THE WOOF 200 FOR 1993
The most blatantly Zeppelin sounding of all the Coverdale/Page tracks, this one sees Jimmy in fine form busting out a mammoth riff after the purely Pageian acoustic intro. Coverdale’s 80’s pin-up posturing in the video notwithstanding, he too brings the goods here with a very charismatic vocal performance, roaring all over the place in typical Whitesnake fashion. Then we have Jimmy laying down the mother of all harmonica solos to really bring things to a crescendo. This was the first single released from the duo’s lone album and it announced with authority that Page was back. Too bad he couldn’t keep up the pace.
From out of nowhere in 1993 came this southern band of old school rockers who burst onto rock radio with a sound that suggested they grew up listening to a LOT of old Bad Company records. Kind of like The Black Crowes but without all the drugs and less reliance on pure blues (so in essence, a dumbing down of the BC sound). I played the crap out of this album when it first came out, my soul even then longing for a sound that seemed to be on its way out of fashion. Thankfully blues rock never really dies and these guys sort of quietly led the revival, paving the way for the likes of Brother Cane (whose own debut was released a week after this but apparently took a while longer to make their way onto the airwaves). Just classic, no-frills guitar rock, played with more balls than brains. Perfect. (Check out “Peace Pipe” while you’re at it, whose main riff is teased at the beginning of the “Bad Thing” video.)
In 1993, when music was making that dramatic shift from “good-time party music” to “introspective angst anthems” I was in desperate need for something a little more upbeat to break up all the misery. Jackson Browne’s post-divorce (from actress Darryl Hannah) comeback album hardly seemed like a likely source, but there was a very uplifting to feel to his soul-searching, as evidenced by the title track. The underlying electric guitar loop really propels the song in a subtle way, keeping it light and moving, before the more traditional rhythm riff brings the power (accented by some particularly hard hitting drums). Browne’s self-affirmation that he won’t be done in by a failed relationship also comes as a pleasant surprise given the “I suck and I’m to blame for your pain” mentality that was dominating music at the time. Such a tremendous album.
Look, let’s just face facts: nobody saw Meat Loaf’s mammoth comeback in 1993 coming, nobody really wanted it to happen, and looking back on it most of us aren’t even sure it’s something we want to admit actually happened, but it did. This song was a MONSTER, playing on damn near every radio station that played music it seemed. The reunion with writer/producer Jim Steinman produced the most over-the-top and epic record the 90’s had seen to that point (and that includes the GN’R Use Your Illusion albums), brilliantly embracing all of the excess of the late 70’s/80’s and daring the new decade to call them out on it. Instead most people just embraced the bombastic charm of it all and carried on as if it wasn’t really that unusual. In retrospect, it probably wasn’t.
It’s not like the Counting Crows invented the roots rock sound, but for some reason it feels like they’re the ones who made it mainstream, with Dave Matthews gladly following in their wake soon after. I remember when this album first came out, with one of our managers at Tower throwing it on the office CD player at the behest of the Sony A&R guy who was visiting that day and proclaiming two songs in, “Yeah, this is gonna be a monster hit. Congrats”. Adam Durtiz may well be the poster boy of the pre-hipster hipster movement, and heaven knows I was sick of his ugly mug by the time their follow-up album hit a few years later, but that doesn’t change the fact that this album is pretty brilliant. This song was the one that made them huge stars (namedropping Bob Dylan always helps), but it’s actually the first of three to make the countdown. Like Sheryl Crow’s hits, it’s lost a little luster with me over the years, but in the Crows case it wasn’t enough to keep the tune off entirely. In fact, 106 is a pretty decent showing for a song I really don’t need to ever hear again.
Time for another mid-countdown country interlude, this time courtesy of a mid-paced number that found its way into my head thanks to the simple but obvious lyrics that were very singable. Country music had a way of doing that with me, grabbing my attention for all the most basic reasons and then lingering for reasons that I can’t really explain. Also, bonus points for Collie looking like pro-wrestler Marty Jannetty in the video, which was one Shawn Michaels superkick through a plate glass window away from perfection.
I warned you about this track back when Lynch debuted with vocalist Glenn Hughes at #120, and here it is. I’d apologize, except for the fact that I actually loved Nelson’s debut 1990 album (excepting the big hit “(I Can’t Live Without Your) Love & Affection” which somehow went to #1 on the Billboard charts despite being the worst song on the album) and think their vocal pairing is really interesting, especially when placed alongside Lynch’s more restrained playing. Yeah, George dials back the thick riffs for a cleaner sound here, which on one hand makes him seem like a more pedestrian player, but on the other shows he can sit back and let the guitar work for the song rather than having to blaze all over everything. Indeed, sometimes less is more.
If you think you’re listening to a lost Journey track, you’re wrong, but not particularly stupid for doing so. Open Skyz started life as a band Valentine, who produced one album of 80’s arena rock built around vocalist Hugo’s Steve Perry tribute act. The album flopped (thanks to a woefully thin production job, in my opinion) and the music scene changed, so the band – fully intact (save for the drummer who quit AFTER recording) – changed their name… and proceeded to pump out the same style of music. Anyway, their brand of radio friendly AOR might no longer have been radio friendly in 1993, but they managed a modest rock radio hit with the more upbeat “Every Day Of My Life”. For me though, it was this pseudo-ballad that made the biggest impression, helping to fill the void while waiting for Perry’s second solo album to finally be delivered.
- MAJESTY CRUSH – “UMA”
Ugh. YouTube has failed me again, no recording of this song be available anywhere I could find (save for this pretty reasonable live cover from some band I’ve never heard of). It probably doesn’t help that this album of Americanized British shoegazer sounds came and went without much impact and the band never released a proper follow-up. I had them up at #172 with “No. 1 Fan” if you care to refresh your memory on their Smashing Pumpkins-lite sound. That song was about John Hinkley’s obsession with Jodie Foster, this tune is about actress Uma Thurman (soon to be idolized again in my 2015 countdown thanks to Fall Out Boy – the girls has staying power!), and they actually had a third tune I was considering for the countdown called “Seles” about the Yugoslavian tennis player (also not on YouTube). Given all that info I’m just gonna go ahead and assume the reason their career was so short was due to the entire band being mired in a morass of restraining orders that made songwriting impossible. Seriously, guys, maybe cut back on the stalking and stick to girls who might like you back.
Yet another Tower Records story. The first music buyer we had while I was working there turned me onto this local Boston act the way he did pretty much anybody else who he came in contact with, with one of his patented, “my friend Tom, you know, the drummer from Buffalo Tom…” stories. In my case, the name-dropping actually worked, because I never heard of them until my time there but quickly got into their 1992 album Let Me Come Over. By the time [big red letter day] was released in late ’93, we were both convinced they were about to break huge, in large part to this plaintive plea for acceptance that seemed the perfect anthem for a growing generation of alienated teens. Didn’t quite happen, though the record did respectable enough (thanks also to the minor hit “Sodajerk”) and has remained one of my under-the-radar faves of the year.