I definitely prefer the rap and hip-hop artists of the 80s and 90s to the ones we hear today. I regret not being more into the genre back then, because every time I spend a little time with what are now considered throwbacks, I love it.
A Tribe Called Quest released their second album, The Low End Theory, in 1991, to critical raves. The Queens-based trio took hip-hop in a new direction, introducing elements of jazz to their low-tempo sampled beats and call-and-response lyrics. It’s a great sound.
Massive Attack released its debut album, Blue Lines, in 1991, essentially inventing the trip hop genre. The British band’s music is a blend of hip-hop and electronica with a dash of soul. It’s quite an adventurous mix.
While this sort of music isn’t exactly my cup of tea, I totally see the appeal. Unlike heavy metal, exemplified by yesterday’s featured Metallica album, I find this interesting and ground-breaking and actually listenable.
After counting down my own favorite albums of 1991, I’ll now turn my attention to the years’ most celebrated and important releases that somehow escaped my radar.
Kicking things off is Metallica’s self-titled fifth studio album, often referred to as The Black Album. This record is considered one of the greatest heavy metal albums of all time, and is one of the best-selling albums of all time. In fact, only Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and Carole King’s Tapestry have spent more weeks on the Billboard 200.
Funny how opinions change over time. I’ve written about R.E.M.’s Out of Time a few times before but never in a very positive light. In posts eight and nine years ago I described it as one of the band’s weakest efforts.
Yet here I am in 2019, naming it as my #1 album of 1991. And it wasn’t even a tough decision.
1991 was the year before I met my future wife, but my #2 album of that year earned its spot on this list mostly because of her.
Both Alexandra and I were fans of Toad the Wet Sprocket’s album Fear when we met, and it became a bonding element for us. It’s funny that she and I have very little musical overlap in general but managed to find a few artists who meant a whole lot to both of us. Although I probably would have faked liking these guys if it meant spending more time with her.
My #3 album of 1991 is admittedly a bit of a cheat, as most of its songs were recorded decades earlier. But Bob Dylan’s The Bootleg Series, Vol 1-3: Rare & Unreleased 1961-1991 marked the first time most of these outtakes and demos were officially released.
This three-disc set covered Dylan’s earliest years up through his spotty 80s output, and found hidden gems throughout. Incredible songs inexplicably left off of mediocre albums, alternate takes of all-time classics, demos recorded before anybody knew the name Bob Dylan.
My #4 album of 1991 is the mostly mediocre Elvis Costello release, Mighty Like a Rose.
Ranking this one was tough. I had to balance the warm bath of nostalgia with the sobering effects of time, then sprinkle in a dash of ‘one amazing song lifting up a whole album.’ Given all that, fourth place feels about right.