Persistently there are fewer quality CD’s coming out from mainstream artists. A ‘quality’ CD is something that makes an impact on the music industry and the general public as a whole.
A great album should make people stand up and take notice; it should cross boundaries, breaking labels of genre, stereotype and appeal to fans of different tastes.
I can only think of a few albums in the past decade or so that are even worth mentioning as quintessential to our generation, whatever you care to label it. Here are six seminal bands and albums you may have heard, forgotten or been too young to notice in the wake of a blossoming 1990’s stronghold of pop music.
Number One: There are a lot of albums that I could start out with, but being a product of the grunge era I think the most obvious album is Nirvana’s “Nevermind.” The first track on the album “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was unarguably the anthem for every high school (or junior high to some) in the early 1990’s. Kurt Cobain’s voice was heard from almost every stereo throughout the decade, and this record was the reason for it.
Number Two: The next album is from three guys from Brooklyn, N.Y. who changed the music world as we know it, bringing a hip-hop flavor to the alternative scene. Every album from the Beastie Boys is fresher and more inventive.
“Paul’s Boutique,” the follow-up to “Licensed to Ill,” is the album of choice on this list for one reason and one reason only; the band decided to ignore the ‘sophomore slump’. As Rolling Stone magazine said, “it’s safe to say that nobody has ever made a more unexpectedly brilliant sophomore blast than the Beastie Boys.”
Number Three: The Wu-Tang Clan’s debut effort, “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)” is considered one of the best rap albums. “36 Chambers” is not the definitive Wu selection that makes my list, however; but 1997’s “Wu-Tang Forever” does. This, like countless bands and artists, is tied to the double-disc theory.
Double the music, and there is more room for improvisation. Each rap on “Forever” is worthy as the Wu-Tang’s best. “Triumph” was the song that made them a commercial success, though it wasn’t the best song of the bunch.
The ten members of the Staten Island, N.Y. rap group helped bring rap to a new generation, and this CD brought them to the top of the rap world when all poster boys of the new genre were roughing it in Los Angeles.
Number Four: Punk music used to be strictly an acquired taste. Rancid helped change that in 1995 with “And Out Come The Wolves.” It blended punk, ska and reggae into something special.
Though not the best of the genre, it put punk music on the map, and paved the way for pop ska and punk bands No Doubt, Blink-182 and Green Day.
Number Five: It’s impossible to have a ‘best of’ list and not include some 80’s rock. Guns N’ Roses is the band that stands out, and their 1987 debut “Appetite for Destruction” brought a new metal brand of rock back to the mainstream. “Welcome to the Jungle” and “Sweet Child o’ Mine” made the album what it is today, a classic. Axl Rose is a metal god, like Ozzy, and this album helped solidify that position for him.
Number Six: Heroine has done horrible things, but one of the worst is taking the life of Brad Nowell, leader of pop-ska band Sublime. This band is in a class all by themselves. They blend ska, surf-punk, reggae and unforgettable lyrics into something undeniably great.
Since I can only put one CD on the list, Sublime’s first and best is 1992’s “40 Oz. to Freedom.” In middle school I bought the CD and it didn’t leave my CD player for months at a time. It cost the band $1,000 to make the record, an unheard amount in the days of million dollar advances.