It is a busy week on the UK chart with a raft of new entries and some strong debuts for brand new acts. At the very top however, no change (and what a nice habit it is to keep saying that). Frankee's F.U.R.B. spends a comfortable second week at the summit and effectively extends the run of the actual tune to six weeks at Number One, given that her single is essentially Eamon's with a different vocal. Although this is the first instance of two singles featuring the same melody but different lyrics topping the charts one after another, re-writes of other songs have duplicated the chart feats of each other on a number of occasions in the past. The most recent example was Bob The Builder's Mambo No.5 which helped the cartoon character spend a week at the top in September 2001. The song was nothing more than a lyrical rewrite of Lou Bega's version of the mambo track which had also hit the top almost exactly two years earlier. Most famously one act topped the chart twice with a rewrite of their own song. Topically enough it was a football record, Baddiel, Skinner and the Lightning Seeds captured the spirit of the nation in 1996 with their Euro 96 track 3 Lions and then duplicated the feat with a new version two years later - creatively entitled 3 Lions '98. Honourable mention must also go to Cliff Richard who topped the charts in 1986 with a Comic Relief version of Living Doll, 27 years after his more straightforward original was also a Number One record.
With Eamon still holding firm at Number 2, the honours for the biggest new hit of the week go to the act who slides in at Number 3. Making his chart debut this week is 20 year old Barry Reese, better known in a musical sense as Cassidy. The New York based rapper has already made a splash back home and this week lands himself an easy Top 5 hit single. Part of the appeal of the song may, of course, be due to the fact that R Kelly makes an extensive vocal contribution to the track and the crunch will possibly come when it is time for Cassidy to have hits outside such a superstar collaboration. Still, no harm ever came from having a leg up in your career and curiously enough this isn't the only new entry of the week to have an R Kelly connection.
Just behind him are an act who can consider themselves slightly unlucky having been set for a Top 3 placing for most of the last week. Still, they have few reasons to complain really, for this new pop act who are currently being spoken of in the highest terms. Four piece girl group 411 are British, cite just about every female R&B star of the last decade as influences and are being touted as the "hip hop Supremes". They sing in tight-knit harmonies and appear onstage in closely choreographed performances - nothing here is being left to chance. Those with very long memories will wonder if this gimmick isn't suspiciously like that of En Vogue whose run of hits came in the early 1990s but hey, a British version of that act was somehow long overdue. Happily, the music is more than up to scratch, including this debut single On My Knees which features the talents of Ghostface Killah, who by dint of this collaboration makes his first chart appearance since All That I Got Is You was a Number 11 hit in July 1997. In a tough week, the girls have scythed through the competition to make a splash on their debut, and dare I say it quite deservedly so.
It has been four long years since the last Corrs album proper. Their 2000 release In Blue was supposed to be the record that turned the Irish family group into worldwide global superstars. Sadly it didn't quite work out that way, the desire of their producers to turn them into the new Fleetwood Mac and make a slick corporate MOR album meant that much of the charm of their earlier work was lost under loud guitars and thundering percussion tracks. True the album sold well, and lead single Breathless gave them their first ever Number One single in July 2000 but most people agreed the work had failed to live up to expectations and die hard fans scuttled back to Forgiven Not Forgotten and Talk On Corners to remind themselves of how good they could sound when slick production was not the focus. How refreshing then to see that the three-year break since their Greatest Hits collection appears to have done them the world of good. Summer Sunshine is The Corrs back to their best with a three-minute pop song (free from outside influences and penned by the group themselves) that still has an anthemic chorus and just the right amount of electric guitars but also the fiddles and other paraphernalia which made them so distinctive to begin with. The Corrs are not a corporate rock act after all, they are a folk band with guitars and with this record, they have the balance right again. Chalk this up as their first Top 10 hit since Breathless hit the top, the sixth of their career in total.
The R Kelly connection continues with the single that enters the chart at Number 12 this week. R&B group ATL formed as a result of a nationwide casting call by Sony US to find the next boy band sensation. Their debut single has the honour of being written by the aforementioned established star and now Calling All Girls lands itself a place inside the Top 20. In truth this is actually little more than a by the book four minutes of R&B pop but it sits nicely in the "not all that unpleasant" category and you can easily close your eyes and imagine it oozing from the sound system of a soft top on a hot summers afternoon - which at the end of the day is probably its aim.
The number '2' carries a great deal of significance for The Calling it seems. Not only is it the title of their second album but it comes two years after the release of their smash debut Camino Palmero and also represents the number of original members left in the band after a minor shuffle of personnel. Happily what has not changed is their ability to write the kind of rock music that tugs effortlessly at the heartstrings. Having made Number 3 in July 2002 with Wherever You May Go they finally return to the Top 10 with this brand new single Our Lives. Don't expect much in the way of musical progression here but then again, who was demanding it from them? Eighties rock without the poodle perms although check out the acoustic version of the Clash's London Calling which props up the b-side of the single.
