Our 1989’s Best Rock Albums list presents the final year of the big 80s. Our exploration of the best albums from each year of the decade of the 1980s was much different from our presentation of the 1970s decade. Each year in our 1970s series was loaded with classic albums that have stood the test of time. The 1970s were tough to do because there were just so many great albums and it was hard to choose which ones to make the list and which albums we had to leave behind for space purposes. We didn’t have that problem with the 80s list. In fact, we dropped the supplemental list in the second half of the decade because there were not enough great records to add to each year.
So what happened to music in the 1980s? There s no doubt that MTV played a huge role in shaping the music of the decade. With the channels mega success, record company executives turned their attention to looks more than ever. When record company A & R people are more concerned over the look of a band than their music, less quality albums are released. Now of course, there were exceptions. The 1980s had its share of classic rock and roll records and debuts of what would become legendary bands. Groups such as U2, Guns N’ Roses, Steve Ray Vaughan and Nirvana all released their debut albums in the 1980s. How does the 1980s stand up against the 50s 60s 70s. 90s and beyond? Well we are going to explore each decade completely year by years and then revisit that question. Although we all probably have already made up our minds on that one.
1989 was a very different year compared to 1988. Metal music dominated 1988, but not so much in 1989. One of the reasons was many of the major metal bands did not release new music in 1989. There were also not a lot of debut albums released in 1989 with the exception of one big one. Many people associate the rise of Nirvana as happening in the early 1990s which of course is when they did indeed breakout. However, the band actually released their debut album in 1989 entitled Bleach. And it was an amazing record that just did not go anywhere. Its their most overlooked record in their small catalog.
Many legendary artists from the 1970s and 1960s released great records in 1989. Eric Clapton released one of the finest records of his career with the album Journeyman. Neil Young, Bob Dylan, The Grateful Dead and many others all released wonderful records. Elton John continued to released mediocre albums that had his long time fans from the 1970s shaking their heads wondering what happened. However his peers, Billy Joel and Paul McCartney released very strong albums. Don Henley with the help of Bruce Hornsby released the solo album of his carer with The End Of The Innocence. Stevie Nicks released an album that may not have been as strong as her early 80s records but still was a fantastic record.
1989 also saw the return of the original members of Yes, although we could not call them Yes we had to call them Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe. The land of the Maple Leaf who brought us bands like Rush, Neil Young and Bachman Turner Overdrive unveiled a new band called The Tragically Hip that would become huge in their native land of Canada but never really break that big in the United States.
One of the biggest musical stories of the year was the success of Bonnie Raitt’s Nick Of Time album. The record won three Grammy Awards including Album Of The Years and dominated FM radio. Bonnie Raitt had been releasing albums for seventeen years before she hit it big with Nick of Time. It was her tenth album release.
Bonnie Raitt was not the only old school artist to enjoy great success in 1989 while releasing a spectacular album. Two artists whose careers started many years before Bonnie Raitt also released great new records. The beloved crooner from the Bronx we all call Dion released the great album Yo Frankie. Roy Orbison, who influenced so many musical artists capped of his return to the music business via The Traveling Wilburys by releasing a brilliant solo album entitled Mystery Girl.
From a chronological standpoint, 1989 is of course, a transition year to the 1990s. For some, that would be a good thing while others would choose to ignore the major changes that were about to unfold in the 1990s. And all those changes were due to the band that landed in the number one spot on this list.