Rock Blog: The Top 8 Albums From 1991

Where were you 25 years ago?

September 19, 2016

Take yourself back 25 years. No matter where you were, no matter what you were doing, 1991 provided a soundtrack to your life. That, of course, is provided you were alive and consuming music back then.


The biggest impact on music was the death of the Sunset Strip and the birth of Seattle, or as the world outside of the Pacific Northwest referred to it, "Grunge." I was lucky to have moved to Seattle that year and as an East Coast native, I could only describe it to friends back home as moving to Haight Asbury in 1967.


But 1991 was about more than just Seattle. Here are the eight best albums from 1991:


Nirvana - Nevermind
Let's start with the obvious. Nevermind is stronger today than it was 25 years ago and that's saying a lot considering this was the album that flipped the switch on an entire generation. So so powerful and completely out of nowhere. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was the song that literally changed everything. 25 years later it is to Generation X as Stairway to Heaven was to boomers.


Guns n Roses - Use Your Illusion 1,2
What do you do when you change everything about rock in the late 80s? Release two albums at once. 1991 was the end of big hair Rock and the beginning of long hair Rock, and GnR cruised right through, killing it with “November Rain”, “Don't Cry”, “Civil War”, “You Could Be Mine”, “Knockin on Heaven’s Door” and more.  It’s fitting that we saw them ride high again in 2016.


Pearl Jam – Ten
The album was a whole different genre of arena rock. Big, powerful and as complex as a wine, Ten was an amalgamation of American rock and American punk. Hit after hit like “Jeremy”, “Alive”, “Black”, “Evenflow”, “Once”, “Porch", “Why Go"... - wowzers.  A masterpiece in a catalog that continues to grow and a live band that is still unparalleled.


U2 - Achtung Baby
Sure, U2 has drifted and probably put out too many disappointing albums in the last decade, but 25 years ago they were about the biggest band in the world. Achtung Baby album gave us “Mysterious Ways”, “One”, “Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses”, "Even Better Than The Real Thing” and “The Fly.” This was one of their best and we miss U2 for that. Come back Bono, and bring a great album with you!


Temple of the Dog - Temple of the Dog

It's sad that this "supergroup" only released one album because they were really great. But it was only one album for very good reason. It was a personal tribute album to Seattle great Andrew Wood of Mother Love Bone and Malfunkshun. It was the best of Soundgarden and Pearl Jam. And lucky for us, they are touring on this, the 25th anniversary.


Soundgarden – Badmotorfinger
At my first listen, this was Grunge for Metal fans. Now, it's timeless hard rock. At the time, all Seattle bands were glopped together to the outside world, therefore I didn't realize at the time that Soundgarden was as metal as early Black Sabbath, until I heard “Jesus Christ Pose”. Add "Rusty Cage” and “Outshined”, this album just crushes your soul - in a good way.


Red Hot Chili Peppers - Blood Sugar Sex Magik
I never really loved the Peppers, but you have to give this album its due. Up to this point, the band put out four albums that, outside of the hippest ears, went relatively unnoticed. Then this song came out called “Give it Away.” No one knew what to do with this. It's was too funky for Rock radio at the time. Sad. “Breaking the Girl”, "Suck my Kiss”, and the timeless “Under the Bridge” followed. The Chili Peppers in 1991 were like the cute girl from high school, showing up red hot for college.


Metallica - Metallica
And then there's The Black Album, which for metal purists was a sellout. For others, it was one of the best hard-rock albums ever. For most, it was Metallica at their best, period. Slicker production, hookier songs and a whole new swagger, Metallica came of age in 1991. It's not worth mentioning specific songs, when this is all but a greatest hits album. Remember the first time you heard “Enter Sandman” and how loud you had to turn it up?


Honorable Mentions:
Van Halen / For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge
Ozzy / No More Tears
REM / Out of Time
Scorpions / Wind of Change
Smashing Pumpkins / Gish
Skid Row / Slave to the Grind
Cyprus Hill’s debut


Sadly 1991 also had its low points. We lost Freddy Mercury, Brian Adams had the biggest song of the year with "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You”, and Hole blessed us with their first album.


- Dave Richards, AKA Sergeant Hairclub