40–24 The Big Boys Start To Check In

by Bill

40.  Paul Westerberg– “Eventually”

Released: April 30, 1996

After The Replacements ended in 1991, it didn’t take Paul Westerberg long to begin his solo career– putting two singles on the “Singles” soundtrack– “Waiting For Somebody” and “Dyslexic Heart”. In 1993 he released his first official solo album, “14 Songs”, which would have made this list, but I forgot. It took a full three years later (possibly leading to the name of the album) for his second solo album to come out– “Eventually”.  Like “14 Songs” before it, “Eventually” was better on the slow stuff than on the rockers… Westerberg had been quoted as saying he was basically “done with the punk stuff, I said all I had to say”– and he also knew that he was older now, and that there is a fine line between the screaming, ranting voice of youth and the obnoxious groaning of a stodgy old man. The Replacements place in Rock ‘n Roll history is forever etched. Westerberg is now making his way down that path as a solo artist– “Love Untold” being his best solo song.  “Good Day” is a tribute to former ‘Mat Bob Stinson who passed away from a heroin overdose.

Key songs: Love Untold, Mommadaddydid, These Are The Days, Once Around The Weekend, Good Day, Time Flies Tomorrow

40.  Soul Asylum– “Candy From A Stranger”

Released: May 12, 1998

The 8th studio album from the Mpls rockers– panned by many hard-core fans, it sold far less than their previous two and ultimately would get them dropped from Columbia Records.  The band had turned in a record called “Creatures of Habit” that Columbia rejected (goodbye Black Star)…. another producer was hired and Candy was released with much of the same material re-done.  It’s always seemed odd to me how none of the really great alternative bands from the early 90’s really lasted. Pirner said, “It’s sort of sad to say, but you could see the whole grunge-rock-band thing getting totally over-saturated and people were looking for something new.” Music and how people were buying it were definitely changing by 1998, but I don’t care what anyone says– “Candy” was a great album. “Close” will always sound like an autobiographical eulogy to me, but that’s wrong because Soul Asylum did prove it– over and over and over.

Key songs: Close, See You Later, No Time For Waiting, Blood Into Wine, New York Blackout, Cradle Chain

39.  Social Distortion– “Social Distortion”

Released: March 27, 1990

It was bound to happen– I forgot this one… it should probably be up around 85 or so. Oh well. The third album from Social D, the punk rock band from Fullerton, CA that started making music together in 1978.  This third album had Social D implementing more to their music than just flat out punk– and they charted two singles for the first time in their careers– Story of My Life and Ball and Chain.  They would release three more albums (with a 4th expected in 2010), but never again reach the heights of this one– which reached #128 on the Billboard album charts and received 4.5 out of 5 stars from AllMusic.  Logan’s band does a bitchen cover of “Ball and Chain”.

Key songs: Story of My Life, Ball and Chain, Ring of Fire, So Far Away, Let It Be Me

38.  Smashing Pumpkins– “Siamese Dream”

Released: July 27, 1993

There was definitely something weird about this album when it came out in 1993– it just sounded a bit different from all of it’s alt/rock contemporaries.  Billy Corgan went out of his way to veer away from the “punk rock” base of most alternative bands and instead went with a goth/metal/arena rock style that gave them a sound all their own.  Corgan said that in the wake of Nirvana’s landmark 1991 album Nevermind” “We felt a great pressure that if we didn’t come up with a record that was huge, we were done. It was that simple in our minds. We felt like our lives depended on it.”  So huge they did. Siamese Dream sold over 4 million copies– but the band never got a foothold in the “alt” community and many others in the music community took pot-shots at the Pumpkins (jealousy? animosity?)– Corgan admits to being an easy person to dislike.  Participants in the indie scene had derided the band as careerists since their early days.  Pavement’s 1994 song “Range Life” refers to the band with the lines “I don’t understand what they mean/And I could really give a fuck”, which have been widely interpreted as an insult (although Stephen Malkmus has stated “I never dissed their music. I just dissed their status.”). Former Husker Du frontman Bob Mould called them “the grunge Monkees”,[6] and fellow Chicago musician/producer Steve Albini wrote a scathing letter in response to an article praising the band. He countered that the Pumpkins were no more alternative than REO Speedwagon and said they were created “by, of and for the mainstream” and “stylistically appropriate for the current college party scene, but ultimately insignificant.” Whatever dude– I was 28 and I dug it.

Key songs: Today, Disarm, Cherub Rock, Mayonaise, Rocket, Soma

37.  The Jayhawks– “Hollywood Town Hall”

Released: 1992

The album that put alt/country or country rock into the national spotlight in the time of grunge. The album seemed daring at the time, simply because it was a sound that nobody else was putting out at the time (at least nationally… in Minnesota this only ranks as the 3rd or 4th best “alt/country” record ever).  The critics took notice and Hollywood Town Hall received rave reviews across the board. 4.5 out 5 from AllMusic, 4 out of 5 from Rolling Stone and a solid “A” from Entertainment Weekly.  The album cover was about as “Minnesota” as it could get, 4 guys sitting on a couch in winter coats on the side of a road in front of a small, all white church, with what looks like a late Feb, early March snow cover all around them.  Top to bottom, it’s probably the best Jayhawks album ever (though a good argument can be made for 2003’s “Rainy Day Music”– but this album really has no duds on it at all– 10 great songs.

Key songs: Waiting For the Sun, Crowded In The Wings, Clouds, Settled Down Like Rain, Sister Cry, Two Angels, Take Me With You (When You Go), Martin’s Song

36.  Counting Crows– “This Desert Life”

Released: November 1, 1999

Counting Crows list their musical influences as the following: Van Morrison, REM, Mike + the Mechanics, Nirvana, Bob Dylan and The Band. Yup, Mike + the Mechanics. I mean, “In The Living Years” was a good tune and all, but, um…. what are you talking about? Maybe it’s an inside joke.  Anyway, Counting Crows third album found them going back to “August”  territory rather than “Recovering the Satellites” experimentation.  The album received 4 out of 5 stars from AllMusic and 3 out of 5 from Rolling Stone– but if you like the Counting Crows, it was better than that. The album sold over a million copies and hit #8 on the Billboard album charts– powered by the success of the single, “Hanginaround”, which peaked at # 5 on the Billboard Adult chart.  Though a pretty solid album top to bottom, “This Desert Life” is ranked this high because of the 7:46 piano rock ballad, “Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby”– a song Adam Duritz wrote in honor of actress Monica Potter, whom he’d never met. I don’t know if he’s ever met her since, but for a fat, ugly guy Duritz sure has pulled a lot of hot women.  He once answered the question, “what question are you most tired of getting?”, Duritz replied, “how’d that fat fuck get that hot of a girl”.  Though  they’ve had much bigger hits, “Potter” just barely charted at #40 on the adult top 40 for a week– it’s arguably Duritz best song.

Key songs: Hanginaround, Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby, All My Friends, Amy Hit the Atmosphere, Colorblind

35.  Garth Brooks– “No Fences”

Released: August 27, 1990

This album was hard for me to embrace when it came out, as I was still in hardcore, “I HATE country music!” mode.  Brooks was a game-changer though and he updated the “country” sound and really changed the genre forever.  It’s funny because if you go back and listen to this record now, it comparatively sounds like Conway Twitty compared to some of the “country” music out there today.  This second album released from Brooks spent 23 weeks at #1 on the Country charts and peaked at #3 on the pop album chart– it ended up selling over 17 million copies in the US alone.  The album contained what has always been Garth’s signature song, “Friends In Low Places”– which became the crossover– as a sing-a-long song in not just country bars, but just about any bar where people weren’t dancing to Euro-tecno music.  The album contained 5 #1 country hits and Brooks’ enthusiastic live shows helped propel him to one of the most successful careers in music history.  Brooks crossed over so well because he took on a genre that needed a shot in the arm and he brought all of his musical influences to it: Springsteen, Billy Joel, James Taylor and Dan Fogelberg.  Brooks began wearing the wireless headset at his concerts– and they became parties unlike anyone had ever thrown in country music before.  The album receive the very rare 5 out of 5 from both AllMusic and ArtistDirect and an A from Entertainment Weekly.

