Although I was a huge rock fan in the 90s – I was no fan of 90s rock! All that Seattle scene and “alternative” rock bullshit was not for me. I didn’t give a crap about most of the new stuff – whether it was from Seattle or a few ‘new’ bands from Canada! Bands that I enjoyed from the 70s and 80s were then rarely on the radio, without major record deals or hip in certain rock magazines. Times were a changing. Fortunately the 90s was not a total lost decade, but classic bands weren’t releasing albums yearly or even bi-yearly, with many lucky if they released 2-3 in the whole decade! But there was a number of great albums, a number of comeback albums, and a few that re-started my interest in some classic bands. Despite how shitty the 90s were there were some highlights, and perhaps next time i’ll come up with a list of new or newer bands that released great albums in the 90s!
Uriah Heep – Sea of Light 
As a fan since the late 80s, with the band’s first 2 studios albums with Bernie Shaw & Phil Lanzon [and what would become Heep’s longest serving line-up] I didn’t have huge expectations of a ‘classic’ Heep album, but I was wrong! Sea Of Light blew me away upon first hearing it. With 12 tracks ranging from the metal guitar opener “Against The Odds”, which was the heaviest rocker the band had done since “Too Scared To Run” opened the Abominog album in ’82, a lengthier epic ballad in “Love In Silence”, an all-acoustic ballad [and single] “Dream On”, more progressive rockers like “Logical Progression” & “Universal Wheels”, as well as plenty of memorable rockers with “Time Of Revelation”, “Fear Of Falling”, and “Spirit Of Freedom”. The album featured Roger Dean artwork, the first he had done for the band since ’72. Sea of Light was the album that brought back many old Heep fans that had passed on the band years ago. It was nicely followed up by ’98’s Sonic Origami.
UFO – Walk On Water 
UFO with Michael Schenker is kind of THE line-up for me. I love that string of classic albums from the mid 70s to late 70s when Schenker left, and had/have a hard time getting into UFO beyond that [tho a few latter albums ain’t too bad!]. In the same token tho, I find much of Schenker’s post UFO stuff hit and miss. The classic UFO reunion started with a tour of Japan, followed by this album of 8 new tracks and re-recordings of old favorites “Doctor Doctor” and “Lights Out”. The new songs tho jumped out; lots of heavy guitar, great riffs, energy, and classic sounding UFO with rockers like “Self Made Man”, “Venus”, “Stopped By A Bullet” and “Darker Days”. Cool cover shot of the band over blue backing with big UFO logo. Saw the band on this tour in Buffalo, with Simon Wright subbing for Andy Parker. By then there was a US release [for the tour], which lobbed off the 2 remakes, and featured a less memorable cover. None-the-less, they sounded great. The follow up wouldn’t come til 2000, with ‘Covenant’, which I wasn’t as enthused about. Eventually Schenker would leave again, permanently.
Deep Purple – Purpendicular 
When Deep Purple Mark 2 reunited in 1984 it was a huge deal in the press, and the band delivered a great album titled Perfect Strangers, but the follow up was less than stellar, and by then certain bandmembers were no longer getting along [again]. 1990’s Slaves & Masters featured Joe Lynn Turner in for vocalist Ian Gillan, making a more AOR sounding album….kinda like 80s Rainbow! Record company pressure returned Gillan for one more album in ’93, but Ritchie Blackmore left soon after, and that for many fans meant the band couldn’t continue. But, Deep Purple carried on, eventually choosing American Steve Morse as permanent replacement and recording Purpendicular. Compared to the band’s previous 3 albums, Purpendicular was far above [IMO] and far beyond any expectations I would’ve had. Blackmore had that distinctive guitar sound and contributed much of the band’s classic material, but the new DP sounded rejuvenated, fresh, and full of new and varied melodic material. With 12 great songs that flowed nicely together, from “Vavoom: Ted The Mechanic”, “Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming”, the acoustic “The Aviator”, great rock riff to “Somebody Stole My Guitar” – my favorite DP album!
John Wetton – Battle Lines 
I loved that first Asia album in ’82, and the 2 follow-ups weren’t bad, but this – to me , is the next best thing John did after that Asia debut. An AOR / softer rock/pop album, but such great melodies, lyrics, vocals, a number of cool guests, and production. From the uplifting opener “Right Where I Wanted To Be”, to ballads like the title track, “Hold Me Now”, “You’re Not The Only One”, and another upbeat track [co-written with Jim Peterik] “Space & Time”; I can still pull this album out and enjoy it any time. Although John continued to release solo albums, as well as a string of excellent Asia reunion albums, Battle Lines is my favorite of his recorded works [followed by Asia debut and Asia “XXX”]. Was fortunate to get to see him and sit down to interview him on his acoustic tour for this album; a very nice guy, happy to talk about his career. I wish I’d seen him more, was very shocked and saddened by his passing in 2017.
