1989 was conspicuous for the absence of some of the biggest names in hard rock and heavy metal. Here’s a list of some of the bands that DID NOT release a new album in 1989 — Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax, Guns N’ Roses, Def Leppard, Scorpions, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Ozzy, and Van Halen. That’s almost all of the major bands.
Despite all the big names who sat out 1989, it was still a good year. Hair metal was arguably at its peak. There were tons of quality hair metal albums that came out in 1989. Thus, it’s no surprise that my list below is loaded with more hair metal than usual.
Here are my personal favorite hard rock and heavy metal albums of 1989…
20. Enuff Z’nuff – Enuff Z’nuff
Enuff Z’nuff’s debut arrived in 1989 with one of the laziest attempts at an album cover you’ll ever see. Not that I don’t like peace, but jeesh, they couldn’t have spent more than 0.2 seconds designing that album cover. Then again, I guess we are lucky they didn’t put a band photo on the cover because these guys were REALLY dolled up. Tons of makeup, lipstick, and bright colors. Check out their video for lead single New Thing for a taste of Enuff Z’nuff’s “fashion” sense.
Sure, the look was really girlie and glam at the time (they shed that image soon thereafter), but the actual music is addictive, effervescent, power pop. Big guitars, raspy vocals, and hooks for days is what you get with these Cheap Trick-influenced party boys. Just take a listen to the aforementioned New Thing and you have to immediately respect Enuff Z’nuff’s songwriting abilities. Infectious doesn’t even begin to describe New Thing. You can get cavities just listening to this sweetness!
I read Howard Stern’s book Private Parts many years ago (lots of laughs), and he wrote quite a bit about Enuff Z’nuff as I recall. They were one of Howard’s faves. In this case, Howard knew what he was talking about.
Enuff Z’nuff also features the band’s best known cut, the melancholy Fly High Michelle. Another great song with an awesomely awful video. Oh well! Deep tracks such as She Wants More, Little Indian Angel, and For Now sound great while driving around on a warm summer’s day. My score: A-
19. Bonham – The Disregard Of Timekeeping
Let’s say it’s Sunday morning and your ears are still ringing from Saturday night. Your head is pounding from all the booze you drank. Obviously, you still need to listen to some rock while you to try to recover with a cup of coffee and some aspirin. (You require rock whenever you are conscious.) But Slayer’s Reign In Blood isn’t going to be apropos at this early hour given your condition. You’re going to need something a little more chill and relaxing. I’ve got just the album for you — Bonham’s The Disregard Of Timekeeping.
Bonham gets their name from their drummer Jason Bonham — the son of Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham. The Disregard Of Timekeeping is an excellent commercial hard rock album. It cools like a breeze as it soothes your weary bones. Tons of keyboards are used on the album, giving these songs a smooth (albeit corporate) touch. Bonham hada little Zep in their step, which is not surprising given Jason’s lineage. But The Disregard Of Timekeeping is hardly a wholesale copy of Led Zeppelin (like Kingdom Come). Vocalist Daniel MacMaster (R.I.P.) was an excellent vocal talent that may remind some of Robert Plant just a bit. Superb tracks such as Wait For You, Holding On Forever, and Dreams have outstanding hooks that ‘ll keep you coming back for more. My score: A-
18. Kingdom Come – In Your Face
Kingdom Come was dogged by bad press upon the release of their debut album Kingdom Come in 1988. Their critics blasted them for sounding too much like Led Zeppelin. It was true, Kingdom Come sounded very much like Zep. But what was so wrong about having a muscular, heavy metal Led Zeppelin for the eighties? Lost in all the criticism of Kingdom Come sounding like Zep is that they were actually really damn good at it! Apparently too much of a good thing was a problem for some people.
Kingdom Come’s second album, 1989’s In Your Face, found Lenny Wolf and his band of Zeppelin disciples unbowed and unbroken by all the hate. In Your Face is another album of shameless Zep worship. Compared to 1988’s Kingdom Come, In Your Face was not as successful. It seems the bad press had hurt Kingdom Come’s reputation and, ultimately, their pocket books. This is unfortunate because I actually believe In Your Face is the better album!
