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Favorite Edition Rewind: 1988

[The Waterboys - Fisherman's Blues]

A decade ago, I wrote a series of entries ranking my favorite albums from 1985 to 2004. My collection has expanded greatly since then, particularly in the last five years. So I wanted to see what has changed in 10 years.

I had discovered so much music in 1987 that at the time, I thought 1988 was a dud by comparison. Over the years, I’ve discovered that is not the case. The Favorite 10 doesn’t change from the original list, but look at that expanded list.

  1. In Tua Nua, The Long Acre
  2. Midnight Oil, Diesel and Dust
  3. Kronos Quartet, Winter Was Hard
  4. The Sugarcubes, Life’s Too Good
  5. Enya, Watermark
  6. Tracy Chapman, Tracy Chapman
  7. Living Colour, Vivid
  8. Duran Duran, Big Thing
  9. Sonic Youth, Daydream Nation
  10. The Dead Milkmen, Beelzebubba

Other favorites from the year:

  • Stephen Sondheim, Into the Woods
  • John Adams, Nixon in China
  • Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet, Savvy Show Stoppers
  • Camper Van Beethoven, Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart
  • Sarah McLachlan, Touch
  • Erasure, The Innocents
  • Sade, Stronger Than Pride
  • The Pogues, If I Should Fall from Grace with God
  • The Waterboys, Fisherman’s Blues
  • The Godfathers, Birth, School, Work, Death
  • Camouflage, Voices & Images
  • Ambitious Lovers, Greed
  • Iron Path, Iron Path
  • Toni Childs, Union
  • R.E.M., Green
  • Throwing Muses, House Tornado
  • Pixies, Surfer Rosa
  • N.W.A., Straight Outta Compton
  • Information Society, Information Society
  • Ofra Haza, Shaday
  • The Smiths, Rank
  • Lucinda Williams, Lucinda Williams

I guess I really limited the expanded list 10 years ago so I wouldn’t have to do so much writing. The Pogues, the Waterboys, the Godfathers, Ambitious Lovers, Ofra Haza, the Smiths and Lucinda Williams would not have appeared on that list — I’ve discovered those albums only in the last 6 years.

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Favorite Edition Rewind: 1995

[Tracy Chapman - New Beginning]

A decade ago, I wrote a series of entries ranking my favorite albums from 1985 to 2004. My collection has expanded greatly since then, particularly in the last five years. So I wanted to see what has changed in 10 years.

I had trouble coming up with a Favorite 10 of 1995, so I left it at nine. I’ve since had time to fill the remaining spot with an album I shouldn’t have let go.

  1. Emmylou Harris, Wrecking Ball
  2. The Klezmatics, Jews with Horns
  3. John Zorn/Masada, Hei
  4. Värttinä, Aitara
  5. Björk, Post
  6. Enya, The Memory of Trees
  7. Kronos Quartet, Performs Philip Glass
  8. Alanis Morissette, Jagged Little Pill
  9. Tears for Fears, Raoul and the Kings of Spain
  10. Tracy Chapman, New Beginning

Other favorites from the year:

  • Prince, The Gold Experience
  • Bang on a Can All-Stars, Industry
  • Janet Jackson, Design of a Decade, 1986-1996
  • Fugazi, Red Medicine
  • Radiohead, The Bends
  • Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, Brainbloodvolume
  • John Zorn, Elegy and Kristallnacht

A year-end list at the time would have included Tracy Chapman, but New Beginning got cut in purge before the original list was compiled. It took the discovery of her second album, Crossroads, for me to revisit New Beginning and realizing what a mistake I’d made.

The Gold Experience is a surprising entry in the extended list. The era when Prince was known by the Love Symbol was a creatively fraught time, so it overshadows just how good The Gold Experience is.

I’ve attempted to explore Radiohead in the past few years to understand my general ambivalence to them. So far, The Bends is the only album I really like, which is of course an obvious choice. Modern classical musicians all seem to love them, which surprises me. Café Tacuba does far more interesting work.

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Vinyl find: Tracy Chapman, Crossroads

[Tracy Chapman - Crossroads]

I played Tracy Chapman’s self-titled debut a lot when it was released in 1988.

I had a few weeks to get through John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath for a summer reading assignment in high school. Tracy Chapman served as a soundtrack to my reading. I wouldn’t have gotten through it otherwise.

The album grew on me as a result, but I wasn’t quite convinced I wanted to be a Tracy Chapman fan in the long term. Crossroads arrived a year later, and all the reviews I read at the time gave it damning praise: more of the same as the previous album, perhaps a bit more dour.

So I passed on it.

The last few years of flipping through vinyl stacks would bring Crossroads to my attention time and again, and each encounter would get me more curious.

First, I love the cover. It’s a striking photo of Chapman, more strident than the washed out sepia portrait of her debut. Also, the album’s modest success makes it a bargain on the second-hand market.

My decisive encounter with Crossroads would be at Everyday Music. I finally brought it to the in-store player to give it a sample and discovered Emmylou Harris had covered “All That You Have Is Your Soul” on All That I Intended to Be. That was endorsement enough for me.

The reviews were right — Crossroads picks up where Tracy Chapman left off, but the critics were wrong to imply that was a fault of the album. Chapman’s writing chops remained sharp, perhaps even getting a bit tender.

While Tracy Chapman is in a league of its own, Crossroads is just as enjoyable as her 1995 album New Beginnings. If anything, these three albums constitute her essential works.

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