So here we are then at the new year proper as 1995 gets underway with a vengeance. This time of year is traditionally the post-Christmas shakeout as most of the seasonal records find their sales tail off alarmingly to be overtaken by a rash of new releases. Over the past couple of years though things appear to have slowed down a little, a far cry from the chart for January 11th 1992 when an all-time record of 33 singles made their Top 75 debuts. This week, whilst not quite matching those totals sees a number of new hits - 14 in total, along with 5 climbers ... and no non-movers.
No. 37: NEW ENTRY. Elevatorman - Funk and Drive
A bumper crop of new entries means that a fair number of them are dance hits charging in from nowhere following their official release after weeks being available only on White Labels. Funk and Drive gets the honour of being the first of these, quite possibly one of the few honours it will get during its brief stay in the charts.
No. 31: NEW ENTRY. Original - I Luv U Baby
The same goes for this couple, taking advantage of the sales lull to sneak a chart placing. Not to run down their achievement of selling enough copies to be one of the 40 bestsellers of the week, but there is no better example of the variable quality of dance music than a look at this week's chart which sees a cluster of also-rans at the bottom end and some major commercial smashes at the top. [It is an also-ran this time around but a huge smash later in the summer].
No. 29: NEW ENTRY. Tyrrel Corporation - Better Days Ahead
Hmmm of course having rubbished the potential of the dance records above I'm now going to end up waxing lyrical over this one. The debut Top 40 hit for the Tyrrel Corporation is, in the eyes of many commentators, long overdue. The duo first rose to prominence in 1992 with their canny updating of many soul rhythms with a modern dance edge and combining this with some biting social commentaries in their songs. Whilst mixing politics and dance music may not have been the most commercial thing at the time, that did not stop them from producing several dance classics in the shape of The Bottle, Going Home and Waking With A Stranger. Now after a period away they return with a vengeance with their first ever hit, perhaps a little less inspired than some of their previous work but no less welcome for that. Previously to this their biggest hit had been Going Home which made No.58 in August 1992. [I loved their first album and it was an awkward moment to see them finally land a Top 40 hit with a single that was in so many ways inferior].
No. 26: NEW ENTRY. Almighty - Jonestown Mind
Following on from last weeks string of opportunistic metal hits come the Almighty with the fifth Top 40 hit of their career, matching the peak of their last hit Wrench which made a brief appearance back in September.
No. 23: NEW ENTRY. Lightning Seeds - Change
One of the more welcome new hits of the week certainly has to be this one. The Lightning Seeds are essentially Liverpudlian Ian Broudie with occasional help from many pop luminaries, Terry Hall being much in evidence on many of the tracks from their current album Jollification. They first rose to prominence in 1989 with the now classic No.16 hit Pure which also brushed the US chart the following year. Since then, despite making a string of some of the most glorious pop hits imaginable the hits have been sporadic, the only significant placings being for The Life Of Riley and Sense in 1992. The first single from the current album was Lucky You which just failed to make the Top 40 back in October and it was accompanied at the time by a new version of Sense sung by Terry Hall and produced by Broudie - this also underachieved. Thanks though to some intensive lobbying by the record company the Lightning Seeds score their fourth Top 40 hit. With more of a rock flavour than past hits it conversely may not be the most commercial thing he has ever released but given the mystifying failure of past classics by the band, sods law will probably turn this into their biggest hit ever. About time really for the man who sent out early copies of his album impregnated with the scent of strawberries. According to one colleague of mine, he also makes a nice cup of tea...
No. 21: NEW ENTRY. Loveland featuring Rachel McFarlane - I Need Somebody
More dance, admittedly more of a chart-oriented nature. The third hit in the past year for Loveland following on from Let The Music (Lift You Up) which made No.14 in April 1994 and (Keep On) Shining which made No.37 back in November.
No. 18: NEW ENTRY. Ace Of Base - Living In Danger
Easily one of the European success stories of the last couple of years, Ace of Base notch up a sixth hit from the Happy Nation album. Curiously enough every single one has been a Top 20 hit, with the exception of the title track which despite two separate releases has only managed a lowly No.40 peak. Living In Danger, currently a hit in America as well, is typical Ace Of Base, pop-driven dub-reggae yet with a somehow dark, almost gothic feel. Back in 1993 and the days of All That She Wants the phrase 'New Abba' was bandied about, talk that has now stopped. They are simply the first Ace of Base - but a new album would be nice guys...
No. 16: NEW ENTRY. Carleen Anderson - Let It Last
Could this be the year for Carleen Anderson? The former young disciples vocalist scores a new hit for the new year following a trio of hits last year. That she is an exceptional vocal talent is doubted by nobody but her choice of material is a raw, bluesy soul that showcases her talents to perfection but is also utterly uncommercial. The hits have gradually been getting bigger though and this Top 20 entry is her biggest yet, regardless of its future progress. Its position may well be helped a little by the inclusion on the single of the Young Disciples' classic which first brought her to public attention - Apparently Nothing, originally No.13 in August 1991.
