1991 Top Five

Originally posted to grapevine.com

1. Rush - Roll The Bones

I got so into this album that even vague acquaintances got pig sick of me singing it all the time. It is an absolute corker, with the unfortunate exceptions of the first two tracks on side two (The Big Wheel and Heresy) which are, respectively, a tad mediocre and the worst thing Rush c/w Neil Peart ever committed to record). Dreamline is a cracker of an opener. Bravado contrives an elegant beauty that had me blubbing like a good 'un at the NEC when they used some footage of Canada, and in particular its railways, as the backdrop - my Grandad having worked on the Canadian Pacific in his youth. Roll The Bones is an interesting idea and has an often overlooked Lifeson solo. The video was well cool too. Face Up is class in the lyric dept. Where's My Thing the perfect ending of side one. Ghost of a Chance is another example of how the band writes great love songs when it wants to - and the way the different tempos are interspersed is superb. I love quoting Neurotica at clueless people and You Bet Your Life finishes off the album well from both musical and lyrical perspectives. As a whole the album also benefits from excellent production (Rupert Hine). I always think of it as Hold Your Fire with added balls (no pun intended).

2. Marillion - Holidays In Eden

Released a couple of days before my birthday, this is when I started to really click into Steve H. I could not imagine a better explanation of the romantic attitude to life than Splintering Heart - one of the most gut-wrenchingly emotional lyrics I know. In fact, it's probably my all-time favourite lyric - from "And there's a burning and a freezing ..." to the end is particularly exquisite. The Party is a great 'teenage awakening' story. I always thought No One Can would be a huge hit but no - it's probably my least favourite track on the album, a close call with the title track but that's got better lyrics (I'm still giggling about H re-using them in Lulu right underneath the showcase guitar solo!). A couple of gorgeous love songs later and we're into the This Town trilogy, the playout at the very end being almost as delicious as The Rakes Progress and the ending of 100 Nights itself having one of the all-time best solos combined with some stunning vox. Also my first h-era gig (Christmas Tour) where I was just totally flabberghasted that the guy could sing like that live.

3. Talk Talk - Laughing Stock

I think everyone's pretty much said all there is to say about this. One of the ultimate late nighters, and vies with The Colour Of Spring for the 'Talk Talk's Best' accolade.

4. Gary Clail / On-U Sound System - Emotional Hooligan

If you remember anything about this it'll be the singles Human Nature and Beef (How low can you go). Gary, Bim Sherman and Massive Attack were the main features of the emerging Bristol Sound and the place had a superb vibe, the FTP (For The People) pirate station went legit, the whole city was grooving, the highest Poll Tax refusal rate in the country (something like 75%), a brilliantly sunny Ashton Court that year, if you'd held an election the Play Me Some Cool Sounds And Pass Me The Spliff Man Party would have won. Albums like this were the atmosphere that eventually spawned Dummy. Well worth a listen if you enjoy innovation and diversity in a dub stylee, including some pretty politically aware lyrics.

5. Simple Minds - Real Life

But hadn't they sold out by then? Well, this album redeemed them a little in my eyes. The opener (and title track) is excellent and they proceed with a pretty decent collection of well-crafted songs, some of the best being See The Lights (great rhythmic flow), Rivers of Ice (poignant) and the closer When Two Worlds Collide.Honorable Mentions:

  • Electronic - Electronic
  • Fish - Internal Exile
  • REM - Out of Time (Shiny Happy Penis ruins the album somewhat)
  • Massive Attack - Blue Lines
  • Pearl Jam - 10 (Although I don't actually own it)