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This is the second-to-last post in the greatest albums from each year series. So far, I have covered my love of glam metal bands and hard rock icons. This next set of albums will definitely feature a music change as the Grunge movement from my home state of Washington was brought to the forefront, and with it, many great albums.
Some albums on this list may come as a shock to you, or maybe you have never even heard of some of them. I tend to have discovered many great albums during the past six years of listening to rock music.
1. The Razors Edge – AC/DC
AC/DC was able to regain their level of success and fame that they had received in the early 1980s with their album The Razors Edge. It really didn’t different much musically from their previous albums, but this one did contain a few more hits that were able to propel the album’s sales. Tracks like “Thunderstruck,” “Moneytalks,” and “Mistress for Christmas” reached old AC/DC and new ones, causing them to return and buy the album. My personal favorite songs from the album would be “Shot of Love,” and “Rock Your Heart Out.” AC/DC was unstoppable after having been successful in three different decades. Unfortunately, their next album would have an extremely long wait, coming out five years later in 1995.
2. Empire – Queensryche
Empire is Queensryche’s supreme album. It is their most commercially successful album to date, and helped make Queensryche a headlining act. It differred slightly from its predecessors, Operation: Mindcrime and Rage For Order, by toning down many of the heavy/progressive metal elements and by creating a very commercial album. Now, this isn’t to say that the album was disappointing, because it isn’t. Empire is an amazing album from start to finish, and it contains many of my favorite Queensryche songs such as “Empire,” “Jet City Woman,” “Best I Can,” “Silent Lucidity,” and “Resistance.” The Empire reissue and deluxe edition also included the amazing songs “Last Time in Paris,” and “Dirty Lil Secret.”
Unfortunately, no Queensryche album since has been able to capture the greatness of Empire, although many have come remotely close.
Honorable Mention: Facelift – Alice in Chains
1. Nevermind – Nirvana
Nevermind is the album that made Grunge a worldwide music scene. Coming from the town of Aberdeen in my home state, I wish I had been alive to witness the Grunge bands rise and play shows. However, I was born six years after Nevermind, after Grunge had died out as a mainstream music genre. The album contained the hit songs “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “Come as You Are,” “Lithium,” “Polly,” among others. It also has my favorite Nirvana song: “Lounge Act.”
2. No More Tears – Ozzy Osbourne
No More Tears is the ultimate Ozzy Osbourne album. Every song on the album could have been a hit, and probably would have been it Grunge hadn’t knocked 1980s musicians off the charts. Still, the album sold better than all previous Ozzy albums and contained a few big hits for the Heavy Metal legend. “No More Tears,” “I Don’t Wanna Change the World,” and “Mama I’m Coming Home” were massive hits, while the songs “Mr. Tinkertrain,” “Hellraiser,” and “Road to Nowhere” were very deserving of that status. It was the last album to feature the Prince of Darkness’ signature sound of heavy metal and glam rock, before he moved into a darker sound and his voice became a bit older sounding.
Honorable Mention: Ten – Pearl Jam
1. Adrenalize – Def Leppard
Def Leppard’s follow-up album to the massively successful #1 album, Hysteria, came as a disappointment to many fans. The album lacked the power and attack of the band’s previous two albums, and it lacked major hit songs. Perhaps the album would have been more commercially successful (it hit #1 on the Billboard charts and sold over 3,000,000 copies in the U.S., so it actually did pretty good) if Grunge had not taken the mainstream audience and guitarist Steve Clark had not died prior to the album’s release. Either way, the album proved important to Def Leppard’s career. It was the last glam metal album to chart at #1 and was the last one to be even remotely successful before the genre collapsed and many bands found themselves label-less. I personally enjoy Adrenalize. I don’t think it is nearly as different as people claim it to be: it still contains the pop-rock hooks Lepp. is known for and has quite a bit of attack. Unfortunately, a lot of the songs are more ballady than usual. “Let’s Get Rocked,” “Heaven Is,” “Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad,” and “Stand Up (Kick Love Into Motion” proved to be pretty successful hit songs. “Tear it Down,” is one of the hardest rocking songs the band has ever done and deserves more praise than it received. If you haven’t heard this album, I recommend checking it out (Def Lepp isn’t on iTunes, so try Youtube.)