Key songs: Friends In Low Places, Unanswered Prayers, The Thunder Rolls, Two of a Kind, Workin on a Full House, New Way To Fly, Mr. Blue

34.  Matchbox Twenty– “Yourself or Someone Like You”

Released: October 1, 1996

Never loved by critics or the music hipsters, but always adored by the masses, the Orlando fouresome arrived on the scene in the winter of 1996 with a roar, the album would eventually sell over 12 million copies in the US alone.  The first single, “Long Day” got immediate radio play, but didn’t move too far up the charts– an oddly enough, the most popular song off the album, “3am” never charted with Billboard, as there was a stupid rule back then (since changed) that would only rank songs that had officially been released as singles, and “3am” never was.  I’m not really sure why the music hipsters instantly hated Rob Thomas– he wrote great lyrics and had a phenomenal pop sensibility.

She’s got a little bit of something, God it’s better than nothing
And in her color portrait world she believes that she’s got it all
She swears the moon don’t hang quite as high as it used to
And she only sleeps when it’s raining
And she screams and her voice is straining

I remember one of my brothers calling me soon after “Real World” had hit the radio and all he said was, ” “I get this funky high from a yellow sun…. I wish the real world would just stop hassling me” is just pure genius”.  Hit after hit after hit and Rob Thomas is nearing the pantheon of great song makers of the last 25 years.  One of my sisters once remarked, “Does Rob Thomas ever make a bad song?” Pretty much “no” is the answer– critics be damned. Two of the songs I still go back and listen to off of this album were never even radio hits, “Kody” and “Hang”– and that’s saying something, because just about every song on this album was a radio hit.

Key songs: Real World, Long Day, 3am, Push, Back To Good, Damn, Kody, Hang

33.  Foo Fighters– “The Colour and The Shape”

Released: May 20, 1997

So what to do when you’re in one of the seminal bands of all-time and your lead singer blows his brains out?  You either mope about the rest of your days with a creepy beard and a weird name or you say, “yay, I don’t have to be just the drummer anymore!” and you rock out. Dave Grohl formed the Foo Fighters just a year after Cobain’s death, and although not blessed with the greatest voice in the world, he’s always made up for it by putting every goddamned ounce of effort he has into every song.  Actually, Grohl had always written songs while in Nirvana and he and the other surviving member, Krist Novoselic had a couple of talks about continuing to play together, but ultimately decided against it– saying it would have been easy for them to do, but just too weird for everyone else. “I didn’t need to be under that much of a microscope” Grohl said.  Grohl mulled over an offer from Tom Petty to become the drummer for the Heartbreakers, but turned it down to begin his own band.  The Foo’s released their first effort on July 4, 1995 and it hit right away, led by the singles: “This Is A Call”, “I’ll Stick Around” and “Big Me”– the last of which proved once and for all that Grohl wasn’t going to follow in Nirvana’s footsteps. The first album was a solid effort and proved Grohl’s second act wouldn’t be a fluke– but with “The Colour and the Shape” he blew the doors off and got his rock on. During the course of the making of the album, Grohl divorced his photographer wife and you can certainly hear the anguish of a failed relationship in many of the songs– and the first single, “Monkey Wrench” takes on the break up head on.  The back-to-back-to back smack of the album’s first three singles can go head to head with just about any other 90’s albums.  With over 2 million sold, it remains the best selling Foo Fighters album– and “My Hero” has lived two lives– a hit when it was released, it got new life after 9/11 when Grohl played an acoustic version on The Late Show– the song honors every-day heros as Grohl says he never had any music or sports heros growing up.

Key songs: Monkey Wrench, Everlong, My Hero, Up In Arms, See You, February Stars

32.  Weezer– “Weezer”

Released: May 10, 1994

Weezer’s first ever band practice was held on February 14, 1992– and shortly thereafter the band got a big break: they were asked to open up a club gig for Keanu Reeves’ band, Dogstar. Ha. Just over a year later, the band went to Electric Lady studios in NYC where “Weezer” was produced by Cars frontman Ric Ocasek.  The record label didn’t want to release a single as they wanted to see how much hype they could get for the band by word of mouth from their spectacular live shows.  It didn’t take long for a radio station to pick up on them though and a Seattle station began playing, “Undone– The Sweater Song”, which was soon released and became a hit.  Spike Jonze jumped in on the hot act and directed the video to the song, which became an MTV classic, with it’s unbroken take from a sound stage that included much bizarre behavior, including a pack of dogs swarming the stage.  The second video, “Buddy Holly”, which re-created Arnold’s Diner from “Happy Days” also became a huge hit and the Weezer ship had officially set sail.  While those were the two huge hits and along with “Say It Ain’t So” made the album so popular– for me the song that always just jumped out of the speakers at you was the opening track,  “My Name Is Jonas”– you couldn’t hear that song and not think Weezer rocked.  The album went on to sell over 5 million copies in the US and received 5 out 5 stars from AllMusic.  It also gained Weezer a fanatical fan base– those who loved them, LOVED them and probably saved them from ruin after the strange second release: “Pinkerton” which, many swore by and many others thought was awful.  Rivers Cuomo, who was raised in an ashram in NYC and graduated from both the Berklee college of music and with honors from Harvard– has long been one of the more interesting figures in music– and it’s been his “smarts” (knowing how to adapt and change with the times) that has helped Weezer stay relevant for 16 years when many of their contemporaries have fallen by the wayside. “Weezer (The Blue Album)” was named the 297th best album of all time on Rolling Stone’s list of 500 greatest albums ever.

Key songs: My Name Is Jonas, Undone- The Sweater Song, Buddy Holly, Say It Ain’t So,  Surf Wax America, No One Else

31.  Live– “Throwing Copper”

Released: April 26, 1994

“Throwing Copper”, the second album from Live is in rarified air as only the 3rd album of all time to finally hit #1 on the Billboard album chart a full year after it hit the chart– joining Fleetwood Mac’s first release, “Fleetwood Mac” and Paula Abdul’s “Forever Your Girl” as the only albums to pull that trick.  In Throwing Copper’s case it was a matter of releasing single after single after single after single that kept it’s slow burn and slow rise up the charts going– the album eventually sold over 8 million copies in the US and 20 million world wide– one of the biggest alternative albums ever. “Lightning Crashes” spent an unheard of 3 straight months as the #1 song on the Mainstream Rock Singles chart. Five singles from “Throwing Copper” ended up charting– the lowest of which got to #15.  The band would never again hit the tremendous heights of “Throwing Copper” and in late 2009, the band would break up for good due to monetary disputes– most notably lead singer Ed Kowalczyk’s demand for a $100,000 “lead singer” bonus at a music festival that summer.

Key songs: The Dam At Otter Creek, Selling the Drama, Lightning Crashes, I Alone, All Over You, White, Discussion

30.  The Scott Laurent Band– “Caposville”

Released: March 1, 1996

For most of the early and mid-90’s the Twin Cities music scene had it’s share of “middle of the road” pop bands that would take turns playing The Cabooze, The Fine Line, 400 Bar and Bunkers– most notably Tim Mahoney, G.B. Leighton, Johnny Clueless, The Billy’s and The Delilah’s. In 1996, Bloomington Kennedy graduate Scott Laurent hit the scene, another out of the local “Oar Fin” records stable and Laurent hit it out of the park with his first effort, “Caposville”.  Some review blurbs: “Laurent writes passionate, image conjuring, Midwest-style rock songs and he sings the hell out of them”  “Laurent has created a distinct sound that can be melancholy and nostalgic one minute yet uplifting and vibrant the next. Real songs for real people played with skill, conviction, heart and soul.”  “Laurent mixes a bit of the singer-songwriter with a sophisticated pop sound that is nearly on par with the best of Michael Penn, Semisonic and the fine recent material of the Jayhawks, Should really be a Triple-A radio staple.”  Well, a radio staple he never became, but he made 4 of the better Twin Cities albums of the time– Caposville being the best of the bunch.  From the opening snarl of “Madison” about a Billy and a Sarah, who “prays at night to God up above, for those who’ve been wronged by love”— to the meloncholy awesomeness of, “It Always Happened In The Fall”– a song that could only be written by a Midwesterner– the hallway neighbor of an old friend of mine– Caposville is singer/songwriter stuff done as well as it gets.

