Olive – Extra Virgin

History – and probably a lot of the people reading this now – will remember Olive as a one-hit wonder. They brought us the fantastic You’re Not Alone in 1997, got to number one, and then faded away into obscurity.

Unfortunately, none of that is entirely true, and history has definitely dealt them a raw deal. The trio finally managed that number one on the song’s second release, and follow-up Miracle never even managed the upper reaches of the charts, despite coming out on three separate occasions and being, frankly, brilliant.

It’s Miracle that opens the album, in a slightly more subdued, seven-minute form, and it really is the massive hit that never was. Maybe the timing was wrong, or perhaps everybody had already had enough of Olive by the time this came out for the last time in late 1997, but it does feel like a great shame that this wasn’t more of a success than it was.

This Time comes next, a softer, more laid back piece. If you haven’t already, it will be around this time that you reach the inevitable realisation that singer Ruth-Ann Boyle is a truly excellent vocalist, and a couple of years later would lend a hand on Enigma‘s fourth and fifth albums before working on him with her solo album What About Us in 2003.

Chilled is definitely the mood here, but with some pleasant dub and slightly trippy influences from time to time as well, and so Safer Hands was hardly likely to break any particular boundaries, but it’s good nonetheless. Then Killing is strange in a way, both excellent and also very repetitive – there’s only one vocal line the whole way through, but accompanied by a whole lot of dub reverb and effects, it’s rather brilliant too.

After which it’s finally time for You’re Not Alone. Make no mistake, the singles are the best things on this album, but there is more than just one. Of course, if you bought this album wanting just thirteen renditions of that one song, you would inevitably be disappointed – you might even be disappointed that this one isn’t quite as lively as the single was, as the drums, much of the energy in this track, don’t actually turn up until nearly two minutes in.

But it’s still a fantastic song, and the album version is every bit as good as the single you remember, just in a slightly different way. This more spacious version allows you to appreciate Ruth-Ann’s vocals a lot more, and to really get to the bottom of just how great this song actually is. Twenty years old, and it really doesn’t sound it.

Falling is one of the stronger album tracks, a sweet and understated love song, which carries us through to the third single Outlaw. This one was only released once, as the follow-up to You’re Not Alone when that had finally reached the top of the charts, and apart from that, this is probably the most contemporary track on here, with its trippy drum and bass rhythm and catchy vocals.

There is also, despite the descriptions here, plenty of variety. Not in an in-your-face way, but the gentle trip-pop of Blood Red Tears is followed by the harder (but still soft) drum and bass of Curious. Then You Are Nothing is pure pop – and probably would have been the fourth single, if they hadn’t been concentrating so hard on trying to turn the same couple of tracks into hits again and again.

That just leaves two tracks – Muted, a trippy instrumental, and I Don’t Think So, a great little song driven by acoustic guitar. The lyrics are brilliant – love the life you lead, just lead the life you love? I don’t think so. It’s an excellent way to close the album.

Well, not quite – if you leave it playing for a few minutes, you get the accompanying version of You’re Not Alone to the single – this time, all the drums have been removed to create something rather ethereal and wonderful.

Twenty years on, Extra Virgin still sounds fantastic, and it’s a shame that history only leaves us with this, and its song-laden follow-up Trickle (which never even saw a proper release in the UK). But if you can find it, Extra Virgin is still worth a listen. Even if the title is a little on the silly side.

There are a number of versions of Extra Virgin available – the original release, which features a different version of Outlaw, a double CD release, and the Extra Virgin+ reissue which came out later. That’s probably the one to go for, although it omits the bonus track.

Greatest Hits – Volume 6

Time for a quick breather, and a chance to catch up on some of the previous posts that you might have missed. Remember these?

Music for the Masses 33 – 23 February 2005

Unfortunately the webcam wasn’t working this week, leaving us with very little documentary evidence of the show. Artist of the week was my long-time favourite act The Beloved, and other highlights included oddities from White Town and The Postal Service.

Show 33: Wed 23 Feb 2005, from 6:05pm-8:00pm

Broadcast on LSR FM, online only. Artist of the week: The Beloved.

