It’s 1991 on My 1000 Favorite Albums

5.17 Top 1000 Albums_LI

To many 1991 is one of those great landmark years in music, and I feel the same way. However, I did not find 1991 to be as deep as 1977 or 1982 for that matter. But, the sheer quality of the albums on this list is undeniable. Of course, those of us who were around in 1991 remember the earth-shifting shock of an up-and-coming band called Nirvana dislodging the mighty Michael Jackson from the #1 position on Billboard. That moment opened the floodgates for the influx of alt.rock and grunge artists into the commercial mainstream. It was as if punk rock had finally made its mark in the States.

Hip hop also made huge strides artistically and commercially. Britpop and shoegaze were gaining momentum, and MTV was still influencing youth culture. It was a dizzying moment in rock music. Here are my favorites for the year.

9.15 A Tribe Called Quest - The Low End Theory

A Tribe Called Quest – The Low End Theory (1991). The strides made by Eric B. & Rakim, De La Soul and Jungle Brothers came to fruition on this outstanding album. It was a welcomed change that A Tribe made to the rap palette by embracing the whole jazz aesthetic on this outing. The obvious smooth rapping of Rakim influenced the deliveries of Q-Tip and Phife Dawg. Now, the world is completely open to hip hop for use and influence.

9.15 Guns 'N Roses - Use Your Illusion I9.15 Guns 'N Roses - Use Your Illusion II

Guns ‘N Roses – Use Your Illusion I and II (1991). These two albums cannot be separated. When GNR burst onto the scene in 1987/1988, the world was ready for their sleazy mix of Sex Pistols, Aerosmith and Rolling Stones, but now these guys were ready to push beyond their original sound. So, as if they could become any more decadent, these guys decided to indulge upon every sound and substance within in their grasp. Both of these albums ooze with overindulgence, which is what makes them so compelling. To this day, “November Rain” remains one of the greatest power ballads, something of a “Stairway to Heaven” for the crack era.

9.15 Ice-T - O.G. Original Gangster

Ice-T – OG: Original Gangster (1991). Long before Ice-T became an acting icon, he was one of the premier rappers of his generation, and this album is his defining moment in gangsta rap. T had made quite an underground reputation in the rap world but had yet to put everything together on an album. Well, he did it here with ripe beats and his unparalleled tales of being a gang member on the streets of the West Coast inner city. Now, gangsta rap was poised to take over the music world.

9.15 Matthew Sweet - Girlfriend

Matthew Sweet – Girlfriend (1991). Power pop seemed to spring up in the early-Seventies, only to crawl back underground and re-emerge in the late-Seventies during the New Wave era. Once again, the movement, much like metal, went underground again, occasionally making noise throughout the Eighties (Marshall Crenshaw, The Bangles, The Go-Go’s, Crowded House all spring to mind). Then, Jellyfish sounded the power pop alarm, and the floodgates opened once again. Sweet, an artist who had be percolating during much of the Eighties, finally found his sound by fusing the sweet melodies of Rundgren, Badfinger and Cheap Trick, but added a fuzzed out guitar to make the sound modern. This album is a near-perfect power pop album, not to mention one of the best examples of Nineties power pop. Many more artists will follow.

9.15 Metallica - Metallica

Metallica – Metallica (1991). While GNR were indulging on their two simultaneously released albums, thrash metal gods Metallica were joining forces with producer Bob Rock to streamline their sound and up their bottom end. The results were an explosion of metal, musicianship and force that is still influencing the sound of metal albums today. Many of the great artists have an album in which everything comes together, and it happened for Metallica because they pulled back on their desire to fill their songs with an over abundance of crazy guitars. This is the sound of a laser-focused band maturing right before our eyes.

9.15 Michael Jackson - Dangerous

Michael Jackson – Dangerous (1991). Personally, I felt like this album was something of a letdown from Jackson’s Eighties peak. Yet, this was the sound of state of the art pop and R&B in the early-Nineties. Jackson, like Madonna, ever the trend discoverer and exploiter, immediately enlisted LA Reid and Babyface to do for his music what they did for Bobby Brown by adding touches of New Jack Swing and some hip hop into his trademark sound. Unfortunately, Jackson’s music will never be this good again, as the weight of his personal problems were beginning to eclipse his musical genius.

9.15 My Bloody Valentine - Loveless

My Bloody Valentine – Loveless (1991). In the mid-Seventies, Lou Reed made what many consider to be the most unlistenable album ever released called Music Metal Machine. It was full of guitar noise and unstructured “songs.” But, it seems like a small coterie of guitarist may have been influenced by it. Thus, the shoegaze music scene was born. These people loved to play their guitars as fuzzy and feedback-laden as possible, only they never forgot the song’s melody. The Jesus and Mary Chain started the movement in 1985, and by 1991, there were several bands fighting for recognition. My Bloody Valentine became the band that rose to the top of the heap with this flawless album of ear-ringing guitars laid over pop melodies. This album is just a beautiful juxtaposition of sound and song.

9.15 Nirvana - Nevermind

Nirvana – Nevermind (1991). To many, this is THE album moment of the Nineties. Kurt Cobain, Krist Noveselic and Dave Grohl discover the magic sound of Beatles meets Sabbath meets Pixies. I really don’t know what I can say about this album that has not been said before, except “Classic.”

9.15 R.E.M. - Out of Time

R.E.M. – Out of Time (1991). This album has always seemed to me as if the band were playing a little of everything they had ever recorded before as if to flex their musical muscles at us. Then, of all things, they did not tour behind the album, playing only a few acoustic dates, including the legendary MTV Unplugged performance. Over the years, I have tended to neglect this album as if I had heard it all before, yet it is just that quality that makes it a much more exciting retrospective than any of their compilations. This album continues to stand the test of time.

