Top Albums of the Juice Generation 50-100 (Part 3)
by Scott Long
51. Smashing Pumpkins- Siamese Dream (1993)
52. Green Day- Dookie (1994)
53. Urge Overkill- Saturation (1993)
54. Frank Black (1993)
55. Offspring- Smash (1994)
"Siamese Dream" had a sound like modern rock Boston. "Today" is majestic, while "Cherub Rock" demands you crank it on your car stereo. "Disarm" is awful.
When "Dookie" came out, Billy Joe's vocals demanded you listen to them, as this was the poppiest punk ever recorded. "Longview" and "Basket Case" hold up completely.
Urge Overkill had put out some great music on prior releases, but this is one case where having Albini and Vig produce was holding them back. Like Cheap Trick, Urge was a band, which needed clear pop crunch and on "Saturation" they found it. "Sister Havana" is one of the Top 10 alternative songs of the era, while the rest of the disc features singer Nash Kato's unique vocals. Check out the follow-up "Exit the Dragon", also.
When I first heard the Offspring, I acknowledged their talents, but couldn't truly embrace their sellout tendencies. Give me Bad Religion, I would've told you. Well, as the years have gone by, I'm more and more of a fan, as "Smash" is the greatest high school, drive around in your bitchin' Camaro, with your speakers blastin' music of the past 20 years.
56. The Call- Reconciled (1986)
57. Live- Throwing Copper (1994)
58. Cake- Fashion Nugget (1996)
59. Crowded House- Temple of Low Men (1988)
60. Del Amitri- Change Everything (1992)
Much like the next Dylan or next Jordan, there have been a lot of the next U2's. The Call and Live are the 2 best in this category. "Reconciled" is one anthem after another, with "Everywhere I Go" (with backup vocals by Peter Gabriel and Jim Kerr), I Still Believe, and "Oklahoma" the standouts. The Call's lead singer "Micheal Been is an under appreciated musical talent. On 'Throwing Copper", the band Live made a huge step up from their debut. The next 2 releases by Live, "Secret Samadhi" and "The Distance to Here" are worth checking out, as well.
Cake is one of the most unique bands on this list, as they blend funk, rock, rap, and Latin horns, which create an unlikely sweet jam. "The Distance" is another on the Top 10 rock songs list of the era. While they put out other good albums, there is no filler on "Fashion Nugget".
I would rate Crowded House and Del Amitri, the two most underrated bands on this list. Led by former Split Enz front man, Neil Finn, all 4 of their releases are of top quality. Their second, "Temple of the Low Men" is my fav., as Beatlesque harmonies are juxtaposed with some great dark songs. "Into Temptation" is a gorgeous ballad.
Del Amitri is similar to Crowded House in style and production, with "Twisted" and "Some Other Suckers Parade" just missing the Top 100. "Change Everything" is their best work, with some of the greatest dark love songs ever put on one album. Start with "Always the Last to Know" and "Be My Downfall".
61. Chris Whitley- Living with the Law (1991)
62. Robbie Robertson (1987)
63. Steve Earle- El Corazon (1997)
64. John Mellencamp- The Lonesome Jubilee (1987)
65. Sting- Dream of the Blue Turtles (1985)
It's amazing that Chris Whitley's atmospheric blues debut came 14 years ago, but it sounds as good today, as it ever has. Someone could make a great Western movie, just making videos of the dusty tunes on "Living with the Law".
With help from an all-star lineup including U2, Peter Gabriel, Bodeans, and, Daniel Lanois, Robbie Robertson's solo debut is another atmospheric classic. Robertson's smartly uses these artists to supplement his gravelly, Tom Waits/Leonard Cohen voice.
My favorite of a long list of quality recordings by Steve Earle is "El Corazon", which is even better than his prior effort, the excellent "I Feel Alright".
The underrated follow-up to "Scarecrow", there is not a clinker on "The Lonesome Jubilee". By the way, Mellencamp's "Mr. Happy Go Lucky" ('96) is just off the Top 100.
When Sting left the Police and released his solo debut, many critics attacked him. Well, 20 years later, this album really holds up, as the musicians Sting surrounded himself with, are amazing players. Challenging lyrics, mixed with some diverse grooves, leave it Sting's best solo record. "Ten Summoner's Tales" is second behind the "Blue Turtles".
