Wednesday, November 30, 2011

1991-20: The 50 Best Albums of 1991 Pt. 3 (10-2)

10. Pearl Jam-Ten

Before Pearl Jam’s arrival, rock music seemed to have lost some excitement. Hair bands were ruling the charts with bombast rock songs about partying and playing sappy power ballads that really made them more like pussies. On the other spectrum of that world of rock n’ roll, bands were playing to drum machines and everything sounded very clean. When Pearl Jam arrived from the ashes of Mother Love Bone and Green River many years earlier, rock suddenly found a band that could give them a shot in the arm. Featuring the intense vocals of Eddie Vedder, the blazing guitar work of Stone Gossard and Mike McCready, and the heavy rhythm section of bassist Jeff Ament and original drummer Dave Krusen. Pearl Jam became not just one of the key bands of the 1990s but one of the best bands ever in the history of American music.

While Ten would be the album that is most identified with the public and set a new template for rock music in the years to come for better and for worse. The album features songs that a generation would identify with in such singles as Alive, Even Flow and Jeremy while cuts like Black, Porch, and Release showed the kind of range the band had. There didn’t offer any sappy love songs or anything that everyone was already singing about. It was rock music feeling vibrant all over again. While Pearl Jam would make better albums that saw them take some very successful risks, Ten is the album that put them on the map as far as what they’ve done for rock music.

9. Slint-Spiderland

The band’s second and final studio release saw this post-hardcore band from Louisville, Kentucky doing something very new that would help set a template for an emerging genre called post-rock. Spiderland is an album unlike anything that was out there at the time as it featured spoken-word lyrics about loneliness and despair with changing time signatures in the performance the band brings. It was beyond the parameters of what hardcore and punk could do as there was a melodic element as well as an aggression that was very unique.

From the opening cut Breadcrumb Trails to its intense closer Good Morning, Captain, the album is truly an intoxicating yet haunting experience to listen to. The music is treated very unkindly in the way David Pajo plays his guitar ranging from dissonant arpeggios to sludge-driven riffs. Britt Walford’s drumming dwells into unconventional rhythms that keeps shifting in a song like Don, Aman that he sings. Brian McMahan’s vocals are truly unsettling in the way he speaks where he sets the mood for the entire album. There is a lot to what Spiderland brings as it’s not an easy nor immediate record to get into but repeated listens make it something far more worthwhile.

8. A Tribe Called Quest-The Low End Theory

Hip-hop in 1991 was definitely going into various different places as the time by the time A Tribe Called Quest released their sophomore album. Whereas M.C. Hammer and Vanilla Ice were ruling the charts with slick, bombastic sounds while Ice-T and N.W.A. were telling a much darker tale. A Tribe Called Quest were the perfect alternative to people that wanted something that was very different and exciting. Fusing jazz with hip-hop rhythms and melodies, The Low End Theory is truly a record like no other album at the time.

From the opening cut Excursions that is driven by a standing bass jazz riff with Q-Tip’s direct yet laid-back rhymes. The Low End Theory keeps things simple in its musical presentation of just beats, samples, bass, and vocals as the lyrical content dwells into lots of themes such as the harrowing The Infamous Date Rape, the humorous yet biting Rap Promoter, and the very satirical Show Business. It’s a record that maintains this laid-back vibe while actually saying something that is overbearing. It’s also the album that gave a real proper introduction to an unknown named Busta Rhymes as his rapid-fire rhymes in Scenario is really one of a kind. The Low End Theory is probably one of the most perfect albums ever created not just in hip-hop but in all forms of music.

7. Nirvana-Nevermind

If Pearl Jam’s Ten gave rock music a new sense of energy and excitement, Nirvana’s second studio release Nevermind made it much more dangerous for not just rock and alternative music audiences but for pop audiences as well. With Butch Vig’s production that was raw but also engaging in the atmospheric textures it brings, Nevermind was a record that was unlike anything out there in popular music. From the opening number Smells Like Teen Spirit to the noise-laden secret closer Endless, Nameless. It’s a record that offers something that felt very new to a mainstream audience while being daring enough for the alternative/indie audience.

