I’ve very probably mused about the nature of time here before, but the fifteenth anniversary of Richard X‘sPresents His X-Factor Vol. 1 is a pretty strange one to celebrate. He’s still producing artists, but has never bothered to follow this up, but as a collection of great retro soundclashes, it’s really pretty good. What blows my mind now is that some of the things he samples were as old then as the whole album is now.
It opens with the brief Start, in which a voice says “x” a few times, before Liberty X (remember them? They lost The X Factor, or something) turn up to introduce themselves over the introduction to Being Nobody, a soundclash between Ain’t Nobody and The Human League‘s Being Boiled. It’s brilliant in a way that pop seemed to stop being after Richard X‘s brief reign on the charts.
The Human League are probably the omnipresent force on this album, turning up briefly on Rock Jacket alongside a number of other influences and samples. This one’s a filler, though, carrying us along until another guest vocalist turns up.
This is really a who’s who of early 2000s British pop music in some ways, but I had no memory of who Javine was. Apparently she represented the UK at the 2005 Eurovision Song Contest, finishing, unsurprisingly, excruciatingly close to the bottom of the table. You Used To is a decent pop song, and who knows, maybe it could have been a huge hit too. Pop music is unpredictable sometimes.
Annie is next, pretty much right at the beginning of her career with the brilliant Just Friends, which is brilliant, and then for IX, a German computer repeatedly spells out Richard X‘s name, which makes a nice little interlude. Then the huge voice of Caron Wheeler, of Soul II Soul fame, turns up for the dull but worthy Lonely.
Deborah Evans-Strickland delivers vocals on the next two tracks, an eccentric posh version of Walk on By, and then Lemon/Lime. Pleasant, but there isn’t a lot of point in these unfortunately. Although some of the lyrics on the second track are pretty funny.
Finest Dreams brings Kelis, and was the third single from this album, peaking at number 8 in the UK. It marries another Human League track The Things That Dreams Are Made Of with The S.O.S. Band‘s 1986 hit The Finest (then fifteen years old), and works very well indeed. In fact, it performed better on the charts than either of the tracks it samples, which is impressive.
The unexpected vocalist on the next track is Tiga, who performs You (Better Let Me Love You X4) Tonight. It’s brilliant, but then most of Tiga‘s work seems to be of an extremely high calibre. It’s just a bit too repetitive though, and as with several of the tracks on here, it drags a little towards the end.
The next track, Mark One, is a moment that anyone who grew up in the 1990s will appreciate, as Mark Goodier turns up to do a very meta in-album advert for this album. It’s a brilliant transition to Sugababes‘ Freak Like Me, sampling Gary Numan and Tubeway Army‘s Are “Friends” Electric? for the backing track. I suspect this might be how the album started out, as Richard X‘s original bootleg version had been a near-hit a couple of years earlier.
Into U is lovely, bringing together a new vocal by Jarvis Cocker with a sample of Hope Sandoval, and some unusually underplayed backing. It makes a great final track, closing out a pretty good album. The actual closing track is the brief End, which is one of the nicer interludes, and then the album is over already.
So in summary, despite a strong cast of extras, Richard X‘s debut may not be the best album ever produced, but it’s pretty good, and it did bring us some of the best pop hits of 2002 and 2003. In short, it’s definitely worth a listen.
You can still find Richard X Presents His X-Factor Vol. 1 on wide release.