  • Mylo – Valley of the Dolls
  • Robert Miles – Children
  • Olive – Miracle (Radio Mix)
  • Röyksopp – Poor Leno
  • New Order – True Faith
  • Enigma – The Eyes of Truth
  • The Beloved – Time After Time
  • Tony di Bart – The Real Thing (Joy Brothers Remake)
  • Sarah Cracknell – Anymore
  • The Shamen – Xochipili’s Return
  • Deep Forest – Yuki Song
  • The Beloved – Sweet Harmony
  • White Town – Duplicate
  • Fluke – Atom Bomb
  • Orbital – The Saint
  • The Postal Service – We Will Become Silhouettes
  • Dario G – Sunchyme
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Electricity
  • The Beloved – A Dream within a Dream
  • Bent – Sunday 29th

Music for the Masses 23 – 24 October 2004

Three weeks in, and the newly reborn Music for the Masses radio show was finally starting to find a rhythm, even if it was just a week away from its end. Freed from the shackles of the playlists which dogged the show’s previous incarnation, there were now slots for forthcoming new releases, music news, and the new Artist of the Week slot. The laid back, late night nature of the music won the show a lot of praise – the fast talking of the presenter less so…

Show 23: Sun 24 Oct 2004, from 4:00am-6:00am

Broadcast on LSR FM, on FM and online. Artist of the week: Moby.

  • The Beloved – A Dream Within a Dream
  • Leftfield feat. Toni Halliday – Original
  • Monaco – What Do You Want from Me?
  • Moby – Porcelain
  • Röyksopp – Remind Me (Someone Else’s Radio Mix)
  • The Grid – Rollercoaster
  • Olive – Beyond the Fray
  • Depeche Mode – Enjoy the Silence (Reinterpreted)
  • Peach – From This Moment On
  • Moby – Heaven
  • Way Out West – Blue
  • Bent – Stay the Same
  • Alex Gold feat. Phil Oakey – LA Today
  • Gloworm – Carry Me Home
  • Dirty Vegas – Walk Into the Sun
  • Adamski (with Seal) – Killer
  • Erlend Øye – Sheltered Life (Radio Mix)
  • Beyer & Lenk feat. Tiga – Ananda
  • Moby – The Whispering Wind
  • 808 State – Pacific State
  • Jam & Spoon feat. Rea – Be Angeled

This show was recorded, and for the most part still exists. It will be posted as a Playlist for stowaways soon.

Olive – Trickle

The first thing that might come as a surprise here is that Olive actually recorded a second album. True, they shed a member after the enormous success of Extra Virgin (1996), or specifically the mega-hit You’re Not Alone, which peaked at number 1 the following year. But in 2000, they did return, with the much more pop-sounding Trickle. It was never released in the UK, and it wasn’t exactly successful, but surprisingly it is actually rather good.

The first track is one of the more subdued, the sweet Love Affair. Full of enormous pads and what might in another world be slide guitars, it’s also punctuated by some very lively drumming, coming together as a great mix.

The title track Trickle follows. If you’d only ever dipped into Olive, you might be forgiven for not having realised what an exceptionally good singer Ruth-Ann Boyle actually is. It’s songs like this one – which might have given another vocalist an excuse for a fairly mundane recording – on which she really comes to the fore.

Then comes the one and only single, which is something of a sad fact, although it was pumped full of largely dull remixes. The cover of I’m Not in Love is great though – Boyle’s vocal gives it a haunting quality which wasn’t entirely there in the original, while the slightly trippy pop backing endows it with energy too.

Songs like Smile might on any other album be rather dull, but on this one, it comes together beautifully, again allowing Boyle’s vocals to bring it to life explosively. All You Ever Needed, which follows, has less charm, but still has plenty to enjoy. Ultimately, it’s the slower pieces that grab you the most, as the lovely Indulge Me demonstrates, with its wavering Hammond organ and gentle beats, but ultimately songs like this were never going to be enormous hits.

This is perhaps where Trickle comes unstuck – it’s beautiful, and it is commercial, but it doesn’t quite fit with what the music industry wants us to be listening to – it’s that odd niche genre of relaxed pop music which radio DJs all insist is boring.

But it really isn’t boring, as the wonderful Speak to Me reminds you, and Liberty must be one of the best songs on here, despite the fact that practically nobody has ever heard it. It’s enough to make you very cross indeed.

The faux-orchestral introduction to Push is one of the odder moments now, fifteen years after this album originally saw the light of the day. If you picked up on the lack of Tim Kellett‘s legs on the front cover, you might be reading yourself for something more disturbing, but this is really as close as it comes, and only then because the synth string sounds have suffered the ravages of time somewhat. It’s still a great song.