With Kurt Cobain’s blazing guitar and anguished yet growling vocals that features lyrics of despair and angst. Cobain’s work is complemented by Krist Novoselic’s low-key yet vibrant bass work and the thunderous drumming of Dave Grohl. Songs like Drain You, In Bloom, Stay Away, On a Plain, and Breed featured an intensity that is just very powerful. Cuts like Polly and Something in the Way show what the band could do in a ballad that were very dark while singles like the charging Lithium and the exotic Come As You Are show the range the band can do in balancing rock and pop music. It is truly one of the must-have albums in rock and pop music that music fans must own.

6. Talk Talk-Laughing Stock

A band with an interesting history as they started out in the early 80s as a New Wave synth-pop group from Britain whose biggest hit at the time was a song called It’s My Life. Then in 1986, they changed gears toward an organic sound with art-rock flourishes for The Colour of Spring and then abandoned all pop conventions for 1988’s Spirit of Eden. The band’s fifth and final album Laughing Stock takes the minimalism of Spirit of Eden to a more esoteric plateau in terms of arrangements and dynamics. While it’s a more pleasant cousin to Slint’s Spiderland where both would give ideas to the emerging post-rock genre. Laughing Stock showed a much broader influence ranging from classical to jazz.

From the somber opener Myrrhman to the low-key closer Runeii, the album that runs at nearly 44-minutes with six tracks is really unlike anything out there. With more guitars and a sparse yet delicate production from unofficial member Tim Friese-Greene, songs like Ascension Day and After the Flood show an intense yet atmospheric tone that is unlike anything in pop music. Mark Hollis’ vocals and spiritual-laden lyrics never sounded any better in its delivery. Laughing Stock is truly a record that deserves a wide audience to hear as it remains way ahead of its time for the groundwork laid to the post-rock genre.

5. This Mortal Coil-Blood

The third and final album, from the outfit formed by 4AD label founder Ivo Watts-Russell and producer John Fryer, shows a much more organic and ethereal sound that the outfit has done in their two previous albums. While some of the electronic beats and keyboards of John Fryer is still prevalent, Blood emphasizes more on Martin McCarrick’s string arrangements as well as guitars, bass, and drums while utilizing the help of various vocalists to sing original material as well as covers that was personally selected by Watts-Russell.

Featuring regular vocalists like Deirdre and Louise Rutkowski, Alison Limerick, and Dominic Appleton contributing to the final album. Kim Deal of Pixies/the Breeders does a stunning duet with Throwing Muses/Belly/the Breeders’ Tanya Donelly for the Chris Bell song You and Your Sister while interpretations of songs like Spirit’s Nature’s Way, Syd Barrett’s Late Night, Rain Parade’s Carolyn’s Song and another Chris Bell song in I Am the Cosmos play to the outfit’s exotic sound. It may be the last album the outfit has put out but it is among one of the great last albums any act has ever created.

4. Primal Scream-Screamadelica

The ultimate party album of the 90s has Primal Scream finally achieving their breakthrough with their third studio release. Starting out as a jangle-pop trad-rock band with indie aesthetics, a remix of one of their songs by DJ Andrew Weatherall would change everything. Screamadelica is an album that goes all over the place as it bends all sorts of genres from acid-rave dance, ambient, trad-rock, gospel, and dub. Something like that on paper shouldn’t work but with the various producers the band worked with including the Weatherall, the Orb, and legendary Rolling Stones producer Jimmy Miller somehow made it into something that could work.

