Archive for the ‘25 Best Albums of the 1990’s’ Category

25 Greatest Albums of the 1990’s

The 1990’s were a defining decade in music unlike any except maybe the 1960’s.  It was a great decade to grow up in, and experience not only the albums I have listed here, but literally hundreds more.  To me the first 6 or 7 albums on this list are a no brainer.  It starts to get a little sticky after that as I feel I had a list of at least 50 albums that could sit within any of those next few spots.

I’ve listened to all 25 of these albums countless times, bemoaning the fact that the CD’s I owned at the time would show their wear and begin to skip repeatedly.  These are the albums that defined my teenage years and an entire decade.

#25 – Public Enemy – Fear of A Black Planet/Apocalypse 91…The Enemy Strikes Black –1990-91

I remember being about 12 years old and a kid on my baseball team turned me on to PE.  Apocalypse 91 was the first album I heard from them, and I still reference it to this day.  To me Fear of a Black Planet belongs right alongside it as the Rubber Soul/Revolver of the emerging rap scene.  As raw and lethal as It Takes A Nation of Millions is, these albums showed how slick and innovative PE could be while still fighting the power.

#24 – 10,000 Maniacs – Our Time in Eden – 1992

The first concert I ever attended was 311, World Party, Goo Goo Dolls and 10,000 Maniacs at Blossom Music Center in 1992.  After seeing Natalie Merchant and company I was hooked, and I immediately joined Columbia House so I could order all of their CD’s.  Our Time in Eden is flawless in it’s writing and Merchant’s vocal prowess.

All Eyez On Me [Explicit]

#23 – 2Pac – All Eyez On Me – 1996

One of the great rap albums of all time.  This thing was on infinite repeat during the later part of my high school years, and early part of my college jams.  Literally stacked with jam after jam.  It helped to revolutionize the genre and take it mainstream.

#22 – Liz Phair – Exile in Guyville – 1992

I would secretly hide in my parents basement and play this record over and over, making sure not to tell any of my friends of the teenage female angst that was invading my ears.  For me this was the beginning of the possibility that I could make music.  Exile in Guyville is filled with the Lo-Fi noise of home recording techniques come to life.

#21 – Tricky – Pre-Millenium Tension – 1996

Pre-Millenium tension marked my first foray into the genre of trip-hop.  It opened the doors for Tricky’s earlier works and the works of Massive Attack (Blue Lines and Mezannine barely missed this list).  To me the album brought an almost frightening feeling along with it.  It confused me as a teenager, but it’s ambient textures and beats have stayed with me to this day.

#20 – Dramarama – Hi-Fi-Sci-Fi – 1993

Easily the least listened to, and most under-rated album of the 90’s.  Hi-Fi-Sci-Fi is chock full of songs with massive hooks and pop-splattered lyrics.  I find it’s an album that gets better with age.  I’ve turned this album over to many friends in my day and I always get the same response….why have I never listened to this before?!

#19 – Matthew Good Band – Beautiful Midnight – 1999

Probably the last great album of the 90’s, this third album by the Canadian band made them superstars in their home country.  Somehow that didn’t translate to the same success in the states when the album was re-released here a few years later.  Power hooks all over the place, with Good’s unique song-writing style.  This slowly creeped into my favorites over the years.


#18 – The Afghan Whigs – Black Love – 1996

Black Love is massive in every way.  It’s an album that plays like a great novel.  Each song telling a chapter and bleeding into the next.  Filled with film noir references, Black Love is that most grandiose work The Afghan Whigs have ever created.

#17 – The Notorious B.I.G. – Ready to Die – 1994

As great as his follow up Life After Death is, Biggie’s debut is his album to go to.  One of the hallmarks of east coast rap.  Gritty, street life pasted on wax.  This along with Nas – Illmatic tell you everything you need to know about rap from the 90’s.

#16 – Matthew Sweet – Girlfriend – 1991

There’s something very warm and sad about Girlfriend that makes it one of the most comforting and endearing albums of the 90’s.  Following Sweet’s divorce he wrote all these songs that long for something.  It’s an album that I often forget about, but once I put it on I listen from start to finish.

#15 – Concrete Blonde – Bloodletting – 1990

I think Johnette Napolitano has one of the truly great female voices of all time.  Bloodletting is perfection.  10 tracks that create one cohesive horror opera of an album.  The darker side of the sunset strip.

