Paul Simon's eagerly awaited followup to Graceland did not disappoint. Rock was still in a slump, though Britpop came into its own with records from Blur, the Charlatans and Ride. But the best rock records came from the USA: Living Colour, the Meat Puppets and college radio favorites the Replacements. Among old-timers, Neil Young's rediscovery of straightforward distorted rock was a welcome development, and King Crimson vet Adrian Belew came up with an interesting solo album.
There a bunch of high-profile flops: a painful 20's takeoff by Madonna, a disastrous concept album by Earth Wind & Fire, a failed comeback attempt by Run-DMC. EU cemented their flash-in-the-pan reputation with a boring, formulaic synth-soul offering. Below the radar, the Marvelettes and Pointer Sisters failed to recapture past glories, and Japanese rockers Shonen Knife documented a dull live performance. Many 60s rockers indulged themselves with limp efforts: Bob Dylan was appallingly sloppy, while the latest reunion of Crosby Stills & Nash and a solo disc from Timothy B. Schmit were just dull.
For the second year in a row, Juan Luis Guerra's melodic merengue gave him the year's best Latin album: Bachata Rosa. Honorable mention goes to Aqui El Que Baila Gana by Cuban songo artists Los Van Van. (DBW)