From the opening trad-rock gospel of Movin’ on Up to the swooning yet low-key yed laid-back Shine Like Stars. It’s really the album that starts off as a rave album with a cover of 13th Floor Elevator’s Slip Inside This House and Don’t Fight It, Feel It and then goes into elements of trippy cuts like Higher Than the Sun, in its original and dub version, and the ambient-driven Inner Flight. Songs like Come Together and Loaded keep the party going while the reflective songs like Damaged and I’m Comin’ Down really brings it all home as it’s definitely a record that has something for everyone and giving them a great time.

3. Massive Attack-Blue Lines

Among the albums of that year that brought something new to the world and Massive Attack did that by introducing the world to trip-hop. This strange sound that combines hip-hop rhythms, smooth electronic sounds, dub, reggae, and soul music into one entire thing. The trio that featured Robert “3D” Del Naja, Grantley “Daddy G” Marshall, and Andrew “Mushroom” Vowles would create something very original with Blue Lines that featured contributions from future trip-hop artist Tricky, Shara Nelson, and Horace Andy.

From the throbbing opener Safe From Harm to the wondrous closer Hymn of the Big Wheel, Blue Lines is a perfect album from start to finish. It’s not just a record that one could chill out to but also be reflective in the state of the world in a song like Unfinished Sympathy that is the album’s centerpiece. There’s a whole lot to it in cuts like its title track and Five Man Army that really brings something new in the world of hip-hop as it has a language that is very original. Blue Lines is without a doubt, a record that anyone must have in their collection.

2. U2-Achtung Baby

If U2 hadn’t made Achtung Baby, the band would’ve ceased to exist as they would’ve been known as this post-punk Irish band that became the biggest band in the world only to become bloated. Fortunately, U2 found a way to survive with their seventh studio release by stop taking themselves seriously and make a rock record that people can dance to. Featuring the amazing production work of longtime collaborators Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno, Achtung Baby is definitely the band’s best album.

From the electro-rockers like Even Better Than the Real Thing, The Fly, and the exotic Mysterious Ways, the band also feature one of their great ballads in the reflective One. Yet, there’s a lot more to this album than its singles as its opener Zoo Station gives listeners the idea that it’s not The Joshua Tree. Cuts like So Cruel, Until the End of the World, and Ultraviolet really show U2 at their best. Particularly as it shows the band flirting with Madchester rhythms and industrial textures as U2 made an album that solidifies their legacy as one of the best.

Well, that’s the 50 best albums of 1991. Wait… what is number one? Well, check in a few days to a week into the link below that says Favorite Albums #1.

1991-20: 1991 in Music: Pt. 1 - Pt. 2 - Pt. 3

1991-Indie: Pt. 1 - Pt. 2 - Pt. 3 - Pt. 4 - Pt. 5 - Pt. 6

The 50 Best Albums of 1991: 50-26 - 25-11 - Favorite Albums #1

© thevoid99 2011

Monday, November 28, 2011

1991-20: The 50 Best Albums of 1991 Pt. 2 (25-11)

25. Ice Cube-Death Certificate

Ice Cube’s sophomore release has the rapper going into more extremes in the way he deals with a lot of social and political themes. The song also has Cube firing back at the disses made by his former bandmates in N.W.A. while taking shots at the commercialism of hip-hop in True to the Game. Songs like Steady Mobbin’, Black Korea, and I Wanna Kill Sam features an intensity that hasn’t been replicated in Cube’s later albums. Yet, it’s a record that is truly confrontational without any kind of compromise that is Cube at his finest.

24. Primus-Sailing the Seas of Cheese

Primus’ sophomore album shows a more refined sound to the band’s quirky, funk-based rock sound. Led by the country drawling vocals of Les Claypool, Primus is a band that is truly bringing something that was lacking in rock. The musicianship between Claypool, guitarist Larry LaLonde, and drummer Tim Alexander is really shown on this record in singles like Jerry Was a Racecar Driver and Tommy the Cat which showcase the heaviness of their sound. Particularly as it features Claypool’s warbling bass work that is unlike anything out there in rock music.

