Top 10 Albums of 1994
The biggest story of 1994 was the shocking suicide of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, and it’s fair to say his ultimate rejection of the rock star dream left fans stunned and confused. Other artists may have been left to question their career motivations, too. In the end, however, plenty of great music still emerged, as you'll see on our list of Top 10 Albums of 1994.
Alice Cooper starts our list of Top 10 Albums of 1994 with the twentieth studio effort of his long and spooky career, ‘The Last Temptation.’ An old-school concept album sharing characters with 1975’s classic ‘Welcome to My Nightmare,’ ‘The Last Temptation’ may have hinted at retirement (and indeed Mr. Furnier wouldn’t return to the studio until the year 2000), but it also marked a return to vintage form for A.C., and even came backed with a Neil Gaiman-written comic book!
The Allman Brothers Band, too, was coming to the end of a resurgent period in their career — four years after lead guitarist Warren Haynes and bassist Allen Woody joined and brought renewed stability for these Southern rock legends. Alas, founding member Dickey Betts would soon be on the outs with Gregg Allman, but not before the Allmans crafted another worthy entry in their discography with ‘Where it All Begins.’
After years dwelling in the shadow of former thrash-metal bandmates Metallica, Dave Mustaine’s Megadeth finally stepped into the light of mainstream commercial success with 1992’s ‘Countdown to Extinction,’ and then doubled down with the excellent, platinum-selling ‘Youthanasia.’ The new album perhaps stuck almost too closely to its predecessor’s winning formula, but no one was complaining as tracks like ‘Train of Consequences’ and ‘A Tout Le Monde’ found a home on MTV.
Arguably no other classic rocker did a better job of navigating the rough seas of the grunge era than Neil Young. ‘Sleeps with Angels’ saw him reconvening the trusty Crazy Horse with renewed songwriting gusto, perfectly framing the loss of Cobain, before next linking up with Pearl Jam on the following year’s ‘Mirror Ball.’
Speaking of Pearl Jam, the Seattle sensations released their third blockbuster album in three years with ‘Vitalogy,’ which sold nearly one million copies in its first week alone -- and thus gave no indication of the personal issues threatening to tear the group apart from the inside. Instead, ‘Vitalogy’s’ increasing eclecticism helped camouflage the growing tensions between band founder Stone Gossard and frontman Eddie Vedder long enough for critical acclaim and commercial rewards to help them make their peace.
Ten years removed from Roger Waters’ departure, Pink Floyd still seemed preoccupied with scratching ancient wounds on ‘The Division Bell’ — but then this was a band that had been turning personal issues into great music since Syd Barrett flew over the cuckoo’s nest. Here, David Gilmour, Richard Wright and Nick Mason reconnected with ‘The Wall’ producer Bob Ezrin to sculpt their awesome musical legacy into a few new career highlights like the melancholy ‘High Hopes.’
Classic rock fans owe a debt of gratitude to The Black Crowes for championing beloved 1970s sounds to Generation X (not the band, the actual generation) -- by hook, by crook, or even calculated heroin-chic music videos, if necessary. ‘Amorica’ saw the band overcoming their Faces-dependence and embracing Americana to an even greater extent on this No. 4 entry on our list of Top 10 Albums of 1994.
For his second official “solo” album, Tom Petty dispensed with the Heartbreakers in name only, while still relying on them for much of the sessions, even as he paired up for the first of three albums with producer Rick Rubin. The results are hard to argue with, as ‘Wildflowers’ proved consistently entertaining and compelling. Among its generous fifteen songs, befitting of the early CD era, was a Top 20 hit in ‘You Don’t Know How it Feels.’
Soundgarden certainly chose the perfect name for their stunning fourth album, which may have been born of grunge, steeped in punk, metal and indie rock, and geared towards reinventing alternative music for the 1990s. Nowadays? It sure sounds like classic rock to us. As such, genius (even the superunknown kind) should not be questioned, just appreciated.
The Rolling Stones’ took five years to construct this one, and that care is heard everywhere on 'Voodoo Lounge.' Songs like ‘Your Love is Strong’ and ‘Sparks Will Fly’ captured the band’s raw and spontaneous sound far more accurately than the starchy-clean ‘Steel Wheels’ that preceded it. ‘Voodoo Lounge’ may not be perfect -- and it, too, is overlong. But our No. 1 entry on the Top 10 Albums of 1994 was so good, people hardly noticed Bill Wyman’s retirement.