Monday, April 4, 2011

My Top 25 Albums 1990-1995

Moving on from the '80's into the '90's was a pleasant change. Music literally exploded! As the music scene shifted from the monotony of heavy metal and the plastic of new wave, I embraced grunge and the jam bands with a feverish passion. I don't know why, the music seemed more real to me and less affected by the corporate sell outs that I starting to despise.

Of course, with the music expanding in different directions, I was getting more and more involved into the music scene. I was buying albums on a regular basis and attending concerts every time that I had a few bucks to spare. I mean, $50 for a pay per view weekend for Woodstock '94 was a highlight (and a must) for me. That was easy to do when I was just living with a lady that soon became my wife. (We later divorced).

A good job, no kids, no worries-life was good.

U2 Achtung Baby-1991 With classic albums like War, The Unforgettable Fire and Joshua Tree under the belt, U2 keeps rolling along like an unstoppable force! Here they go again with another classic! Bono and the boys are the masters of reinvention. This time they add a little of techo-electronic to pizazz up their signature sound. Unbelievable!

Pearl Jam Ten-1991 I remember hearing "Evenflow" on the radio for the first time. I was mesmerized by Eddie Vedder's Morrison like vocals and Micheal McCready's explosive guitar solos. I just HAD to get this album! A great thing I did! The rest of the album got me smokin'. Tunes like "Black" and "Alive" reached to the depths of my soul...

Black Crowes Shake Your Money Maker-1990 I'm going to include their second album, The Southern Harmony and Music Companion in this entry because both of these albums are equally as good. I remember seeing the Black Crowes for the first time on David Letterman, thinking this is rock and roll without all the bullshit. These guys are strictly the meat and potatoes type of band. Taking the retro of the Faces, Zeppelin and the Stones and wrapping if up with the Allman Brothers like jams as spicing it up with the Cajun of the South is pure genius!

Jimmy Page & Robert Plant No Quarter-1994 I originally bootlegged this off the MTV special, Unledded, not knowing it'll be released soon. What happens here is Jimmy Page reunites with Robert Plant and his band recreating obscure Zeppelin classics! Performing with the London Metropolitan Orchestra and the Egyptian Ensemble, tunes like "Four Sticks", "Friends" and "The Battle of Evermore" take on a whole new life! It was a Godsend to see this in concert in Chicago. Probably the most unforgettable night ever!

Allman Brothers Band An Evening With the Allman Brothers Band Sets 1 and 2-1992 and 1995 No disrespect to the legendary Live at the Filmore album that features the original members of the Allman Brothers, but this IS the stuff I go for from the Allman Brothers. The revitalized line up that features the mind blowing guitar combo of Warren Haynes and Dickey Betts that has got me begging for more! Polished down and more deliberate, these guys take old tunes like "Blue Sky" and "Jessica" and new tunes like the 15 minute "Nobody Knows" and "Back Where it all Begins" to new heights!

Gov't Mule (s/t)-1995 I'm a Warren Haynes fan, can't you tell? The Allman Brothers guitarist's power trio side project takes off in the form of a retro rock and roll jam band. Warren blazes and slides his Southern like solos and his baritone pipes to the excellent rhythm section of Allman Brothers' bassist Woody Allen and drummer Matt Abst. The killer riffing of "The Mule" and the powerhouse "Rocking Horse" are a must for a guitar hero!

Guns n' Roses Use Your Illusion I & II-1991 The ambitious Guns n' Roses add keyboardist Dizzy Reed to compliment their deadly arsenal of guitars. The ending result was an incredible mixture of rockers, covers and epic length tunes like the iconoclastic "Civil War", the hyper-driven "Locomotive" and the heartrending beauties of "Estranged" and "November Rain" Even though there are a few blunders here like "Get in the Ring", one has to wonder what was going through Axl Rose's mind...