23. Orbital-S/T

Orbital’s full-length debut represents a change to the world of electronic music to be more than just something to dance to. Featuring an array of acid-house textures and trance-style keyboards, Orbital’s debut is a great record for raves while providing some of the ambient moods that would become prevalent into their later recordings. Tracks like Chime and Belfast are true cuts that will get people in the dance floor and just let the music take them on.

22. Red Hot Chili Peppers-Blood Sugar Sex Magik

Before they became the soft and uninspired band that wants to appeal to the mainstream, the Red Hot Chili Peppers were one of the most exciting bands to come out of the alternative music scene in the 1980s. The band’s fifth studio album with producer Rick Rubin would have the band broaden their funk-rock sound to new heights. With such rocking cuts as its title track, Suck My Kiss, and Give It Away, the band also go into new territory with the exotic Breaking the Girl and the reflective ballad Under the Bridge. Blood Sugar Sex Magik is truly the best album the band has put out as they would never achieve such great heights after this.

21. Slowdive-Just for a Day

One of the great bands of the shoegaze sub-genre, Slowdive brought a wonderful mix of melodic dream pop and ambient to their sound along with evocative vocals of Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell. The guitar work in such songs as Catch the Breeze, Spanish Air, Erik’s Song, and Brighter features a richness that is sorely lacking in a lot of guitar-driven rock. While their subsequent albums would be more refined and daring, this still a phenomenal debut from one of shoegaze’s great bands.

20. Temple of the Dog-S/T

A project formed by Soundgarden vocalist Chris Cornell with the then-former members of Mother Love Bone in guitarist Stone Gossard and bassist Jeff Ament. The Temple of the Dog album isn’t just one of the key pillars of grunge but also a soaring tribute to late Mother Love Bone vocalist Andrew Wood. Featuring then-future Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready, then-Soundgarden/future Pearl Jam drummer Matt Cameron, and an unknown vocalist named Eddie Vedder. This record is truly one of the most rocking but also inspirational albums that really showcases what great 1990s rock music is.

19. Cypress Hill-S/T

The debut album from one of hip-hop’s most popular acts, Cypress Hill brought a new spin to the world of west coast hip-hop by infusing their Latino-based environment as well as troubling lyrics about life in streets. Featuring a sound that is more exotic that a lot of hip-hop records, the dark elements in the music and the songs they talk about showed something that appealed more to a hip-hop audience. Some of the stoner elements of the record made it appealing enough for rockers as it’s definitely one of the best debut albums ever.

18. 2Pac-2Pacalypse Now

The late Tupac Shakur started out as a dancer/rapper for the group Digital Underground until he emerged with his debut album that would mark the arrival of a new voice. 2Pacalypse Now is a record that reflects all of the themes Shakur would explore from social upheaval, the right to bear arms, the hopelessness for a young black man, and teenage pregnancy. With a sound that ranges from being intense and confrontational to more reflective in a song like Brenda’s Got a Baby. It’s the start of what is truly an unparalleled career one of hip-hop’s unsung heroes.

17. The Smashing Pumpkins-Gish

The debut album from one of alternative rock’s key acts would show what the genre was all about and more. While the Smashing Pumpkins were a band that had lots of ambition towards art rock, Gish showed a sound that was really heavy in songs like Siva, Bury Me, Tristessa, and I Am One. Yet, dreamier cuts like Rhinoceros and Window Paine showed a complexity to the band proving that there was a lot to them as it’s a debut album that still holds up to the rest of their catalog.

16. Ice-T-O.G. Original Gangsta

Ice-T’s fourth studio release would be the pinnacle of his career as the gangsta rap legend would go all over the place to express the many themes on the album. From the song M.V.P. where Ice-T pays tribute to some of the best that he likes to the thrash-metal song Body Count where Ice-T would introduce his metal project of the same name. The rapper also delves into the ills of what was going on in South Central Los Angeles as well as the boiling turmoil that was happening. It’s definitely Ice-T at his best in the way he talks about how it is without any compromise.