9.15 RHCP - Blood Sugar Sex Magik

Red Hot Chili Peppers – Blood Sugar Sex Magik (1991). I waited forever for the RHCP to make this album. I loved them from the moment I heard them for the first time in college. Then, they went through drummers as if they were Spinal Tap or Pearl Jam before settling on Chad Smith. And, we all know their troubled relationship with guitarists, losing Hillel Slovak to a heroin overdose, then having John Frusciante on and off over the subsequent years. But, RHCP are at their finest with Frusciante, as they proved on this album. This album remains the band’s Led Zeppelin IV, with “Under the Bridge” being the band’s “Stairway.”

9.15 Teenage Fanclub - Bandwagonesque

Teenage Fanclub – Bandwagonesque (1991). Okay, here is my favorite album of the year. This Scottish band seemed to pop out of the sky to me, like the second coming of Big Star, only with shoegaze-influenced guitars, only not so dominating. I was totally hooked by the band’s way they could meld Nineties sound and attitude with the power pop of primo Big Star and Cheap Trick. Unfortunately, while they will go on to create some fine music, Teenage Fanclub will never reach the heights of this album. This remains a lost Nineties classic.

9.15 Temple of the Dog - Temple of the Dog

Temple of the Dog – Temple of the Dog (1991). In 1990, the Seattle grunge scene lost a major budding star when Andrew Wood of Pearl Jam-forerunners Mother Love Bone died of a heroin overdose. So, Wood’s roommate and Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell wrote a loving tribute with fellow Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron, former Mother Love Bone and future Pearl Jam members guitarist Stone Gossard, bassist Jeff Ament and guitarist Mike McCready, and introducing Pearl Jam vocalist Eddie Vedder. This supergroup ended up creating one of the classic grunge albums of all time. Want proof? Just listen to their left-field radio hit “Hunger Strike,” as Cornell and Vedder trade verses.

9.15 U2 - Achtung Baby

U2 – Achtung Baby (1991). Well, just as the world was tiring of U2’s earnestness, the band did the unthinkable and embraced the irony of the Nineties to create what I consider to be their second best album. The band pushed themselves to the limits with their near-industrial soundscapes while never losing what truly separate the band from the pack. Now, this was a refueled U2 ready to tackle the Nineties’ changing soundscape. And if anyone has rewritten as good of a ballad as “One,” then, somebody please tell me.

And that wraps up 1991. My entries are getting smaller, but the wallop of the albums remain. Peace.

The Second Day of 1990: My 1000 Favorite Albums

5.17 Top 1000 Albums_LI

Today marks the second day of my favorite albums from 1990. Here we go again.

9.10 Mariah Carey - Mariah Carey

Mariah Carey – Mariah Carey (1990). Welcome to the age of the mega-selling diva. Mariah Carey marks the next diva in this lineage that began with Whitney Houston. Mariah’s debut album followed Whitney’s game plan to a tee, with some excellently soaring singles such as my favorite “Vision of Love.” While Whitney reinvented and transcended the term diva, Mariah remained planted in the pop realm, which might be why Mariah never topped Whitney’s reputation.

9.10 MC Hammer - Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em

MC Hammer – Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em (1990). Okay! I know! Hammer created bubblegum rap. But, to me, that’s the beauty and genius of the man. He insidiously made rap more palatable to the suburban masses which led to rap taking over white America.

9.10 Megadeth - Rust in Peace

Megadeth – Rust in Peace (1990). Just as the whole metal thing was turning into a parody, Megadeth makes a last-gasp effort to inject some much needed vitality into the genre. This album represents Megadeth’s very best recording as guitarist Dave Mustaine’s songwriting was focused and his playing was concise and focused.

9.10 Neil Young - Ragged Glory

Neil Young – Ragged Glory (1990). Every time we all are ready to write off Neil Young, his releases an album that simply blows you away. Here, he reunites with Crazy Horse, his muddy-sounding rock side, as they anticipate the influence of their classic fuzz-based sound on all the grunge bands that are bubbling in the underground. This album proved just how vital an artist Young could be.

9.10 Pixies - Bossanova

Pixies – Bossanova (1990). After all the craziness in the aftermath of Doolittle, you kind of expected a letdown from the Pixies. And, back in 1990, Bossanova seemed to be just that. However, after letting it marinate for 30 years, this album is not the let down it seemed to be at the time. Sure, we did not get any songs from Kim Deal, as she now had her own band, The Breeders, on the side for her creative outlet. Still, the band executed these Black Francis songs with conviction and precision. Although this album is considered to be the band’s weakest album of their original lineup, this is still a high quality slice of alt.rock that will soon become the sound of Nineties rock.

9.10 Sinead O'Connor - I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got

Sinéad O’Connor – I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got (1990). O’Connor proved she was a mega-talent on this album. She hit all the right notes throughout. To this day, the highlight is her stripped down version of Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U,” a song that was released in 1986 by a post-Time Prince band called The Family. The video for this song is iconic in that it is predominantly a close up of O’Connor’s expressive face singing the song with all the simple emotion of her version. And, the rest of the album is just as compelling. I know that some still harbor ill feelings about her SNL performance where she ripped up a photo of the Pope, but, as we learned a decade later, she was right. It’s time we rediscover her brilliance as an artist.

9.10 Sonic Youth - Goo

Sonic Youth – Goo (1990). Sonic Youth was a darling of those of us “in the know” as far back as the mid-Eighties. They were an uncompromising band of noise rockers who had a penchant for putting that noise over some great melodies. Well, on this album, the band played up the melodies and toned down the noise and were rewarded with a hit album. Folks, this is the album in which the rest of the world just caught up with the underground.

9.10 The Black Crowes - Shake Your Moneymaker

The Black Crowes – Shake Your Moneymaker (1990). If you remember 1990, many people were pining for a sound in rock music that hearkened back to the salad days of the boogie rock of the early Seventies, like the Faces, Rod Stewart and Aerosmith. In the void steps The Black Crowes who reminded all of us of that era, adding a touch of Southern Rock to their sound. Of course, The Crowes caught on with Gen X post-modern rockers and allowed the aging Boomers to reenact their youth. Who knew that this band would develop into one helluva rock band with their very own unique sound that transcended this album. Still, this is the album that put them on the map.