2. Grave Dancers Union – Soul Asylum
Soul Asylum’s Grave Dancers Union is a great alt. rock album. It is one of those albums I can listen to all the way through on any day, no matter how I am feeling or what I am doing. Songs like “Black Gold,” “Somebody to Shove,” “Keep it Up,” “99%,” and “April Fool,” keep the album going strong. However, it was the hit “Runaway Train” that brought the band to fame.
Honorable Mention: Dirt – Alice in Chains
1. Candlebox – Candlebox
I really don’t know why people haven’t heard of Candlebox. The Seattle-based grunge band had every bit as much talent as, or even more than, Pearl Jam and Nirvana, yet they didn’t receive the same kind of response. Candlebox went on to sell over 4,000,000 copies in the US, but all of their later albums quickly fell off of the charts or didn’t chart at all. They are one of the bands I need to see before they retire, which is hopefully a long time away. The album features the amazing songs “Far Behind,” “Don’t You,” “Blossom,” “Arrow,” and “Cover Me.” This is one of my feel good albums and one that I wish everyone knew about.
2. Get A Grip – Aerosmith
While Get a Grip may not be as good as its predecessors, it definitely sold better worldwide, becoming Aerosmith’s best-selling album in almost every country except for the US (that title is held by the band’s 1975 album, Toys in the Attic.) The album features a change in music direction with a bit more experimentation. The songs “Eat the Rich,” “Livin’ On the Edge,” “Fever,” “Cryin,” “Crazy,” and “Amazing,” were hits.
1. Jar of Flies (EP) – Alice in Chains
Jar of Flies is the best album to ever come from a Grunge band. It may even be the best album from the 1990s. The album is mostly acoustic, which enhances Alice in Chains’ sound. Layne Staley’s vocals had never sounded better and the album produced the hits “No Excuses,” and “I Stay Away.” At the time, it was the best-selling EP ever released. I listen to the album frequently, singing along to every song.
2. Superunknown – Soundgarden
Superunknown should have been a bigger hit, even though it was massive. Soundgarden deserved more praise than they got simply because they were always better than Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Every song on the album showcases what Grunge was meant to be. The songs “Black Hole Sun,” “Fell On Black Days,” and “Spoonman” were big hits, especially in my area. “Fell on Black Days” is one of my all-time favorite songs and I love to hear all the time.
Honorable Mention: Throwing Copper – Live
1. Ballbreaker – AC/DC
Ballbreaker is not as good as the previous AC/DC albums, but it still rocked hard and stayed true to AC/DC’s sound. It also surprises me that this album wasn’t bigger than it was. The songs “Hail Caesar,” “Hard as a Rock,” “Cover You In Oil,” and “Burnin’ Alive” are some of the best AC/DC songs ever recorded.
2. Above – Mad Season
This supergroup featured Alice in Chain’s vocalist layne Staley, which helped to bring the album to life. Although it wasn’t popular, the songs didn’t differ much from better-side of Grunge music. Once listening to the album, you can’t resist “Wake Up,” and “I Don’t Know Anything.”
Honorable Mention: Balance – Van Halen
1. Slang – Def Leppard
Slang received a lot of criticism from critics and fans of Def Leppard because of its drastic departure from their usual glam metal/rock song. The album lacked the pop-rock hooks and the twin-guitar attack of the previous albums, and it tanked in terms of album sales. However, much of the album’s criticism is unjust and unfair. Slang is as good as its predecessors, even without the great top 40 hit songs and euphoria over them (no pun intended, but you would only know it if you know DL). The songs “Slang,” “All I Want Is Everything,” “Gift of Flesh,” and “Move With Me Slowly” are some of the best in the band’s catalogue. Furthermore, the 2014 Deluxe Edition of the album includes the amazing songs “Burn Out,” “Worlds Collide,” “Can’t Keep Away From the Flame,” and “Move on Up.” Def Leppard has yet to record another album as good as this one.