15. His Name is Alive-Home is In Your Head

The second studio release from the experimental dream-pop band His Name is Alive, Home is In Your Head is definitely a record that pretty much defies description. Featuring the ethereal vocals of Karin Oliver, the record features lot of short, fragmented material that compliments their oblique yet rich sound led by Warren Defever’s exotic guitar playing. It’s a record that isn’t easy to listen to at first but it gains its worth through repeated listens.

14. The Orb-The Orb’s Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld

The debut album from Alex Paterson’s long-running project is among one of the great albums of the electronic music scene. Ranging from ambient cuts to psychedelic-driven trance material, it is definitely an album that really takes on a trip for more than an hour. Featuring such great cuts as Perpetual Dawn, Supernova at the End of the Universe, and the near 19-minute closing cut A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules from the Centre of the Ultraworld. It is the kind of record that is definitive for the world of rave culture while having something to chill out to.

13. Soundgarden-Badmotorfinger

Soundgarden’s third full-length studio release gave the band the breakthrough they needed as they would become one of the 1990s premier bands. Thanks to Terry Date’s sonic production, Badmotorfinger is a monstrous album that is filled with lots of power due to the thundering rhythm section of drummer Matt Cameron and bassist Ben Shepherd along with the driving metal riffs of Kim Thayill and Chris Cornell’s wailing vocals. While Soundgarden was tagged with the “grunge” label but there’s more that to Soundgarden as it’s true hard rock at its finest from the opening cut in the frenetic Rusty Cage to intense yet slow-burn closer New Damage.

12. Spacemen 3-Recurring

The fourth and final album of one of the influential bands of the British indie music scene of the 1980s saw the founding members of Peter Kember and Jason Pierce making an album at a time when their relationship has already soured. With the first half devoted to Kember’s more dreamier and melodic-driven sound that includes experiments with electronic music such as the opening track Big City (Everybody I Know Can Be Found Here). The second half from Pierce would show a more soulful yet experimental side that would reflect the material he would do with his band Spiritualized. The record overall is truly mesmerizing as it’s a fond farewell for one of the great indie bands from Britain.

11. Teenage Fanclub-Bandwagonesque

It’s often said that if the legendary 70s power-pop band Big Star ever made another album, it would’ve sounded like this album. While it’s a raucous record by the Scottish quartet, Teenage Fanclub also proves to be a band that can create something that is very catchy and melodic in songs like December and What You Do to Me. Particularly as there’s guitars that sound quite noisy at times while being balanced by the beautiful melodies they created as it’s definitely one of the best power-pop albums ever made.

1991-20: 1991 in Music: Pt. 1 - Pt. 2 - Pt. 3

1991-Indie: Pt. 1 - Pt. 2 - Pt. 3 - Pt. 4 - Pt. 5 - Pt. 6

The 50 Best Albums of 1991: 50-26 - 10-2 - Favorite Albums #1

© thevoid99 2011

Friday, November 25, 2011

1991-20: The 50 Best Albums of 1991 Pt. 1 (50-26)

1991 was an incredible year for albums ranging from pop, rock, electronic, indie, and hip-hop. It was definitely a year where there was something for everyone in the genres they loved while the albums themselves proved to be timeless more than 20 years since its release. There was a lot that came out that really gave music lovers something more than just an album that either defined a genre or was an artist/band that showed that they still got it or they were about to arrive. Here are the 50 Essential Albums of 1991:

50. Michael Jackson-Dangerous

Probably the last great album Michael Jackson would make in his illustrious career yet what a way for the King of Pop to prove that he’s still the man. While the schmaltzy Heal the World was just a hilarious attempt at re-writing We Are the World. There’s a lot of material that has Jackson take on the New Jack Swing sound to new heights in songs like the title track, Jam, Remember the Time, In the Closet, and the rocking Black or White that featured Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash. It’s an album that the late Michael Jackson proved that he won’t go away quietly.