Counting Crows August and Everything After-1993 This album took me by surprise when I first heard the hauntingly smooth vocals of Adam Duritz and a brisk sounding group that is reminiscent of The Band. Duritz's lyrics are so illustrative, deep and starkly beautiful-making him right of there among the elite of songwriters like Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. The rest of the Counting Crows has the uncanny ability to create the mood without going overboard with their stunning improvisations. Priceless....

REM Out of Time-1991 It's a never ending guess to what REM is going to bring to the table. This time, it's their own brand of folk. It's feel good record with a sunny array of shimmering mandolins and radiant acoustic guitars. Remarkably upbeat, it's something that isn't expected from the politically charged REM.

Seven Mary Three American Standard-1995 It's not the radio hits like "Cumbersome" and "Water's Edge" that got me addicted to this album. It's their obscure tunes like "Devil Boy", "Roderigo" and "Favorite Dog" that got me hooked. Through the rage of guitars and grungy riffs singers/guitarists Jason Ross and Jason Pollack purrs and growls their vocals to climatic heights!

Metallica (s/t)-1991 Also known as The Black Album to many. Metallica abandons their signature sped up complex tempo changing epics in favor for the conventional and assessable heavy metal. A risky move...and the fans ate it up! Classic tunes like the anthem "Enter Sandman", the Gothic grunge of "Sad But True" and the road warrior "Wherever I May Roam" were made mainstream by radio airplay and MTV. What's even bolder, the ballad "Nothing Else Matters".

Nirvana Nevermind-1991 Critically acclaimed as one of the best albums in rock and roll, it's easy to see why. Yet, I never did fully embraced the Nirvana legacy. Much of it I thought was overkill. However, I did find Kurt Cobain's haunted, tormented voice and the bands' catchy hooks rather engaging. Angry and raging guitars filled with angst and rebellion that rises and cascades down to a whisper of Cobain's troubled soul was a real trip...

Neil Young & Crazy Horse Ragged Glory-1990 Teaming up again with Crazy Horse, Neil Young is fearless! Leaping into the '90 after a mediocre '80's, Young makes his most impressive comeback. Using over-amped guitars with distortion and excessive feedback, the Godfather of Grunge blazes and burns as he rips through 10 minute epic tracks such as "Love and Only Love" and "Love to Burn". Lyrically he's also gotten bolder, shocking the hell out of many fans with his moniker, "Fucking Up". You know, Neil Young didn't fuck up on this's incredible!

Robert Plant Manic Nirvana-1990 Robert Plant "returns" to the Zeppelin form bringing the mystery and the mystical back for a second record. This time he rocks a little harder! There's the hippie feeling rocker "Tye Dye on the Highway" where Plant pumps life into his harmonica, the bone cruncher "Hurting Kind (I've Got My Eyes on You)" and the folksy "Liar's Dance" that is reminiscent to "Going to California". This album certainly was a vast improvement over the countless Zep clone bands that were around at the time.

Live Throwing Copper-1994 Throwing Copper is a very passionate, tight and melodramatic album aided by crashing crescendos and memorable hooks. Singer Ed Kowalczyk powerful vocals whispers to climatic heights as he belts out the heroin related story of "T.D.B." There isn't really a wasted track here. "I Alone," "Selling the Drama," and "All Over You," all of which received heavy radio play. The rebirth-themed "Lightning Crashes," the album's biggest hit, was written about a friend of the band that died in a car accident.

Collective Soul (s/t)-1995 Straddling a line between '80s arena rock and jangling, '90s alternative pop, their debut was a pleasant affair that became a multi-platinum smash. They don't tamper much with that sound on this self titled album, but the results are every bit as enjoyable due to the engaging melodies that lead singer Ed Roland and company seem to create at will. The hits included the infectious "Gel," sarcastic, mid-tempo "December," and the lovely, soaring ballad "The World I Know.

Blues Traveler Four-1994 The originality of this New York based jam band took me by surprise! Led by the guttural vocals and incisive harmonica of imposing frontman John Popper, Blues Traveler takes on a blues boogie formula and hopped it up with a kinetic mixture of guitars and harmonica fueled with speed of light cheeky lyrics. It wasn't really a surprise the tune "Run-Around" became a smash hit.

