Year In Review: 1991
There were few truly exceptional albums released this year, but there
were a lot of good ones. Rock was back: grunge came out of nowhere, headed by Nirvana, Jane's Addiction and Mudhoney,
and Riot Grrrl punk, personified by Bikini Kill, suddenly surfaced.
REM finally achieved massive sales, though it took an overproduced, shiny happy sellout to do it.
Guns N' Roses briefly reclaimed their pop-metal throne with two simultaneously released discs.
Chicago's Material Issue brought suicidal depression to pseudo-Brit retro rock.
The best record of all was from Richard Thompson, who proved that 60s
rock veterans could still be as vital and hungry as kids a third their
age. In R&B, Boyz II Men had a hugely successful debut with their romantic New Jack Swing, and
Stevie Wonder knocked out a
refreshingly unmannered movie soundtrack. Hip hop was set back by a wave of sampling lawsuits: A
Tribe Called Quest exchanged their cut-and-paste mania for laid-back bottom-heavy jazz to
back up their cosmic raps, and MC Lyte put out a fine album blending hip
hop with soul and pop - otherwise,
there's not much worth hunting down.
There was no shortage of misfires this year: Rickie Lee Jones' preciousness knew no bounds
on her jazz tribute; Living Colour
ripped off their fans with a collection of outtakes, as the Stones cynically released another live
album; BWP broke new ground in
offensive pseudofeminist hip hop; Lamont Dozier tarnished his
legacy with an soulless synth set;
and 60s soul sisters Aretha
Franklin, Gladys Knight and Diana Ross sounded disoriented and
Silvio Rodríguez's live
double album was the best of a strong field in Latin music.
Steve Coleman's Black
Science - thinking person's funk - was the year's outstanding jazz
Back to 1990 - Forward to 1992 -
Back to the future...