Play It! Volume Seven – ROCK – An EMI In-Store Play Compilation (1997 EMI promo)
“Woah! I own ‘Song 2’. How about that.”
That was my first reaction upon revisiting this old promo CD from the Record Store days. I really didn’t know that I had that song, and I’m sort of glad that I do. This was a freebie, and not a bad one as it had some rarities on it. In fact there’s only one artist on this disc I’d flat-out skip. Let’s dive on in.
The first track is a rarity: an unadvertized single edit of “Temptation” by the Tea Party. “Temptation”, crossing the new sample-driven sounds of the late 90s with classic exotic Zeppelin, was huge. The single edit snips off the extended intro. Industrial rock band Econoline Crush is up second, who also had a big album (The Devil You Know) at the time. “Home” was a memorable fast-paced single, but their big single “All That You Are” is also included as track #14. Far more mainstream, “All That You Are” was omnipresent in 1997. It’s still a little too over-familiar to be enjoyable.
Skip Meredith Brooks. I’ll be happy if I never hear the novelty song “Bitch” ever again. Brooks has a second track on this CD, “I Need”, which suffers due to the spoken word verses. No thanks. Skip ’em both. “I Need” reminds me of what I hated about 90s music.
Foo Fighters’ “Monkey Wrench” and “Everlong” were two of the greatest singles of 1997. Fast paced, drums-a-blazing, and perfectly rifftastic. In ’97 Grohl could do no wrong. He released one of the few perfect albums of the year. ’97 was Peak Foo — prove me wrong. Flawless songs, still not taxing on the ears. Probably never will be.
Queensryche had a new album in 1997, the ill-fated Hear in the Now Frontier. “You” wasn’t one of the most notable songs, and here on this mainstream compilation, doesn’t fare well. I don’t think EMI knew what to do with Queensryche, so hey let’s pick a song with 90’s intonations and throw it on this store play disc. A second Tea Party song, “Transmission”, is its full unedited length, combining the same ingredients as “Temptation” but at lower velocity. “Song 2” follows that, I song I’m admittedly not bored with at all. A second Blur track later down the line, “M.O.B.” boats a cool riff and pop sensibilities.
I Mother Earth were riding a wave with their second album Scenery and Fish. I’m not a fan of that disc and I can usually do without “Used to Be Alright”. Fortunately Megadeth bring some metal to the proceedings. From the underrated Cryptic Writings comes “Almost Honest”, a hard rocking single with nary a glimmer of thrash. Great song from a period when Megadeth were quite adept at writing mainstream metal.
Rarities ahoy! Moist’s “Tangerine” is remixed here, a mix that is far more industrial than the album, but that’s why remixes go on weird compilations I suppose. Always fascinating, Glueleg are up next with “Dragonfly”, one of their catchiest numbers, still maintaining their weird genre-bending tendencies.
Alice Cooper steps in with a live version of “School’s Out”. This being 1997, that automatically means it’s the one from A Fistful of Alice. It’s a little strange hearing “School’s Out” on a compilation of all-new material, but I suppose EMI didn’t have confidence that a new Alice song (“Is Anyone Home?”) would attract new buyers. But they were more likely to hear Radiohead’s “Let Down” and buy OK Computer instead. It’s a stunning ballad that might have been unfamiliar to those who hadn’t bought the album yet — the exact people this CD was aimed at! The CD closes on the slide-inflected “Faded” by Ben Harper. It’s choked by unnecessarily grungy production.
Record companies rarely sent us free CDs, because we were a used CD store and they assumed we’d sell ’em. What they didn’t realize was that it was usually guys like the asshole at CD Plus that would be selling their free CDs. We’d try to be educated about what we bought, and avoid the promos like this one. If a customer left it behind for us to take for free, it was up for grabs. As a store-play disc, this would have been pretty good, assuming we had all those albums in stock to sell.