Friday, 15 November 2013

The Best Of 1998 - part 3

JUMP TO: 100-76 II 75-51 II 50-26 II 25-1

In Parts 1 and 2 of my countdown of my favourite songs from 1998, I talked about my backpacking holiday through Europe - and in this batch of my favourite singles from that year, you can really see the impact of spending time "on the continent".

Before she became a professional farewell-er,
Cher staged one of music's all-time biggest comebacks

Normally, unless a song released in Europe broke through onto the Australian, UK or US charts, I wouldn't become aware of it. After all, there were only so many international charts one can follow. Also, although the internet was around, YouTube, Soundcloud, iTunes and all the other ways to easily discover music from other countries were not. So, as we count down from number 50 to number 26, brace yourselves for unexpected Euro delights... 

Number 50 "Te Garder Pres De Moi (Working My Way Back To You)" Alliage / Boyzone
What better place to start than with this international boy band bonanza? It wasn't just the UK that was going boy band crazy in the late '90s. France had their fair share, too - including the revamped Worlds Apart (who we've seen in my countdowns for the previous two years), 2 Be 3 (who recorded a French version of "Never Gonna Give You Up" called  "Toujours là pour toi") and Alliage.
This duet with more established Irish hitmakers Boyzone was a bilingual cover of "Working My Way Back To You", originally recorded by The Four Seasons and remade as part of a medley by The Spinners (as featured on my 1980 countdown). Boyzone were already quite familiar with the tune, it having been their debut single back in 1994, and the collaboration helped their profile in France, where they'd only had middling success until this point.
Meanwhile, the song was Alliage's fourth consecutive top 5 hit in France - and they'd also collaborate with Ace Of Base in 1998 on an alternative version of the Swedish group's remake of "Cruel Summer". I heard both duets while in France - and bought the French version of Boyzone's Where We Belong album to get this track (I wasn't as keen on the Bananarama cover).
Boyzone, of course, had a massive hit back in Ireland and the UK with the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Jim Steinman composition, "No Matter What" (number 55 on this list), in 1998 - a song that, interestingly, didn't even make the top 40 in France (one of the only countries Boyzone were known where that happened).

Number 49 "My All (David Morales mix)" by Mariah Carey
Back in Part 2, we saw a track by David Morales: dance artist, and here we have one of the many songs the prolific remixer made over for Mariah Carey. Originally, a typically breathy ballad, David transformed the Butterfly track into a club-friendly anthem. Mariah added a few new vocals (as she usually did on uptempo remixes) and the result received the lion's share of airplay in the UK at the time. For me, it was the first year Mariah had featured in one of my annual countdowns since 1994 - and the last time until 2005.

Number 48 "Gotta Be... Movin' On Up" by PM Dawn featuring Ky-Mani
PM Dawn's first appearance since 1996 came thanks to this single from the soundtrack to Senseless, a flop comedy film starring Marlon Wayans, David Spade and Matthew Lillard. Sampling the 1982 Imagination track "Just An Illusion", "Gotta Be... Movin' On Up" was a marked change from the duo's more ethereal singles around that time like "Sometimes I Miss You So Much" and "I Had No Right" (number 153 on this list). The group hadn't lost any of their quirkiness, however, with their 1998 album bearing the typically wordy title, Dearest Christian, I'm So Very Sorry for Bringing You Here. Love, Dad. Featured on "Gotta Be..." was Ky-Mani Marley, one of reggae legend Bob's children.

Number 47 "Dreaming" by Ruff Driverz presents Arrola
The fourth and biggest hit for the UK dance duo comprising Brad Carter and Chris Brown (no, not that one) featured vocals from Katherine Ellis (aka Arrola), who's also performed on tracks by Cappella, Raven Maize and, as recently as this year, Freemasons. Although she'd sung on the previous singles by Ruff Driverz - including "Deeper Love" (number 121 on this list) - Arrola received a credit for the first time on "Dreaming", which she co-wrote.

Number 46 "One More Night" by Amber
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 45 "It's The Things You Do" by Five
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 44 "You're My Heart, You're My Soul 98" by Modern Talking
Back to France now, where everyone was going nuts for this update of the debut single by the German duo, who'd reunited after 11 years apart. Massive on mainland Europe throughout the mid-'80s, Thomas Anders and Dieter Bohlen had only ever scored one hit in the UK (1986's "Brother Louie") - and I had no idea who they were whatsoever. But, after hearing this constantly during my time in France, I snapped up the CD single from that country's equivalent of JB Hi-Fi, fnac.

Number 43 "I Can't Help Myself" by Lucid
Thank goodness for the ever-reliable Now! compilation series. I missed this single's success in the UK while I was sunning myself in Italy, but caught up with it when I bought Now 40 on my return to England. The debut release from the duo of Adam Carter-Ryan and former Loveland member Mark Hadfield, it reminded me a little bit of Faithless tracks like "God Is A DJ" and "Insomnia", just without Maxi Jazz's raps.

Number 42 "To Love Once Again" by Solid HarmoniE
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 41 "Little Bit Of Lovin'" by Kele Le Roc
In Part 2, I mentioned the onslaught of young female R&B singers in the UK in the wake of Shola Ama's success - and here was my favourite of 1998's newbies. Unlike her American contemporaries, who mostly just cooed over a hip-hop beat, Kele's songs had a discernible melody and were more on the pop end of the R&B spectrum. Not surprisingly, Kele was handled by the First Avenue team, who'd been behind other British pop/R&B stars like Michelle Gayle, Eternal and MN8.

