2011 is the 20th Anniversary of the wildly successful Lollapalooza festival, where Eminem is entertaining a few hundred thousand smelly, tired and likely inebriated folks at Chicago’s Grant Park as I type this… I remember Jane’s Addiction and Nine Inch Nails leading the bill on that first circuit, but couldn’t recall whether it was really a good year for music. Digging through my vinyl collection, I’d say there weren’t really too many worthwhile albums, but the top few were absolute killers – leaving a lasting impression on the Rock and Roll landscape for many years.
So, here they are, according to me:
10. Guns and Roses – Use Your Illusion II
Volume II of this set was clearly the better of the two. This one included classics like “Civil War,” “You Could Be Mine,” and a tremendous version of Dylan’s oft-covered “Knocking On Heaven’s Door.”
9. Ozzy Osbourne – No More Tears
This was Ozzy’s biggest hit album since his Blizzard of Oz debut effort, and featured the title track, “Time After Time,” and “Mama, I’m Coming Home”
8. Red Hot Chili Peppers – Blood Sugar Sex Magik
This was the Peppers breakthrough album and biggest commercial success. You’ll find “Give It Away,” “Suck My Kiss,” “Under the Bridge” and my all-time favorite Chili Peppers tune “Breaking the Girl.”
7. Voice of the Beehive – Honey Lingers
This album got a wee bit of airplay on college radio, but deserved much more attention. If you haven’t heard it, I highly recommend that you check out the great harmonies and poppy tunes. The whole album is good, particularly “Monsters and Angels,” “Little Gods,” and a great cover of the Partridge Family’s “I Think I Love You.”
6. Spin Doctors – Pocket Full of Kryptonite
Their debut album, and by far their most successful. This one was packed with great tunes, including “Jimmy Olsen Blue’s,” “What Time Is It,” “Two Princes,” amd “ Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong.”
5. REM – Out of Time
This is not the band’s best album, nor most successful, but there’s lots of good stuff packed in here, including the under-rated “Texarkana.” You’ll also hear “Radio Song,” “Losing My Religion” and “Shiny Happy People”
4. Pearl Jam – Ten
These next four albums are clearly in a different league than anything else we heard in 1991. Ten was the explosive debut of this Seattle band’s powerful new sound. It ushered them onto the scene and along with our #3 selection, inspired the Grunge period of rock and roll for the rest of the decade. The album features “Once,” “Even Flow” and one of rock’s greatest songs ever. “Jeremy.”
3. Nirvana – Nevermind
No, I am not on drugs. I realize this is a great album, made a marked impact on the direction of rock music and sold over 30 million copies, but I truly feel it was only the 3rd best album in 1991. Along with Pearl Jam and Alice In Chains, Nirvana led the Seattle area grunge scene. This is the album where you’ll find rock anthems such as “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “In Bloom” and “Come As You Are.” It’s a great effort, but I truly feel it gets more credit than it deserves primarily due to Kurt Cobain’s untimely death.
2. Metallica – Black album
This is the one that put these heavy metal monsters on the world-wide map. This album sold 20 million copies and was still releasing singles 2 years after it was rolled out. Every song is great, and they are all timeless; as good and as relevant today as they were 20 years ago. The biggest hits on the album “Enter Sandman,” “The Unforgiven,” “Wherever I May Roam” and “Nothing Else Matters” caused some of their original fans to claim they had sold out. Although the music was more refined, it still contained the same passion, drive and energy as their early 80’s stuff.
1. U2 – Achtung Baby
In ’91, U2 was at a cross roads, their last album Rattle and Hum kind of meandered, and it seemed as though the band didn’t know where they should be headed. I recall this album’s release delayed a few times, and then when I finally heard it, thought ‘wow’ this is something different. A little alternative, some industrial techno and a dash of dance: as it turns out, it was a recipe for success. The tracks are very diverse, but every song is a great listen, and they actually seem to go together very well. The track listing includes “Zoo Station,” “Even Better Than the Real Thing,” “One,” “The Fly,” “Mysterious Ways” and my favorite “Ultraviolet (Light My Way).”