66. Jellyfish- Bellybutton (1990)
67. Jason Falkner- Author Unknown (1996)
68. XTC- Skylarking (1986)
69. Lemonheads- It's a Shame About Ray (1992)
70. Jeff Buckley- Grace (1994)
Simply the purest ear candy ever pressed to a listening device, "Bellybutton" is a powerpop classic. The record that Badfinger and The Raspberries dreamed of. Jellyfish's follow-up, "Split Milk" is another gem, which has a Beach Boys meet Queen sound.
Jellyfish guitarist, Jason Falkner, made an excellent album with Jon Brion in the group, The Grays, after his original band broke up, but it's his 2 solo records which are his best work. His debut, the aptly titled "Author Unknown" is reminiscent of Todd Rundgren's best work. "She Goes to Bed" and "Don't Show My Heaven" are the standouts.
XTC produced some great singles over the past 20 years, but it's "Skylarking" which is their most complete record. Man do I love Beatlesque pop.
Some athletes are known as underachievers, as their production doesn't match their ability. Well Evan Dando is that to music, tantalizing you with his talents, but rarely putting together a complete work. "It's a Shame About Ray" is the exception, demonstrating his ability with a complete album. "Confetti" is the best Dando rocker.
I know many will question why "Grace" is rated this low, but I just think it's an incomplete album. I still rate it this highly, because of his influence on other artists and the transcendent nature of the songs, "Last Goodbye" and the cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah". Unfortunately, we will never know if he was the genius some claim he was.
71. Guns and Roses- Appetite for Destruction (1987)
72. The Cult- Electric (1987)
73. Faith No More- The Real Thing (1989)
74. Temple of the Dog (1992)
75. System of a Down- Toxicity (2001)
76. Perfect Circle- Mer de Noms (2000)
77. Queens of the Stone Age- Songs for the Deaf (2002)
Oh 1987, a world where Poison, Warrant, and Winger ruled rock radio. It still gives me the willies. Sure it was Nirvana that made the final purge of this pop metal plague, but it was Guns and Roses, which started their downfall. The pulsating energy of "Welcome to the Jungle" and the dark hooks of "Mr. Brownstone" are the best hard rock songs since Aerosmith's 70's prime.
Two other releases, which helped clear the Firehouse's and Slaughter's from the arenas were The Cult and Faith No More. "Electric" was a stylistic change of pace for The Cult, as producer Rick Rubin took it farther then the Zeppelin samples he used with the Beastie Boys and shaped an actual band to sound like Zeppelin, with "Back in Black" sound production. The Cult would never match this release. Its forgotten how fresh Faith No More sounded when they joined with new lead singer, Mike Patton. "Epic" truly lives up to its title, as "The Real Thing" was the first rap/metal album and it's still the best of the genre. Their remake of "War Pigs" is the best Sabbath cover, ever.
Another forgotten music moment during the past 20 years is the tribute to Andrew Wood, which brought members of Pearl Jam together, with Chris Cornell fronting them. Unlike Soundgarden releases, this features Cornell singing from his heart. Check out Cornell and Vedder singing a duet on "Hunger Strike". "I don't mind stealing bread, from the mouth's of decadence"
The best rock album of the past 5 years is "Toxicity". The elements to System of the Down's sound features thrash metal, jazz, rap, funk, and they somehow put all these ingredients together to create music that doesn't leave out the hooks. Unlike most other bands today, they are not afraid to address social issues.
Tool is one of the Top 5 metal bands of this period, but singer Maynard James Keenan's best album, was done by his other band, Perfect Circle. Mainly written by guitarist Billy Howerdel, "Mer de Noms" is goth rocker, with Pink Floyd flourishes.
