1 FLY AWAY (Lenny Kravitz)
Let me take you back to September 1995. Britpop was at its height and Blur's Country House had just been knocked off the top of the charts by Michael Jackson's You Are Not Alone. Lenny Kravitz was at Number 22 with a track called Rock And Roll Is Dead, the first new single from his long-awaited new album Circus. The title of the song appeared to be eerily prophetic as it was his last Top 40 hit to this date. Subsequent singles from that album and the first few singles from 5, his album from last year failed to register on the Top 40. The lesson here is the old one, never ever underestimate the power of television. A track from 5, Fly Away was selected by Peugeot as the soundtrack to a new TV ad for their 206 model. From the moment it began airing at the start of the year the question on everyone's lips was "What is that song?" So it is we arrive in the position we are in today, Lenny Kravitz, a man who in his whole career has only ever had one Top 10 hit (Are You Gonna Go My Way, Number 4 in February 1993) and who has not been inside the Top 40 for over three years is now the latest artist to have a Number One single. This chart-topper comes 8 years, 3 months and 2 weeks since his first single Mr Cabdriver registered on the Top 75, not the longest anyone has ever had to wait for a Number One single but enough to make him one of the more patient acts in chart history. Meanwhile, the frantic pace of change at the top of the British charts continues and with big new singles from the likes of Britney Spears [who?], Blur and Boyzone on the horizon there looks to be no letup in the pace for some weeks to come.
3 CHANGES (2 Pac)
The man who is rapidly rivalling even the likes of Freddie Mercury, John Lennon and Elvis Presley as one of the most prolific posthumous hitmakers clocks up yet another hit single, his first since Happy Home reached Number 17 in November last year. Another previously unreleased track lifted from his Greatest Hits set, Change is certainly one of his most commercial offerings. Following the standard rap formula of the moment it samples heavily from Bruce Hornsby's classic The Way It Is which first charted over here in 1986 and reached Number 15. A typical Shakuresque pessimistic rant, the single makes what is quite frankly an astonishing debut, launching him into the Top 10 for only the third time and indeed becomes the highest charting 2Pac single ever, beating the Number 10 peak of the Makavelli release To Live And Die in LA and also the Number 6 peak scaled by California Love - his first ever chart hit from April 1996.
4 PROTECT YOUR MIND (FOR THE LOVE OF A PRINCESS (DJ Sakin and Friends)
Bizarrely enough, those in the know claim that the bagpipe is going to be the in thing to have on your dance single this year. Beating the new Orbital track out of the starting blocks is this German track which wasn't actually due for release for another fortnight but which has raced into the shops to give a whole new meaning to the concept of a rush release. Actually it is easy to see why this track is so much in demand, a pleasant female vocal track with a melody that is lifted wholesale from the theme to the Mel Gibson film Braveheart. The aforementioned bagpipes can be heard at the start playing the original melody before the synthesisers pick it up and run with the tune for the rest of the record. As much pop as it is dance, this is one of the few big-charting dance hits that genuinely deserves its place inside the Top 5.
5 ONE WEEK (Barenaked Ladies)
Massive though they are on the other side of the pond, the best band in Canada have hitherto failed to find an audience in the UK. When they first came over for a series of dates in 1992 virtually everyone who saw them confidently predicted that they would be massive. Clearly these things take time. One Week is surely familiar to just about everyone by now, the most verbose song you will hear this side of a rap album and with the kind of infectious kookiness that acts from the Nothern Territories always appear to carry off so well. Quite deservedly a massive hit, as it has been all over the world, the only mystery is why it has taken them so long to reach their commercial breakthrough.
8 BE THERE (UNKLE featuring Ian Brown)
Remember Deep Dish's Stay Gold? The instrumental dance track that was turned into a chart hit by the simple addition of a vocal by Tracy Thorn? The same principle is at work here. Be There began life as a track on UNKLEs Psyence Fiction album that was released last year to a positive reaction. Originally titled Unreal it was a fairly unremarkable trance instrumental and certainly not a track you would imagine could become a Top 10 single. That was until former Stone Roses singer Ian Brown was asked to contribute a vocal to the track and suddenly his trademark mournful tones have transformed the song into a rather sublime hit single. It is a remarkable transformation in the chart fortunes of Ian Brown, a free man now after recently spending time in a government hotel for attacking an air stewardess. Although his solo album Unfinished Monkey Business was generally well received its three singles only made brief chart appearances, My Star becoming the biggest when it briefly appeared at Number 5 in January 1998. Be thankful for the presence of UNKLE in the Top 10 this week. They and Steps are the only UK-based acts to have singles in the Top 10 bestsellers.
