 200 - as usual, pop, synthpop and soul music from the UK were my genres of preference.

Number 97 "Bitter Tears" by INXS
By 1991, the all-conquering INXS were starting to falter. Although 1990's X had been a chart-topper in Australia, it sold a fraction of what Kick had a couple of years earlier. Then, by the time this third single came out, it could only limp to number 36 despite it being, in my opinion, the best release yet from X. In the US, it became their first single to miss the top 10 in four years. It was all downhill from there, unfortunately, despite the band having quite a few good singles left in them.

Number 96 "All True Man" by Alexander O'Neal
With the Hearsay finally exhausted of all its singles and remixed re-releases, Alexander emerged with a new album in 1991, with this title track and lead single proving to be his final UK top 20 and US top 50 hit. Wonder what's become of Mr O'Neal? Me too, and his official website is of no assistance - it hadn't been updated in five years!

Number 95 "If You Cared" by Kim Appleby
Mentioned in Part 2

Number 94 "Insanity" by Oceanic
The first of what will be quite a number of UK dance smashes on this list, "Insanity" was a number 3 hit in Britain and even a moderate success in Australia, where it reached number 31. The club favourite would prove too hard to beat, or even equal, with the group's subsequent singles making much less of an impact.

Number 93 "I Adore Mi Amor" by Color Me Badd
Mentioned in Part 2

Number 92 "Anthem" by N-Joi
Here's another dance floor hit, which reached number 8 in the UK, and again it's the most successful single by far for the UK group signed to influential dance label Deconstruction. It wouldn't be the only time we'd hear from the song's singer, though - Saffron would go on to front mid-'90s group Republica.

Number 91 "All The Man That I Need" by Whitney Houston
Proving she still had a big ballad in her (and liked to wear monogrammed jumpsuits), Whitney followed up 1990's more upbeat "I'm Your Baby Tonight" with this second single from her third album - and like many of Whitney's singles, it was a cover version of a lesser known song. Apart from the obvious remakes she recorded, hits like "Saving All My Love For You" and "Step By Step" were also covers. "All The Man That I Need" had been recorded twice previously - by Linda Clifford and Sister Sledge - but Whitney's version would be the first time the song was a hit. Unlike her previous two albums, I'm Your Baby Tonight wouldn't produce a string of number 1 hits in the US, with "All The Man That I Need" becoming its second and final chart-topper. Subsequent singles would struggle, but little did anyone know what was around the corner in 1992...

Number 90 "Sarah (I Miss You)" by Richard Pleasance
With tinnitus forcing to take a leave of absence from Boom Crash Opera, the band's guitarist and main songwriter recorded a solo album in 1991, from which this was taken as lead single. Understandably, given his medical condition, the Galleon album had a softer pop/rock sound than that of Boom Crash Opera's music. Although Richard contributed to the band's Dreams On Fire EP (also released in 1991), he would leave the group he'd helped form the following year. Since then, Richard has continued working in the music industry, often in a production/songwriting capacity. 

Number 89 "Temptation" by Corina
Latin Freestyle music was still alive and well in 1991, and "Temptation" became one of the genre's biggest hits in the States when it reached number 6. That was pretty much that for the New York singer, although another similar sounding song, "Together Forever" by Lisette Melendez, which was also produced by Carlos Berrios, cracked the US top 40 (and wound up at number 194 on the list).

Number 88 "Set Adrift On Memory Bliss" by P.M. Dawn
They might have chosen a ridiculous album title (Of The Heart, Of The Soul And Of The Cross: The Utopian Experience) and rather silly stage names (Prince Be and DJ Minutemix), but there was nothing wrong with this track from sibling duo P.M. Dawn. The first of what would be a number of hits they'd score due to some savvy sampling - this song borrowed from Spandau Ballet's "True" - "Set Adrift..." would be a massive worldwide hit (number 1 in the US, number 3 in the UK and number 7 in Australia).

Number 87 "This House" by Tracie Spencer
Remember Star Search? Tracie won the US version of the show's female vocalist category in 1987 then signed a record deal with Capitol Records all before she was a teenager. But, it took until album number two and this track, released when she was still only 14, for her to crack the US top 10. Except for a briefly successful comeback in 1999, that was pretty much it for Ms Spencer, whose music career had ended before I even started full-time employment (and she's a year younger than me!).

Number 86 "The Promise Of A New Day" by Paula Abdul
1991 was Paula's final really big year on the charts. Sure, she had a couple of singles in years to come that performed OK, but the first four releases from her Spellbound album kept her near the top of the US chart all year. "Rush Rush" (number 175 on this list) was the biggest of them all (number 1 for five weeks in the US, number 2 for three weeks in Australia), but I preferred this follow-up, which was also a US number 1. Singles three and four were "Blowing Kisses In The Wind" (number 177 on this list) and "Vibeology" (number 99), which was released in Australia in the final weeks of 1991. Musically, only "Vibeology" felt similar to the pop/dance fare of her debut album, Forever Your Girl, with production duties on Spellbound mostly handled by The Family Stand, who we'll see in Part 3 with a song of their own.