9.10 The La's - The La's

The La’s – The La’s (1990). May I present to you the band in which I consider to be the first Britpop band. At the time, The La’s had a unique take on power pop, which had been mostly an American take on the original British Invasion sound. Yet, there was something different in the lyrics on this album, a more British-centric set of tales and attitude which made the so distinct. Oh, and you think you have never heard of this band? Uh, everyone has heard “There She Goes.” The song seems to be required to be added to the soundtrack of every movie released since 1995. Still, I never tire of hearing it.

And, that, my friends, wraps up 1990. That means I have covered 689 albums on my list, which means that I have 30 years to cram into 311 albums. I told you that I was biased. Oh well! What’s a brother to do? Peace.

Welcome to the Nineties – 1990, Day 1: My 1000 Favorite Albums

5.17 Top 1000 Albums_LI

So, it’s time for 1990, the year in which we left the friendly confines of Oxford, Ohio, for the more familiar environment of Muncie, Indiana. Since I could not immediately take advantage of tuition reimbursement from my new employer, the former St. John’s Health System until I had been there one year, and was working second shift as the “senior tech” (entry-level management, I guess) at the lab in which I was trained, I did some volunteer work at the PBS radio station at Ball State that is located in the David Letterman Building. Within a couple of months getting my radio voice back, thanks to a few PSAs between movements of Brahms and reacquainting myself to some production work and interviews, I had a job offer from a local radio station as a weekend morning on-air personality. At the very same time, I had a job offer from my lab to work days, predominantly in microbiology. I weighed my options and went for the lab job, since that was much more money than in radio. Plus, the lab worked my schedule around my school scheduling when my year was up. Needless to say, 1990 was a year of upheavals and stress for a young family.

But, I survived. Unfortunately, once we were back in Muncie, I no longer had a terrific radio station playing edgy music nor did I have access to a great record store. Add to that situation that retail was no longer stocking vinyl and that forced me to finally begin buying CDs. In theory, I should have loved CDs. First, they were more convenient and portable. If that were a true selling point to me, then I would have gone to cassettes a decade ago. Next, the sound was supposedly better. Sure, you didn’t have the “pops and cracks” on an album, but albums didn’t skip if randomly if the laser in the CD player got funky or out of alignment. Plus, those CDs were not really as indestructible as they were originally touted to be. They were actually cheap pieces of crap with some music encoded. Then, there was the fact that artists now felt the necessity to add more music to their albums just to take up the extra data space on those plastic discs. Now, albums were longer, lengthened by crap filler songs (or, my favorite marketing tool, the secretly added song at the end of the disc that was preceded by a full ten minutes of silence just to get to it) and sounded flat and sterile. Yet, technology prevailed, mainly because the profit margins were so large on this medium.

Okay, so I gave in to the new technology, put away the albums and built up my collection. I guess this whole set of changes dampened my music spirit a bit. But, I was a husband and a father, and eventually a student again, so my energies were shifting to my new paradigm.

Yet, there was some fantastic music released in 1990, and let’s get this list going again!

9.10 Deee-Lite - World Clique

Deee-Lite – World Clique (1990). By 1990, the music world was beginning to become dominated by the late-Boomers and early-Gen X-ers, which meant the sounds were foreign to the traditional radio listeners. During a time of sterile-sounding pop/dance singers such as Paula Abdul and Cathy Dennis, along comes a trio of club rats hellbent on fusing the dance beats in the clubs with some touches of House music and flourishes of rap and alt. rock to create an exciting moment in time in the form of Deee-Lite. This album’s reputation rests squarely on the shoulders of their eternally exuberant single “Groove Is in the Heart.” This album still smells like the ecstasy of its time, and that’s a good thing.

9.10 Depeche Mode - Violator

Depeche Mode – Violator (1990). Synthpop gods Depeche Mode finally broke through commercially with this album that plays more like a great rock album than a synthpop album. Kudos must go to the guys for finally blending all their disparate interests into one compelling artistic standing. Of course, this album contains “Personal Jesus,” so I simply plant my javelin in defiance.

9.10 Digital Underground - Sex Packets

Digital Underground – Sex Packets (1990). This Oakland-based posse of rappers, DJs and sons of Parliament/Funkadelic grabbed the fancy of hip hop fans everywhere. They were one of the pioneers to popularize the use of P.Funk samples. Lyrically, they were still part of the party scene of the Eighties with their silly tales of getting busy in fast food restaurant bathroom (“The Humpty Dance”), but DU did introduce us to a little-known rapper by the name of Tupac.

9.10 George Michael - Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1

George Michael – Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1 (1990). It get it! George was tired of being marketed as a sex symbol to teenage girls. Hell, the man was gay during a time when it was still commercial suicide to be gay. Plus, the man was so obviously talented that he wanted his music to be heard without his ass being the selling-point of his videos. That’s why he blew up his career, but, man, if you just give this album a chance, you can tell Mr. Michael was a much deeper artist than the other teen heartthrobs of the day. This album is a major artistic statement by a major talent.

9.10 Happy Mondays - Pills 'n' Thrills and Bellyaches

Happy Mondays – Pills ‘n’ Thrills and Bellyaches (1990). Wait a second Keller! Who the hell are Happy Mondays? Well, they were a little British band who put out this great mix of swirling Sixties-styled guitars (think The Smiths and The Stone Roses) who melded this rock sound to the rave beats that was sweeping across the nation at the time. In a weird way, they were the UK version of Deee-Lite, but it made for a compelling mix.

9.10 Ice Cube - AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted

Ice Cube – AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted (1990). In N.W.A, Cube’s lyrics of the street gave Dr. Dre’s music the vitality that made the group so compelling. So, big things were expected from him when word got out that he went solo. And, man, did he ever deliver a masterpiece in gangsta rap, or music of any kind. This stuff is scary, intimidating, but full of empathy for his characters and their situations. The sad part is that the Compton is still suffering from the very same indignities 30 years later.