#14 – Local H – Pack Up the Cats – 1998

Local H went from being just another alt/rock band to a band who had something to prove.  This is easily the greatest alt/prog rock concept album of the 1990’s.  The sequencing is absolutely perfect as each song blends in to the next.  Their best effort of all time.

#13 – Radiohead – The Bends – 1995

I got a CD player for myself in 1993.  I bought 2 CD’s.  The first was Aerosmith’s greatest hits. The second was Radiohead’s debut album Pablo Honey.  I was obsessed with that album, and while many others thought of Radiohead as another throwaway grunge band I knew deep inside they were destined for greatness.  The Bends is their first true statement of that greatness.

#12 – Foo Fighters – The Colour and the Shape – 1997

The death of Nirvana as a band changed the face of music, and to this day I’m still fascinated by Dave Grohl’s rise from the ashes with his new band the Foo Fighters.  The Colour and the Shape is pretty far removed from Nirvana Nevermind.  Massive power/pop hooks all over the place. You can play this thing start to finish.  Who knew Grohl could shred as hard as he could pound the drums.

#11 – Tori Amos – Under the Pink – 1994

This sophomore release barely beats out her debut Little Earthquakes as her finest effort.  There’s something very haunting about this release that stays with you.  Catchy but somewhat sad and terrifying at the same time.  This would cement her place as one of the finest female solo artists of all time.

#10 – NAS – Illmatic – 1994

I don’t think I really got in to NAS until late in the 90’s, but I sure was missing out.  Illmatic serves as one of the great debuts in music history, along with being one of the great rap albums of all time.  Its rawness defined east coast hip hop.  It’s the hallmark of the entire era.



#9 – Catherine Wheel – Chrome – 1993

Talk about an album that just keeps getting better and better with age.  Catherine Wheel was one of the truly great bands of the 90’s that never actually became great.  Explosive riffs over dreamy vocals and reverb drenched guitars.  This album is MASSIVE in scope.

Definitely Maybe

#8 – Oasis – Definitely Maybe – 

The definition of the 90’s brit pop invasion.  This album was responsible for everything that jumped the pond with it, Blur, Pulp, The Verve, etc.  While What’s the Story Morning Glory? is considered the bands opus, I think the songs here are better written, with more edge overall.

Use Your Illusion [Explicit]

#7 – Guns N’ Roses – Use Your Illusion I&II –1991

One of my first TAPES ever was Use Your Illusion I and it quickly followed up with it’s twin part II.  Guns was at the top of it’s game.  This double album is nothing but EPIC.  I think they are the last great classic rock band, and 1991 would be the year of the last great classic rock album right here.

The Downward Spiral [Explicit]

#6 – Nine Inch Nails – The Downward Spiral – 1994

It’s an understatement to say that I was obsessed with The Downward Spiral. The dark, heavy synthesizers swirling over all this industrial animosity captured me.  It was unlike anything I had heard at the time and is the hallmark of the industrial music movement.


#5 – The Afghan Whigs – Gentlemen – 1993

This album has been put on infinite repeat in my life since the day I heard it.  A poetic, very personal declaration, of the ending of a relationship.  This firmly made me a Greg Dulli fan forever.  The album cover alone says it all about what awaits your ears and mind.


#4 – Pearl Jam – Ten – 1992

Considered part of the grunge scene, to me this is one of the truly great rock albums of all time.  Massive solos and hooks, and Eddie Vedder showing that he would become one of the great rock vocalists, of one of the greatest rock bands of all time.

#3 – The Smashing Pumpkins – Siamese Dream –1993

I’ve gone back to this album time after time after time.  I could not get it out of my CD player in 1993.  It’s the perfect fusion of what would end up becoming the next generation of prog/alt rock.  Every song is blends so well into the next.  An amazing triumph.

Nevermind (Remastered)

#2 – Nirvana – Nevermind – 1991

1991 was a tremendous year for music and this album will always stand the test of time.  It’s a right of passage for any music fan during that time to own this masterpiece.  I’ve told this story a million times but I remember the first time I heard Smells Like Teen Spirit on Power 108 Cleveland.  It beat out Warrant’s remake of We Will Rock You for song of the week.  I didn’t know what the hell I was hearing, but I knew it would change everything about what I thought and knew about music

#1 – Radiohead – OK Computer – 1997

Ok Computer has the distinction of both being the most original album of the 1990’s and also defining pretty much everything that would come after it.  There are very few albums that are perfect from start to finish but this is one of them.  I’ve gone back to this album more times than I can count, and I’ve always pulled something new out of it.  It’s one of the greatest albums of all time.