Newt’s Top 10 albums of 1991

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, DEC. 1991

By Steve Newton

Rap and dance music made strong inroads in 1991, but the year wasn’t a total write-off. The sacred power of the electric guitar could still be heard above the soulless clatter of MC Moronitis and DJ Jerkaround.

Danny Gatton 88 Elmira St.  Fellow scribe Alex Varty turned me onto this Washington, D.C. guitar great, and I’ve been grateful ever since. Eleven instrumentals cover at least as many styles, including a startling version of Danny Elfman’s Simpsons theme. Fans of the late Roy Buchanan’s soaring squeals are in for a treat.

John Mellencamp Whenever We Wanted  The former Johnny Cougar packs more wallop into this disc’s 38 minutes than most acts could do in a boxed set. These are raucous, gut-bucket tunes with “classic” written all over them.

Johnny Winter Let Me In  The albino guitar-slinger from Texas lets loose with the same kind of quality boogie-blues he’s been packing for three decades now. Winter’s growling vocals have never sounded better, and Dr. John adds cool piano.

Kentucky Headhunters Electric Barnyard  Any band smart enough to turn “The Ballad of Davey Crockett” into a ripsnortin’ boogie tune gets the thumbs up from this kid. Southern-fried country rock at its finest.

Guns N’ Roses Use Your Illusion II  Axl Rose and the boys made my top-10 on the strength of “You Could Be Mine” alone; it’s five-and-a-half minutes of the most exhilarating hard rock released this year. The dandy ballad “Don’t Cry” and the masterful “Civil War” don’t hurt, either.

Glen Stace Buddha Hotel  Saskatoon roots-rocker relocates to Vancouver, signs to k.d. lang’s management, and—with the help of local lights Dave “Boots” Gogo and Billy Cowsill—releases a handsome collection of rollicking, guitar-based tunes. In terms of mainstream rock, the best Canadian debut of the year.

Circle of Soul Hands of Faith  It’s a real shame these gritty, R&B-based hard-rockers had to cancel a planned Club Soda show this year, because their debut album—produced by Waddy Wachtel of Linda Ronstadt and Keith Richards fame—is a killer. Too bad nobody heard it.

Nirvana Nevermind  Totally decent releases by fellow Seattlers Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, and Soundgarden couldn’t match the sonic satisfaction derived from Nirvana’s clever collision of melodic pop and grungy rock.

Graham Parker Struck by Lightning  With help from ex-Band keyboardist Garth Hudson and John (“Lovin’ Spoonful”) Sebastian, this former angry young man lightens up long enough to deliver 15 fine tunes that range from the playful to the pointed.

Various Artists Deadicated  Now here’s an album you can feel good about owning. Not only do funds from the purchase of Deadicated go toward the Rainforest Action Network, but the buyer comes away with more than 75 minutes of primo Grateful Dead tunes performed by Los Lobos, Midnight Oil, Jane’s Addiction, Dwight Yoakam, Warren Zevon with David Lindley, and nine other potent artists. Ya gotta like that.

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