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1991 was a spectacular year for music. Even if you are not particularly fond of the bands or the style of music they played there is no denying that many classic albums were released during that twelve month period. It’s hard to believe that it has been twenty years since all that great music was released. And it is equally hard to believe just how far the music industry has fallen since then. But before I start sounding too much like a bitter old man let’s take a look at some of the highlights from 1991.

Metallica – Metallica

More commonly known as “The Black Album” this was what sent Metallica into the mainstream consciousness. Even more remarkable was the fact that Metallica stayed on the Billboard Top 100 album charts for over five years. Five years!! Lars and the boys haven’t achieved anywhere near this kind of success since but this album stands as their middle finger to Middle America.

R.E.M. – Out of Time

This is the album that brought them to the mainstream. R.E.M. had been around for close to a decade and college radio had been in love with them for years but their hit single “Losing My Religion” made them a force on the charts.

Boyz II Men – Cooleyhighharmony

How could you escape Boyz II Men during the 90’s? You couldn’t, really. With their debut album they burst on the scene and established themselves as the superior vocal group of the time (Sorry Color Me Bad and NKOTB).

Seal – Seal

This was the debut album by Seal. He apparently liked using the name a lot because he named two more albums Seal. Maybe no one ever explained to him that it’s okay to practice variety. But then again, he married Heidi Klum and impregnated her three times so who am I to quest him? Crazy, right?

Van Halen – For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge

Arguably the best of the “Van Hagar” era. “Right Now” will always be a favorite of mine. Just a solid album from beginning to end.

Guns N Roses – Use Your Illusion I & II

Yes, Appetite For Destruction was a masterpiece. But the Use Your Illusion albums were pretty damn good too. It is true that Axl Rose wanted perfection and nearly derailed the entire thing along the way. Lineup changes, supermodel girlfriends and riots would litter the next two years of touring for GnR. Then they just disappeared. I’m still waiting for the inevitable reunion.

Nirvanna – Nevermind

I can’t say anything about this one that hasn’t already been said a thousand times before. I think that Kurt Cobain is the poster child for “too much too soon” and his is a cautionary tale for what drugs really do. But the music on this album still stands up against anything out today. Some of my favorite songs were not singles and therefore have not been ruined for me. It’s a shame we never got to see how they would have developed over time. But, we did get the Foo Fighters. And that is a great legacy.

Red Hot Chili Peppers – Blood Sugar Sex Magik

As I get older I like the Chili Peppers less and less. But there was a time when I had this cassette (yes, cassette) on an endless loop in my car. Much like R.E.M. the Red Hot Chili Peppers had been around for some time and this was their breakout moment. But if I never hear “Under the Bridge” again in my life it wouldn’t be a great loss for me.

Prince and the New Power Generation – Diamonds and Pearls

The Revolution was Prince’s band throughout the 80’s. But, as we would learn repeatedly from the “Purple On,” nothing lasts forever with Prince and his music. This wasn’t a huge departure from his previous music but it did mark a change in future directions. And there would be many. “Get Off” still makes the rounds in my iPod.

Soundgarden – Badmotorfinger

Soundgarden had been around for a while before Badmotorfinger was released but this was the one that made them famous. “Outshined” is a phenomenal song and they showed a heavier side to the emerging Seattle scene.

2Pac – 2Pacalypse Now

We didn’t have Tupac Shakur for very long be he gave us a lot to talk about. And his debut album kick started what would become

U2 – Achtung Baby

This is where everything changed. This is where I started liking U2. This is where my obsession began. I was never a fan of during the 80’s. I liked cheese metal and crappy pop music. U2 wasn’t my thing. Then they changed their sound and started wearing designer clothes. They never looked back and neither did I.

Michael Jackson – Dangerous

Dangerous my not be the biggest selling or most popular album that Michael Jackson ever produced but it holds a significant place in music history, it was the album that Nirvanna’s Nevermind knocked off the top of the charts. And “Black or White” is a great song.

Cypress Hill – Cypress Hill

“How I Could Just Kill a Man” is still a badass song. Cypress Hill started their psychedelic hip hop journey with their debut album and rode the wave all the way through the decade.

Skid Row – Slave to the Grind

I know, Skid Row isn’t exactly the classic band you were expecting to see on the list but this album is significant because it was the first heavy metal album to debut at #1 on the Billboard 200 during the SoundScan era. And that is something for Sebastian and the boys to hang their hat on.

The Smashing Pumpkins – Gish

Hailing from Chicago and carrying a mountain sized chip on their shoulders The Smashing Pumpkins debuted with a moody yet frenzied sound. Equal parts punk rock and heavy metal, Gish established a solid foundation for the epic rock that the Pumpkins would create throughout the 90’s.

Lenny Kravitz – Mama Said

This is where Kravitz established that he would continue to create solid music through out the decade. His debut album (Let Love Rule) set the standard and this one carried on the tradition. There would be much good music over the next ten years.

Pearl Jam – Ten

I hate Pearl Jam but I have to admit this was a pivotal album in music history. And I do still love “Black.” Great song.

Leaders of the New School – A Future Without a Past

You may not recognize this one but you’ll definitely know one of this group’s members. This was the major label debut of Busta Rhymes.