Consider Led Zeppelin’s more stately and bombastic tunes like Kashmir. That is the sound I think Kingdom Come emulates on In Your Face. Big eighties production values and just the right amount of keyboards help give these tracks a regal, almost epic feel. All the while singer Lenny Wolf moans and purrs like Robert Plant o’er top. Faves include Do You Like It, Who Do You Love, Highway 6, and Stargazer. My score: A-
17. Extreme – Extreme
Extreme was a fresh, exciting, and talented band that arrived on the scene at the tail end of the eighties. As much as any band, Extreme deserved to survive the cultural sea change that killed almost all of the bands of their ilk in the nineties. Unfortunately, Extreme didn’t make it to the new millennium intact.
Extreme’s debut album may sport a shitty-ass cover (nice shirt Gary!) but the music inside is a roller coaster ride of axe pyrotechnics and sing-along hooks. Nuno Bettencourt was one of the best guitar talents to come along in the late eighties (maybe THE best). Like Eddie Van Halen or Vito Bratta, Nuno’s rhythm guitar tracks alone were enough to electrify the ears. Tons of tasty flourishes, nasty squeals, and creative licks peppered his rhythm tracks. And the solos? Perfection of course. Nuno also provided backing vocals and harmony vocals to beef up the excellent work of lead vocalist Gary Cherone. My favorite track is probably Mutha (Don’t Wanna Go To School Today) which features some mammoth riffing (in the Eddie Van Halen style) and an unforgettable chorus. Other highlights include Teacher’s Pet, Big Boys Don’t Cry, and Play With Me (a song famously used in Bill And Ted’s Excellent Adventure). Lyrically, Extreme is a loose concept album of sorts, because almost all the songs are centered around childhood. The song Little Girls is a little creepy though, because as far as I can tell it is about statutory rape! Anywayz, this album is a really strong beginning for Extreme. Of course, Extreme’s second album, Pornograffitti (1990), was even better! My score: A-
16. The Cult – Sonic Temple
The Cult reached their apex with 1989’s Sonic Temple. This album was the follow-up to the successful Electric album of 1987. Electric consisted of skeletal hard rock designed to appeal to the commercial masses. Electric was produced by Rick Rubin. Personally, I found Electric to be a rather weak and derivative album (with a couple of good songs). Rubin always had a fondness for AC/DC’s bare bones approach and I think he pushed The Cult too far in that direction, resulting in a record that was little more than a second-rate AC/DC rip-off. Sonic Temple, by contrast, was more original, more varied, and more powerful. Bob Rock took care of production duties this time around. The album spawned a handful of rock radio singles including album opener Sun King, the mighty Fire Woman, the elegant Edie (Ciao Baby), and the soaring Sweet Soul Sister. Fine deep tracks like American Horse and Soldier Blue helped to make Sonic Temple a well-balanced album. This disc can be played from start to finish without any need for the skip button. If you don’t have it, GO GET IT! My score: A-
15. Annihilator – Alice In Hell
Led by Canadian guitarist Jeff Waters, Annihilator arrived on the scene just as the thrash genre was reaching its short-lived crest as a commercially viable product. Annihilator’s debut Alice In Hell appeared on Roadrunner Records in 1989. They were the last of what I consider to be the “classic” thrash bands to arrive during the Golden Age.
