“It was twenty years ago today…” so go the lyrics to the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. Well, it may not be to the day, but it’s now twenty years since 1995 – although it doesn’t feel like it!
I’ve been thinking for a while about posting an irregular series on the subject of my favourite ten albums from a particular year, and figure that 1995 is as good a place to start as any other.
So here, in no particular order (it’s hard enough to narrow my choices down to the small number required for this as it is!) I present for you, my favourite ten albums of 1995…
1. Bon Jovi “These Days”
This was Bon Jovi’s sixth studio album. The first since 1992’s “Keep The Faith” and the departure of long serving bass player Alec John Such, this release is generally regarded to be the band’s darkest record to date.
Five hit singles were released in the UK, all but one reaching the top 10 (“Hey God” made number 13). A consistently good record, there isn’t a duff track here, highlights include “This Ain’t A Love Song”, “(It’s Hard) Letting You Go”, “Something For The Pain” and the title track with my favourite being “My Guitar Lies Bleeding In My Arms”
2. Gary Moore “Blues For Greeny”
Gary Moore’s third album since the former Thin Lizzy guitarist’s career had seen him turning from hard rock to blues, this one saw him paying tribute to Peter Green, founder of Fleetwood Mac.
The album is made up solely of cover versions of tracks written by Green. As always, Moore’s guitar playing is excellent – superb technique and sublime feel, with “Driftin'”, “I Loved Another Woman” and “The Supernatural” being personal highlights – the latter showcasing the stunning sustain that Moore was able to wring from his instrument.
3. James House “Days Gone By”
I first began to appreciate country music in the early 90s, thanks in no small part to cable TV channel CMT. One of the artists that I was introduces to through CMT was James House, an American country artist. “Days Gone By” was his third album, features backing vocals from country stars Raul Malo of The Mavericks and Trisha Yearwood, and is full of absoultely brilliant songs, half of which were released as singles in the US. My favourite tracks are the fantastic “Little By Little”, “A Real Good Way To Wind Up Lonesome” and the biggest hit “This Is Me Missing You”
4. AC/DC “Ballbreaker”
The first new AC/DC album in five years, “Ballbreaker” is just what you would expect from the band. The record was produced by the founder of Def Jam Records, Rick Rubin, a man known for revitalising many of the acts he had produced.
This album contains the usual mix of catchy riffs, solid rhythm section, Angus Young’s lead guitar work and Brian Johnson’s gruff deliver of some gloriously non politically correct lyrics, particularly on tracks such as “Cover You In Oil”! Other highlights include the number one single “Hard As A Rock” and “Hail Caesar”
5. Oasis “(What’s The Story) Morning Glory?”
Recorded at Rockfield Studios in Monmouth, “(What’s The Story) Morning Glory?” was the second album by Oasis, and easily their best – by my reckoning at least. In 1995 Oasis became one of the biggest bands in the UK, and they enjoyed no less than six single releases from this album – although two only reached the lower end of the charts, there were two number 1 hits (“Some Might Say” and “Don’t Look Back In Anger”) and two made number 2 (“Roll With It” and “Wonderwall”), and the album itself went on to sell in the region of 22 million copies. A record that can truly be described as a modern classic.
6. Paul Weller “Stanley Road”
The third solo album from Paul Weller, former frontman of The Jam and The Style Council, “Stanley Road” features guest appearances from Noel Gallagher (Oasis) and Steve Winwood (Spencer Davis Group / Traffic).
Aside from great numbers such as “The Changingman”, “Broken Stones”, “Porcelain Gods” and “Out Of The Sinking”, Weller’s finest hour also includes the beautiful “You Do Something To Me”
7. Shania Twain “The Woman In Me”
The second country album to feature here, Shania Twain’s “The Woman In Me” was here second album release. However, whereas her first album two years earlier had contained generic country, and only one co-write credit for Twain, this time she co-wrote all but two tracks, and was solely credited for one of the others. The other huge difference was the involvement of legendary producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange (AC/DC / Def Leppard / Bryan Adams). Lange was heavily involved in the writing as well as producing the album, and as a result of their mutual efforts the record went on to sell around 20 million copies and spawned eight hit singles, including three number 1 singles in the US. It would be three more years before pop remixes saw Twain become a big hit in the UK, but for those of us aware of her in ’95, this album shone with diamonds including “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?”, “You Win My Love”, “Any Man Of Mine”, “The Woman In Me (Needs The Man In You)” and “(If You’re Not In It For Love) I’m Outta Here!”
8. UFO “Walk On Water”
Although not a commercial success, this album from legendary British hard rock band UFO was notable for the return of lead guitarist Michael Schenker to the band, alongside singer Phil Mogg, bassist Pete Way, drummer Andy Parker and keyboard/guitar player Paul Raymond for the first time since the late 70s.
Although he subsequently left again just a handful of shows into the band’s world tour (before returning, leaving, returning… on and off until finally leaving again in 2003), the guitarist’s presence lifted the band and they produced their strongest album for a while. My favourite tracks are “Venus”, “Pushed To The Limit” and “Running On Empty”, and the inclusion of re-recordings of two of the group’s classic songs (“Doctor Doctor” and “Lights Out”) doesn’t hurt – though the “bonus tracks”, one each from Mogg/Way, Michael Schenker Group and the Paul Raymond Project are rather out of place.
9. Brother Cane “Seeds”
Probably the least known album (and band) here, “Seeds” was the second album from US southern rock band Brother Cane. Led by singer / guitarist Damon Johnson, the band had a degree of success in the US, with lead single from this album reaching the number 1 spot, although the album itself didn’t fare too well. A shame, as it’s full of great tracks like “Kerosene”, “And Fools Shine On” and “Hung On A Rope”. Johnson has since played with Alice Cooper before becoming a member of Thin Lizzy / Black Star Riders.
10. Prince “The Gold Experience”
Released during the time when Prince had fallen out with his record label, Warner Bros., and adopted an unpronounceable symbol as his name, “The Gold Experience” was arguably the last really great album released by him. Although not as strong as 91’s “Diamonds & Pearls” or 92’s “Symbol”, and certainly not as good as 87’s “Sign O’ The Times”, there is some excellent material on offer here – “Endorphinmachine”, “Pussy Control”, hit single “The Most Beautiful Girl In The World” and “Shhh” all being classic Prince tracks.
So there we have it – my top ten albums of 1995. A year in which John Major was British Prime Minister, Blackburn Rovers won the Premier League, and top film releases included “Die Hard 3”, “Toy Story” and “GoldenEye”…