9.10 Jane's Addiction - Ritual de lo Habitual

Jane’s Addiction – Ritual de lo Habitual (1990). Sadly, this became the last album from one of the godfathers of alt.rock. But, they sure went out with a bang. Oh, do I have stories concerning this album, but they will remain untold in this forum. Still, “Been Caught Stealing” remains a landmark single.

9.10 Jellyfish - Bellybutton

Jellyfish – Bellybutton (1990). I am an idiot! I had a chance to purchase this album on vinyl in 1990 and passed! I just did not have the money to spare at the time. $10! I did NOT have $10! Can you believe it?!?! Anyway, this is the definitive album of the merging of all of my favorite sounds – Squeeze, Rundgren, Queen, ELO, Costello, etc. – into one glorious album. Guess what?! I have the damn thing on CD, but I want it on vinyl. This album is crying to be played on vinyl just to hear all the beautiful sonic details these guys seemed to lovingly labored to include. This is a magnificent pop/rock album that would have made Brian Wilson proud to have made. Jellyfish are the great lost band of the Nineties!

9.10 LL Cool J - Mama Said Knock You Out

LL Cool J – Mama Said Knock You Out (1990). “Don’t call it a ‘comeback!'” What an opening line! LL, who seemed to have gone artistically gone adrift on his post-debut albums, came out roaring on this album and never let up. This was a major artistic statement by a legendary rapper. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame needs to listen to this album immediately to remember what a fantastic artist LL was. Put him in the Hall now!

Well, let’s call this a wrap on Day 1! Peace.

Finishing Off the Eighties – 1989, Part 2: My 1000 Favorite Albums

5.17 Top 1000 Albums_LI

Today is a bittersweet blog as I finally bid farewell to the music of the Eighties. And although there is fantastic music to come, nothing compares to a person’s music from their teens and twenties. Those were the visceral years, while the coming years become less emotional and more academic in a sense.

Let’s raise a glass of your preferred beverage and toast the music of the Eighties.

9.7 Motley Crue - Dr. Feelgood

Mötley Crüe – Dr. Feelgood (1989). These guys nearly partied themselves into oblivion, yet regrouped to create their finest artistic statement. Although in hindsight, this album is the epithet on the whole glam rock genre, some of their production values remain in vogue to this day, namely that strong, loud bass, although no one will ever confuse Nikki Sixx with being one of the greatest bassists ever. Still, rock music had never turned the bass to 11, though Spinal Tap tried in jest.

9.7 Neneh Cherry - Raw Like Sushi

Neneh Cherry – Raw like Sushi (1989). Cherry made quite a splash in 1989 by taking cues from dance, pop, hip hop and alternative music to forge a unique sound. Her sole hit, “Buffalo Stance,” sampled Malcolm McLaren’s off-kilter sample-heavy “Buffalo Gals,” proving this daughter of a jazz musician had chops of her own.

9.7 Nine Inch Nails - Pretty Hate Machine

Nine Inch Nails – Pretty Hate Machine (1989). My older son claims that he remembers me cranking “Head like a Hole” when it came on the radio with him in the car. Whether that happened or was the wishful thinking of a four-year-old, Nine Inch Nails literally sounded like nothing of its time. Still, their sound perfectly suited the ending of the Eighties as they captured everything about the Eighties. Trent Reznor brought industrial music to the forefront.

9.7 Paul McCartney - Flowers in the Dirt

Paul McCartney – Flowers in the Dirt (1989). Let me be frank. Paul McCartney had recorded some pretty crappy music throughout the Eighties. Perhaps the greatest move he made was spending some time collaborating with Elvis Costello on some music. Unfortunately, the duo never released a full album of that music, the act did inspire both artists to record some pretty good music. Paul, in particular, revived his career with this stellar album, even his moment to cause a major commotion had passed. This album remains his last great one.

9.7 Pixies - Doolittle

Pixies – Doolittle (1989). Definitely, this album has my vote for visionary album of the year. It has been so influential that we still have not fully escaped the sonic revelations found on it. The album’s power continues to reveal itself with every listen. This turned out to be the sound of the Nineties. I cannot praise this album nearly enough.

9.7 Soul II Soul - Club Classics Vol. One

Soul II Soul – Club Classics Vol. One (1989). For a very brief moment in time, Soul II Soul were poised to be the saviors of club music. Their laidback beats coupled with touches of world music were setting the dance floors aflame. Unfortunately, this studio creation was one of those here today, gone tomorrow types. But, for one glorious moment, they set the world afire.

9.7 Stevie Ray Vaughan - In Step

Stevie Ray Vaughan – In Step (1989). After his brilliant debut in 1983, SVR started going through the motions on his albums. Much of this could be blamed on substance abuse. Now, Vaughan was back, clean and focused. And, boy, did he ever deliver on his immense talent, with Hendrixian solos and focused songwriting, the world was ready for his take on blues rock. Unfortunately, in less than a year, he would be taken away from us at the tender age of 29 in that fateful helicopter crash after a transcendent performance with some of the greatest blues guitarists of all-time, including Eric Clapton, Robert Cray and Vaughan’s brother Jimmie. Oh, what could have been.

9.7 The B-52's - Cosmic Thing

The B-52’s – Cosmic Thing (1989). While Bonnie Raitt had the most unlikely comeback of 1989, she was not the only artist to stake claim to that title. Re-enter The B-52’s. Since the band’s ground-shaking 1979 debut, The B-52’s had something of a rollercoaster career ride going. After the dizzying heights at the beginning of the career, the band was shaken to its core when its guitarist, Ricky Wilson, unexpectedly died from complications due to AIDS. Instead of packing it all in, drummer Keith Strickland learned to play with Ricky’s unique manner while the band hooked up with producer Nile Rodgers to create another dance classic, “Love Shack.” It was a beautiful statement of resilience made by these new wave pioneers.