Jeff Waters made a great case for himself as one of the best thrash guitarists alive with his amazing work on Alice In Hell. He was a riff master with an almost O.C.D. level of precision to his playing. Water’s choice for a vocalist was the wonderfully psychotic (and possibly drunk) Randy Rampage. A great choice (IMO) because Randy’s rabid, off-the-chain vocals were a great counterpoint to Water’s highly disciplined, clinical guitar style. Tremendous cuts include the maniacal Alison Hell and the phenomenal Word Salad. My personal favorite track (and one of my ten favorite thrash tunes EVER) is the album’s crushing finale Human Insecticide! Waters’ riffage is just insane here, as is the bass playing (also by Waters I believe), and ol’ Randy Rampage sounds ridiculously deranged on this face-melting thrashterpiece! (Check it out here!) If you don’t like Human Insecticide — you suck! My score: A-
14. Dirty Looks – Turn Of The Screw
Here’s another irresistible gem from one of the best sleaze/glam/hair bands to never break big. Dirty Looks’ main man was nasty boy Henrik Ostergaard (R.I.P.) — a man in possession of a rough ‘n raunchy voice, an alcohol fueled swagger, and a penchant for nonsensical lyrics. Make no mistake, Dirty Looks’ style followed a definite formula, but it was a good one. It was pretty much a three-chord approach wrapped around slippery blues-based riffs. Honestly, many of the songs’ main riffs aren’t at all that different from each other. Distinguishing one track from another is kind of like splitting hairs. Again, pretty formulaic, but it worked to perfection. (Look what it did for AC/DC!) The rhythm section contributed a beefy backbone with grooves aplenty. My personal favorite cuts are Nobody Rides For Free, Hot Flash Jelly Roll, and best of all, the awesome L.A. Anna! My score: A
13. Victory – Culture Killed The Native
Operating out of Germany, Victory began their career as a rather generic metal band when they debuted with Victory in 1985. Things started to improve with the addition of ex-Accept guitarist Herman Frank to the line-up for their second album in 1986. By the time of their fourth studio album, 1989’s Culture Killed The Native, Victory had climbed to a whole new level. With a new vocalist in tow (Fernando “el toro loco” Garcia), Victory went to combat with America’s hair band best with melodic tunes like Standing On The Edge and More And More. The obligatory power ballad Lost In The Night also hits its mark. But Culture Killed The Native also features some heavier, more metallic numbers like Power Strikes The Earth and The Warning. This record was Victory’s heaviest to date, but also their most catchy! Other highlights include Always The Same and On The Loose. Any fan of eighties-style metal with great guitar work, strong vocals, and big ass hooks would do well to track down this forgotten nugget! My score: A
12. Lord Tracy – Deaf Gods Of Babylon
Lord Tracy released this little-known album in 1989 on Uni Records (a sub-label of MCA Records). What distinguished Lord Tracy from their peers was their sense of humor and their experimental nature. There are a lot of different styles attempted on Deaf Gods Of Babylon, with some working and some completely missing their mark. The result is an album that is ridiculously inconsistent but a fun one nonetheless. Hey, it is a bit refreshing to come across an original band like Lord Tracy in a sea of late ’80s wannabe-hair-bands. In the end, they are no richer for it, but they should be commended for their independent spirit.
By the way, Lord Tracy’s singer was Terrence Lee Glaze, who was Pantera’s singer on their first three albums (as Terrence Lee).
I must say, the production on Deaf Gods Of Babylon is superb. The album sounds very robust with a heavy bottom end. The bass is boosted in the mix which is nice because the bass lines are very interesting at times. The album opens on a plain note with a straightforward rocker called Out With The Boys. The second track is a marked improvement — the funked up East Coast Rose. Side one also features the crackin’ Watchadoin’ and the absolutely sublime mellow gem Chosen Ones. Side two features two more well-crafted tunes — the pop-rocker In Your Eyes and the ballad Foolish Love. Unfortunately the end of side two kind of falls apart with Lord Tracy dicking around with too many joke songs and half-assed stuff. There is even a rap song. I wish they had used their energy to come up with two or three more serious compositions. Nevertheless, Deaf Gods Of Babylon is most definitely one to seek out! My score: A
11. Reverend – Reverend
After two excellent albums with power thrash pioneers Metal Church, vocalist David Wayne split from the band (reportedly on very bitter terms). He was eventually replaced in Metal Church by Mike Howe of the band Heretic. Out on his ass, “Reverend” Wayne was looking for a new project when, ironically, the guys from Heretic contacted him. In a weird switcharoo, Wayne joined forces with some of the remaining members of Heretic (three of whom had performed on 1988’s Breaking Point album with Howe). This included guitarist and principal Heretic songwriter Brian Korban.