2. Down on the Upside – Soundgarden
1. Nine Lives – Aerosmith
2. Hear in the Now Frontier – Queensryche
1. Hellbilly Deluxe – Rob Zombie
Hellbilly Deluxe is Rob Zombie’s first solo album after the end of the band White Zombie. The album is a powerful, in-your-face groove/horror metal/rock that leaves you wanting more. The album has many memorable rock hits, including “Dragula.”
2. Sunburn – Fuel
1. Buckcherry – Buckcherry
Buckcherry’s debut album was a great one. Its glam rock style meshed with modern alt. rock allowed the band to develop a large following and open up for bands like Motley Crue. The album features Buckcherry’s best song, “Lit Up.” The album has a summer/beach feel to it, although it is perfect for any time of year.
2. Euphoria – Def Leppard
While not as good as any of the band’s previous albums, Euphoria marked a return to Def Leppard’s traditional sound, just with a bit more pop and a bit more ballads. The album is the last one the band has put out to receive any RIAA certifications. The song “Promises” was a big mainstream rock hit and the song “Paper Sun” did relatively well on the rock charts. The songs “Demolition Man,” “Day After Day,” and “King’s of Oblivion” are highlights from the album, while “All Night,” is a fun little tune that reminds us of old Leppard.
1. Something Like Human – Fuel
When fans thought Fuel couldn’t get any better, after their FAR UNDERRATED debut album, they did just that. Their second album, Something Like Human, did well on the US Billboard charts, giving the band a massive hit song “Hemorrhage (In My Hands).” The entire album is hard rocking and had the potential to go even further. Every song on the album is packed with great alt. rock, including “Slow,” “Last Time,” “Scar,” “Bad Day,” “Solace,” and “Prove.”
2. Stiff Upper Lip – AC/DC
AC/DC’s 2000 album, Stiff Upper Lip, is their worst album to date. That being said, it is still great rock n roll, which just goes to show how good AC/DC really is. In my opinion, no AC/DC song is bad, and that applies here as well. The songs “Safe in New York City,” (Controversial because it came out before 9/11, but whatever) “Satellite Blues,” “Meltdown,” and “Stiff Upper Lip,” remind us of why we love the band so much.
1. Time Bomb – Buckcherry
Time Bomb may be the most underrated album of all time. Buckcherry’s second album quickly fell off the charts and sold so poorly that it is no longer in print. That’s right, NO LONGER IN PRINT. This is unfortunate, because it is Buckcherry’s finest moment, and perhaps the finest moment for rock in the 21st century thus far. The album was fierce, loud, and full-on rock n roll glam attack. “Underneath,” “Frontside,” “Ridin’,” “Place in the Sun,” “Whiskey in the Morning,” Slamin,” “Fall,” and “Open My Eyes,” are AMAZING! Check this album out on iTunes and buy it ASAP. You won’t regret it.
2. The Sinister Urge – Rob Zombie
Rob Zombie’s second album may be his greatest moment. The album didn’t do as well as the previous one, but has done better commercial than all of the following albums Rob Zombie had put out. The album is great groove/horror rock all the way through and no song disappoints.
Honorable Mention: Come Clean – Puddle of Mudd
1. Stone Sour – Stone Sour
Stone Sour should have been a big band, and their debut album should have shot up the charts. Perhaps it would have it had come out in a time where pop and rap didn’t rule the charts and radio. “Bother,” “Get Inside,” and “Take a Number” are album highlights. The album closes with a hilarious (to me anyway) ‘voice memo’ titled “Omega.”
2. And the Dancehall Doctors – Tim McGraw
Shocked? Just because I prefer rock and metal doesn’t mean that’s all I listen to. I have been a Tim McGraw fan since I was really little, thanks in part to my Mom’s crush on him and the number of times I have been to his concerts. And the Dancehall Doctors is McGraw’s finest hour. The songs on the album are comforting, straight-forward country music like one would find in the 1990s, just with a bit of a modern twist. It is likely the last amazing country album to ever come out, before the genre slowly went to pop.
Check back soon for the final part in the series: 2003 – 2014 (so far)