No such fears for Thank You, with its enormous bass part, or the lovely Creature of Comfort, and then we’re nearly at the end already. The closing track Beyond the Fray, the closest to actual drum and bass that this album really gets, is brilliant, a perfect way to end an hour of music. If you don’t count the quieter and less exciting hidden track Take My Hand, that is.

So Trickle turns out to be a great second album, and a sadly overlooked gem. And sadder still, it would be the last we would see of Olive, save for a few side projects from each of the members. That’s definitely our loss.

Import and download copies of Trickle are still widely available and well worth owning.

Beginner’s guide to Olive

In 1997, the three-piece jumped straight to the top of the charts with the fantastic You’re Not Alone. In 2000, Madonna decided she rather liked them and signed them to her record label, despite the fact that by this time they were just a two-piece. Finally, the one-piece Ruth-Ann Boyle released her solo album in 2007. But for a little while, Olive were one of the finest acts of the 1990s.

Key moments

Getting to number 1 with You’re Not Alone, and sneaking onto the charts with follow-up singles Miracle and Outlaw, and having minor US success with the only single from the second album, their cover of I’m Not in Love.

Where to start

There are just two albums to pick from, and it would be tempting to suggest starting with the other one, but it’s Extra Virgin (1996) that includes all the hits you’re looking for. Try to find the later Extra Virgin+, as the additional remixes are rather good.

What to buy

Follow it up with the follow-up, 2000’s beautiful Trickle, before tracking down singer Ruth Ann‘s solo Enigma-produced album What About Us (2007) to hear her voice at its best. You could track down the singles for You’re Not Alone and Miracle if you fancy them, but make sure you get the third release of each.

Don’t bother with

Most of the early singles, or I’m Not in Love – some of the remixes are interesting, but they’re largely uninteresting.

Hidden treasure

The single version of Miracle, which is considerably better than the original, and some massive names turn up among the remixes of Outlaw.

For stowaways

Music for the Masses 20 – 7 June 2000

Apart from the legendary demo tape (more next time), this was the last of the original run of shows, broadcast on Bay Radio, Aberystwyth’s student radio station. It closed with Erasure‘s lovely Piano Song.

show20br

Show 20: Wed 7 June 2000, from 10.55am-1.00pm

Tracks taken from the playlist (Total 13 tracks). A indicates A-list (9 tracks); B indicates B-list (2 tracks) and C indicates C-list (1 tracks). S indicates the Single of the Week. R indicates tracks which were taken from my own collection (Total 8 tracks). L indicates the ones from the “library” (Total 5 tracks).

  • 1. Richard Ashcroft “Money to Burn” A
  • [IRN 11.00 News]
  • 2. Dubstar “Stars” (Way Out West Remix) R
  • 3. Moby “Porcelain” A
  • 4. Muse “Unintended” A
  • 5. Mo-ho-bish-o-pi “Hear the Air” A
  • 6. Maxim feat. Skin “Carmen Queasy” A
  • 7. Apollo 440 “Heart Go Boom” L
  • 8. Depeche Mode “The Things You Said” R
  • 9. Duran Duran “Someone Else Not Me” L
  • 10. Idlewild “These Wooden Ideas” A
  • 11. Limp Bizkit “Take a Look Around” S
  • [Advert Break]
  • 12. Air “Playground Love” L
  • 13. Pet Shop Boys “Je T’Aime… Moi Non Plus” R
  • 14. Dandy Warhols “Get Off” A
  • [IRN 12.00 News]
  • 15. Jean Michel Jarre “Je Me Souviens” R
  • 16. Space Brothers “The Light” (Space Brothers Remix) L
  • 17. Paul van Dyk feat. Saint Etienne “Tell Me Why (The Riddle)” R
  • 18. Tom Jones & Mousse T “Sex Bomb” B
  • 19. Billie Piper “Day & Night” C
  • 20. Phoenix “Too Young” A
  • 21. Beloved “Loving Feeling” R
  • [Charts]
  • 22. Sonique “It Feels So Good” A
  • 23. Olive “Miracle” R
  • [Advert Break]
  • 24. Dum Dums “I Can’t Get You Out of My Thoughts” B
  • 25. Travis “Baby One More Time” L
  • 26. Erasure “Piano Song” R

Producer: Me. Waha! I shall take over the world!

Notes: Not a bad last show (well, for the time being). Pity my co-host never turned up, but there we go. The aim was to get in all my favourites from the last year or so, which I think I managed. Et fin!