The band called themselves Reverend and debuted in 1989 with a four-song, self-titled EP on Caroline Records. Few have heard this album, which is unfortunate because it kicks serious ass. The album is heavier than a brick shit-house! Korban and crew provide crushing riffs and rhythms for Wayne to spew his poisoned-tongued vocals over the top. Whether you like his voice or not, there is no denying that Wayne was one of a kind on vocals. No one sounded like him. Every time he stepped to the microphone its was a psycho circus! I’m not sure who wrote the album’s lyrics (all writing credits go to Reverend) but I am going to assume it was Wayne. These lyrics express paranoia, rage, cynicism, and an overall bad f*cking mood! Very smart lyrics, and Wayne just owns every last syllable. I’m not sure if this is supposed to be some kind of revenge album, but it damn sure sounds like these guys are out for blood on this seething, jaded mini-masterpiece. Check out the phenomenal Ritual. My score: A
10. XYZ – XYZ
Imagine Dokken — but better! That’s XYZ. The reason that XYZ remind me of Dokken is because their guitarist Marc Diglio played very much in the style of Dokken’s George Lynch. Furthermore, XYZ’s debut album XYZ was actually produced by Don Dokken — so there’s also a tangible connection between the two bands.
Complimenting Diglio nicely was XYZ’s singer Terry Ilous. Dude had a set of powerful pipes! The rhythm section of XYZ performed their role proficiently, too. Their job was to keep a solid foundation, not f*ck up, and allow Ilous and Diglio to shine.
After the solid opening track Maggie (the most Dokken-esque tune on the album), things really get cooking with the tremendous Inside Out. The main riff of this song is Diglio’s best offering, and the solo smokes, too. Other standout cuts include Tied Up, Nice Day To Die, and the acoustic ballad After The Rain. Ilous’ vocals on After The Rain are nothing short of masterful! My score: A
9. Overkill – The Years Of Decay
Almost every song on The Years Of Decay is the audio equivalent of an extended middle finger right in your ugly f*cking face! Overkill may not have been the masters of riff writing like Metal Church, Metallica, or Annihilator, but they sure as hell knew how to put their own defiant stamp on their songs. Instead of blowing you away with guitar pyrotechnics, Overkill liked to throttle your bones with bass-heavy grooves and percussive guitar playing. The key, of course, was the ATTITUDE. Few exuded as much piss and vinegar in their vocals as Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth. He could run his mouth like a motor, scream with the best of ’em, or even carry a tune (he “sings” pretty well on the title track). Blitz could do it all. Overkill really came through with a well-rounded album when they unleashed The Years Of Decay! Its got fast ones to wreck your neck, slower and sludgier numbers if you want to get stoned, and even a half-ballad/epic if you’re looking for something a little deeper. Standout cuts include Elimination (a fast one — possibly about AIDS?), I Hate (another fast one, with hilariously venomous lyrics), Who Tends The Fire (an ominous cut with a nice mid-paced groove) and The Years Of Decay (a really cool song about the physical and emotional toll of being on the road — and how it’s all worth it). Essential! My score: A
8. Axxis – Kingdom Of The Night
Here’s a band that really gets me right in the cockles of my little ol’ heart! Germany’s Axxis debuted with this strong album of high-end melodic metal in the tradition of German bands like Tyran’ Pace, Sinner, and Bonfire. Throw in a little hair band flair, a sprinkle of cheese, and a dash of pomposity and you have yourself a tasty metal sauce! The recording itself is (unfortunately) colder than a witch’s tit (thanks in large part to the electronic drum sound), but Kingdom Of The Night prevails because of its unapologetic adherence to melody above all else. Vocalist Bernhard Weiss reaches for the high notes, and grabs them with ease. Hardened metal heads will likely dismiss Axxis as too wimpy, but I am never one to shy away from this end of the metal spectrum. In fact, I love this stuff — as long as it’s done with sincerity. Faves include the glorious Living In A World, the charging steed that is Kings Made Of Steel, and the sappy ballad Fire And Ice. My score: A
7. Attack – Destinies Of War
Attack’s Destinies Of War is one of the great unknown masterpieces of eighties heavy metal! This album was the high water mark for a German power metal project that (unfortunately) toiled in obscurity during their run in the eighties and nineties. Attack was the brainchild of Ricky van Helden — the band’s composer, bassist, and singer (as well as producer, sometimes drummer, and sometimes guitarist). Ricky van Helden was a master of many trades musically, and he was in possession of an amazing ear for rich, melodic heavy metal. Destinies Of War was the third Attack album. Any fan of Iron Maiden, classic-era Helloween, or Blind Guardian owes it to themselves to check out this record!
