Best of 1997 – the Rest of 1997

Aside from Tuned-On’s Top 20 Faves of ’97, it wasn’t too difficult to come up with another 20 noteworthy songs. A lot of the songs marked a return to simpler ways of making a record, while others continued to show the progression of pop music. Where the songs were released as commercial singles which charted on Billboard’s Hot 100 Singles chart, the position is noted (e.g. [BB: #1]).

Here’s Tuned-On’s Commentary, alphabetically by song title, on some more of the best of the rest of 1997!

CD: Bringing Down the Horse

“The Difference” wasn’t initially one of my most favourite songs from the CD, but it grows and grows on you, and fit radio like a glove. It only goes to show that Jakob Dylan is now in the premiere ranks of songwriters, because he can put across a lyric plain, simple and honest: “The only difference that I see / Is you are exactly the same as you used to be”. That’s what people are looking for these days, it seems. [CD track]

The Prodigy
XL-Maverick (U.S.)/XL-Koch (Canada)
CD: Fat of the Land

Although The Chemical Brothers’ “Setting Sun” was released earlier, The Prodigy brought Electronica to pop radio, with the most enjoyably unnerving song of the year. The Prodigy may not have broadened electronica’s own innovation with this release, but it is certain that Prodigy songs will always challenge you while getting stuck inside your head. Great videos, in that lost art form, are also a big asset. [BB: #30]

Ultra Naté
Strictly Rhythm
CD: Strictly Rhythm Superjams

Gotta hand it to this song for being the most enduring club anthem of the year. Forget about your troubles, ride the beat and sing the lyrics. If radio isn’t ready for a dance club revival, it never will be. [BB: #75]

Abra Moore
Arista Austin
CD: Strangest Places

Four Leaf Clover” seemed to be on the verge of breaking out forever – modern rock radio played and played it; then adult alternative; finally Top 40 – but it was a case of promoting the record too late in the game. Formerly of Poi Dog Pondering, Abra Moore has a great voice – somewhere between Belinda Carlisle and Meredith Brooks – which brings such a sunny song home. In fact, look for this to pop up on summer compilations in future.
[BB: #63]

Jonny Lang
CD: Lie to Me

Just the thought of a 16 year old singing this blues standard is a bit risqué and may cause parents to lock up their daughters at the thought of them attending a Jonny Lang concert. But Lang’s execution here is that of a consummate professional – at least that’s what’s intended. Get over the age thing, listen to him play, and imagine what he’ll be like in 15 years. [CD track]

Econoline Crush
EMI (Canada)
CD: The Devil You Know

The first single from Econoline Crush’s second CD is an ominous, bass-laden song that led the way for the unqualified success of second single “All That You Are”. Now that EC has abandoned its frothy edge, listeners can concentrate on the fine songwriting and hypnotic vocals. EC is one to watch on the international front. [CD track]

Blackout Allstars
CD: Dance Party (Like It’s 1998!) (U.S.)
CD: Hit Zone 3 (Canada)

This is truly the most unexpected hit of 1997 – a three year old song from a little noticed movie (“I Like It like That”) featuring a gaggle of all star players from the Latin music community. People really wanted back to basics in 1997 in different shapes and forms, and this harkened back to the early 60’s to songs like Chris Kenner’s own “I Like It like That” specifically. All this and electronica too – party on…. [BB: #25]

Real McCoy
CD: One More Time

This was too warped for radio to catch on, but attacking Shania Twain’s number one country hit and reconstructing it into a hi-energy dance track was just what 1997 needed. Sure to find cult status over the next few years, despite the waning popularity of this German outfit. [did not chart]

CD: Cowboy

Erasure almost never fails to get a song or two on my year end lists. Going all the way back to 1986’s Wonderland CD, Vince Clarke and Andy Bell keep churning out great music, which is realized in concert when all the hits are played for their devout fans (along with a few surprises). “In My Arms” tried hard to become another “Always”, while “Rapture” covers faithfully the duo’s Blondie fixation (which has transferred from the ABBA fixation of a few years ago; they also do “Heart of Glass” in concert). Erasure continues to make top-drawer music, evident in the high quality of the Cowboy CD. And they have a big fan in Maverick Records co-owner Madonna! [“In My Arms” – BB #55; “Rapture” – CD track]

Barstool Prophets
Mercury (Canada)
CD: Last of the Big Game Hunters

This Canadian band hit its stride with the title song from its second album. Essentially, they have taken a cue vocally from late 80’s Faith No More and used a story-telling premise to put across some imaginative lyrics, emphasizing “danger is my middle name”. If these guys can keep it up, they’ll have an international breakthrough on their hands. [CD track]