Key songs: Madison, Paul’s Song, Caposville, It Always Happened In The Fall, Afraid Of The Ground, You Know Me Well

29.  Hootie and the Blowfish– “Cracked Rear View”

Released: July 5, 1994

Fifteen years later and there are those who would have you believe Hootie and the Blowfish were a joke, a musical anomaly, a band that rode a goofy name and pop jingles to a ridiculous amount of unfounded fame and fortune.  Those people are wrong. In 1986 in the dorm shower at the University of South Carolina, freshman Mark Bryan heard fellow-frosh Darius Rucker singing in the shower and was impressed.  Four years after graduation the boys released “Cracked Rear View” and it sold over 19 million copies in the US– making it the 15th best selling album of all-time in the United States. It received 4.5 out of 5 from AllMusic and 3.5 out of 5 from Rolling Stone.  This album hit and it hit hard.  It didn’t take long for music hipsters to make fun of the band and the name of the band– you go from zero to 100 in a couple of months and a huge portion of the world is going to hate you for it. You couldn’t go anywhere that played music in late ’94 and through 1995 and not hear a Hootie and the Blowfish song. And I liked them all. After a few more albums that wouldn’t come near the success of “Cracked Rear View”– Rucker turned out a very good country album in 2008 (even won best newcomer at the CMA’s)– but he always says “Let Her Cry” was his first country song. Whatever you want to call it, it was good, and Hootie and the Blowfish’s place in the music pantheon is secure.

Key songs: Hannah Jane, Let Her Cry, Hold My Hand, Only Wanna Be With You, Time, Not Even The Trees

28.  Alanis Morissette– “Jagged Little Pill”

Released: June 13, 1995

Alanis Morissette had just turned 21 years old when she released her third album (but major label debut) in the summer of 1995– she was just old enough to have been hurt by love and she was PISSED OFF! “Jagged Little Pill” hit like a pack of firecrackers and it just exploded everywhere– at 30 million records sold, it’s the best debut album ever recorded by a woman.  The album was a sensation on many different levels– basically the diary of a 20 year old girl– and a 20 year old girl that couldn’t sing particularly well either. But Alanis struck a chord– as one critic wrote, “the lyrics are unvarnished and Morissette unflinchingly explores emotions so common, most people would be ashamed to articulate them– an utterly fascinating exploration of a young woman’s psyche.”  Alanis and her label had hoped that “Pill” would make enough money to do a second album– but quickly after it’s release, the heavily influential L.A. radio station KROQ put “You Oughta Know” into heavy rotation– it was picked up quickly by MTV and the rest is history.  The album stayed in the top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100 albums chart for over a year and had an incredible 6 singles hit the top 15 of one Billboard chart or another. Rolling Stone ranked it #327 on their 2004 list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

Key songs: You Oughta Know, Ironic, Hands Over Feet, All I Really Want, Hand In My Pocket, You Learn

27.  Pearl Jam– “Vitalogy” and “Yield”

Released: December 6, 1994 and February 3, 1998

Pretty much the band of the decade when your 3rd and 4th best albums make the top 30. “Vitalogy” was made in the middle of super-duper-duper stardom for the band and in the midst of their epic battles with everyone from their record label to their war with Ticketmaster. After the massive success of the videos for “Jeremy” and “Alive”, Pearl Jam decided not to make videos at a time when they were the single biggest sales boost for any album or song.  Eddie Vedder hated the idea of listeners being told what to envision in their heads while they listened to a song– he liked the idea of listeners making up their own videos in their heads.  Even while giving their label and MTV and many other advertising strategies the finger, “Vitalogy” became the 2nd fastest selling album ever, selling almost a million copies in it’s first week. Producer Brendan O’Brien took a song that had been held off of their second album, “Vs” for being “too accessible” according to the band and insisted that they put it on “Vitalogy” as he called it a “blatantly great pop song”– the song was “Better Man” and it was on anyone with ears top 10 songs of the decade. The band continued to wage war with TicketMaster and was surprised as virtually no other bands took up the fight with them– a fight that would basically keep the band from touring in the Unites States for almost four years and a fight that they would eventually lose. Eddie Vedder says of “Yield”– “what was rage in the past has now become relfection”… Tom Sinclair of Entertainment Weekly stated that the band has “turned in an intermittently affecting album that veers between fiery garage rock and rootsy, acoustic-based ruminations. Perhaps mindful of their position as the last alt-rock ambassadors with any degree of clout, they’ve come up with their most cohesive album since their 1991 debut, Ten.” While the album inbetween these two, “No Code” veered a little to far off the “Ten” path for some, “Yield” brought almost everybody back.  Rolling Stone staff writer Al Weisel gave Vitalogy four out of five stars, describing the album as “a wildly uneven and difficult record, sometimes maddening, sometimes ridiculous, often powerful.”  Rolling Stone staff writer Rob Sheffield gave Yield four out of five stars, saying that “before, the band’s best songs were the change-of-pace ballads…Yield marks the first time Pearl Jam have managed to sustain that mood for a whole album.” He added that “Vedder is singing more frankly than ever about his life as an adult,” and that the album “shows that Pearl Jam have made the most out of growing up in public.

Key songs: Spin the Black Circle, Not For You, Better Man, Corduroy, Nothingman, Given To Fly, Wishlist, Faithful, MFC, Do The Evolution, Lowlight, All Those Yesterdays

26.  Martin Zellar– “Born Under”

Released: 1995

The much anticipated debut of Marty Zellar’s post Gear Daddies career pretty much picked up where the Gear Daddies left off– heartland angst embedded in great writing about horrible relationships, yearning for something more and wondering what might have been.  One reviewer wrote: “Yeah, the album cover looks like it was lifted from a J Crew catalogue, but don’t be fooled:  Zellar is heir to a long and distinguished tradition of gritty, world-weary song-writing and there’s nothing faked or pretentious in his song-writing or delivery.”  Zellar has a knack for capturing we humans at our worst but he still sides with us and hopes in the end we can just “be happy”.  “See you runnin’ for the bus/you’re six months pregnant, your clothes too tight/and I think my heart is gonna bust”.  Those who were crushed by the end of the Gear Daddies were saved by “Born Under”.

Key songs: Lie To Me, Problem Solved, Let Go, Something’s Gotta Happen, East Side Boys, Falling Sky, Summer Kind of Sad

25.  The BoDeans– “Black and White”

Released: April 26, 1991

In January of 1987 Rolling Stone named Waukesha, WI band The BoDeans the “best new American band” after their stellar debut, “Love and Hope and Sex and Dreams”.  Two more albums were released to critical acclaim in the 80’s, “Outside Looking In” and “Home”. Though critically acclaimed (even an article in TIME magazine)– moderate sales on the first three albums had the BoDeans looking for bigger pastures with “Black and White”. Kurt Neumann and Sam Llanas became far more ambitious as songwriters, tackling bigger issues than good times in bars.  The BoDeans took on race, sex and trying to get the girl in stories that took one man’s troubles and made them analogous to bigger issues. Though a fantastic album, it sadly didn’t sell a whole lot more than their previous work.  The BoDeans will always be in the pantheon of “how the hell did they not make it bigger?”

Key songs: Good Things, Paradise, Any Given Day, Naked, Forever On My Mind, Do I Do, Black, White and Blood Red

24.  The Refreshments– “The Bottle and Fresh Horses”

Released: September 16, 1997

The second album from the cult-favorites from Tempe, Arizona had a little bit less of a smirk on it’s face than their debut, but continued in the same vein of alt/country rock with a huge dose of Southwestern snarl. Maybe no band going put together sound and location as well as these guys, from rattlesnake guitars to tequila tasting vocals– one reviewer claims this album as such: “consider this record one of the strongest forgotten gems of it’s time.”  Thankfully, to all of us fans, the songs of the Freshies would live on with the Peacemakers.  Cedarfest show on August 17, 1997 where I fist heard a lot of the songs that would come out on this album a month later.