The reasons I love Destinies Of War are many. First, this is a true “album” in the sense that it is paced and sequenced for maximum enjoyment when played from start to finish. The guitar work is excellent. The duo of Gerd Sossnierz and Chreddy Riepert dish out ripping solos as well as tons of great harmony parts. While impressive, the guitar playing never gives way to excess. The same is also true for van Helden’s vocals. There is a certain restraint to Destinies Of War — a trait not always practiced by eighties metal bands. Ricky’s singing is never over-the-top, as he opts instead for a tuneful and understated delivery (with a heavy German accent). There are a few times, however, that van Helden unleashes a ferocious scream. This feature is used sparingly — but to great effect!
Ricky and Attack produced Destinies Of War themselves. They did an excellent job of balancing all the instruments while maximizing the power of the big melodic hooks to the fullest. The background vocals were particularly well done. The production has definitely withstood the test of time.
The lyrics of Destinies Of War are fantasy based. Each song feeds into the fantasy — creating a mystical and medieval atmosphere. My interpretation is that Destinies Of War is a loose concept album. Things start off with the lightning fast Wonderland — a song in the style of Helloween that sets the scene in some far-off utopian land. However, that tranquility is summarily destroyed in the sequence of songs that follow. In numbers such as Back To Attack, You’re Not Free, and Live Or Die, evil invaders shatter the peace as they bring war upon the land. Warriors clash with evil on the battlefield. Swords and shields collide as the body count mounts. Attack does an excellent job of mixing up the tempos during this stretch so that each song has its own personality. They utilize a classic staple of “epic” Euro-power metal — the galloping rhythm — to heighten the story-telling and really draw the listener in to a completely different time and place. The album reaches its climax on the seventh song — the epic Death Rider. This nine-minute opus is probably my favorite Attack song of all time! It builds ominously and slowly, but eventually all hell breaks loose. This is like Attack’s very own Hallowed Be Thy Name. Listen for one of van Helden’s mighty screams around the five-minute mark. The mysterious “death riders” decimate the evil but the war has come with a terrible price. The next two songs, The Last Surviving Man and Destiny Of War are more somber and reflective numbers. They represent the aftermath of war. This is where the original vinyl LP (released on ZYX Metallic label) comes to a close, however the CD version adds an extra track called In This Night. I think In This Night makes for a better ending to the “story”. Unlike the mournful Destiny Of War, In This Night finishes the album on an optimistic note. My score: A+
6. Badlands – Badlands
When Jake E. Lee’s turn babysitting Ozzy Osbourne’s career came to an unceremonious end, he was free from his indentured servitude to the evil Sharon Osbourne and her bumbling stooge of a husband. Jake turned around and formed Badlands — one of the great, unsung bands in all of eighties hard rock.
Jake joined forces with a star-in-the making named Ray Gillen. As a vocalist, Gillen had been floating around the rock scene for a few years but hadn’t landed a steady gig. He had short stints with Black Sabbath and Blue Murder but never made it onto their actual records. Scoring Gillen as a singer for his new band was a real coupe for Lee. Ray Gillen had one of the purest rock voices in the history of all things. His voice was a perfect match for the high-octane, 150-proof hard rock that Badlands had in store.
Badlands features the kind of white-hot metallic blues that lesser artists would sell their soul to the devil for. Like that guy at the crossroads. The timeless quality of these tracks separates Badlands from the sea of hair bands with which they were lumped.
Side one of this album, also known as “East Side”, is damn near perfection. The album opens with a furious metallic riff from Jake E. Lee, and the sparks continue to fly throughout the lead cut High Wire. Dreams In The Dark and Winter’s Call are flawless as well — two of my all-time favorites!
Side two, also known as “West Side” is no slouch either. Granted, Rumblin’ Train is kind of a formulaic heavy blues song, but it gives Gillen a chance to show off his voice, and Lee a chance to blow his pentatonic load with his extended soloing. The only track on the album I don’t love is probably Devil’s Stomp, which starts off promising but never gets off the ground. The original LP closes with the mellow genius of Seasons (which calls to mind Zep’s In The Light). The cassette and CD adds another track, Ball And Chain, which is just an average tune. The album should have ended with Seasons.