Jocelyn Enriquez
Tommy Boy
CD: Jocelyn

After the innocuous Top 40 pop of her first hit “Do You Miss Me”, who would’ve thought that the next release would be so enticing? With a “Planet Soul” vibe and a vocal that purrrrs, expect Jocelyn Enriquez to make great dance records for years to come. Cool video, too. [BB: #55]

CD: First Band on the Moon

Repeat after me – The Cardigans are not one hit wonders. This became quite clear after listening to the Swedish band’s North American debut CD First Band on the Moon, which contains several wonderful originals plus an unrecognizable cover of Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man”. But “Lovefool”, as featured in the latest film version of “Romeo & Juliet”, reigned over the radio waves for most of 1997. The combination of understated music and sexy-yet-simple vocal further accentuated the need for a return to basics.
[Initially a CD track, later released on a maxi CD single]

K’s Choice
550 Music
CD: Paradise in Me

An unexpected coup from Belgium, “Not an Addict” brims with the joyful feel of triumph and proudly puts it out there where the world can hear. Yet again, less was more in 1997, especially when it was governed by a great lyric. [CD track]

Great Big Sea
WEA (Canada)
CD: Play

This Newfoundland band made good throughout most of 1997 with simple, feel-good songs like “Ordinary Day” which turn into everyday anthems. Go to one of their concerts and experience a cultural phenomenon unto itself. Hopefully with their next CD Great Big Sea will breakout worldwide – their harmonies and good spirit are too universal to remain exclusively in Canada. [CD track]

CD: Secret Samadhi

This opening track from the best-selling Secret Samadhi indicated some musical self-restraint for the York, Pennsylvania quartet above and beyond past CD’s. Accordingly, this is only an appetizer – radio and fans jumped all over the two best songs, “Lakini’s Juice” and “Turn My Head” – but, like those songs, “Rattlesnake” continues to show how multi-faceted Live can be. [CD track]

Arista (U.S.)/EMI (Canada)
CD: Creature

The now Montreal-based Moist topped Canadian charts with the Creature CD and received massive airplay with “Leave It Alone”, “Tangerine” and “Resurrection”, the band’s most energetic track yet. Leader David Usher is becoming a star in his own right with his compelling stage presence. Moist toured along side of The Tea Party and then performed their own “Evening with…” concerts relentlessly throughout Canada and back again. An American breakthrough is imminent, if Moist can get more support from its powerful U.S. label. “Resurrection” is so intense it would have broken any other band in any other country, given the proper promotion, and you need look no further than Australia. [CD track]

Mark Morrison
CD: Return of the Mack (U.S.); Mark Morrison (Canada)

It’s rare that British soul strikes big time in North America. The handful of acts in the last 10 years or so (include among them Soul II Soul) is few, and their lasting ability appears minimal, no matter what the critics praise, with the exception of late being Seal and Jamiroquai. Mark Morrison is actually an American who broke out of the U.K. soul scene, and while it was not overtly bestowed critically, “Return of the Mack” is one of the year’s best and most popular songs for several reasons. Morrison’s great voice, a tremendous, familiar chorus (“You lied to me / And you never said you’d turn from me”), and air of dignity/indignity (you figure it) recalling Gene Chandler’s song about himself “Duke of Earl” grabbed the public ear with both hands. We’ll have to see if Morrison can continue his momentum.[BB: #2]

The Verve Pipe
CD: Villains

While record buyers simply loved the refreshing honesty in “The Freshmen”, “Villains” caught my attention more with its dark imagery, threatening chorus, and thunderous guitar work. While it received moderate airplay on radio, it was one of many cases where the first hit was so strong and widely played that the second release didn’t have a chance (see bottom of page). Those who bought the CD know this band will be back – large and in charge – with its second CD, whenever it happens. [CD track]

En Vogue

When fans heard that Dawn Robinson had left the quartet, they had to wonder how En Vogue would continue on as a trio. After all, last year’s “Don’t Let Go (Love)” lasted a lot longer – well into ’97 – than most mid-tempo soul songs. With a sultry arrangement which showcased its vocals as well as any of its past hits, it’s clear En Vogue is not going anywhere. This could have been a bigger hit – perhaps a record company change is in order. [BB: #16]

10 “Second Singles” Which Didn’t Become Big Hits
(Cause Radio Stations Wouldn’t Stop Playing the First One!)

The year’s most frustrating trend!

BEEN IT Cardigans
GRADUATE Third Eye Blind
JUST ANOTHER DAY John Mellencamp
LEAVIN’ Tony Rich Project
ONE AND ONE Robert Miles
The RASCAL KING Mighty Mighty Bosstones
SHE RUNS AWAY Duncan Sheik
VILLAINS The Verve Pipe

Updated 01/19/98