Number 16 sees a new entry for the always consistent Muse, this single the effective title track of the album Absolution. After the rather intense tones of their last single Hysteria, this track goes back to the intense slow brooding formula that always seems to serve them best. Perhaps the only frustration is that it is yet another mid-table Top 20 entry, their only Top 10 success to date being Time Is Running Out, the lead single from the current album which made Number 8 in September last year. Look out for them headlining the pyramid stage at Glastonbury this summer.
Also making a Top 20 entry this week is Now We Are Free from Gladiator featuring Izzy, club track which takes its cue from Jurgen Vries' Brave New World by featuring an operatic vocal to add the track that touch of extra class. Bombak Rembrandt and Dave Lambert are the brains behind the track which sees classical Brit nominee Izzy sing the stirring theme to the hit movie Gladiator over a thundering trance backing. Writing it down, yes it sounds odd but club records that can make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up are few and far between and this single delivers in that aspect in a big way.
Although the 1973 Eurovision Song Contest had been won by Luxembourg, the tiny country had passed on the chance to host the contest the following year so the UK stepped into the breach for the 1974 contest. Olivia Newton-John was the UK's entry that year but the song that ran away with the voting was the raucous and catchy tale of love's surrender sung by two glamorous looking couples from Sweden. Although they were far from unknowns in their home country it was their performance of Waterloo that catapulted Abba to worldwide fame. The song was an easy Number One when released here a few weeks after the contest and as history will record was the first of nine for the foursome who spent the rest of the decade carving out a lasting pop legacy. 30 years on and the time is clearly ripe for a re-release so for the first time since it first won the contest, Waterloo becomes a UK hit, charting this week at Number 20. It is strange to relate that despite the Abba revival that appears to have been going on for over a decade now, this is only the second ever re-release of one of their old tracks and as such is their first chart appearance since Dancing Queen made Number 16 in 1992. Waterloo itself has only ever been covered once before, Doctor And The Medics teaming up with Roy Wood on a version which made Number 45 in November 1986. The appearance of this single, of course, comes just a few short weeks after Agnetha Falskog made her own solo chart return.
Suffering something of a drop in form is Kevin Lyttle whose early promise (demonstrated by the Number 2 hit Turn Me On at the end of last year) appears to have vaporised as his second single Last Drop lands on the chart exactly 20 places lower. Also making a rather disappointing chart entry is Denmark's own Kurt Nilsen. Kurt you may remember was the overwhelming winner of the globally televised World Idol vote which saw the Pop Idol winners from all over the globe compete against each other over the course of two Christmas specials [the ultimate in stupid ideas as it turns out, conspiring to make a whole string of international winners (Will Young and Kelly Clarkson amongst them) look like losers when pitched against each other]. His debut UK single is a curious choice, a cover of She's So High, originally a Number 30 hit for Canadian singer Tal Bachman in October 1999. The image-obsessed UK media made much of Nilsen's strange looks when he won the contest and indeed it is clear that marketing him as a teen sex symbol is pretty much a non-starter. Therefore he needs a good choice of material and with this debut single the record company appear to have rolled the dice and lost out big time.
Moving further down the chart at the Number 32 position throws up something of a surprise this week. Folk singer Nick Drake died tragically young in 1974 at the age of 26 yet during his short lifetime made three albums which have subsequently influenced generations of musicians, despite the fact that none ever made the chart. Discovering Nick Drake for the first time is, therefore, an important step for any music lover. His first ever single release comes in advance of a new compilation album entitled Made To Love Magic which features new mixes and previously unreleased versions of older songs as well as a previously unheard track Toe The Line from one of the last sessions he recorded before his death. The single version of Magic benefits from the addition of more strings to the production, a superfluous addition some might say but in a way they help enhance the poignancy of the song and of course Drake's unmistakable voice shines through undimmed. Yes OK this is old farts music in a big way but for all that this alone will result in an entry for Drake, Nick appearing in the next editions of BHS and CBBC for the first time ever and as such is worth celebrating.
Finally this week another honourable mention for James Fox's Hold On To Our Love which rises a single place for the second week in succession, the chart this week reflecting the tiny boost in sales he received as a result of his Eurovision performance last weekend. Ruslana's Wild Dances has now appeared on the release schedules and I fancy it may wind up the bigger hit overall. I'm also predicting the sun rising in the morning and Manchester United to win the FA Cup - or did that already happen?