Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Five b-sides that are better than their a-sides!

Over the years I've bought many hundreds of singles physically or digitally, and every now and then I've found a b-side (bonus track) that's better than the main single itself! Here are five of my favourite examples, kicking off with the song that inspired this thread;

Tensnake feat Fiora - 58 BPM (b-side to See Right Through)

There's only a teaser video for this on Youtube at the moment but track down the full song on iTunes if you're intrigued. German DJ Marco Niemerski, better known as Tensnake is perhaps best known for his brilliant early 90s house throwback Mainline. For his latest single release See Right Through he's enlisted the vocal talents of Fiora. Whilst that track is perfectly good in its own right, it pales in comparison to the gorgeously downtempo 58 BPM which is like Cyril Hahn producing a Jessie Ware track, sublime.

Kylie Minogue - Made Of Glass (b-side to Giving You Up)

Kylie recorded a few new tracks for her 2004 Ultimate Kylie compilation but only the now classic I Believe In You and the less interesting Giving You Up made the cut. The latter was released as a single in early 2005 and gave the Australian legend another UK top ten hit but I can't help but feel that the swirling electro pop of b-side Made Of Glass, which was cut from potential inclusion on Ultimate Kylie, would have been a far bigger hit for her. Whilst Giving You Up was a fairly clunky and pedestrian album filler type track with a terrible video, Made Of Glass was one of the best things Kylie released during the noughties, a real missed opportunity. 

Take That - We All Fall Down (b-side to I'd Wait For Life)

For the third single from huge comeback album Beautiful World, Take That mysteriously decided to follow up two deservedly massive hits (and now modern classics) Patience and Shine with the nice but dull ballad I'd Wait For Life. The song was more or less a Gary Barlow piano solo and didn't exactly show off the band as a whole like 'obvious single that never was' Reach Out would have done. The single limped into the UK chart at No.17 before dropping out of the top 40 the following week so very few people got to hear the brilliantly melodic acoustic track We All Fall Down, led by Mark Owen but with fantastic harmonies from the whole band. Luckily, they finally saw its potential, beefed the production up a bit and included it on the re-release of Beautiful World alongside Rule The World ready for Xmas 2007!

Oasis - The Masterplan (b-side to Wonderwall)

I'm not going to try and argue that The Masterplan deserved single status over the iconic Wonderwall but as one of the most famous b-sides ever, it would be rude not to include it in this post. Mancunian indie rock act Oasis were at their career peak when Wonderwall was released and almost everything they touched turned to gold. (What's The Story) Morning Glory? was quickly becoming one of the defining albums of the 90s, and indeed is now one of the biggest selling albums of all time. But even the b-sides from the era are almost all universally heralded as Oasis classics. You get the feeling that they could have put out a double album in 1995 without suffering any dip in quality. Sung by Noel Gallagher, The Masterplan is a stirring Britpop anthem complete with lavish production values that make it sound far too grand to be wasted as a b-side. Despite criminally not featuring on any of the band's albums, the song was later the title track to b-sides compilation The Masterplan and also featured on the 2006 Stop The Clocks EP as well as the best of compilation album of the same name.

Delta Goodrem - Take Me Home (b-side to In This Life)

For me, Australian singer Delta Goodrem is queen of everything the b-side. As my all time favourite artist I've bought all of her singles on CD and therefore got to enjoy all of her high quality b-sides, even if this has meant obtaining the majority of them on import from Australia, seeing as she stopped releasing music in the UK in 2005! The Riddle, Hear Me Calling, Here I Am, Silence Be Heard, Fever, Beautiful Madness and Uncovered are just a selection of the best songs of Delta's that she deemed not good enough for inclusion on an album! But it's 2007's Take Me Home that's the real head scratcher. Whilst a-side In This Life was a jaunty and uplifting pop song, a No.1 in Australia and probably the perfect lead single, tucked away on the b-side was one of the bravest tracks musically that Delta had produced to this point. Take Me Home is a dramatic ambient dance track similar to something Madonna might have done during the Ray Of Light era. The chorus is soaring and triumphant and it's frankly unbelievable that she didn't feel this song was fit for inclusion on her mostly rather pedestrian self titled third album Delta. Not only would this have made a great album track, it was worthy of being a huge hit single!