Key songs: Tributary Otis, Preacher’s Daughter, Wanted, Dolly, Fonder and Blonder, Broken Record, Una Soda, Sin Nombre

Published in: on May 31, 2010 at 10:04 pm  Comments (1)  

90’s Albums… 62–41

by Bill

Some of the better one-hit wonders from the 90’s:

Fade Into You– Mazzy Star,  Sister– The Nixons, Cumbersome– Seven Mary Three, Here’s Where The Story Ends– The Sundays,  Bittersweet Symphony– The Verve,  Pure– The Lightning Seeds, The Mighty KC– For Squirrels,  She’s So High– Tal Bachman,  Dizz Knee Land– Dada, You Get What You Give– The New Radicals,  I Touch Myself– The Divinyls,  Epic– Faith No More (the blatent Chili Peppers rip-off: “You want it all and you can’t have it”),  Kiss Them For Me– Siouxie and the Banshees,  I’ve Been Thinking About You– Londonbeat,  Life Is a Highway– Tom Cochrane,  Everything Falls Apart– Dog’s Eye View,  Tubthumping– Chumbawumba,  Freshman– The Verve Pipe,  No Rain– Blind Melon,  I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)– The Proclaimers, Shit– Slip Twister….. of course there were many, many more, but I’m not looking them up.  Back to those who were definitely not one-hit wonders:

62.  Chris Isaak– “San Francisco Days”

Released: April 13, 1993

He’s got over 20 movie and television show credits and he used to have a talk show, but the world best knows Stockton, California’s Chris Isaak as a crooner.  The 90’s were good to Isaak– he had a lot of great songs that were’nt from this album, most notably: Flying, Baby Did A Bad, Bad Thing, Somebody’s Crying and Wicked Game.  But Isaak’s best album came in 1993 at the age of 36. Isaak shucked the “tortured bad boy look” (the look that made him famous from the “Wicked Game” video) and went classic old school for the cover of “San Francisco Days”– just a good looking, smiling guy with a 50’s hairstyle and a 60’s looking album cover.  It kicked off with arguably his best song ever, the title track and ended with a cover of Neil Diamond’s “Solitary Man” and inbetween were 10 awesome songs that ran through joy, longing, depression and back again.  It sounded different than anything anybody else was doing at the time, but more importantly, it just sounded great.

Key songs: San Francisco Days, Two Hearts, Can’t Do A Thing (To Stop Me), Beautiful Homes, Except The New Girl, Solitary Man

61. Wilco– “Summerteeth”

Released: March 9, 1999

When Wilco (taken from the voice procedure term that means: will comply) hit the world in March of 1995 with, “A.M.” the world wasn’t sure what to make of them.  “A.M.” was released just months after the much-loved alt/country band Uncle Tupelo had called it quits.  Co-leader of  Uncle Tupelo, Jay Farrar went on to form Son Volt and the other leader, Jeff Tweedy, started Wilco. So what was Wilco to be? Just another alternative band arriving too late to the party or a game changing band that would have some life.  The Chicago boys have proven the latter to be true over the course of 7 albums that have them entrenched as one of the hippest bands in the world. The album received ridiculously positive reviews: 5/5 from AllMusic, 5/5 from The Guardian, A from EW, 3.5 stars from Rolling Stone and Pitchfork named it the 31st best record of the 90’s.  Despite the lofty acclaim, the album sold just 200,000 copies, probably because of the lack of a sure-fire single. The band re-mixed a single version of “Can’t Stand It” to try to boost radio play, but it didn’t work.  Most of the album centers around Tweedy’s struggling relationship with his wife. Though surrounded in Wilco’s catalogue by two better albums, Summerteeth went a long way toward’s Wilco’s status as one of the most critically acclaimed bands in the world.

Key songs: Can’t Stand It, A Shot In The Arm, I’m Always In Love, Nothing’severgonnastandinmyway(again), How To Fight Lonliness

60. Better Than Ezra– “Friction, Baby”

Released: August 16, 1996

Following on the band’s huge success of it’s 1993 major label debut, “Deluxe” (which had the hits, Good, In The Blood and Rosealia)– the New Orleans foursome followed up with this 1996 release.  The album didn’t have quite the commercial succes of “Deluxe”, but had more to offer as far as songs and swagger. The title of the album comes from a radio interview with Keith Richards, who was asked how the Stones had managed to stay together for so long and Richards answered, “friction, baby”.  One of the better live bands of the 90’s BTE took a year off after this album and might died out like many of their 90’s alt bretheren, but lead singer Kevin Griffin wouldn’t let the band die and BTE went on to release two of the very best albums of the 2000’s. “Desperately Wanting” became one of the best bar songs for the winter of 1996 and all through the next spring and summer. The slow ballad “WWOZ” is an ode to a legendary radio station in New Orleans.

Key songs: Desperately Wanting, King of New Orleans, WWOZ, Long Lost, Normal Town

59. Green Day– “Insomniac”

Released: October 10, 1995

If I’d have told you in in 1995 that Green Day would be one of the 4 biggest bands in the world and had their music interpreted on Broadway in the year 2010 you’d have that I was fucking high. The 4th album from the punkers from the Bay Area sold 2 million copies in the US and 7 million worldwide, much less than the one before it, undoubtedly because of it’s harsher tone and attitude. The reviews were all positive and in giving it 4 out of 5 stars, Rolling Stone wrote: “In punk, the good stuff actually unfolds and gains meaning as you listen without sacrificing any of its electric, haywire immediacy. And Green Day are as good as this stuff gets.”  The rockers rock on.

Key songs: Geek Stink Breath, Armatage Shanks, Stuck With Me, Walking Contradiction, Brain Stew, Jaded

58. The Jayhawks– “Tomorrow The Green Grass”

Released: February 14, 1995

In 1989 Dave Ayers, the president of Twin Tone records was  on the phone with A&R representative George Drakoulias from Def American and Ayers had The Jayhawks “Blue Earth” playing in the backround.  The music caught Drakoulias’ ear and he asked Ayers what he was listening to.  Drakoulias set up a meeting with the band and boom, a major record deal was done.  They say you have to be in the right place at the right time in any entertainment field. “Tomorrow the Green Grass” was the second major label release for the Mpls alt/country band and it reached the highest of any of their 90’s albums on the charts, making it up to #92 (it would be passed by the 2003 album, “Rainy Day Music”, which reached #51).  This album would be the last that original member and co-lead-singer and songwriter Mark Olson would be a part of .  The last track, “Miss Williams Guitar” was written for Olson’s then girlfriend, Victoria Williams (the two would later marry, then divorce). 4.5 out of 5 from AllMusic, 4 out of 5 from Rolling Stone and an A-, “Tomorrow the Green Grass” positioned The Jayhawks as a potential huge band– and the single “Blue” got them airplay everywhere. But Olson’s departure slowed down the band’s momentum and their next album, “Sound of Lies” was a big disappointment, both critically and commercially.

Key songs: Blue, I’d Run Away, Ten Little Kids, Miss Williams’ Guitar, Bad Time

57.   The Beastie Boys– “Ill Communication” and “Hello Nasty”

Released: May 23, 1994 and July 14, 1998

Why two Beastie Boys albums at once? Why not? Always critically adored, the NY trio issued three albums in the 90’s all to rave reviews and plenty of awards and accolades. I always love 2 or 3 songs off of each of their records and then don’t think much of the rest of them.  All I know is that if you want to kick-start a party, you could do a lot worse than kicking:

I Can’t Stand It, I Know You Planned It
I’ma Set It Straight, This Watergate
I Can’t Stand Rockin’ When I’m In Here
‘Cause Your Crystal Ball Ain’t So Crystal Clear
So, While You Sit Back And Wonder Why
I Got This Fucking Thorn In My Side
Oh My God, It’s A Mirage
I’m Tellin’ Y’all It’s Sabotage

You know what happens after that? Everyone has a really good time, that’s what.  Both albums got 4/5 stars from both AllMusic and Rolling Stone.

Key songs: Sabotage, Sure Shot, Root Down, Intergalactic, Remote Contol, Three MC’s and One DJ

56.  Kid Rock– “Devil Without A Cause”

Released: August 18, 1998

Kid Rock’s sitting on one of his boats on Lake Michigan getting interviewed by a rock writer– beautiful summer day, just answering questions and sipping on some Jack and Coke when a boat filled with college-aged kids goes speeding past.  A kid on the boat stands up and yells, “Kiiiiid Rock!!!” Kid Rock does the half-hearted wave towards the boat and as he’s doing so the kid screams, “what a faggot!!!”.  The writer stares hard at Kid, as the next 5 seconds might be the key to his article.  Kid stares at the boat speeding away for a beat and then shakes his head with a grin and says, “Fuck that little cocksucker….. but I SO would have yelled that at me when I was his age” Perfect reaction. Kid Rock is cool.  Robert James Ritchie announced his presence with AUTHORITY on this record, by screaming that he was “KID ROCK” and he’s backed up that boast ever since then.  Hard to pin in a musical “style” he incorporates hip hop, metal, blues rock, southern rock, funk and country music.  He’s able to pull it off because when you strip it all away– the dude can sing.  Really well.