49. Ween-The Pod

Probably one of the weirdest albums ever made yet Ween is a band that is always weird and refuses to compromise themselves. The Pod is often stated to be their most challenging record of their career at that time. Yet, there’s an amazing array of songs that really defines what Dean and Gene Ween are. A couple of drugged-out dudes that will go into any kind of song with distorted vocals with a lo-fi production that really makes it more difficult to listen to. Yet, it’s an album that really proves you can make music out of just being weird and not giving a fuck what people think.

48. Dinosaur Jr.-Green Mind

While it’s a record that may not live up to the energy of earlier albums that featured the original trio of J. Mascis, Murph, and Lou Barlow. Mascis was able to make something that was still very solid and lively proving that the band can still go on without Barlow. Yet, there’s also more reflective material such as the acoustic Flying Cloud and the slow-burn of the woodwind-driven Thumb amidst a barrage of blazing rock songs.

47. Type O Negative-Slow, Deep, & Hard

The debut album for the Gothic-metal band showed something that was very different from the world of Goth and metal. Led by the low yet scary vocals of the late Peter Steele, it’s a record that is truly menacing that goes all over the place from fast-paced rockers with a punk rock energy to slow yet exotic material that displays the Goth sound they’ve been known for. While subsequent albums would show a more refined sound, this record is definitely one of the key debut albums of the 1990s as well as an intense metal album.

46. Van Halen-For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge

The band’s third studio album with second vocalist Sammy Hagar has the band going for a more straightforward rock sound. Yet, it’s a record that does deliver what Van Halen does best which is just good rocking tunes that is loud and catchy. Singles like Poundcake, Top of the World, and Runaround show what Van Halen can do with just being a rock band while the single for Right Now is a power ballad that definitely shows the band saying something about the world. While it’s not the best record of the Hagar period, it is certainly the kind of rock album that was still cool to listen to when grunge was starting to emerge.

45. Blur-Leisure

The debut album from one of Britain’s great bands has Blur just starting out with a sound that was reflective of what was going on Britain through Madchester romps like There’s No Other Way and Bang to the shoe gaze-inspired She’s So High and Sing. Still, there is something that is unique about the album from four young guys that were just trying to find their identity that would lead to landmark albums like 1994’s Parklife and 1995’s The Great Escape.

44. Electronic-S/T

The alternative-dance side project formed by Joy Division/New Order’s Bernard Sumner and the Smiths’ Johnny Marr has the duo taking on the dance trend of the time. With Marr’s guitar playing and Sumner’s familiarity with electronic rhythms and textures, it’s a record that expresses what was going on musically and with the state of the world. The highlight of the album is a collaboration with the Pet Shop Boys on the song The Patience of a Saint that combines four of the best in British music of the 1980s.

43. Leaders of the New School-A Future Without a Past…

The album that introduces the world to Busta Rhymes as a member of Leaders of the New School. The album is definitely a fun and exciting album that really was an alternative to the more brash, gangsta-rap music of the times. Filled with a much more optimistic feel with a display of innocence about what it was like to be young and having fun. It’s also a record that is also raucous but in a very enjoyable way with a rapid-fire flow of rhymes from Busta Rhymes and his cohorts.

42. Elvis Costello-Mighty Like a Rose

One of the darkest albums that Elvis Costello has recorded in his career, the album has Costello delving into various musical styles from baroque pop to angry folk rock. With lyrics delving on disappointments and heartbreak, it’s a record that is often considered to be one Costello’s underrated recordings. While it’s all over the place that features some sunnier material like The Other Side of Summer and So Like Candy, it’s a record that exemplifies why Elvis Costello is among one of the greats.