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Three rising male stars to watch out for!

Vance Joy is a singer-songwriter from Melbourne and has already hit the Australian top ten with the brilliant Riptide. The 25 year old's acoustic indie tune almost sounds tailor made for charming and quirky independent film soundtracks. It has a warm summer evening feel to it and will hopefully manage some interational chart success in the coming months!

TJ Bilham is an upcoming singer-songwriter from Glasgow who's set to release his new single One More Kiss in September. The single, co-written with Andy Brown from Lawson, showcases TJ's instantly distinctive and powerful deep voice. It boasts an anthemic chorus and some fantastic pop-rock production similar to Katy Perry's hit Waking Up In Vegas.

Matt Cardle is hardly a rising star so perhaps it's cheating to include him in this post but his profile has certainly been resurrected with the release of his new single Loving You, a duet with Spice Girl Melanie C. The rousing duet, written by Matt, is set to be his biggest hit since he won X Factor 2010 (beating One Direction no less!) with the now million selling single When We Collide. Sounding like a cross between James Morrison and Nelly Furtado's Broken Strings and Melanie C's own Bryan Adams collaboration When You're Gone, the duo put everything into this fantastic song and it seems certain to debut inside the UK top 15 this weekend, giving them both their biggest hit single in years!

The Big Interview: Jimmy from 911!

Following their success on The Big Reunion, 911 are set to release their first album in almost a decade and a half on September 8th. 'Illuminate: The Hits and More' is a 14 track album that will feature 7 brand new tracks and 7 classics that have been re-recorded and had their production updated. Lee, Spike and Jimmy are also set to release their comeback single and video, 'Two Hearts One Love', a preview of which you can watch below;

I asked Jimmy from the band (far left in the picture) some questions about the comeback and what his highlights have been during his time in the popular trio;

Hi Jimmy, I was in the audience for the first Big Reunion show at Hammersmith Apollo in February and was really wowed by your performances. It was the first time I'd seen you live in 15 years, as you performed at my primary school near Brighton way back in 1998! Your vocals are as strong as ever and all three of you still have the moves. How did you feel coming out for the first time in years in front of an excited packed crowd at Hammersmith, singing the words back at you? 

Hammersmith was a very exciting but nervous time. We love being on stage but seeing the great reaction was amazing. We still have a lot of loyal fans and hopefully new ones too.
What are your favourite memories/stories of the Big Reunion tour? If there was to be a second series, which other 90s/00s bands would you like to see taking part? Top of my wishlist would be A1, S Club 7, Eternal and The Corrs!

My memories from the tour were great ones. Mixing with all the bands and talking about the old days was very interesting. Playing at arenas again was the highlight for me and obviously the o2 being the biggest. I would like to see Eternal, S Club and East 17 back for next year.

So the new album is called 'Illuminate: The Hits and More'. How have the old hits been updated? 

'Illuminate' has 7 old songs that have ben updated on the production side of things. We thought it would be good to give them a little polish after so many years.

Can you tell us some more about the new songs from 'Illuminate: The Hits and More'? 'Two Hearts, One Love' is a very anthemic rousing pop song, it's mature but retains the old 911 spark and is a great comeback single. Are the other new tracks similar or are there some more uptempo songs along the lines of 'Bodyshakin' and 'More Than A Woman' too?

'Two Hearts One Love' is a great anthemic song, the rest of the album has some good uptempo stuff on it as well as big ballads. Bit of everything for the pop people out there, just a little maturity in the writing.
You were very honest on the Big Reunion TV show about your past and present lives and working relationships. How have you got on with the writing process of 'Illuminate: The Hits and More'? Have you found it easy to get back together and write with one another?

We always said we would be honest with the TV show and i think we have done it well. Getting back together has been like therapy really, we have aired all of our problems and now we can get on with writing great music. It's been very easy getting together to write in the studio again.
How did you feel back in 1999 when you topped the UK charts for the first time with 'A Little Bit More'?  'More Than A Woman' was narrowly beaten to the top by Spacedust's 'Gym and Tonic'. It's fair to say that 'More Than A Woman' is the far more remembered single now, and in fact I haven't heard 'Gym and Tonic' since 1998! Did it make the chart victory a few months later with 'A Little Bit More' that much sweeter?