9.7 The Cure - Disintegration

The Cure – Disintegration (1989). As the Eighties were ending, one quintessential Eighties band, The Cure, created it greatest album and was rewarded with the band’s first Top 10 single in “Lovesong.” From start to finish, this album is pure Cure, albeit with a little AOR sheen. The public simply caught up with The Cure.

9.7 The Stone Roses - The Stone Roses

The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses (1989). Sometimes, I never understand why a band that is so huge in the UK will barely make a dent on the US charts, such as The Smiths. It seems that this happened all over again with The Stone Roses. During 1989, The Roses were making a huge splash across the Atlantic yet received only a cursory listen here in the States. In retrospect, The Roses were the obvious next step in the development of Britpop in the Nineties that began with The Kinks and ran through glam rock, The Jam and The Smiths. The Stone Roses’ debut album is stuffed with their classic singles along with some more tasty cuts. Unfortunately, the band fractured under the weight of their own success like a balloon full of air and let go before being tied up. Still, they left this absolute classic of swirling guitars, Sixties-influenced harmonies and light dance beats for a timeless subtle dance feel to their rocking sound. Everything was in place for Primal Scream to take the sound a step further before the whole Britpop phenomenon exploded.

9.7 Tom Petty - Full Moon Fever

Tom Petty – Full Moon Fever (1989). For this Tom Petty fan, this album represents when Petty fully transitioned into something of a new era Neil Young. You just knew you were going to get terrific sounds with profound lyrics about what young people who were trying to grow up were thinking. Unfortunately for me, Tom’s days of being the young rocker were over now. Maybe I was not ready to face this moment with Tom, still he created a very profound album that continues to resonate through time. Although I have grown to love this album, I remember being conflicted at the loss of those great energetic songs of optimistic youth. Don’t get me wrong, I love the album! I just was not ready to give up my youth. However, as an older man, I can more fully appreciate the themes of this album, even though I prefer earlier and later albums to this one. I guess that’s the contrarian in me.

And, with that, I wrap up the Eighties on my list. I will always be passionate and emotional when it comes to the music of my youth. But, I am excited to forge forward toward the present. And, to all my former students, we are entering your wheelhouse soon. Peace.

It’s the End of the Eighties – 1989, Part 1: My 1000 Favorite Albums

5.17 Top 1000 Albums_LI

Although 1989 represented the last year of the Eighties, the decade was not going out quietly as far as music was concerned. The year continued down that anything goes motif that started the decade, especially where technology was concerned. The bass was getting deeper on all genre’s records. The samples were coming from all sources, and everyone was using them. And, between-track skits were being used on hip hop albums. Everything was getting set up for the Nineties.

We began to see alternative rock and hip hop make a bigger presence on the pop charts. Hair metal was running out of steam, while a brilliant fusion of rap and metal began to raise its head from the underground. Admittedly, pop music was kind of bland, but it was the underground that was shaking things up, much like a decade ago.

At this time, a couple of life changes were happening all at once. First, I started my journey to become a teacher as I took my first education course. Of course, at the same time, my younger son was born, so I was going to class two nights a week with a beeper (remember those?) in case my wife went into labor during class, which did not happen. Additionally, I was back to working at the original hospital in Oxford, at least this time on day shift and in the microbiology department predominantly. Unfortunately, our time in Oxford was limited as Ball State offered a faster method to a teaching license than Miami of Ohio did. That meant we would be moving in 1990. At least I had a year and a half left with a cutting edge radio station to keep me abreast of what was happening in music. After we moved back to Indiana, all of that would end.

So, what was the good music of 1989? Check it out.

9.7 Beastie Boys - Paul's Boutique

Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique (1989). I remember the students at Miami University buzzing at the record store in town about the release of the new Beastie Boys album. Excitement was nearly as high as it was back in 1986 when the live Springsteen box set was released. But, generally speaking, the public was not ready for this album. Most were expecting another dose of Licensed to Ill, but we ended up with the funky, almost psychedelic, musical collage of left field samples and non-bratty rhymes that left many unable to comprehend what had hit them. In retrospect, this album is when the Beasties became respected and influential hip hop artists for years to come. To took a decade for the rap world to catch up.

9.7 Bob Mould - Workbook

Bob Mould – Workbook (1989). After changing the rock world with his original band Hüsker Dü, Mould went solo, unplugged the guitars and recorded an urgent and immaculate acoustically-based album simply to reclaim his artistic vision. It was jarring to hear it for the first time, but it was a brilliant career move. It proved that you really didn’t have to pummel your listener into submission through the music. Mould had learned to let the lyrics breathe.

9.7 Bonnie Raitt - Nick of Time

Bonnie Raitt – Nick of Time (1989). It seems that 1989 was a year of redemption for musicians. One of the more unexpected comebacks of the year was Ms. Raitt’s. This blues/rock album was a simple delightful throwback album to a more naive moment in rock history. And being released at a time when technology seemed to matter most, this album was a stark contrast to what was popular at the time. This album just proves that rock will sell just at the moment you don’t think it ever will.

9.7 De La Soul - 3 Feet High and Rising

De La Soul – 3 Feet High and Rising (1989). Think about rap music at the time for a moment. In 1989, everything in rap was about the beats per minute, the more the better. Think of Run-D.M.C. and Public Enemy. Now, along comes this coterie of rappers and DJs with a much different vision, calling their collective Native Tongues. They seemed to follow Rakim’s jazz-influenced delivery style, but took it a step further by searching for unusual sources for their samples and breaks. From this collection of hip hop misfits, first was De La Soul. Not only were they sampling Steely Dan, Hall & Oates and other soft rock artists, they were setting the music up like jazz artists with a much more laidback sound. Plus, the began to stretch their concepts out on the album with little skits in between the songs. It was a stunning divergent direction in hip hop. Now, anything was possible.