"Songs for the Deaf" improves on Queens of the Stone Age debut, with a great rock sound, which features the best drumming of Dave Grohl's career. If you like this record, check out Masters of Reality's "Sunrise on the Sufferbus" (1993), which sounds similar, with it's heavy Cream-like sound. (MOR's drummer is the great Ginger Baker)
78. Shawn Colvin- A Few Small Repairs (1996)
79. Sarah McLachlan- Surfacing (1997)
80. Sheryl Crow (1996)
81. Dixie Chicks- Fly (1999)
82. Kelly Willis- What I Deserve (1999)
83. KD Lang- Absolute Torch and Twang (1989)
84. Alanis Morrisette- Jagged Little Pill (1995)
Here is my own personal Lilith Fair section. Shawn Colvin in the mid 90's put out two outstanding releases, "Polaroids" and the even better, "A Few Small Repairs". The best of all these chick albums from beginning to end. Colvin has a angelic voice that only Alison Krauss can top and Shawn's a much better lyricist.
Sarah McLachlan isn't a prolific artist, only releasing 3 studio albums over the past 13 years, but all them are quality works. "Surfacing" is her best, with the ethereal "Do What You Have to Do" and the sensuous "Adia" my personal faves.
After Sheryl Crow's debut, many questioned if she was a producer creation, with Bill Bottrell, David Baerwald, and Kevin Gilbert helping write and produce most of her songs. Well, on her follow-up, Crow does a female channeling of the Rolling Stones and shut her critics up, as it's the best work of her career. "If It Makes You Happy is a modern classic and don't forget the underrated "It's Hard to Make a Stand".
Today, the country charts are filled with foxy mama's, with MOR instincts. Don't put the Dixie Chicks in this category, as they are talented musicians with a foot in classic country. They have fought record companies and country radio, while still succeeding.
Kelly Willis is just another case of a great country singer, who receives little airplay. (see Lovett, K.D. Lang, Kasey Chambers, Kathleen Edwards, Steve Earle) "Not Forgotten You" is Willis at her best and "Got a Feelin' for You" is a smoky, sexy honky tonker.
Compared to Patsy Cline, I would argue this K. D. Lang record is more complete than any by Cline. "Pulling Back the Reigns" and "Trail of Broken Hearts" are amazing songs.
Like Offspring and the Counting Crows, I was not a big fan of Alanis Morrisette's music, but as time has gone by, I have come to appreciate "Jagged Little Pill". Kind of like a pop version of P.J. Harvey and Liz Phair, it's amazing that lyrics this edgy could sell 30 million CD's worldwide. Though her examples on "Ironic" are not true irony.
85. David and David- Boomtown (1987)
86. Counting Crows- Recovering the Satellites (1996)
87. Eurythmics- Be Yourself Tonight (1985)
88. Talking Heads- Little Creatures (1985)
One of the great one-shot groups was David and David. Like a West Coast version of Springsteen, David Baerwald's songs and vocals told stories about people "swallowed by the cracks".
Initially, when I heard the Counting Crows, I couldn't get past the aping of Van Morrison, but I've come to appreciate the artistry of the band. Their most complete record, "Recovering the Satellites" has some great ballads and their most alternative rocker in "Angels of the Silences".
The first couple of records by the Eurythmics were chilly new wave offerings, but with "Be Yourself Tonight", the duo showed their white soul side, with Annie Lennox belting out like a British Aretha. Fav: "It's Alright (Baby Coming Back)"
After a career of challenging listeners, the Talking Heads put together their most mainstream record, "Little Creatures" and it's filled with quality singles. "And She Was" is their version of The Cars, while the delightful "Stay Up Late" and David Byrne's gospel-tinged "Road to Nowhere" are delicious pop. Underrated record.
89. Ben Folds- Rockin' the Suburbs (2001)
90. Posies- Frosting from the Beater (1993)
91. Spoon- Kill the Moonlight (2002)
92. Badly Drawn Boy- The Hour of the Wilderbeast (2000)
93. Marshall Crenshaw- Mary Jean and 9 Others (1987)
94. Jude Cole- I Don't Know I Act this Way (1995)
If you noticed yet, I'm a real power-pop fan, so here are 6 excellent albums that you might have missed, which fit that musical genre. Ben Folds solo debut is a beautiful recording, which combines character studies like Costello, but music with pop flourishes like McCartney. "Annie Waits" and "Not the Same" are 2 standouts.
While the rest of the alternative scene and especially the Pacific Northwest were under a grunge tidal wave, a band from Seattle named the Posies were putting out power pop gems. They were generally ignored by the masses, but their fans know they are one of the best bands of the era. "Dream All Day" is the best song of 1993.