Key songs: Bawitdaba, Cowboy, I Am the Bullgod, Only God Knows Why

55.  Liz Phair– “Exile In Guyville”

Released: June 22, 1993

Well, the truth of it is– Liz Phair has always been kind of “poppy”.  The hipster music world has abandoned her after this breakout album– one of the best reviewed albums of the decade. What Phair described as a song by song reply to the Stones 1972, “Exile on Mainstreet”— “Guyville” was really nothing more than an indie/pop record– but the lyrics are what separated it– no filter, whatever she thought, she sang about. “Fuck and Run” and “Flower” were just a girl screaming out at the world: “I want to be your blow job queen/ I’ll fuck you and your minions too”.  Why was she so pissed off at the world? An amateur shrink might say she was a textbook case: an adopted child who grew up in a wealthy Chicago suburb– she was trying to “be real” and establish some street cred. Whatever the case, Phair gained way too much street cred, too much for anyone to live up to.  Her hard-core fan base was going to turn on her no matter what she did next, and sure as shit, they did.  I like this album and I’m a fan of everything she’s done since too.  Rolling Stone, AllMusic and Blender all gave this 5 out of 5 stars, EW gave it an A.  A lot to live up to.

Key songs: Fuck and Run, Flower, 6’1, Dance of the Seven Veils, Stratford-on-Guy

54. Buffalo Tom– “Smitten”

Released: September 29, 1998

In the argument for most underrated band of the decade, with 5 great albums.  This Boston trio formed in 1987 and took it’s name from combining Buffalo Springfield with their drummer’s first name.  Drummer aside, it’s always been guitarist/singer Billy Janovitz’s band– a voice  that just sounded important and cool and hip all at once.  It’s almost amazing that these guys never broke through like some of their 90’s alt contemporaries like 3EB, Matchbox Twenty, Soul Asylum and Live. Arguably as many great songs as any of them– and plenty that were prime for radio play, but just never got the chance. “But aren’t you really just a penny whore?” sung to a school girl?  Take these lyrics: The autumn leaves/Me here without a tooth/You’ve given me the shaft/My friend’s car’s breaking down/And I’ve got no ride home…… well that could be any of us on any Friday night of the 90’s somewhere downtown. Attach Janovitz cool voice to those words and you’ve got something.  Five A range songs, all below.

Key songs: Wiser, Rachael, Postcard, The Bible, Knot In It

53. The Lemonheads– “It’s A Shame About Ray”

Released: June 2, 1992

Hmm, the Kurt Cobain of the East Coast? Musically a lot more simple and far less rage– but a talented, drug-addled guy who couldn’t handle success nonetheless. The Lemonheads bowled their way on to the scene in the summer of 1992 with an album that just about everybody loved– critics, radio and fans.  It was a perfect morphing of alt rock/70’s AM pop that the music world was way ready for after 80’s metal/pop had run it’s course. If grunge was just a little too much for you– grab the Lemonheads album and just groove out.  (The number one song on June 2, 1992 was, “Jump” by Kris Kross).

To the annoyance of the band, a second version of the album was released, with a cover of, “Mrs. Robinson” attached on the end– the single would be one of the most popular of their career.  (To show you how silly labels can be, the song, “My Drug Buddy” was changed to “Buddy” on the re-issue.)  4.5 out of 5 stars from AllMusic.

Key songs: It’s A Shame About Ray, Confetti, Rockin’ Stroll, My Drug Buddy, Rudderless, Alison’s Starting To Happen, Mrs. Robinson

52. John Mellencamp– “Whenever We Wanted”

Released: October 8, 1991

“Whenever We Wanted” was released the day after Johnny Cougar turned 40. With seven A albums cranked out in the 80’s, Mellencamp hit a speed bump with his 1989 release, “Big Daddy”– Jackie Brown, Let It All Hang Out and Pop Singer were all great songs, but the album as a whole lacked the firepower of all his previous work.  Mellencamp proved there was a little snarl left in his game with “Whenever We Wanted”.   The first of his albums to completely drop “Cougar” from the title, WWW was sharp, rowdy and fun. For me, the 90’s were my prime “going out” years– age 25 to 35 and probably no song sang to that era any better than, “Again Tonight”– it rocked, it rolled, it summed up my world– you’d go out Friday night, stay up too late, play golf Saturday…. and then:

Run in circles again tonight
Hump the moon again tonight
Gonna wear my dancin’ shoes out tonight
Gonna have myself a big time again tonight

[Chorus:]
Again tonight
Again tonight
Again tonight

Girl’s got lightning
Underneath her skirt
Boys try to touch it
For whatever it’s worth
In the morning
She’s just gonna be hurt
She wonders is it worth it again tonight

[Chorus]

Gonna catch that cloud tonight
Nine, cloud nine
Gonna try and catch that cloud tonight
Nine, cloud nine
Again tonight

Can you hold me baby again, again tonight
Can you sing
Can you dance baby
Can you sing
Can you hold me again tonight
Baby can you sing

Go ego trip’n again tonight
Tell the same lies they work all right
Gonna wear my dancin’ shoes out tonight
Probably make a fool of myself again tonight

Key songs: Again Tonight, Now More Than Ever, Get A Leg Up, Love and Happiness

51.  Goo Goo Dolls– “A Boy Named Goo”

Released: March 14, 1995

Third major release from the Buffalo trio, it contained their first big hit– “Name” that put the band on the map with the “big boys”.  Much a band they tried to model themsevlves after, Soul Asylum, it was an odd song to breakthrough with– a ballad from a band that had been almost a punk group in their early days.  Johnny Rzeznik says the song was written as a love ballad– an homage to his days growing up an orphan.  Oddly enough the group’s jump to super-stardom was also via a ballad: “Iris” in 1998.  Rzeznik was approached to write a song for the “City of Angels” soundtrack and he says he wrote the lyrics in just under 5 minutes and that the song was done in total in about an hour.  It was nominated for 3 Grammys and was number one for a record tying 18 weeks.  Nowhere near as good as “Name” though.  It’s funny that a band I love had it’s biggest hit from a song I hated, from a movie I hated.  This album received 4.5 out of 5 from AllMusic, “Name” reached number one on the Modern Rock chart and number on the Rock chart, as well as number 5 on the top 40 chart.

Key songs: Long Way Down, Naked, Flat Top, Name, Ain’t That Unusual, Eyes Wide Open

50.  R.E.M.– “Out Of Time”

Released: March 8, 1991

After releasing 6 albums in just over 5 years and reaching the status of “most love college radio band of all-time”– the Athens, GA foursome took a little more time for their next album– just over two years. The results were pretty simple: they moved from indie favorites to international superstars. It spent 109 weeks on the best album charts– hitting #1 two different times and won 3 Grammy awards.  The album added a dose of the burgeoning alt/country sound to the band’s repertoire.  “Losing My Religion” became the band’s first number one hit in both the US and the UK.  Mike Mills is quoted, “there have been very few “life-changing” moments in our careers, because for so long everything was so gradual– I guess our defining moment would be, “Losing My Religion”, that’s when everything changed.” A huge assist to the B-52’s Kate Peirson, who sang on three of the albums better tracks listed below. The band did not tour to support the record, as they had even more creativity brewing and more bullets in their song-gun, that the world would see in just 18 months.

Key songs: Shiny Happy People, Losing My Religion, Radio Song, Near Wild Heaven, Half A World Away, Texarkana, Me In Honey

49. The Push Stars– “After The Party”

Released: May 6, 1999

Cool album from a cool Boston band, with a cool album cover– half Mad Men, half The Hangover.  Band formed in 1996 and this was their 3rd and best album.  The band had done some regional touring before this record and spent a night at a cabin in Northern Minnesota playing a lakeside bar– that night singer Chris Trapper wrote, “Minnesota”.  “I made Minnesota my home tonight/it’s not like the picture in my mind/’cause I was so alone it killed tonight/I’d tell any soul if I could find one… I feel alright, it’s a Minnesota night/you’ve got nothing left to show me but your smile/stars so bright on this Minnesota night/can we cut the conversation for a little while?”   The band is currently on hiatus as Trapper pursues a solo career and the drummer has hooked up with Matchbox Twenty. Very cool album.