9.7 Faith No More - The Real Thing

Faith No More – The Real Thing (1989). I will always remember where I was when I first heard “Epic.” I was at home, and immediately my then five-year-old older son and I were taken with the song. It sounded like nothing else before. And the album was much more diverse than I had a right to expect. FNM was no rap-metal band. No, these guys LOVED all kinds of music, and it showed on this album. This was alternative music for everyone.

9.7 Fugazi - Repeater

Fugazi – Repeater (1989). Just when you think that punk had died, along comes the first band of a new generation of punks. For me, it was heartening to know that younger people (they are my age!) were still discovering the genre and wanting to make that lifestyle choice. Plus, at the height of greed is good yuppiedom, it was reassuring to hear a band sound off a strong disdain for capitalism. And, I could respect that.

9.7 Janet Jackson - Rhythm Nation 1814

Janet Jackson – Rhythm Nation 1814 (1989). This is a very important album. Social commentary was back in dance music thanks to Janet. Rhythm Nation is as militant in social defiance as anything by Public Enemy but dressed down by the Jam/Lewis version of the Minneapolis sound. Janet was saying she was black and proud and saying it with volume and conviction. I have often said this was the album of 1989.

9.7 Jungle Brothers - Done by the Forces of Nature

Jungle Brothers – Done by Forces of Nature (1989). The other important rap album by a member of the Afrocentric Native Tongues collective, this album is just as landmark as De La Soul’s album. While De La Soul were embracing their inner hippie Black Panther, Jungle Brothers displaying their intellectualism with both their music and lyrics. This is something of a forgotten classic.

9.7 Lenny Kravitz - Let Love Rule

Lenny Kravitz – Let Love Rule (1989). Kravitz has always gotten the reputation of being more of an imitator than a innovator. But, I think that BS! Sure, you can play pick out the influence in many of these songs, but how can you go wrong with this list of influences: John Lennon, Prince, Sly Stone, Jimi Hendrix, just to list a few. For crying out loud! This is Gen X music by a Gen X artist. At least he was making interesting music instead of becoming yet another hair metal artist. Lenny should be held up as an artist and never maligned again.

9.7 Love and Rockets - Love and Rockets

Love and Rockets – Love and Rockets (1989). In the early Eighties in the UK, there were a group of artists who were labeled as Goth rock. One band in particular was Bauhaus, who had alternative hits with “Bella Lugosi’s Dead” and their take on the Bowie classic “Ziggy Stardust.” Later, the band splintered into singer Peter Murphy’s solo career and the rest of the band rechristened themselves as Love and Rockets. Love and Rockets took the darkness of Bauhaus and gave it a pop/rock makeover by adding touches of psychedelia, without ever losing its edginess. The band even scored a #3 hit in the US with the sensual “So Alive.”

9.7 Madonna - Like a Prayer

Madonna – Like a Prayer (1989). So what you want about her, Madonna is one of the consequential artists of the Eighties, and this album represents the exclamation point on that statement. In six years, the woman had evolved from dance queen/trash artiste to pop superstar to major voice with this album. Yes, she made the provocative racial statement with the title song’s video, stirring up controversy. But, she continued the artistic makeover by creating the “stay-true-to-yourself” anthem in “Express Yourself” and standing toe-to-toe with Prince on the overlooked masterpiece “Love Song.” This album stands alongside Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814 as the albums of the year.

That was a slew of great albums! Can’t wait for Day 2! Peace.

1988, Day 2: My 1000 Favorite Albums

5.17 Top 1000 Albums_LI

Quit screwing around Keller! Let’s just get right to the music!

8.31 Pixies - Surfer Rosa

Pixies – Surfer Rosa (1988). When it comes to the late-Eighties alternative rock scene, no band cast a bigger shadow over that era and beyond as the Pixies. No one had tried the dynamics of what we now call the “Soft/Loud/Soft” alteration of verse and chorus. The Pixies practically invented this vision of softly played and sung verses followed by choruses that unleashed every bit of musical noise known to man at the time. And, the great thing about this band is that they never forgot the pop melodies in their songs, no matter how much larynx-shredding vocal screams or wild feedback-drenched guitars were layered over it. The Pixies, along with Hüsker Dü, were the big influences on all Nineties alternative rock, intentional or not.

8.31 Public Enemy - It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back

Public Enemy – It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1988). What a revolutionary album. They may have rapped about it, but PE really did bring da noise! It was as if their production team, the now-legendary Bomb Squad, were laying as many samples in each song as humanly possible. Then, Chuck D and hype-man Flavor Flav did their best intimidating version of Run-D.M.C. While the West Coast was embracing a G-Funk sound that was thicker and more laidback on which to place their tales of street life, the East Coast, and PE specifically, made their music as fast and claustrophobic as NYC traffic on which to lay the Afrocentric lyrics. They were militant and intimidating and perfectly rock & roll for the times.

8.31 Queensryche - Operation Mindcrime

Queensrÿche – Operation: Mindcrime (1988). By 1988, the whole glam metal scene was becoming saturated and just plain boring. So, along comes a band from the Pacific Northwest that was equal parts Sabbath, King Crimson, Pink Floyd and Rush, in all the great ways. Queensrÿche brought a musicianship and intelligence to metal that had been lacking since the advent of the hair metal genre. Additionally, this breakthrough album for the band is an intricate and detailed rock opera of love and intrigue. This had to be one of the better metal rock opera/concept albums since 2112. The boys deserved the accolades.

8.31 R.E.M. - Green

R.E.M. – Green (1988). Right around Election Day in 1988, R.E.M. dropped their first major label joint as one of the biggest rock bands on the planet. And, did they ever deliver with a fairly direct set of rock songs. Their was no denying that the boys from Athens, Georgia, were intent upon letting a generation know their politics were liberal, from the environment to women’s rights to gay rights to anything that went the opposite way of Reaganomics. It’s as if the band decided they were going to be fiercely independent while working for one of the biggest corporations of the time (Warner Bros).