Number 85 "More Than Words" by Extreme
Here's another act who tried a different musical style in 1991 - and the decision by the hard rock band to release the tender acoustic guitar-driven ballad turned them into chart-toppers overnight, despite it not sounding like anything they'd released to that point. It also wasn't representative of the rest of the album, Pornograffitti, which received a huge sales burst as a result of the success of "More Than Words" - and probably led to many buyers wishing they'd heard more of the tracks before purchasing it. In Australia and the UK, "More Than Words" was one of the songs Bryan Adams kept from getting to number 1, but it was successful in reaching the summit in the US.

Number 84 "That's What Love Is For" by Amy Grant
Mentioned in Part 3

Number 83 "Backyard" by Pebbles featuring Salt 'n' Pepa
Like Paula Abdul, but on a smaller scale, Pebbles was enjoying what would be her last gasp of chart success in 1991, with this third single from Always her final US top 100 hit. Mrs LA Reid did release another album in 1995, but hardly anyone noticed since the bankruptcy proceedings and legal wranglings involving TLC, who Pebbles managed, also kicked off that year. Pebbles and TLC eventually parted ways, while, as Perri Reid, the singer also ended her marriage with LA mid-decade and turned to God.

Number 82 "Love... They Will Be Done" by Martika
The song that benefitted from the deletion of "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You" in Australia was this comeback release by Martika, co-written and produced by Prince, which ascended to the number 1 position the week Bryan took a nosedive from 1 to 6 (on account of there being far fewer copies of his single available for people to buy). For the former perky pop star, "Love... Thy Will Be Done" and its parent album, Martika's Kitchen, signalled a musical shift to a more sophisticated  - and sometimes quirky - sound. It would, however, be her final album as a solo artist, since by 1993, she'd bowed out of the public eye.

Number 81 "Feel Every Beat" by Electronic
Mentioned in Part 3

Number 80 "Crucified" by Army Of Lovers
Just for something completely different... Possibly the campest group of all time, the Swedish trio (although they'd later become a foursome) had been around for a few years before releasing this song, which would become their biggest hit in most countries (except Sweden, where follow-up "Obsession" was more successful). Underneath the theatrics and powdered wigs was a classic Scandipop song - and the original trio (who have reformed) are hoping they have one more such tune in them. In two weeks' time, they'll compete to represent Sweden in this year's Eurovision Song Contest.

Number 79 "Open Hearts" by Dana Dawson
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 78 "Unfinished Sympathy" by Massive Attack
1991 was the year the Gulf War came to a head with Operation Desert Storm taking place in the first two months of the year. At the same time, emerging Bristol trip-hop group Massive Attack were poised to release what would become their breakthrough hit but, to avoid being in any way associated with the hostilities, they changed their name to Massive. The song not only gave them their first UK top 20 hit, but it also became one of the most critically acclaimed tracks of the decade. Oh, and they changed their name back to Massive Attack for the next single, "Safe From Harm".  

Number 77 "My Body Says Yes" by Titiyo
Long before Eagle-Eye Cherry started releasing records, Neneh Cherry's other half-sibling, Titiyo, made a few waves of her own with her self-titled debut album, which spawned this American hit as well as "After The Rain". Over the years, Titiyo had regularly released music, some of which - notably 2001's Come Along album - has done quite well at home in Sweden.

Number 76 "Tasty Fish" by The Other Two
Vocalist Bernard Sumner was part of Electronic, bass player Peter Hook had formed Revenge (and would later form Monaco) and so, in 1991, the other two from New Order got in on the act as... The Other Two. Married couple Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert released two albums under this name in between New Order records - and this was the best single to emerge from the project. Unfortunately, unlike Electronic and Monaco, The Other Two missed the UK top 40 completely.

In Part 2, a group that had to change its name because of the Gulf War, the debut of Britain's top boy band of all time and the year's biggest novelty hit.

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  1. Can never resist a chance to boast that I owned There's No Other Way on cassingle.

    1. You were ahead of your time! I did own quite a few of these on cassingle, but only have about 5 left (have converted most to CD/download).

  2. I don't think one can boast about cassingles. They were a crappy invention. lol :P

    1. I have replaced all but about 5 of my cassingles now because the sound quality just didn't last. But back in the day when pocket money only when so far, the $2 price difference between CD single and cassingle sometimes made all the difference between buying a song or not.