Key songs: Any Little Town, Meet Me On Main Street, Minnesota, Too Much Pride, Everything Shines, Drunk Is Better Than Dead

48. Semisonic– “Feeling Strangely Fine”

Released: March 24, 1998

In 1993 as Trip Shakespeare was winding down, Dan Wilson and John Munson began gigging at the 400 bar with Jacob Slicter– songs were written and put to tape and soon the band “Pleasure” was born.  Finding out there had been an 80’s band with the same name (go figure), they changed it to “Semisonic”.  Following up the brilliant, “Great Divide” was this ’98 album that had the monster, monster single– “Closing Time”– my thought at the time was: “how the hell has rock n’ roll been around 50 years and nobody had written a hit song about closing time yet?  It’s funny that the success of that song has Semisonic looked at by the world at large as a “one-hit wonder”. That’s laughable to anyone who paid any attention, but understandable nonetheless. (Just look below, those are 6 great songs). Killed at Cederfest in the summer of 1998.  He lives in a huge Kenwood house that I would jog by on my way to Isles before I moved away and I’d see him playing at a huge grand piano just inside a massive picture window near the street.  Moral of the story: if you have a hit song, you’re set.

Key songs: Closing Time, Singing In My Sleep, Secret Smile, DND, This Will Be My Year, California

47. John Mellencamp– “Mr. Happy Go Lucky”

Released: September 10, 1996

On the heels of two (relatively) lackluster albums (Human Wheels and Dance Naked), Mellencamp was now in need of a hit single.  It had been 9 years since the hit-maker of the 80’s had had a top 10 Billboard single– 1987’s, “Paper in Fire”.  He got it with one of the best song’s of the 90’s– “Key West Intermezzo (I Saw You First)”.  The song didn’t reach the top 10, (in fact, “Paper in Fire” was his last top 10 song) it peaked at 14, but by then the way the charts were kept had changed enough that they didn’t mean that much anymore.  The song was everywhere: bars, backyard parties, beaches, keggers– you name it, wherever you were, that song made it better. “Christ, what’s she doing with him? She could be dancing with me!” Since this record, Mellencamp has turned out 6 more critically acclaimed albums that haven’t had much success.  The critics hated him when he was huge and now they love him. Mellencamp has stated, “I’m done making hits, I’m writing music for myself now.”  I don’t have the slightest idea what that means, does he think he doesn’t deserve hits? Or is he implying that his musical taste is more highbrow and that the masses won’t get it? At any rate, if “If I Saw You First” was his last big hit, it was a heckuva way to go out.

Key songs: Key West Intermezzo (I Saw You First), Just Another Day, Jerry, Jackamo Road

46.  Wilco– “Being There”

Released: October 29, 1996

Named after the Peter Sellers movie of the same name, “Being There” was Wilco’s 2 disc follow up to their debut, “A.M.”.  Why we should all hate the record business #1,474: Jeff Tweedy had too many songs for a single CD, but didn’t want to release a record at a double album price (at the time about 30 bucks)– he asked Reprise Records to release the two cds at a single cd price– Reprise agreed, but only after saying they would get to keep Wilco’s royalties to the album. Deal done and so after releasing a spetcacular album, it’s estimated that in the end Wilco lost about 600 grand on the project, but Tweedy was satisfied anyway.  4.5 out of 5 stars from AllMusic and 4 out of 5 from Rolling Stone– the album began Wilco’s experimental phase, but also had songs that continued in the AM alt/country phase.  They’ve had some weird, great music since this one– often overrated, but always under-appreciated– this is still my favorite Wilco album, and “Say You Miss Me” is one of the most underapprciated songs of the 90’s.

Key songs: Misunderstood, Far Far Away, Outtasite (Outta Mind), Say You Miss Me, Outta Mind (Outta Sight), Dreamer In My Dreams

45.  Smashing Pumpkins– “Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness”

Released: October 24, 1995

Mellon Collie debuted at number 1 and sold over 9 million albums– absolutely unheard of numbers for 1) an alternative group and 2) a double album.  Billy Corgan wrote over 50 songs in a year’s time and 28 of them ended up as this 2 cd set.  The album received 7 Grammy nominations and picked up one win for best rock album of the year. Absolutely adored by some, thought of as a maniacal naval-gazer by others, everyone agreed that the Pumkins had greatness in them. Corgan was a genius, but probably not at the Prince-level genius he thought he was. I’ve always thought if pared down, this could have been one of the best albums ever made. There was a reason nobody made double albums anymore.

Key songs: Bullet With Butterfly Wings, Tonight, Tonight, 1979, Zero, Thirty Three, Farewell and Goodnight

44.  Guns ‘N Roses– “Use Your Illusion I and II”

Released: September 17, 1991

Truthfully, only gets the nod of the Pumpkins for best double set of the decade based on the awesomness of “November Rain”.  Side by side, after November Rain, the Pumpkins probably have the 4 best songs in that fight.  So how do you follow up an album that sells 38 million copies out of absolutely nowhere?  Kicking along on the LA scene doing the Whiskey, the Rainbow Room and the like, learning at the heels of Motley Cru and others,  Guns N’ Roses took the hair metal sound and smashed it together with rock and roll and it just exploded. There really was no way to follow Appetite For Destruction.  So they threw a roundhouse punch at the world in the form of a double album, but the punch didn’t land.  One legendary song, a couple of good covers and a few other solid tracks surrounded by a bunch of songs that signaled the end.  Too much success. Too much everything.  Reading the Motley Cru book you get the sense that even the other members of GNR hated Axl. He was a douche, plain and simple. What if November Rain and Patience would have been included on Appetite? Best album ever????

Key songs: November Rain, Civil War, Live and Let Die, You Could Be Mine, Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door, Yesterdays, Don’t Cry

43.  The Dixie Chicks– “Fly”

Released: August 31, 1999

Pausing a bit to fight Axl as he attacks me for having this ahead of him…. Truth is “Goodbye Earl” had more menace and intimidation than anything on either Illusion album. The girls hit super-duper-star status after this album, but then the spunky lead singer tried to fight the President and was sent to a decade-long timeout chair.  After “Wide Open Spaces” sold over 12 million copies, the Chicks bounced back with an even better effort with “Fly”.  “Fly” sold over 10 million copies and debuted at number 1 on the Billboard Album chart and won 2 of it’s 4 Grammy nominations. The album received 5 out of 5 from AllMusic, 3.5 out of 5 from Rolling Stone and an A- from EW.  The album cemented the Chicks status as Country music legends and “Cowboy Take Me Away” is flat out one of the best country ballads ever recorded…. and Andy starred in the “Goodbye Earl” video.

Key songs: Ready To Run, If I Fall You’re Going Down With Me, Cowboy Take Me Away, Goodbye Earl, Sin Wagon, Without You

42.  Dave Matthews Band– “Under The Table and Dreaming”

Released:  September 27, 1994

Welcome to the scene a weird bar band from Virginia with a South African singer who bops oddly around the stage and has a really goofy voice.  The album is dedicated to Matthew’s older sister Anne, who was killed in a murder suicide by her husband earlier in the year.  The harmonica solo on, “What Would You Say” was done by Blues Traveler’s John Popper in just under 10 minutes.  The story goes that Matthews had gone to the bathroom at the studio and when he came back Popper was gone and when Matthews wondered where he was, he was told, “he’s done, he left”.  4.5 out of 5 from AllMusic and a legion of diehard fans, DMB began a legendary touring schedule where they would play 3 hours a night.  15 years in and still going strong.

Key songs: The Best of What’s Around, Satellite, What Would You Say, Ants Marching, Jimi Thing, Typical Situation

41.  Green Day– “Kerplunk”

Released: January 17, 1992

Oh yeah, this is what Rock N’ Roll is supposed to sound like.  Punk rock band from Berkeley, CA with their 2nd cd, the one before the explosion, or the last one before becoming gillionaires. Kerplunk had tiny sales (although huge for an Indie release), but everyone who bought it could have told you after one listen that these guys were going to be huge.  I heard “punk rock band” and assumed it would be lousy, noisy, screaming rock.  It was loud and noisy, but it was melodic and you could sing along by the second verse.  As the years passed and Green Day grew and grew, this little album would eventually go over 4 million in sales world wide and Blender ranked it #47 on it’s list of 100 greatest Indie albums ever.