13 24 HOURS FROM YOU (Next Of Kin)
It has taken a while but the first flood of Hanson soundalikes are about to hit us. Of course comparing people to the aforementioned American moppets is not quite the done thing so the three British brothers are keen to point out that they are not simply Hanson clones but are in fact talented individuals in their own right. It is just a coincidence that there are three of them and they all make their own music and have a debut single which is easily the most catchy piece of pop rock your have heard so far this year. One can understand them not wanting too many comparisons. After all, Hanson are just so 1997 aren't they?
14 (YOU GOT ME) BURNING UP (Cevin Fisher featuring Loleatta Holloway)
The man who reached Number 34 in October last year with The Freaks Come Out returns to the chart with one of the most popular dance hits of the past few months. Burnin' Up is a fast-paced garage track that features the vocals of no less a figure than the legendary Loleattea Holloway, last heard singing lead vocals on Fire Island's cover of Shout To The Top almost a year ago. In a wonderful nod to those of us who pay attention to those things Holloway's vocal is accompanied by samples of herself, lifted from her own Love Sensation - the track that was famously used by Black Box to construct their 1989 Number One hit Ride On Time.
16 CRAZY (The Moffatts)
Spooky isn't it? Two sets of teenage siblings having their debut hits at the same time? Just as Next Of Kin are the British answer to Hanson, the Moffatts are Canada's offering and just like the aforementioned two acts they also make bubbly pop-rock songs with rousing choruses and radio-friendly hook lines. Despite being the biggest thing this year in Germany and despite garnering the lion's share of the airplay over here, they appear to have for the moment been eclipsed by their British counterparts. Two things can happen. Thirivalryry will either run and run or both acts will wind up as one hit wonders. When is the next Hanson album due out anyway?
19 RUSH (Kleshay)
After their Number 33 debut with Reasons in September last year the three girls who are clearly aiming to become the British TLC make the Top 20 with their second hit, another three minutes of US-inspired R&B which admittedly has all the class of all the stateside acts they are emulating but in all honesty has none of the sparkle that is needed to make tracks such as this stand out from the crowd.
20 HAZEL (Loop Da Loop)
The brains behind Loop Da Loop is Nick Dresti, remixer to the stars and the man who hit Number 47 back in 1997 with a track called Go With The Flow. His latest creation is this surprisingly infections identikit track which takes a vocal refrain from Stetsasonic's Sally (from their 1988 album In Full Gear) and loops it endlessly over a bed of heavy beats. Not the most commercial dance hit to hit the chart this week but what the heck, it actually works rather well.
31 I WANT YOUR LOVE (Roger Sanchez presents Twilight)
Having for a long time been the mixer and producer of a number of dance hits it is good to see Roger Sanchez become the latest production wizard to step from the shadows and release a single under his own name. I Want Your Love is, as the title suggests, a remake of the classic Chic track and so therefore anyone who dares to mess with the Gods of disco has to be pretty sure what they are doing. Happily the cover version comes off pretty well. Admittedly speeding the track up to acceptable 90s levels destroys much of the slow brooding majesty that made the original one of the greatest disco records ever bar none, but I appear to be in a particularly benevlolent mood this week so why spoil things now?
36 FREAK IT! (Studio 45)
Another German production, the work of DJs Korn and Dole, laden with strings and horns and a rather subtle female vocal which gradually works its way up the mix to dominate by the end of the track. Not quite good enough to make it stand out from the crowd. Maybe it is because I am something of an unreconstructed disco fan but I don't seem to find the current parade of disco-house tracks as grating as I do many other styles of dance.
40 RAISE YOUR HANDS (Big Room Girl featuring Darryl Pandy)
The 13th new entry to the Top 40 this week is another dance hit, a fairly predictable mish-mash of noise and samples. What sets it apart is the presence on a barely-audible vocal of Chicago legend Darryl Pandy, veteran of many a dance single over the past decade and a half and famously the singer on Love Can't Turn Around, the first ever crossover Chicago House single.