41. Sepultura-Arise

One of the key metal bands of the 1990s, Sepultura brought a new energy to the world of thrash and aggressive metal with elements of polyrhythmic beats into the sound. Arise would be among one of the key albums through cuts like Altered State, Meaningless Movements, and Desperate Cry. It’s a very heavy yet groove-laden album that features the growling vocals of Max Calvera which is truly one of the band’s best albums of the Calvera era.

40. Uncle Tupelo-Still Feel Gone

One of alt-country’s great bands to emerge in the early 90s would show those who were disillusioned with the polished sound of the country music of the late 80s and early 90s something very different and direct. Still Feel Gone is an album where the group was in transition where they had a love for punk that is the track D. Boon that was dedicated to late Minuteman vocalist/guitarist. Yet, cuts like Still Be Around and True to Life show a maturity from the group as they move away from punk to a more direct country sound.

39. Fugazi-Steady Diet of Nothing

The second full-length album from the post-hardcore band show a far more intense yet sparser sound from the band as they also delve into more political-driven lyrics. Yet, the band’s minimalist sound with just guitars, bass, and drums show that the band progressing into something much simpler but also complex in its performance. Even as the band flirts with all sorts of genres like dub and pop melodies to exemplify their willingness to move further away from hardcore.

38. Chapterhouse-Whirlpool

One of the key albums of the shoe gaze sub-genre, Chapterhouse’s debut album Whirlpool is a rich yet evocative album that is filled with a rhythmic sound and layers of noisy yet flourishing guitars. It’s a record that is features such amazing singles as Pearl and Falling Down while cuts like Treasure and April play to the dreamy tone of the record. While the band’s subsequent output hasn’t been memorable, at least they have this record to be proud of.

37. Queen-Innuendo

The band’s final album before Freddie Mercury’s death in November of 1991 may not live up to their great period of the 1970s to 1980’s The Game. Yet, the album saw the band return to their hard rock roots with such cuts as its opening title cut, Headlong, and The Hitman proving the band was going to deliver the rock music in a very grand way. Yet, the real standouts include the heartbreaking ballad These Are the Days of Our Lives and the closing song The Show Must Go On where Mercury was able to go out with a bang.

36. Throwing Muses-The Real Ramona

The band’s fourth and final studio album to feature co-founder Tanya Donelly as The Real Ramona is a record that really shows what the band is all about. While describing their music isn’t easy as it tends to go into elements of pop with dabbles of jangle-pop, folk, and alternative rock. It’s a record that really showcase what the band is about as it’s definitely one of the key albums of the alternative rock scene.

35. Natalie Cole-Unforgettable… with Love

Natalie Cole’s award-winning album has the singer paying tribute to her later father Nat King Cole by performing the standards that he’s sung. Featuring the same musicians that had played on her father’s records, Cole creates a spellbinding record that transcends the idea of pop and soul with her amazing vocal talent. Also being very faithful to these songs, the album’s great highlight is a miraculous duet between herself and her father on the song Unforgettable through the interactive digital recordings of the time which serves as a real breakthrough for pop music.

34. R.E.M.-Out of Time

The band’s seventh studio album shows the band straying away from their defining jangle-pop sound for a more dreamier sound filled with a lot of orchestral textures and taking on different genres ranging from folk and country. While the album does feature the much-maligned Shiny Happy People, there is a lot of great material in the album such as cuts like Country Feedback and Texarkana. Yet, it’s singles like Radio Song, Near Wild Heaven, and the classic Losing My Religion that has made the album one of the band’s finest of their 31-year career.

33. Ozzy Osbourne-No More Tears

Ozzy Osbourne’s sixth solo release is also one of his most successful as it’s a record that has the Prince of Darkness maintaining a heavy sound. Featuring the blazing guitar work of Zakk Wylde, it’s also one of Ozzy’s more accessible recordings in terms of vocal performance and musicianship. Plus, the production is definitely powerful on what is expected in a metal album in songs like I Don’t Want to Change the World and Zombie Stomp while the title track is one of Ozzy’s best cuts.

