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Tuesday, September 7, 1999 Published at 10:37 GMT 11:37 UK


No sure bets for Mercury

The smart money is on the Manics in a unpredictable race.

The BBC's David Sillito reports: "Leading the contenders this year are the Manic Street Preachers"
The Manic Street Preachers are the bookies' favourite to scoop tonight's prestigious Mercury Music Prize, ahead of the likes of Blur and Stereophonics.

The Welsh band's fifth album, This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours, currently has 3-1 odds of taking the award, which celebrates the best contemporary music from a British or Irish act.

The Manics lead an eclectic field of nominees for the £20,000 prize, one of the most coveted awards in the music industry and one which guarantees a surge in sales for the winner.

[ image:  ]
The shortlist of albums are selected from across the board. Jazz, folk and classical artists are all in the running alongside some of the most successful names in pop and dance music.

The Manics' ability to shift albums in the shops will not assure them of victory. In previous years judges have steered clear of commercially successful acts.

The 1998 winners, Gomez, had seen only modest sales of their blues-pop debut Bring It On prior to scooping the award.

The year before, few had predicted that low-key drum 'n' bass outfit Roni Size/Reprazent would triumph.

[ image: Beth Orton's 'poignant' album wins her a second nomination.]
Beth Orton's 'poignant' album wins her a second nomination.
Beth Orton's folky Central Reservation album is thought to be in with a good chance of beating the Manics. According to the judges, the album "is a poignant collection of ballads and keenly felt emotions."

Orton's second Mercury-nominated album faces stiff competition from a large contingent of dance acts.

The Chemical Brothers, Underworld and Faithless are all in with a chance.

Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons, the duo behind The Chemical Brothers, are leading lights in the dance world. They have enjoyed considerable chart success while retaining credibility among their peers.

[ image: Nowt as strange as folk: Kate Rusby could yet scoop the prize.]
Nowt as strange as folk: Kate Rusby could yet scoop the prize.
This year's race also features a number of acts which reflect Britain_s multi-cultural face. Both Black Star Liner and Talvin Singh, a percussionist for the likes of Bjork, combine the best of dance music from east and west.

"Talvin Singh takes listeners on a remarkable musical trip across a global landscape," say the Mercury prize panel.

With Jazz saxophonist Denys Baptiste, folk singer Kate Rusby and innovative composer Thomas Ades making up the rest of the field, traditional guitar bands are in the minority.

[ image: Underworld, but not underdogs in this famously open race.]
Underworld, but not underdogs in this famously open race.
Blur are again nominated for the prize with their sixth album 13. Their 1994 effort Parklife was beaten at the line by M People's Elegant Slumming.

"13 is a set of inventive songs that showcases Blur's brave and brilliant combination of musical power and lyrical wit," say the Mercury judges.

Stereophonics complete the shortlist of nominees. The Welsh rockers' debut album Performance And Cocktails has already earned them the best newcomers award at the Brits. Whether this can be translated into Mercury success is a question only the judges can answer.

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