The story with 'More Than A Woman' was interesting. Spacedust was found to be illegally bought in and was stripped of the number one slot. So officially we got a number 1 there too. But getting it with 'A Little Bit More' was even better, we were in Ireland doing a TV show when we heard.

You were incredibly popular across Asia at your peak, as well as in the UK, what was it like being adored by millions and causing hysteria wherever you went? Do you still experience that now, and how do you cope with it?

Asia was insane for us, whole of the top floor of hotels, army escorts everywhere etc... We were amazed by the reaction and are hoping to get back over there soon. We don't experience that now as we are only just making a comeback but fingers crossed!
In the years that passed since your split and reunion, boybands very much fell out of vogue in the UK, and were seen as very uncool in the noughties. Are you pleased that the likes of JLS, Lawson, The Wanted and One Direction and the returns of Take That, Boyzone, Blue, 5ive and yourselves have brought boybands back? And why do you think that the boyband concept has suddenly become so popular once again?

Boybands will always be around as they are part of a teenage girl/boy growing up process. The latest bands are doing really well and we wish all the luck to them all.
What is your absolute favourite single from your back catalogue and why? 

For me, my single would be 'The Day We Find Love'. Just a great song with lots of memories while writing it.

'More Than A Woman', 'Bodyshakin' and 'A Little Bit More' are undeniable pop classics but my personal favourite 911 single was the 1999 top three hit 'Private Number'. Do you have any idea what happened to the brilliant female singer on it, Natalie Jordan? 

'Private Number' was also a great song. We still meet up with Natalie for coffee. She is doing well, still singing and screenplay writing.

Fellow Big Reunion-ers Blue did well representing the UK at Eurovision 2011, finishing the night with 100 points which is almost 100 more than we usually get! Would you be open to doing Eurovision if you were asked?

I dont think Eurovision is good for anyone, but you never know.
Thank you Jimmy, I wish you all luck with your new album and can't wait to hear the new tracks! 

Sunday, 11 August 2013

A trio of recent gems from South Africa!

It's fair to say that South Africa isn't exactly the biggest exporter of global smash hit singles. In 2010 a few South African acts entered or came close to charting in the UK. Zany rap collective Die Antwoord's Enter The Ninja peaked at No.37 whilst Afro-fusion act Freshlyground featured on Shakira's epic official World Cup single Waka Waka (This Time For Africa). Twin brothers Locnville had some UK airplay with Sun In My Pocket but the single failed to chart. It's a great shame that success is so limited to these acts because South Africa actually has a great untapped music scene and you feel that quite a few of their domestic smash hits could easily go global. So I'm going to look at three of my current favourites from South Africa but also be sure to check out a couple of classics, Wind It by Jody, the Rihanna smash that never was, and Secrets by Jamali, a gorgeous melodic girlband single reminiscent of something by Cleopatra or The Honeyz. And now look at these;

DJ Kent feat The Arrows - Spin My World

Kento Sasaki aka DJ Kent's latest album The Weekent has just been released and the single Spin My World is the absolute highlight. A stunning house track with spades of garage influence, a pulsing bassline, a gorgeous piano melody and beautiful vocals from female duo The Arrows, this instantly likeable single could easily become a smash hit in the UK if given some attention.

Nádine - I Will Be Strong

Originally released as a soaring Celine Dion-esque ballad as part of Nádine's This Time I Know album in 2009, the production has been drastically overhauled and I Will Be Strong is now a schlager triumph, sounding like the love child of Sanna Nielsen and Agnes. An absolutely fantastic track in either version, Nádine's belting vocal really sells the emotion of the track and the melody is as strong as they come. Also worth looking out for from Nádine are her recent albums Eindeloos, which features this track, and her seasonal collection Christmas In South Africa which features unique covers of festive classics in a South African style alongside the brilliant pop anthem Light In The Sky.

BlackByrd feat Craig Hinds - From The Bottom Of My Heart

And showing a completely different side to the South African music industry, female trio BlackByrd have teamed up with singer Craig Hinds to make this instantly familiar and classic sounding country duet From The Bottom Of My Heart. Pretty much the strongest single that Lady Antebellum haven't yet made, this one sounds like it could be rather huge in the US.