8.31 Sonic Youth - Daydream Nation

Sonic Youth – Daydream Nation (1988). Sonic Youth were an innovative noise art rock band from NYC who had spent the better part of the decade as part of the ultra-underground No Wave scene. But, along the way, this quartet stumbled upon a sound that combined the plain guitar noise of the avant garde with some pop melodies that would become the third leg of the major influences on Nineties alternative music. This double album is their masterpiece, showing that they could marry the guitar god dreams of Television with the refusal to be commercial like Philip Glass. This was a major statement which allowed the band to sign with a major label in the wake of this album’s critical success.

8.31 The Church - Starfish

The Church – Starfish (1988). If you want to know what Nick Drake would have sounded like if he grew up during the punk era, then this Aussie band just might be the answer. This album sounds like The Cure funneled through acoustic instruments. There lone US hit, “Under the Milky Way,” is simply a brilliant song.

8.31 The Sugarcubes - Life's Too Good

The Sugarcubes – Life’s Too Good (1988). Back in the Eighties, a little known Icelandic band with a lead singer by the name of Björk became something of a college rock sensation behind their great single “Birthday.” And, the rest of the album is surprisingly great too. It is so interesting to hear Björk’s voice fronting an alternative rock band as opposed to the challenging electronica she will release as a solo artist in the Nineties.

8.31 The Waterboys - Fisherman's Blues

The Waterboys – Fisherman’s Blues (1988). Hailing from Scotland, The Waterboys had been long hyped as being their homeland’s answer to U2, as both bands shared a sweeping anthemic songs with lyrics full of hope. Yet, for some odd reason, The Waterboys could never quite cross the Atlantic for their share of stardom. So, on this album, leader Mike Scott lead his band into marrying the folkish sound of his native land to his band’s music, creating some music that actually recalled some of Irishman Van Morrison’s classic sound. This album is well worth the effort to find.

8.31 Tone-Loc - Loc-ed After Dark

Tone-Loc – Loc-ed After Dark (1988). Yes, this was really kiddie rap, but he sure did some innovative stuff. Loc’s bourbon-drench vocal style could run thin by the end of the album, but the samples he used with a pure delight. Who wasn’t taken by the sample of Van Halen’s “Jamie’s Cryin'” on “Wild Thing”?

8.31 Tracy Chapman - Tracy Chapman

Tracy Chapman – Tracy Chapman (1988). This album is the moment when a neo-folk album transcended the genre. Chapman’s album was so singularly good that her stuff was being covered by all kinds of artists from different genres (you just gotta hear Living Colour’s raucous version of “Talkin’ About a Revolution”). As I listen to the album, I cannot believe how the lyrics remain so topical even in today’s Black Lives Matter protests. It’s so sad that she was saying the very same things that continue today.

8.31 Traveling Wilburys - Vol. 1

Traveling Wilburys – Vol. 1 (1988). You know, I honestly did feel sorry for the older Baby Boomers, as their rock heroes were losing out to a new generation. So, when four major stars from that generation (George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison and ELO’s Jeff Lynne) joined forces with one of the young bucks at the time (Tom Petty) to form a relaxed supergroup, you just couldn’t blame those older rockers getting all excited by this combination. And, for once, this gathering actually worked on all levels. The Wilburys made a terrific rock album that ironically was ignored by the very radio format that all of these men had invented one or two decades earlier. This is a fun album.

8.31 XTC - Oranges and Lemons

XTC – Oranges & Lemons (1988). So, how does a band actually attempt to top a creatively stellar year like they had in 1987? Of course, they attempt to get back to their basics by writing enough material for a high quality double album of fractured Beatles pop/rock, that’s how. Sure, the band was sticking together via wire, duct tape and rubberbands, but they held it together beautifully for this masterpiece.

8.31 Ziggy Marley & the Melody Makers - Conscious Party

Ziggy Marley & the Melody Makers – Conscious Party (1988). It sucks when you are the offspring of a legend. It is difficult to get out of your parent’s shadow. But Ziggy and his sisters tried by making one helluva of an updated version of his dad’s brand of reggae. Produced by the Talking Heads’ husband/wife rhythm section, also known as Tom Tom Club, of Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth, Conscious Party picks up where Bob Marley left off upon his passing and updates the sound with flourishes that made the producers’ bands so popular. This is just an excellent album of reggae, Eighties-style.

And, that wraps up 1988. See you next time! Peace.

1988, Day 1: My 1000 Favorite Albums

1988 was the year in which I began to hide my “adult” albums with the intent of keeping them away from my older son. At the time, we really didn’t fully comprehend just how precocious he was for his age. How could we? We had nothing really to base his behavior on. On my days off, he and I would make our trek to the local record store to browse. He would sit on a crate of albums and flip through them occasionally pulling one out and asking me what the artist’s name was. If he liked their name, then he would ask me to buy it. His favorite band name at age 3? Little Feat. I sure it was the visual that intrigued him on a concrete level.

Although I was still hanging a bit to my youthful tastes in music because of 97X in Oxford, Ohio, I could feel that I was barely staying abreast with the music scene by this time. You can only last so long on the periphery of youth culture before it passes you by, no matter if you continue to read Rolling Stone and Spin magazines. It is inevitable. I would have a mini-rebirth when my boys were in their teens and early-twenties, but it could feel my youthful idealism slowly falling through my hands.

Sure, great music will continue to be created by talented people, but 1988 marks the year in which it began to harder to stay current even though I was probably still far from the beach of adulthood indifference. Actually, I never have reached that point, I am simply more selective. As the song from that very year by the forgotten band The Pursuit of Happiness was titled, “I’m an Adult Now.”

Still, there was some terrific music released in 1988, so let’s get to it.

8.31 Aerosmith - Pump

Aerosmith – Pump (1988). By the time I was in high school, Aerosmith had become passe through their substance abuse. Oh, to a middle schooler, they were awesome with Toys in the Attic and Rocks earning many spins on my turntable. But, by high school, I was over them. Then, in 1986, Run-D.M.C. revived their career. This was the band’s second album of their late-Eighties revival and it’s a dandy. Easily, it is their third best album, right after the aforementioned two.