Despite the electric chemistry Badlands seemed to possess on this record, the guys actually didn’t get along very well. Badlands wasn’t the major commercial success it deserved to be. Badlands recorded another album called Voodoo Highway (1991) before Gillen left the band. Ray Gillen died in 1993 (R.I.P.).
All told, Badlands is a great record from a sneaky year — 1989. Just one of many commercial rock/metal albums from that forgotten year that I absolutely love — most of which were not big hits. This might be the king. Light a cigarette, sip on some moonshine, and let Badlands punch you square in the face with its stone-cold awesomeness! My score: A+
5. Billy Squier – Hear & Now
Billy Squier may not be considered the greatest rock solo artist of his era, but he’s certainly my favorite. The body of work Billy put together in the eighties is a testimony to the man’s prowess as a superb songwriter and an excellent (if not underrated) singer. Squier was also a smart lyricist (though a bit ambiguous at times) and a competent guitarist. I also suspect Billy Squier was a bit of a diva — but I have no definitive proof to give. Even after Squier’s fame faded in the late eighties, he was still putting out quality material. In fact, I think his 1989 effort Hear & Now was his best work since his 1981 breakthrough smash Don’t Say No.
If you have ever heard Billy Squier give an interview, you will find him to be a very intelligent and articulate individual. These qualities obviously spilled over into Squier’s music. When it comes to song arrangement, I don’t think anyone poured as much detail into his songs as Squier did. On Hear & Now you will find each song is a meticulously woven tapestry of sounds. Embellishments come from all angles. Whether it be a tasty guitar lick, the flourish of a synthesizer, a carefully crafted backing vocal, or an unorthodox percussion passage, Hear & Now was obviously a laborious undertaking to complete. It’s no wonder the album took so long to make. Released in 1989, it had been three calendar years since Squier’s previous album Enough Is Enough (1986).
As mentioned above, I believe Billy Squier to be the king of solo rock acts from the eighties. Hear & Now adds several shimmering jewels to Squier’s crown. There are three songs in particular that I would put in the top ten of his catalog — Stronger, G.O.D., and Don’t Say You Love Me. I’ve found Stronger to be particularly irresistible. Co-written by Desmond Child, the song has a pulsing beat that makes you want to move (cue the effeminate Billy Squier dance moves). Stronger also adds a saxophone to great effect. The snare drum is held back until the pre-chorus — which heightens the tension and gives way to a dramatic payoff when the chorus finally swoops in. G.O.D. is one of the slickest arrangements on Hear & Now. I’m just in awe of how many different parts Billy was able to work into this song in such a seamless way. Brilliant song! Don’t Say You Love Me was the one modest hit from Hear & Now. It’s a quintessential Squier tune that will get you off your ass and rockin’ out. Rounding out the album nicely are a couple more great cuts in the rousing album opener Rock Out/Punch Somebody and the soaring Don’t Let Me Go. My score: A+
4. Junkyard – Junkyard
You don’t see this one making a lot of “best of” lists, but I’m not sure why! Junkyard is an album that never gets old to me. I’m always putting it into rotation — and I play it start to finish every time!
Junkyard was from Texas, and they found a nice little sonic niche that combined sleaze, punk, and southern rock. All these ingredients made for a chunky bit of hot n’ spicy Texas chili — the kind that burns twice as much on the way out as it does on the way in!
Junkyard was a dusty leather boot crammed into Hollywood’s glittery corn hole. As it turned out, they never became huge, but Junkyard garnered some modest exposure with this, their debut album. Junkyard is jam-packed with killer tracks such as the greasy Blooze, the nasty Texas, and the snot-nosed Shot In The Dark. Best of all is the incredible Simple Man. Top-shelf production by the ever-dependable Tom Werman helped to boost these cuts in all the right places. Singer David Roach exhibited a certain sly charm when he delivered his vocals — which often come with a dark sense of humor. My score: A+
3. Warrant – Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich
Warrant wanted to go “where the down boys go”. I don’t know where the down boys go. I’m not sure I want to know where the down boys go! But here we go — to where the down boys go!
