Wilson and Alroy's Record Reviews - We listen to the lousy records so you won't have to.

Year In Review: 1990

Commercially the big story was the multi-platinum breakthrough of Garth Brooks, who singlehandedly took country music mainstream with sensitive James Taylor smoothness and crowd-pleasing arena-rock antics. Hip hop had a great year, with Salt-N-Pepa's feminist Black's Magic the year's best record, and LL Cool J and Public Enemy also releasing outstanding efforts. Debuts by Digital Underground and Betty Boo took the form in unexpected new directions (or nude erections, in the Underground's case). Meanwhile, R&B was a wasteland - Mariah Carey's multiplatinum debut was the best of a bad lot - and funk had totally disappeared from the airwaves: Ernie Isley put out a great funk/rock blend, but no one even noticed. And high-energy dance pop from Deee-lite and Black Box paved the way for the mid-90s techno explosion.

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)

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