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Music Review: Various Artists – Now That’s What I Call British

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The Now music series started up in 1983 as something of a modern version of the old K-Tel and Ronco albums of the ’70s. Back then, we bought those records because they were such a great deal. You got around 20 songs, mostly Top Ten hits. It wasn’t until after you forked over the dough that you discovered that the damn thing only contained about  90-second snippets of your favorite tunes. It was a great idea to collect all of the hits onto one disc, but it took the Now producers to do it right. Although iTunes allows consumers the opportunity to basically make their own “mix-tapes” today, the Now series is still going.

One of their more inspired ideas is the new Now That’s What I Call British. With the highly popular Summer Olympics taking place in London, it is a timely set. Typically these Now compilations collect recent hits for our consumption. And the subtitle of this one is a bit misleading: “The Biggest Hits From Today’s Best British Artists!” Before reading the titles, I assumed that this would be a basic, recent top hits set.

In this case, the compilers have actually gone back through the past 20 years to fill the collection. I was very surprised to see “Creep” by Radiohead on it. That song was released in 1992. And the opening track is Blur’s “Song 2″ from 1997, 15 years ago. Since the target demographic for the series is teens, it is likely that many of their customers were not even born when these tunes first came out. Both are great songs, regardless of age, it just surprised me a bit that they were included is all. To be fair, the majority of the music is much more recent.

An interesting inclusion for me is Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab.” It was a big hit, and is a great song. But now it is just kind of sad to hear. One of the pleasant surprises for me was Sade’s “Soldier of Love.” I’m an old guy, and fell in love with her from the beginning, with the Diamond Life album. There is something about her that is just timeless, and I am happy that the song is here.

I know there are millions of Florence + the Machine fans out there, of which maybe five will read this review. But I have to say, I just don’t get it. “Dog Days Are Over” is ok, but I think she is vastly overrated. One of the things I do like about this 18-song collection is that it has introduced this Yank to some artists I was previously unaware of. A couple include Taio Cruz (“Dynamite”) and Natasha Bedingfield (“Pocketful of Sunshine”).

Now That’s What I Call British closes with “Feel Good Inc” from Gorillaz, which takes us out in a most appropriate manner. With the Now series up to number 82, it does not seem like they are going away soon. This is a nice Olympics-related side project for them, and one that should prove quite popular.

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About Greg Barbrick