Tom’s Top 5’s: Albums of 1994

It is a testament to how deeply my love of 1960s/70s rock runs that, until recently, I considered any album released during my lifetime to be “modern.” And yet 1994 was fully 20 years ago – the same span elapsed between the Beatles’ breakup and my birth. If you check some of the links below, Definitely Maybe and its ilk are now pretty well considered “classic albums.” So whether you were 40 this year or only 4, like I was, I think we’ve past the point where it counts as “modern” anymore, at least for the purposes of rock & roll.

[Note: Blur’s Parklife probably deserves a spot on this list. But I have only recently really discovered the band, after being aware of them for years, and I’m still becoming familiar with their catalog. So I can’t really name an album I’ve only heard once through as one of my Top 5 of a given year, even though I have a suspicion that it will eventually end up being one of my Top 5.]

5. 11 TRACKS OF WHACK (Walter Becker)

11 Tracks of Whack

Sparer than anything released under the banner of the Dan, Walter Becker’s first solo outing reveals a couple of things. The first is that, in the final analysis, Donald Fagen was probably the dominant voice (literally and figuratively) in the Becker-Fagen partnership. The second is that Becker’s laconic wit and feel for a groove remained an integral component of the inimitable Steely Dan sound nevertheless.

4. DEFINITELY MAYBE (Oasis)

Definitely Maybe

Despite being lauded as a revelation on its release (which it may well have been – I was 4 at the time) Definitely Maybe doesn’t hold a candle to (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? for me, “Live Forever” excepted. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a fine album, full of big, glorious guitar rock that rides high on Liam Gallagher’s sneering vocals and Noel Gallagher’s huge, singalong melodies.

3. WILDFLOWERS (Tom Petty)

Wildflowers

On Tom Petty’s second “solo” album (the Heartbreakers are all here), producer Rick Rubin opts for a rootsy, organic sound that serves “Wildflowers” and “You Wreck Me” every bit as well as Jeff Lynne’s neo-Beatlesian sheen served “Free Fallin’.” The end result is one of Tom Petty’s best albums, a record with no standout, mind-blowing classics but an awful lot of great songs.

2. EPILOG (Änglagård)

Epilog

Perhaps the primary difference between Epilog and Hybris, the Swedish symph-prog combo’s stunning debut, is that Epilog is quieter overall. That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of thunderous, Mellotron-soaked climaxes and time changes on a dime; it’s simply to say that Änglagård play up the more pastoral, ethereal side of their musical personality on this 100% instrumental opus.

1. THE DIVISION BELL (Pink Floyd)

The Division Bell

You can rag on post-Waters Pink Floyd all you like. But The Division Bell was the first Pink Floyd album I ever heard; this is where it starts for me. And getting to hear Dave Gilmour and Rick Wright harmonize before Dave bursts into one of those heart-stopping guitar solos of his is still amazing, whether Roger is involved or not. “High Hopes” is as good as or better than anything Roger has written since The Wall anyway.

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One Response to Tom’s Top 5’s: Albums of 1994

  1. Christopher Lampton says:

    Great blog, especially the part about Walter Becker. It’s interesting how as I get older I find Becker’s solo albums in many ways more interesting than Fagen’s, even though he’s less melodic and more idiosyncratic/eclectic than his Steely Dan partner in his choice of styles.11 Tracks of Whacks begins with four of the most astonishing songs I’ve ever heard by any singer-songwriter in any pop/rock genre and they grow on me every time I hear them I applaud the Dan’s choice to feature Becker’s live version of “Book of Liars” on their 1990s Alive in America CD. It’s a strangely haunting song.

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