I'm not quite sure why I like this album, but I do. Waits' voice is one or two levels below "gravelly", and the instrumental work is not spectacular. But the album has a certain quality. It's charming, in an odd sort of way.
9) Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Life
After flirting with synthesised vocals, rockabilly and country it's nice to see that Neil Young still remembers how to write the straight hard rock that made him famous. A triumphant return to form.
8) X - See How We Are
Proof positive that life after punk exists. See How We Are still has the power of punk, but is considerably more controlled. The album even sports a nice ballad in the title track, along with some nice mid-tempo and hard rock.
7) The Bears - The Bears
Lead singer Adrian Belew has been putting out nothing but classics since he was the lead singer of the 80's version of King Crimson. Power pop with an odd twist. Belew's voice sounds a bit like David Byrne, so imagine a power pop Talking Heads if you can. Give 'em the Grammy for Best New Artist.
6) 10,000 Maniacs - In My Tribe
They sold me on the music when I saw them warm up for R.E.M. Then I found out that lyricist/lead singer Natalie Merchant is a gifted writer as well as a tremendous singer. If life were fair, The Maniacs would sell albums in the millions. However, life isn't fair.
5) Warren Zevon - Sentimental Hygiene
Another return to form. Zevon returns with a brilliant album, full of the biting lyrics and solid songwriting which made him known. There isn't another "Werewolves Of London" here, but all in all, this album is easily Zevon's best yet. Good songs all the way through.
4) R.E.M. - Document
Despite having hit the top-10, Document is yet another triumph for R.E.M. Each of their five albums has been progressively more impressive, so who knows what they will unleash next time around. Document has the "classic" R.E.M. sound, plus some further-out songs that still work. Michael Stipe's singing is getting clearer, but the feel is still there. I have the feeling that R.E.M. will never spell things out completely. (No pun intended.)
3) Roger Waters - Radio K.A.O.S.
By the way, this one's Pink. While the remaining Floyd were selling out stadiums supporting a pretty good album, Roger Waters was half filling small halls supporting an album worthy of the Pink Floyd legacy. Radio K.A.O.S. has all the Floyd trademarks - a harrowing storyline, impassioned singing, superb musicianship and biting social commentary. Or are those Waters' trademarks? Brilliant.
2) U2 - The Joshua Tree
The Joshua Tree is the odds-on favorite for the Best Album Grammy, and quite deservedly. The Boy has grown up - the band has matured with spectacular results. U2 still has a distinctive sound, but it changes slightly with each album. The Joshua Tree melds Eno's textures with the band's sparse sound perfectly. Every song on the album should be a radio staple.
1) Marillion - Clutching At Straws
Marillion is the heir apparent to the "art rock" throne long since vacated by Pink Floyd, Yes, and Genesis. Marillion has taken the flowing sound these three used, added a bit more punch in the upbeat numbers, and shortened the songs a touch. Rather than four or five songs, they weave eleven into a unified whole. Clutching At Straws is a classic example of why a "rock opera" can work. The story isn't spectacular, but it adds the bond between that changes a collection of songs into an album. The sound that tagged Marillion as Genesis imitators has settled down and become unique. The album couples delicate ballads with rockers that have more power than Genesis ever had. "Incommunicado", "The Last Straw", "Just For The Record", "Sugar Mice" and "Warm Wet Circles" have potential to be hits if radio ever opens up and tries a Marillion song other than "Kayleigh". A must hear.
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