Aerosmith Get a Grip-1993 Aerosmith's train keeps a rollin' tour de force! Aerosmith's 11th studio album, Get a Grip, shows the band in the peak of their comeback form. Tunes like "Eat the Rich", Livin' on the Edge" and "Shut Up and Dance" rocks with a bluesy groove and bite that is comparable to their golden days. It's the ballads like "Cryin'" and "Amazing" that shows the band leaning towards commercialism.

Melissa Etheridge Yes I Am-1993 "Come to My Window" was the tune I heard when I seen Melissa Etheridge on David Letterman for the first time. To describe that performance in one word-breathless! That woman can SING! Heavily influenced by Bruce Springsteen, the album title says it all-she belts out these unapologetically anthemic numbers with such passion and confidence that is unparalleled in her previous albums.

Edie Brickell & New Bohemians Ghost of a Dog-1990 Talk about blowing me away... Hippie folk band Edie Brickell & New Bohemians sophomore (and last) effort, takes them beyond their debut! Once again, the musicianship and instrumentation are supremely appropriate, topping that with thoughtful, thought-provoking lyrics and memorable melodies. Unlike other songwriters, Brickell finds the similarity in differences and uses it to her advantage, spinning webs with words entangled in unique rhymes and patterns. This record is full of such cleverness, as bouncy and whimsical as some of the songs, some of it can get downright poignant and serious. However exquisite Brickell is as a songwriter and vocalist, enough can't be said of the guys who support her musically.They are wonderfully creative musicians, and the cohesiveness of their sound is exciting to hear. These guys know what it means to play together, each giving his all without stepping on anyone's toes!

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Into the Great Wide Open-1991 Tom Petty returns to the Heartbreakers after his successful solo stint in Full Moon Fever, bringing his shiny new formula to the band. Here's where the songwriting and the story telling takes on a new light. It's laid back and easy on the mind, yet thought provoking and personal. The title track tells a story of Midwestern boy trying to make in L.A., while "Learning to Fly" is very personal as I was going through a tough time...

Spin Doctors Pocketful of Kryptonite-1991 With quirky lyrics, a funky rhythm, bombastic guitar solos and catchy hooks, it's hardly a surprise this album became a hit. While considered the Grateful Dead lite, it's the Eric Schenkman's Page like guitar solos that attracted me to this band, especially on the 12 minute epic, "Shinbone Alley". It's the quirkier, humorous tunes like "Little Miss Can't be Wrong", "Jimmy Olsen's Blues" and "Two Princes" became smash hits.

Soundgarden Superunknown-1994 Soundgarden's finest hour! Superunknown is a 70 minute magnum opus that pushes the band beyond any previous boundaries. Soundgarden had always been a little mind-bending, but the full-on experiments with psychedelia give them a much wider sonic palette, paving the way for less metallic sounds and instruments, more detailed arrangements, and a bridge into pop. The focused songwriting allows the band to stretch material out for grander effect, without sinking into the pointlessly drawn-out muck that cluttered their early records. The dissonance and odd time signatures are still in force, though not as jarring or immediately obvious, which means that this album reveals more subtleties with each listen.

Queensryche Empire-1990 One of the most praised metal bands of the late '80's, Queensryche powers their way into '90's with their release, Empire. Highly conceptual and anything but redundant, Empire demonstrates beautifully just how imaginative Queensryche can be. Geoff Tate's powerful vocals, Chris DeGarmo's and Micheal Wilton' twin guitar assault combined with inspirational and sometimes dark lyrics leaves no doubt how talented this band can be!

Blind Melon (s/t)-1992 Managing to be equally mellow and introspective as well as rough and rocking, Blind Melon's 1992 self-titled debut remains one of the purest sounding rock albums of recent time. This album holds pretty well standing over the test of time, resembling a classic rock album. The late Shannon Hoon's angelic voice and talent for penning lyrics that examined the ups and downs of everyday life were an integral part of Blind Melon's sound, as well as the band's supreme jamming interplay. Popularized by MTV's heavy rotation of the "Bee Video" of their song "No Rain", Blind Melon made their to the top of the charts.