Number 40 "When The Lights Go Out" by Five
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 39 "End Of The Line" by Honeyz
Here's another act steered to fame by First Avenue - and, like B*Witched and Five, a group that recently reformed for The Big Reunion. Although, the current line-up of Honeyz is one that never actually existed during their late '90s/early '00s run of hits. On "End Of The Line", their second of five UK top 10 hits, the three-piece girl group consisted of founding members Célena Cherry (the only member to be in every line-up), Heavenli Denton and Naima Belkhiati, who combined pretty harmonies (well, those in the group whose microphones were switched on) with sex appeal thanks to skimpy outfits and men's mags shoots.

Number 38 "Say It Once" by Ultra
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 37 "Lost In Space" by Lighthouse Family
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 36 "Music Sounds Better With You" by Stardust
I needn't have been in France to have heard this song in 1998 - it was everywhere. The house track was the one and only release by Stardust, which was made up of Daft Punk's Thomas Bangalter, Alan Braxe and singer Benjamin Diamond. The song, which sampled a riff from "Fate" by Chaka Khan, came with a video directed by Michel Gondry, who's been behind some of the most memorable clips of the last couple of decades for artists like Bjork, The White Stripes and Massive Attack, to name a few.

Number 35 "Found A Cure" by Ultra Naté
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 34 "Sensuality" by Lovestation
They appeared on my 1995 countdown with a couple of their under-rated vocal house tracks, "Love Come Rescue Me" and "Shine On Me", but in 1998, Lovestation changed tack and tried UK garage on for size. The new sound - and a timely cover of Womack & Womack's "Teardrops" - paid off, and the dance act suddenly found themselves in the UK top 20. "Sensuality" was the follow-up to "Teardrops" (number 78 on this list) and may as well have been by a different group entirely, so little did it sound like the songs that had brought them to my attention three years earlier.

Number 33 "Here's Where The Story Ends" by Tin Tin Out featuring Shelley Nelson
Another UK dance act changing sound in 1998 was the duo of Darren Stokes and Lindsay Edwards, who traded in the thumping beats of "Strings For Yasmin" and "Always Something There To Remind Me" for a pop sound not too dissimilar to that of The Corrs (for whom they'd provided remixes). "Here's Where The Story Ends" was a radio-friendly cover of the 1990 single by indie band The Sundays and, like Lovestation's sound swap, the transformation worked for Tin Tin Out, who went from UK chart also-rans to a top 10 act.

Number 32 "Horny 98" by Mousse T vs Hot 'n' Juicy
Sex sells - and that's nowhere more true than in the world of music. "Horny 98" was actually fairly inoffensive, but the fact that a song about how horny someone was (so horny, as it turned out) charted without anyone batting an eyelid showed how much things had changed in the previous decade. Just over 10 years earlier, George Michael's "I Want Your Sex", which had even less explicit lyrics, was the subject of radio and TV bans. For the record, Mousse T is German DJ/producer Mustafa Gündoğdu, while Hot 'n' Juicy were Birmingham duo Emma Southam and Nadine Richardson.

Number 31 "Take Control" by State Of Mind
By 1998, the vocal house that had proliferated in the middle of the decade started to make way for trance - but production duo State Of Mind proved the genre still had life in it with two great tracks: "Take Control" and "This Is It" (number 75 on this list). Although they only managed two singles in this guise, Fran Sidoli and Ricky Morrison would go on to create more dance classics as Blockster and M&S in the years to follow.

Number 30 "Mysterious Times" by Sash! featuring Tina Cousins
Mentioned below

Number 29 "Sexy Rhythm" by Mario Più
While working in record stores over the years, I'd become used to people approaching the counter and singing a song to me that they didn't know the name of - and then laughing with my co-workers after I'd sold the customer the song in question since the renditions were normally terrible. In 1998, it was my turn to embarrass myself after hearing this track by Italian DJ Mario Più throughout my three weeks in his country and being unable to find a song called "Deep Inside", "Your Love" or any other words that were actually in the lyrics.

Number 28 "Move Mania" by Sash! featuring Shannon
After releasing a trio of hits from debut album It's My Life in 1997, Sash! moved on to album number two, Life Goes On, and landed another three UK top 10 singles. "Move Mania" featuring Shannon (of "Let The Music Play" fame) was actually the least successful of the three, landing at number 8, but was my preference over "Mysterious Times" (number 30 on this list) and "La Primavera" (number 118).

Number 27 "Believe" by Cher
Unlike her 1980s comeback, when she returned after a chart absence of five years, it had only been a couple of years since Cher had last released an album: 1996's It's A Man's World. That did reasonably well in the UK, but it really had been as far back as 1991 that Cher had enjoyed worldwide success. And, global acclaim is exactly what happened with the release of the Autotuned dance anthem "Believe". A number 1 hit in over 20 countries, sales of over 11 million and even a Grammy Award winner, the track put her well and truly back on the pop radar.

Number 26 "Restless" by Neja
We finish off this batch of songs as we began - with an entry I owe to my time in Europe, specifically a tune I heard in Italy. Unike "Sexy Rhythm", though, the title to this track by the singer born Agnes Cacciola was repeated often enough for me to work out what it was called without having to resort to singing at shopkeepers. I did, however, have to resort to using the Google translation tool to turn an Italian Wikipedia entry into English to read up on Neja. Well, kind of English, as this quote proves: "His repertoire ranges from songs of Celtic music to those gospel, even if it was the dance to declare its success, coming to sell about 4 million copies worldwide." OK, then.

In the fourth and final part of my 1998 countdown, the start of my charts being dominated by a carefully choreographed pop group, and a duet that has special meaning to me.

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