32. Public Enemy-Apocalypse ‘91... The Enemy Strikes Back

Often considered to be the last great album Public Enemy put out, it’s also one of their most intense in terms of its production and in the themes the band talks about. Always direct in what they had to say, the group delves into various subjects while being uncompromising in songs like Shut ‘Em Down and Can’t Truss It while By the Time I Get to Arizona is an intense attack on the state’s refusal to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Yet, the album also includes a very groundbreaking collaboration with the thrash-metal band Anthrax on a remake of the song Bring the Noise.

31. Matthew Sweet-Girlfriend

Power-pop at its finest, Matthew Sweet’s third album is also his breakthrough as it’s an album that delves into various style from folk and country while a lot of is all in the form of catchy power-pop. Inspired by his own divorce, the album is definitely reflective in its tone while also allowing Sweet to be vulnerable. Heartbreak doesn’t get any better than this as it remains the best thing Sweet has done in his career.

30. Pixies-Trompe Le Monde

The fourth and final album by the influential alternative rock band, Pixies made this record at a time when things weren’t going so well. Despite the turmoil that was going on, the album is still abrasive in its performance while adding Captain Beefheart keyboardist Eric Drew Feldman added a new dynamic to their sound. Featuring a fiery cover of the Jesus & Mary Chain’s Head On, it is an album where Pixies were at least able to go out with a bang.

29. Guns N’ Roses-Use Your Illusion I & II

The third and fourth release from one of hard rock’s unsung heroes, Guns N’ Roses’ extravagant double album showcased a major shift in the band’s sound following the aggressive nature of their 1987 debut Appetite for Destruction. With Use Your Illusion I being a more varied album with elements of country, blues, and long, epic ballads in songs like Don’t Cry, November Rain, and The Garden along with an intense cover of Paul McCartney & Wings’ Live & Let Die. Use Your Illusion II was a heavier album that featured the ballad Civil War, the biting Get in the Ring, a soulful cover of Bob Dylan’s Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, the intense You Could Be Mine, and the epic ballad Estranged. Still, the Use Your Illusion albums represent the band at their best.

28. Metallica-The Black Album

The band’s fifth release represented a major change for the thrash metal band. Following the intense and complex …And Justice for All back in 1988, Metallica decided to simplify their sound to something more direct. While it’s an album that continues to divide fans, there’s no denying that band manages to create something that is still heavy and loud with songs like Enter Sandman, Whenever I May Roam, and Sad But True while ballads like Nothing Else Matters and The Unforgiven show the range of what they could as it is the best output Metallica would release in the 1990s.

27. Kyuss-Wretch

Though it’s essentially a re-recording of the band’s demo album with a few additional cuts, Wretch would represent a more refined sound to Kyuss that would help set the wave for the stoner-metal sound that would be an underground sensation. While the raw production adds to the way the instruments sound, there is also a lot of grooves and atmospheric textures that would define that sub-genre as well as some of the music that co-founder Josh Homme would put into the band he would later form in Queens of the Stone Age.

26. N.W.A.-Niggaz4Life

The second and final full-length release from the gangsta rap legends, Niggaz4Life really showed a far more intense and broader production due to the talents of Dr. Dre whose work on the song Alwayz Into Somethin would show what he would do in his solo career. While the album lacks the strong political content of Ice Cube, who left in late 1989 for a solo career, that was prevalent in the classic Straight Outta Compton. There is still a lot of material that is very strong in terms of nihilism and chaos with some disses towards Cube while the only drawback of the album is some of the misogynistic content in its second half despite the amazing production that Dre and DJ Yella made for the record.

1991-20: 1991 in Music: Pt. 1 - Pt. 2 - Pt. 3

1991-Indie: Pt. 1 - Pt. 2 - Pt. 3 - Pt. 4 - Pt. 5 - Pt. 6

The 50 Best Albums of 1991: 25-11 - 10-2 - Favorite Albums #1

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