Key songs: 2,000 Light Years Away, One For The Razorbacks, Welcome To Paradise, Christie Road, One Of My Lies, Who Wrote Holden Caulfield?

Published in: on May 21, 2010 at 11:26 pm  Comments (1)  

No Prince, Madonna or MJ?!?!

by Bill

If I would have told you on January 1, 1988 that my list of the top 131 albums of the 90’s would only include 1.5 albums from Madonna, Prince, Michael Jackson, U2 and The Replacements, you would have told me I was crazy.  Then you would have said, “why the hell are you ranking the top 131 albums of the 90’s, don’t you have anything better to do?”  But then I would have also told you that when I wrote this list, you would weigh 24 more pounds than you did on that day— so now who wins the argument fatty– ha!

Anyway, the reason that would have sounded so insane in January of ’88 is that those  5 groups/artists placed no less than 23 albums on a similar list of the 80’s.  Who knows when a music career will suddenly flame out? None of those acts actually disappeared, though one turned a whole different color in the 90’s.  They all kept turning out music, but none of it other than a couple of songs here and there was any good.  I say 1.5 albums, because the ‘Mats album probably doesn’t belong on the list.  You just never know– come someday and my list of the teens best albums may have Kings of Leon as “the third greatest band of all-time” or none at all.  I certainly wouldn’t have guessed that I would pretty much stop buying cd’s in 2004.

I definitely would have guessed right about your weight gain though– that was a pretty easy call.

On we go…

80. Los Lobos– “Kiko”

Released: May 26, 1992

4.5 out of 5 stars from AllMusic and 4 out of 5 from Rolling Stone.  Though 87’s “By The Light of the Moon” is my favorite Los Lobos album, this was by far their most critically loved album. No singles quite as good as “One Time One Night”, but still plenty of good songs– the band was close to commercial success, but never could quite make it mainstream.  I can’t think they didn’t just shrug their shoulders when Los Lonely Boys hit it huge with their 2004 single, “Heaven” and an album that sold over 2 million copies.

Key songs: Kiko and the Lavender Moon, Reva’s House, Whiskey Trail, Dream In Blue, Arizona Skies

79. Pavement–  “Slanted and Enchanted” and “Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain”

Released: April 20, 1992 and February 2, 1994

More music blasphemy having these two albums this low– whateves…. I guess I was in the group that liked them ok, but I just never saw the genius of it all. A couple of decent records is what I heard– and I saw a frontman that thought he was a hundred times cooler than Johnny Depp. (I’ve since learned that he’s a sports fanatic, and even though I realize how stupid it is, my opinion of him has gone up). “Slanted and Enchanted” was listed at #134 on Rolling Stone’s top 500 albums of all time and “Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain” was listed at #210. History will show that Pavement was pretty comparable to The Replacements in terms of critical success and an undying fan base but no mainstream success. For me the difference is that The ‘Mats had about 30 great songs and Pavement had 2 or 3.

Key songs: Summer Babe (Winter Version), Trigger Cut, Cut Your Hair, Gold Soundz, Range Life

78. Sister Hazel– “…Somewhere More Familiar”

Released: February 25, 1997

Now here’s a band that I thought would go on to a lot more success than they did. This album hit huge in the summer of 1997, led by the huge success of “All For You” (reached #11 on the Billboard singles chart)– and led people to go buy their first album, “Sister Hazel”– which also had a lot of good songs, most notably “Feel It”…. but the Gainsville, Florida bunch could never really again match what they did on this album on any of their 5 releases in the past 10 years. Put on a great show at the Basilica Block Party in July of 1997.

Key songs: All For You, Just Remember, Happy, Think About Me, Cerilene

77. Stone Temple Pilots– “Purple”

Released: June 7, 1994

Did you know STP had 7 singles hit #1 on the Billboard rock charts? Or that the band sold over 40 million records worldwide, making them one of the most successful bands of the 90’s?  Pretty good numbers for a disfunctional group whose lead singer was a hard-core heroin addict.  On the heels of the monster hit that was the single, “Plush”– STP came back with a second album that was probably better than anybody expected.  “Purple” debuted at #1 and sold over a million copies in just 4 months. Soon after that though, Weiland would get arrested for drugs for the first time which would lead to the band breaking up.  They got together again just a few months later and have broken up and gotten back together 27 times since then. Weiland is a pretty talented guy, you wonder what might have been.

Key songs: Vaseline, Interstate Love Song, Big Empty, Unglued, Pretty Penny

76. Martin Zellar– “The Many Moods of Martin Zellar”

Released: 1998

Kind of a weird title for a pretty unassuming guy. Yeah, we get it, you’re going to be doing some different things on here– of course it seemed like everything Zellar did was always tongue and cheek, so I’m sure this album title has something to do with Marty rolling his eyes at the industry. Some odd songs on this one, but some great songs too. You sort of get the sense that in “Freeze This Feeling” Marty knew his highest highs as a performer were probably behind him– but that he was ok with that and looked forward to simpler times. The guy had an outstanding pop sensibility and a one-of-a-kind voice.

Key songs: Blown Kisses, Time and Time Again, Freeze This Feeling, 1,000 Miles Away, All I Need

75. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers– “Into The Great Wide Open”

Released: July 2, 1991

Just sort of padding their stats on a Hall of Fame career here. The eighth studio album from the Heartbreakers was produced by ELO’s Jeff Lynne, who had produced TP’s hugely successful solo effort, “Full Moon Fever”.  The album received 4 out of 5 stars from Rolling Stone and a B+ from the new pop culture magazine, “Entertainment Weekly”.  “Learning To Fly” hit number one on the alternative singles chart, tying  “The Waiting” for the longest number one song the Heartbreakers ever had.

Key songs: Learning To Fly, Into The Great Wide Open, Out In The Cold, You and I Will Meet Again, Two Gunslingers

74. The Lemonheads– “Car Button Cloth”

Released: October 15, 1996

Evan Dando had been the poster-child for the slacker/alternative/hipster rock of the early 90’s– he was even named as one of People’s 50’s sexiest people alive in 1993.  Crack and herion grabbed hold, however, and The Lemonheads disappeared as fast as they had hit the scene.  A couple of infamously horrific interviews where Dando couldn’t speak because he was so high and he very quickly lost his standing as “slacker sex-kitten”.  Dando rallied in 1996 though and re-formed the group with friends from both Dinasour Jr and .38 Special.  After this album and a succesful tour, Dando disappeared from the scene again and has only returned sporatically to minimal success.

Key songs: If I Could Talk, I’d Tell You, It’s All True, The Outdoor Type, Knoxville Girl, C’mon Daddy, Something’s Missing

73. Third Eye Blind– “Blue”

Released: November 23, 1999

Tough to follow up the staggering success of the first album, but this San Francisco band still sold about 1.5 million copies of “Blue” at a time when music was beginning to shift away from the “alternative” sound of the early half of the decade.  3EB will always be one of those bands you thought might have gone on to more popular success– but this second solid album has them solidly positioned as one of the better bands of their era.  Lead singer Stephen Jenkins has fashioned a pretty odd career– getting cast in a pretty prominent role in “Rock Star” opposite Mark Wahlberg– and also for picking several odd fights with Matchbox Twenty lead singer Rob Thomas through the media over the years. The bands both hit at relatively the same time and Jenkins seemed like he felt it was his duty to declare 3EB as the more legit band– and absurd argument that to my knowledge, Thomas has pretty much ignored. And enjoyed far more success.

Key songs: Anything, Faster, Never Let You Go, Wounded, 10 Days Late, Deep Inside of You

72. Oasis– “Definitely Maybe”

Released: August 30, 1994

Welcome to the world, Oasis. Are they popular in the UK? Well, they have a Guiness Book of World Records for “Longest Top 10 UK chart run by a Group”– with an astonishing 22 straight singles that have reached the top 10 in England.  This album entered the UK charts at #1 and was the fastest selling debut ever in the country.  It didn’t take long for the band’s “hedonistic” lifestyle to catch up with them, as they gave a legendarily horrible performance in Los Angeles, when lead singer Liam was on crystal meth– leading to the first of Noel’s departures (although this one was just a matter of hours).  Older brother Noel was not an original member of Oasis, but after seeing one of their early gigs, he decided they might be a good enough outlit for the tons of songs he had written and stored.  He joined the band only on the premise that he would be the sole song-writer and leader of the band.  Guitarist Paul “Bonehead” Arthurs says “we were just mucking about with 4 songs until Noel joined, and he just had loads of songs and ideas.”  Thus began the long and disfuncitional union of the Gallagher brothers– one with the words and the musical talent, the other with the golden voice. In America, this album only reached #58 on the charts, but it would go on to sell over 7.5 million copies world-wide.