Rush Roll the Bones-1991 Rush's uncanny ability to change and evolve never ceases to amaze me! Roll the Bones marks further transition from the band's '80's style to their sound in the '90's. The roles of the instruments have been reversed; guitar is beginning to creep to the front of the song arrangements, while bursts of keyboard and organ are played in the background. This album comes with a few surprises thrown in for good measure. These include an amusing rap section in the middle of the title track, a welcome return to instrumentals with "Where's my Thing?," and one of the band's finest songs of the '90s in the gutsy "Dreamline."

Smashing Pumpkins Siamese Dream-1993 Its was a toss-up between this album and the 1995 double disc release Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. During the recording of Siamese Dream, the band's troubles were threatening to break the band apart. Singer/guitarist Billy Corgan was going through bouts of depression and writer's block while drummer Jimmy Chamberlin was addicted to heroin. Bassist D'Arcy and guitarist James Iha severed their romantic relationship, thus creating a volatile combination for failure. Somehow this band prevailed....Billy Corgan assumed a bigger role by performing most of the album alone except the percussion parts. The final result was an album considered among the finest in the '90's!

Extreme Pornograffiti-1990 Extreme came onto their own in their sophomore conceptual effort, Pornograffiti. With the band's strongest set of songs and an intellectual theme revolving around the struggle for genuine love and romance in a sleazy, decadent society full of greed and corruption. The band shows a strong desire to experiment and push the boundaries of the pop-metal format. Through the ever changing styles of the Queen influenced guitarist Nuno Bettencourt, songs ranged from the censorship pushing "Get the Funk Out" to the folk laden ballads "More Than Words" and "Hole Hearted" proves the band talented indeed!

Arc Angels (s/t)-1992 I ALMOST had forgotten about this album! Luckily, I didn't...There are one-hit wonders throughout the history of music, but very few one-album wonders like the Arc Angels. After the death of blues-rock guitar hero Stevie Ray Vaughan, fellow singing guitarists, Texans, and Vaughan devotees Doyle Bramhall II and Charlie Sexton formed the quartet with Vaughan's rhythm section of bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer Chris Layton. Their 1992 debut release would also be their swan song, but the self-titled album would prove to be one of the best rock/pop/blues recordings of the decade as well. The tune "Sent by Angels" became a very personal.

Stone Temple Pilots Core-1992 Once rated as grunge outcasts similar to Pearl Jam, playing like Alice in Chains rejects, somehow this band gained national recognition through their tunes like "Plush", "Creep" and "Sex Type Thing". The album rocks pretty hard, remarkably well even though they carry the torch like their processors...

I know that there are 30 entries here. Like I said before, the music scene exploded here! I could have easily included entries from bands like the Cry of Love. the School of Fish. Temple of the Dog, Masters of Reality and dada. All these are great bands!


Perplexio said...

Unlike you, I actually prefer 80s music over 90s. But there was some stuff from the 90s I thoroughly dug:

I couldn't agree with you more about Collective Soul's self-titled sophomore album that and 1999's Dosage (1999) were their best.

Def Leppard Euphoria (1999). Great album to close out the decade. It was a fun return to form after the overly somber & melancholic Slang. People listen to Lep to have fun. I realize they had to grieve Steve Clark's passing and I'm glad they were able to get it all out of their system on Slang. That opened the door for Euphoria.

The Verve Pipe Villains (1996). This was the Verve Pipe's major label debut. They'd released an EP and an album on a small indie label in their home state (Michigan) but this was the album that put them on the map nationwide. I saw them live within a few weeks of this album's release and even met lead vocalist and songwriter, Brian Vander Ark, after the show. While Villains isn't as good as 2000's Underneath you could hear the potential bubbling just under the surface on Villains. Vander Ark is one of my favorite contemporary songwriters.