So you think there aren't any great power pop bands today, well let me recommend the last 3 releases by Spoon. Even though they are from Texas, lead singer Britt Daniel sounds like he is from Liverpool, but it's no Radiohead karaoke. I dare you to try to get the chorus of "The Way We Get By" out of your head.
Flying under the radar in the US, Damon Gough (AKA Badly Drawn Boy) is someone you should get to know. "The first track, "The Shining" is one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard, with a wonderful French horn musical intro. Sgt. Pepper musical sound.
Marshall Crenshaw started his career with six excellent albums, with my favorite, "Mary Jean and 9 Others". "This is Easy", Calling Out for Love (at Crying Time), and "Somebody's Crying" are the standouts. Sadly, this CD is out of print.
Like an American Neil Finn, Jude Cole always had a hard time fitting a radio format, as his music is somewhere between pop and roots rock. While all 3 of his major label releases are excellent, "I Don't Know Why I Act this Way" is my favorite, as it's a rare introspective look at someone who knows there chance at stardom has probably passed them by. "Believe in You" is a Cole's career best. Currently, Cole, who was set to be Kiefer Sutherland's best man, when he was to marry Julia Roberts, is a partner with Sutherland in a recording studio and Cole has become a successful producer. Unfortunately, none of the music he has produced is as good as his own solo work.
95. Kid Rock- Devil without a Cause (1998)
96. George Michael- Listen without Prejudice (1990)
97. PM Dawn- Of the Heart, Of the Soul and Of the Cross: The Utopian Experience (1991)
98. De La Soul- Three Feet High and Rising
99. Daft Punk (2001)
In 1998, out of nowhere came a White trash cat from Michigan, who was equal parts Hank Jr., Grandmaster Flash, and Diamond David Lee Roth. Sure the guy was cribbing from everyone and every style, but who says this isn't as legit as Beck's collages. I have no idea what "Bawitdaba" was about, but it rocked hard. His subsequent follow-ups were progressively worse, but "Devil Without a Cause" made Bob Ritchie a star and gave him a chance to rest his head on Pam Anderson's 38DD saline feedbags. "Now get in the pit and try to love someone!"
While not the sales success of "Faith", George Micheal's follow-up, was a mature record, with only the great dance tune "Freedom 90" (one of the best video's of all-time), being Faith-like in style. Unfortunately, this was Micheal's last good release.
Despite being classified as rappers, PM Dawn was too musical to fit that narrow of a classification. The Cordes Brothers biggest influences seemed to be Prince, The Beatles, and The Beach Boys. "Set Adrift on Memory Bliss", with its Spandau Ballet's samples still sounds fresh. Later PM Dawn release, "Jesus Wept" is also worth checking out.
Unlike PM Dawn, De La Soul's music has not held up as well. When "Three Feet High and Rising" came out, it was the freshest rap album I had ever heard, with a blend of stoner-like raps, with Steely Dan and Hall and Oates samples. I still think the album is good and I appreciate its influence, so it just makes my Top 100.
Remember when Techno was going to take over the world? So how is that 2 guys from France (Daft Punk) would make my list? I answer it's the hook heavy sounds, which make them sound like a modern day ELO, with disco flourishes. 70's K-tel meets techno.
100. Liz Phair- Exile in Guyville (1993)/ Liz Phair (2003)
Another record that hasn't held up as well is Liz Phair's "Exile in Guyville." I still love the attitude and the lyrics, but the lo-fi recording is not aging as well. If I were to be honest, I would admit that 9 out of 10 times, I would reach for Phair's self-titled latest, over her debut. If you didn't look at a lyric sheet, you would wonder if it's the same person, as her 2003 release has a pop sheen, which is quite overwhelming. On repeated listens, it hypnotically makes you either love or hate it. Put me in the former category. "Little Digger" is a beautiful song, with a great story of what it's like for a young child to deal with divorced parents' dating life. Considering that 10 years ago, "Exile in Guyville would have been in my Top 20, I'm going to put 2 Phair recordings tied for 100.
NOTE: If you've made it this far, thanks for indulging me. Please feel free to put your lists in the comment section and begin to slam me or pat me on the back now.