Warrant took a lot of shit. To many sneering music fans, Warrant represented the lowest common denominator of “poser” heavy metal. A lot of folks hated glam metal and, as such, put Warrant in the cross-hairs of their disdain. What I think people failed to realize was that glam/hair metal was a legitimately fun and entertaining genre! You see, I believe there is a time and a place for hair metal — and that is ANYTIME and ANY PLACE!
Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich was a double-platinum success. Warrant managed to separate themselves from literally hundreds of other bands that were making the same kind of music. What was it that Warrant had that those other bands didn’t? That’s easy — Jani Lane.
Lead singer and songwriter Jani Lane knew how to write concise, ear-friendly, “hits”. He wasted no time getting to the song’s chorus, which was always ridiculously catchy, and most of the songs had a very strong bridge section, too. Lyrically, he was no Bill Shakespeare (although his lyrics did improve greatly on Warrant’s sophomore album Cherry Pie), but his talent as a musician was beyond reproach (and I am dead serious when I say that). Lane had one of the better voices in the genre, not so much for his range as for the character of his voice and a certain genuine charm that made you think he was having just as much fun singing these tunes as you were listening to them on the car stereo.
If you can’t find even the least bit of enjoyment from Warrant’s music, then you need to listen to Neil Diamond’s advice and turn on your f*cking heart-light, man. There just isn’t a time that I can think of when songs like Down Boys and In The Sticks won’t have me smiling and singing along. The way Warrant dressed and carried on was a little ridiculous, but the tunes were fun. That’s for damn sure. My score: A+
2. Tesla – The Great Radio Controversy
“You know I’m on a slick trip, I’m always ready to KICK ASS!” A superb offering by Tesla, a band lumped in with the “hair” crowd, although their sound was more or less straightforward American hard rock/metal and their image was markedly less glam. Tesla fans had to wait until 1989 for Tesla to follow-up their 1986 debut Mechanical Resonance (a near eternity between albums back in those days), and Tesla rewarded their fans’ patience with a robust set of thirteen songs, and (IMO) the best album of their (very solid) career. Tesla displayed great depth on the album, mixing gritty blues-based hard rock and accessible heavy metal. Tesla also used acoustic guitars liberally. Heaven’s Trail (No Way Out) and Love Song are two absolutely essential tracks from this album. The former, a great rocker that gets the juices flowing. The latter, an exquisite (and unorthodox) ballad. The Way It Is, Be A Man, and Lazy Days Crazy Nights are a few more of my favorites from The Great Radio Controversy. Just a very cool band. Tesla’s overarching message, it seems, was simply to enjoy life. And The Great Radio Controversy provides a perfect soundtrack for just that. My score: A+
1. Faith No More – The Real Thing
When Faith No More tapped Mike Patton to replace Chuck Mosley as their lead vocalist, they established their “classic” lineup. Patton’s whiny, bratty vocals fit in nicely with Billy Gould’s teeth-rattling bass, Jim Martin’s gut-punching riffs, and Roddy Bottum’s spooky keyboards. This version of Faith No More found immortality through alchemy. The mystical union didn’t last long — Jim Martin bailed after 1992’s Angel Dust.
The Real Thing is best known for the smash hit Epic, as well as the minor hits From Out Of Nowhere and Falling To Pieces. Digging deeper into the album, one will find Faith No More’s more twisted, psychotic side. This is best exemplified by the unhinged Surprise! You’re Dead! and my personal fave — the schizophrenic Zombie Eaters. The cassette and CD editions of The Real Thing added a special treat — a brilliant version of Black Sabbath’s War Pigs.
Faith No More has accumulated a very devoted and serious following over the years. There’s really no consensus among hardcore fans as to which Faith No More album is their best. Jim Martin has said that The Real Thing is the ideal Faith No More album, and I agree with him! The Real Thing is definitely my favorite Faith No More album. The bizarre and freakish Angel Dust comes in at a very close second. For me, these are the two quintessential Faith No More albums that everyone must own! My score: A+
Go back to the Top Twenty Albums of 1988