Key songs: Supersonic, Live Forever, Shaker Maker, Cigarettes and Alcohol, Rock ‘N Roll Star, Slide Away.

71. Dave Matthews Band– “Crash”

Released: April 30, 1996

The second album is always the toughest…. the first one is worked on over a long period of time and if it hits, the world wants a second one and they want it fast. This Charlotte, Virginia jam band followed through– with an album that would end up selling over 7 million copies. One reviewer wrote, “the Matthews ensamble sounds even crisper on their solid follow-up and proves that their previous record wasn’t just an intriguing oddity.”  DMB sounded different than the “alternative” music of the time– more instruments, more free-wheeling and a South-African on vocals whose voice was just quirky enough to work.  “Crash Into Me” became the biggest single the group would have and was certainly one of the best singles of the decade.

Key songs: Crash Into Me, Tripping Billies, Proudest Monkey, Two Step, Say Goodbye

70. Sheryl Crow– “Sheryl Crow”

Released: September 24, 1996

For her second album Crow decided to tackle really simple themes: abortion, homelessness and nuclear war. The album became one of the first to be banned by Wal-Mart because one of the lyrics said that guns bought at Wal-Mart were too easily falling into the hands of children. The lead single, “If It Makes You Happy” became a monster hit and won Crow two Grammy awards. Three other songs off the album would become huge radio hits: “A Change Would Do You Good, Everyday Is a Winding Road” and “Home”– it was always weird to me that her best song ever, “Hard To Make a Stand” never made it to the radio. The album sold over 4 million copies in the US and received 4.5 out of 5 stars from AllMusic and was listed at #39 on Entertainment Weekly’s list of the top 100 albums of the last 25 years.

Key songs: If It Makes You Happy, Everyday Is a Winding Road, Home, Hard To Make a Stand, Love Is A Good Thing

69. REM– “Monster”

Released: September 26, 1994

When the 90’s hit, “alternative” music hit with it and long-time college radio favorites, REM, was leading the charge.  REM released it’s two most successful commercial albums at the start of the decade– but with “Monster” they made a return to a more “rock” album. The record debuted at #1 in both the US and in England and sold over 9 million copies and contained the band’s last “top 40” American singles, “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth” and “Bang and Blame”. The album dealt with the nature of celebrity– Peter Buck saying, “all the characters on this album are really fucked up, I don’t know who they are, but they aren’t Michael.”

Key songs: What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?, Bang and Blame, Strange Currencies, Crush With Eyeliner, Star 69, I Took Your Name

68. The Wallflowers– “Bringing Down The Horse”

Released: May 21, 1996

Second album released four years after the very modest debut, “The Wallflowers”– the son of the legend hit it huge himself with this massive release in the summer of 1996. Album sold over 4 million copies and the single “One Headlight” reached #2 on the Billboard charts and was voted the video of the year for 1997 on VH-1 and Bruce Springsteen joined them to sing it live at the 1997 MTV Music Awards. Backed by Adam Duritz of Counting Crows, “6th Avenue Heartache” also cracked the top 40 chart.

Key songs: One Headlight, 6th Avenue Heartache, The Only Difference, Three Marlenas

67.  Goo Goo Dolls– “Superstar Car Wash”

Released: February 16, 1993

The fourth album from the Buffalo, NY threesome was a turning point that switched the band from a  struggling, punk/garage band to a more shiny, alternative band.  Johnny Rzeznik took over full-time singing duties from Robbie Takac. Takac has sung full-time on the first two albums and the two had split duties on the third album, with Rzeznik’s “There You Are” and “Two Days In February” becoming the band’s two most popular songs. With the release of “Superstar Car Wash” the Goo Goo Dolls quickly took on a critical label of “Replacements Wanna-bes”– which the band thought was fantastic– “that’s exactly what we were, actually”.  Rzeznik even reached out to his idol, Paul Westerberg, and the two co-wrote the biggest hit off of “Superstar”, “We Are The Normal”. The album got plenty of play on college and independent radio and was featured regularly on MTV’s “120 Minutes”. Superstardom was around the corner.

Key songs: We Are The Normal, Fallin’ Down, Lucky Star, Girl Right Next To Me, So Far Away

66. Rancid– “…And Out Came The Wolves”

Released: August 22, 1995

Along with fellow Bay Area groups Green Day and The Offspring, Rancid helped revive “punk rock” in the early to mid 90’s. It never mattered what kind of music it was– if it was good it would catch on, and this album was great. The album was named after the bevy of major record labels that began stalking the group after their successful 1994 release, “Let’s Go”– the title also being taken from the punk/poet Jim Carroll’s, “The Basketball Diaries”.

Key songs: Ruby Soho, Roots Radicals, Time Bomb, Maxwell Murder, Lock, Step and Gone

65. Bruce Springsteen– “Lucky Town”

Released: March 31, 1992

Springsteen released two different albums on the same day– one was really good, the other, not so much.  There was a whiff of dissatisfaction from the Springsteen fan base– his early work was a desperate plea for happiness, his middle work became a fear and dis-trust of happiness and then he moved to Los Angeles and wrote a couple of records about embracing happiness. He was always truthful in what he wrote about and these two albums came on the heels of his divorce from his first wife, actress/model Julianne Phillips, a union that never seemed to make sense to anybody. Though “Human Touch” sold more (on the strength of the single, “Human Touch”), “Lucky Town” was the better reviewed of the two and for my money was a far better album. Springsteen wanted to add one more tune to “Human Touch” which was done first, and ended up with 10 more songs, so he just decided to release both albums. Though they were both successful relatively speaking, they hit a “lull” in his career and were followed by his panned “MTV Unplugged” album and the shaky “The Ghost of Tom Joad”.  After stepping away for awhile, Springsteen would re-claim his spot as rock legend in the 2000’s. “Lucky Town” will always go down as one of the more underrated Springsteen albums.

Key songs: Better Days, Lucky Town, Local Hero, If I Should Fall Behind, My Beautiful Reward

64. Hole– “Live Through This”

Released: April 12, 1994

So did she have him killed? Released just 4 days after her husband was found dead, conspiracy theorists abound that Courtney Love had some involvement in the death of her husband, Kurt Cobain. Anyway, “Live Through This” became one of the best reviewed albums of the 90’s– was it pity? Was it deserved? It’s a great album, but probably not as great as it’s reviews, which make it very similar to “Nevermind”.  It sold over 2 million copies, a great success for the alternative genre. Just before the release of the album, the last song– “Rock Star” was taken off the album as it had many references to Nirvana and joked about the misconceptions of fame and that it might just be better to die. Then he died, so the song was taken off. The band followed this album with “Celebrity Skin” later in the decade, which was also a good album, but veered even more towards “pop” and away from the punk roots of the band. Love has gone on to lead a very normal life with healthy relationship with her daughter.

Key songs: Violet, Miss World, Doll Parts, Softer-Softest, Asking For It

63. Garth Brooks– “In Pieces”

Released: August 31, 1993

When it’s all said and done, nobody will have a more meteoric musical career than Garth Brooks. The dude absolutely owned an 8-year stretch and then he was gone and it was very quickly like he was never even there. Brooks sold nearly 70 million albums in that span, making him the biggest selling musical act in the sound-scan era (basically 1990 on)– outselling his nearest competitor, The Beatles, by 7 million. He hit at sort of a perfect time– 80’s music was dead and anybody 30 and over sort of felt like hopping on to the grunge and rap music was just too much work at that age. And what Brooks was selling wasn’t as much “Country” music as we knew it, it was more like 70’s AM radio music. The guy absolutely crushed it for a 7 album stretch and was voted the artist of the decade for Country music.

Key songs: Standing Outside The Fire, Ain’t Goin’ Down (Til the Sun Comes Up), The Red Strokes, Callin’ Baton Rouge, American Honky Tonk Bar Association

Published in: on May 2, 2010 at 6:55 pm  Comments (4)