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PopEntertainment.com > Reviews > Record Reviews > Now That's What I Call Music! 18

MUSIC REVIEWS

Various Artists-Now That's What I Call Music! 18 (Epic)

Is there anyone who grew up in the 1970s who didn't have at least one K-Tel album?  You remember those records with the funky artwork and the power-adjective titles (Dynamite!, Fantastic!, etc.) that contained twenty of the hottest hits by the day's biggest artists.  On a kid's budget, these collections were a godsend: the equivalent of twenty singles for the price of one LP.

When K-Tel shuttered its windows in the early 1980s, no one really jumped into the void for years.  In England, though, a series started in 1983 called Now That's What I Call Music! that included two disks of hits.  The albums were insanely huge hits over the pond, to the point that the British charts had to be changed because the series' sales so overshadowed all other releases that Various Artists compilations were given an entirely different sales chart. 

The first four volumes of the original British series were released domestically in the US in 1983-1984, however sales here were sluggish and soon the Now series became known only to rabid collectors who scoured the import racks.  Finally in 1998, they US record labels finally took another shot at the series, though they pared it down to a single disk for domestic audiences.  This time out, they were a huge success, and a new compilation has been released every six or so months since.  (Now 18 is supposedly the 18th release of the series in the US, although it is 22 if you get technical; the original first four don't get recognized in the count.)

Now 18 is like a perfect hits radio station of the winter of 2005.  In fact, the Now series is better than radio today, because you aren't going to find a Top-40 station with such diverse musical tastes anymore.  On the Now disks, rock rubs elbows with pop, rap, country and R&B.  Just try and find a station that does that.

As with any hits compilation, the song quality varies wildly, although surprisingly, most of these songs are pretty good.  There is "Over and Over," the shockingly gorgeous collaboration between seemingly incompatible artists Nelly and Tim McGraw.  New critics' darling John Legend smolders in the old-school R&B of "Used To Love U."  Howie Day does a sweet folk-rock turn with "Collide."  Snoop Dogg waxes poetic on "Drop It Like It's Hot."  Then there is U2's soaring rocker "Vertigo" (although Bono, what is going on with that Spanish countdown of one, two, three, fourteen?)  There's even a goofy-good cover of Rick Springfield's classic "Jessie's Girl" by unknown band Frickin' A.

The lesser songs are easily skipped over, like the horribly pedestrian rap "Balla Baby" by Chingy, the pop-tart stylings of actress Lindsay Lohan's "Rumors," Destiny's Child's shockingly un-funky "Soldier" and Lenny Kravitz's Gap ad jingle "Lady."  

Like the K-Tel albums they are modeled after, it's a mixed bag.  You get some treasures.  You get some trash.  All for the price of one disk.  Sounds like a bargain to me.  (3/05)

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright 2005 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Poster: March 6, 2005.

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Copyright 2005 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Poster: March 6, 2005.