No. 14: NEW ENTRY. Sounds Of Blackness - I'm Going All The Way
Another soul act making steady inroads on the upper reaches of the charts is the massed gospel ranks of Sounds Of Blackness. No.14 is the highest they have reached yet, beating the No.17 peak of I Believe in March 1994. I'm Going All The Way marks the first stage in what could well be a campaign to break the group properly being a re-release of the track which first made No.27 in May 1993. Remixed and re-promoted the largest act in the charts makes an impressive entry.
No. 13: NEW ENTRY. Portishead - Glory Box
Yet more dance [try dancing to it 1994 James, I bloody dare you], this time the debut hit from the club act who have been something of an underground cult for many months [that bit is true enough], now finally emerging to the commercial mainstream and scoring an instant Top 20 hit [with what it must be noted, is an all time trip-hop classic].
No. 12: NEW ENTRY. Nicki French - Total Eclipse Of The Heart
Time to remember what my English teacher once told me... Breathe deeply and think carefully before speaking. Before Meat Loaf and 'Bat II' the only previous moment of glory for the production genius of Jim Steinman was the track that revived the career of Bonnie Tyler in 1983. The famous epic ballad was so unstoppable when first released it managed the distinction of deposing Michael Jackson's Billie Jean from No.1 after only a week. Also No.1 in America and many other countries worldwide, Total Eclipse... has not been approached by anyone for a cover... until now. It's one of those records where any attempt to redo the song is bound to be regarded as a desecration. Nicki French's new version is credible enough to make No.12 first week out but suffers from the inevitable dance beat tacked on and also the lack of Jim Steinman's bombastic production that made the track such an epic in the first place. But for this chart placing you could rank this track alongside Abigail's Top 40 dance version of Smells Like Teen Spirit as one of the most inspired flawed records ever.
No. 9: NEW ENTRY. Guns N' Roses - Sympathy For The Devil
Not quite the biggest new hit of the week, but coming damn close for all that. Guns N' Roses continue to let the rumours of internal divisions fly around and continue to produce impressive but yet dull covers of classic hits at the expense of their own material. Their long-awaited cover of the Rolling Stones classic follows on from their Top 10 version of Since I Don't Have You back in May last year, it in turn being a full six months since their previous single. Such gaps are quite startling from the band who at one point were so prolific with their single releases that in the space of two years had released seven hit singles from the two Use Your Illusion albums. Quibbles aside, this hit gives them an impressive 12th Top 10 hit, impressive given the difficulty metal bands normally have in achieving high chart placings. The song itself is arguably one of the more classic Rolling Stones tracks of the 1960s, becoming over the years one of the band's many anthems. This is all the more surprising given the fact that they never released the track as a single. Gun's N' Roses' version is the first time the track has charted here ever.
No. 7: CLIMBER. Human League - Tell Me When
They seem to be on every TV show going but why not when it works? Tell Me When becomes the band's first Top 10 hit since 1986, the eighth in their fifteen year career and their biggest hit since (Keep Feeling) Fascination made No.2 in May 1983.
No. 6: NEW ENTRY. N-Trance - Set Me Free
In a week which has seen a rash of new dance hits sweep the charts, it is perhaps appropriate that the biggest should belong to that genre. I would personally argue that this is a terrible record. It starts promisingly, with a strong melody powerfully sung. Thirty seconds in though this is all but swamped by a frantic rave beat, in a similar fashion to the way M-Beat recently trashed the memory of Anita Baker's Sweet Love. N-Trance have been making inroads on the chart for over a year now but this is the first major hit for them. It is, as I said, a terrible record, but it has made No.6 first week out so what do I know?
No. 4: FALLER. East 17 - Stay Another Day
The Christmas No.1 finally takes a tumble and does so in spectacular style. Given that the track leaped from No.7 to No.1 this means that Stay Another Day has one of the more oblique chart trails of any record for a while, the only time spent in the Top 3 being spent at No.1.
No. 3: FALLER. Boyzone - Love Me For A Reason
Down go Boyzone as well, to the surprise of many especially as the track was heading for No.1 based on midweek sales figures. Whilst it would be simplistic to point to one factor in general, the sales of the single cannot have been helped by the live performance the boys gave on Top Of The Pops which must surely have reduced every musically-minded person in the country shouting "take it down an octave" at their TV screens - suffice it to say they massacred the song.
No. 1: FIRST WEEK. Rednex - Cotton Eye Joe
With Celine Dion in hot pursuit, Rednex edge her out to clamber to No.1 to join the long list of pre-Christmas hits to manage the extra edge of sales to scrape a top slot in early January. That is not to detract from the achievement of the single, a massive party smash no matter where you are. Exactly how long it can hold on is really open to question. Having been on release for a few weeks now and having been Top 5 over Christmas, the bulk of its sales may already have gone by. Regard Cotton Eye Joe then as keeping the seat warm for something else - what that is remains to be seen...