8.31 Bobby Brown - Don't Be Cruel

Bobby Brown – Don’t Be Cruel (1988). Before he became Mr. Whitney Houston, unfairly I might add, Brown was first a member of New Edition then a major solo artist. On this album, he personally put an end to the sound of Michael Jackson’s Eighties pop sound by combining R&B, funk and hip hop into what was called New Jack Swing. At that moment, you just knew that hip hop was ready to burst out of the underground to become the dominant sound of the next 30 years.

8.31 Camper Van Beethoven - Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart

Camper Van Beethoven – Our Beloved Revolutionary Sister (1988). As one of the last alternative bands from the early-Eighties alternative scene to sign to a major label, CVB continued their surrealist take on rock music. At times, when they played it close to straight, you might think this band could become a big deal. Then, they would always take their eclectic musical turns that would eternally keep them with their cult. This is MY Grateful Dead.

8.31 Cowboy Junkies - The Trinity Session

Cowboy Junkies – The Trinity Sessions (1988). It seems like every couple of years, some artist comes along and drops an album that simply sounds out of time and timeless simultaneously. That’s what happened here. Cowboy Junkies convened in an abandoned church to record a haunting acoustically-based surprisingly urbane take on country music. It sounded as if The Velvet Underground had suddenly been transported to the Middle America and raised on country music. Unfortunately, the band could not replicate the magic they put on wax, but this is another forgotten classic.

8.31 Dinosaur Jr. - Bug

Dinosaur Jr. – Bug (1988). I consider Dinosaur Jr. to be the first truly Gen X band because of all the slacker references that surrounded them. Just because they said they only sat around and watched TV does NOT mean they were serious about their craft. If they weren’t the first grunge band, they were the genre’s John the Baptist.

8.31 Fine Young Cannibals - The Raw & the Cooked

Fine Young Cannibals – The Raw & the Cooked (1988). FYC represented a major step forward in dance/rock music. Plus, their secret weapon was their Sam Cooke-channeling lead singer Roland Gift. Who knew that once the trio tasted success that they would go their separate way?

8.31 Fishbone - Truth and Soul

Fishbone – Truth and Soul (1988). By 1988, their was a newer sound that was coming out of Southern California that was taking the underground by storm. This sound was based on the late-Seventies UK ska scene but added elements of funk and metal. The two big bands at the time were the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Fishbone. Honestly, at the time, I thought Fishbone was the better band. They were smart, unrestrained and way more funkier. Personally, I feel like no one could figure out how to market a band of intelligent and talented black men who refused to play “black” music. I saw them last summer, and they still brought the goods. Unfortunately, yet another brilliant band that got lost along the way.

8.31 Jane's Addiction - Nothing's Shocking

Jane’s Addiction – Nothing’s Shocking (1988). Here’s another of the great late-Eighties alternative bands who were fearless in combining musical sounds and textures that seemed at odds with each other. To me, they were the new Led Zeppelin, as distilled through punk rock. I will NEVER understand why rock stations of the time refused to play these bands, only to force “Classic Rock” down our throats.

8.31 Living Colour - Vivid

Living Colour – Vivid (1988). What seemed natural to people my age was blown way out of proportion by those in the media who were older. Those same media types had no problem loving Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone when they were younger, but, in 1988, when black men were rocking out, as Prince, Fishbone and this band did, oh, the apocalypse was coming! What BS! Living Colour should have been yet another great rock band in the annals of history if not for racism and a total disregard for a new generation of musicians.

8.31 Metallica - ...And Justice for All

Metallica – …And Justice for All (1988). After Cliff Burton died in that fateful tour bus crash, no one knew what to expect from Metallica. So, they regrouped, got a new bass player (Jason Newsted) and proceeded to record one of the great metal albums of all time. This is a double of pure metal thrash and expanded jams that no band had the balls to ever create. In other words, they got all of their grandiosity out with their emotions and put it all on vinyl. And, it remains a landmark album to this day. Footnote: Metallica got screwed when Jethro Tull was given the first Grammy for Best Metal Recording over this album. Please.

8.31 Morrissey - Viva Hate

Morrissey – Viva Hate (1988). When The Smiths dissolved, people were anticipating what Morrissey would sound like without Johnny Marr’s swirling guitar attack. In all honesty, that is exactly what was missing on this album but not nearly missed as much as you would have first thought. Morrissey just went about his songwriting business to create an excellent ending to his need for his old partner. Unfortunately, few solo Morrissey albums would be as interesting as this one.

8.31 Mudhoney - Superfuzz Bigmuff

Mudhoney – Superfuzz Bigmuff (1988). I remember when I first began to hear the Seattle bands on 97X. The first one that they played was this band called Mudhoney. That band’s music was so different than anything else. It sounded murky, almost stoned, loud and heavy yet it was all held together by a melody. This was an unusual take on punk and metal, and I loved it! After Mudhoney, Screaming Trees and Nirvana soon followed. But, at least for me, this was the beginning of something new.

8.31 N.W.A - Straight Outta Compton

N.W.A – Straight Outta Compton (1988). Every time I turned around when I was younger, conservatives were constantly placing blame on everything but the outcomes of their own economic policies. So, in their minds, when metal and Prince accusations of subverting the minds of the youth wouldn’t stick, they turned toward the world of gangsta rap because of their use of violent inner city tales. And since N.W.A was upfront about the whole disparity between the world whites and blacks, they immediately drew the ire of politicians and police. They were the Sex Pistols of the hip hop world. You know how stupid people are? Controversy ALWAYS increases album sales. That’s why 2 Live Crew went platinum with their crappy music. You know, it would’ve been so cool to have had a big festival with N.W.A, Guns ‘N Roses, Public Enemy, Metallica, R.E.M., LL Cool J, Prince and U2 headlining? Hell, I’d still go see that one.

Looking back, 1988 was a pretty solid year for music. See you again for Day 2. Peace.