Toto Kingdom of Desire (1992) Toto's heaviest album. It's unlike anything they'd recorded before and it's unlike anything they've recorded since. After a revolving door of lead vocalists in the eighties (Bobby Kimball, Fergie Frederiksen, Joseph Williams, and briefly Jean-Michel Byron) the band opted to soldier on as a quartet with guitarist Steve Lukather handling ALL of the lead vocals. Sadly drummer and founding member Jeff Porcaro died shortly after the album's release. This album shows a much more raw Toto than their much more polished 80s material. The music mixes elements of jazz & the blues with even ocassional hints of metal (especially on the chugging open track, Gypsy Train which would not have sounded out of place on a GnR album).

Steve Lukather Luke (1997) - Toto guitarist's 3rd solo album. The most raw and deeply personal of his albums up to that point. At the time I bought this I was getting over my first love. At the time Lukather recorded this he was getting over his divorce from Marie Curie (older sister of Cheri Curie of The Runaways) so the emotions he was tapping into really struck a nerve with me.

Toto Mindfields (1999) - Original lead vocalist, Bobby Kimball, returned to the fold in 1998 after a 14 year absence from the band. This was their first album following Bobby's return. It's considerably more eclectic than Kingdom of Desire but it's almost TOO eclectic at times. It mixes elements of jazz, rock, prog, and even country (country star Clint Black even has a harmonica solo on one track).

Brett said...

The 90's for me was a time of music diversion and then reinvention. I got caught up in part of the grunge scene but I was way into Rush (being a drummer and all) and by the later 90's realized that prog and prog metal was where my heart (an drumming style) lay when I discovered Dream Theater. So to me 3 albums I would put on that list are Coverdale Page (1993; not prog I know but amazing), Dream Theater Images and Words (1992), and Tool's Aenima (1996). there are man y more as well but for me these played a huge role for me. BTW, I am in WI as well (right up the road from you in fact in Oak Creek). I have a blog about songs spark memories if you would like to check it out. It is still all very new to me.

drewzepmeister said...

Perplexo-I started losing interest in Def Leppard when I got Adrenalize. Aside from a couple of tunes on that album, I saw a direction that they were going that I didn't care for. I never heard anything off of Slang. The tunes I've heard off Euphoria, I liked. One of these days, I'm going to have to break down and order for it.

As for Toto, the only thing I have from them is their forth album. Kingdom of Desire does sound interesting.

Brett-Well, howdy neighbor! I was passing through Oak Creek yesterday (on Hwy 32)to visit a friend in Milwaukee.

I do have Dream Theater's Words and Imagines,the prog metal on it was rather amazing!

Another one I have is Coverdale/Page. Overall, it's a good album. I just kinda cringe when I hear David Coverdale "imitating" Robert Plant. The Coverdale I had gotten used to sang for Deep Purple and Whitesnake. It just seems that Coverdale has been around long enough to have his own identity. However, when I saw Page/Plant in Chicago, they played "Shake My Tree". I was blown away by their version.

R S Crabb said...

Hey Drew...Well your list pretty much explains what was playing at the record store I was hanging out during the 90s and I remember the owner saying how big Nirvana was going to be and basically I poopooed him but a couple weeks later, Smells Like Teen Spirit took off and dammed if he wasn't right about them.

I remember the night that Metallica black album came out in 91, they had a midnight sale and in that hour we sold something like 100 copies right off the bat. Those were the days, midnight sale at Relics (RIP).

Perplexio said...

Drew- Based on what I know of your taste in Music, Kingdom of Desire is the only Toto album I'd recommend to you. The rest of their material doesn't really jive with a lot of the other music you mention. That album is a huge departure from anything they did before and anything they've done since. I'd also recommend Steve Lukather's 3rd solo album, Luke. The music is similar to what's on Kingdom of Desire but the lyrics are a bit darker and more personal than the lyrics on KoD.

drewzepmeister said...

Crabb-God, I remember those days..Just as vividly as watching midnight showings of "The Song Remains the Same"!

Perplexo-Kinda obvious that I like the harder edged stuff huh? :P