Rush – Counterparts 
This is the album that brought me back to Rush after a few albums I either didn’t get upon release or listened to much. Loved Moving Pictures and Signals, enjoyed Grace Under Pressure, and saw that tour and Power Windows tour, but that latter album and a few that followed got lighter and lighter and more keyboards…. Then “Stick It Out” came on the radio, and it sounded like Rush was back to being a guitar heavy band. The rest of the album was full of classic sounding Rush, especially “Animate” [my favorite here], and then tracks like “Cut To The Chase”, “Cold Fire”, and “Nobody’s Hero”. Test For Echo was a fine follow up; a classic pair of Rush albums.
April Wine – Attitude 
I saw April Wine at the Kingswood Music Theater, north of Toronto on what was their farewell tour in ’84 [?]. The band’s album at the time was Animal Grace, which I thought was pretty good, but apparently it’d be there last as the 5 piece classic line-up. Myles Goodwyn would record 1 further album under the name April Wine, and then nothing for years. Saw the reunited line-up in St Catharines in ’92, and in ’93 Attitude was released. Featuring Goodwyn, along with legendary drummer Jerry Mercer, guitarist Brian Greenway, and new guitarist Steve Segal, as well as the return of bass player Jim Clench. Attitude was a nice surprise – loaded with guitar heavy rockers and a few choice ballads, like the best 80s album they made – 9 years later. First single and heavy sugary ballad “If You Believe In Me” got loads of air-play, and the album boasted heavy guitar rockers like “Givin It, Takin It”, “Strange Kind of Love”, “It Hurts”, “That’s Love” and “Here’s Looking At You Kid” [which I think were also singles and/or videos]. Other ballads like “Can’t Take Another Night” [by Brian Greenway & Jeff Nystrom], and “Hour Of Need” offered plenty of variety for fans of the band’s 80s heyday.
Saga – The Security Of Illusion 
From Toronto, Saga released a pile of consistent aor/prog albums from the late 70s til early 80s, most notably 1982s Worlds Apart – which featured the hits “On The Loose’ and “Wind Him Up”. Following 1985’s Behaviour album the band underwent a few personnel changes; the 2 ensuing albums didn’t keep my interest. But, 1993 saw the classic line up reunite for another go with this album. To me, this was a return to the classic Saga sound, with a bit more bite. Lots of great melodies and performances with songs like “Without You”, “Mind Over Matter”, “Alone Again Tonight”, and particularly the title track. The band toured Canada on this album, saw them in St Catharines, Ontario – took my LPs and got them all signed! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r8i6AySQDNw
Alice Cooper – The Last Temptation 
Though not a lot of new Alice Cooper music was released in the ’90s, this is one of 2 great albums. I loved 1991’s Hey Stoopid, full of big rockers, a few heavy ballads, and plenty of humour, but this album took a bigger step from that ’80s hair rock, and features plenty of classic Alice tunes, despite it probably selling less than his previous 2 albums. Alice didn’t tour this album either. The album was a concept based on moral issues, with Steven being the character in it. I’m not good at explaining it, but there was comics by Neil Gaiman to go with the release [first presses in some countries included the 1st comic in the series]. The Last Temptation did not feature a lengthy list of guests musicians either, with a line up, including guitarist Stef Burns [ex Y&T], keyboard player Derek Sherinian, Greg Smith on bass, and drummer David Oosikkinen. “Lost In America” was the first single and big timely anthem from it, still features in his live show. But there was plenty more cool rock here such as “Nothing’s Free”, “Bad Place Alone”, “You’re My Temptation” [one of 2 tracks co-written w/ Jack Blades & Tommy Shaw]. 2 of the best being the ballads “Stolen Prayer” [written by Chris Cornell, who also wrote 1 other song, and sings back up], and the 2nd single “It’s Me” [also co-written with Blades & Shaw]. Great album!
Black Sabbath – Cross Purposes 
Following Sabbath’s 2nd split with Ronnie James Dio & Vinny Appice after 1992’s Dehumanizer album Tony Martin was brought back for a couple more. Ex Rainbow drummer Bobby Rondinelli also played on this one. I really liked the albums Tony had done previously, so no big deal to me. Cross Purposes was heavy, but had a touch of keyboards and a bit more melody in places. I loved “I Witness”, “The Hand That Rocks The Cradle”, “Psychophobia” and “Back To Eden” – and favorite track being the haunting “Cross Of Thorns”. Wish I had this on vinyl. I wasn’t as crazy about the follow-up [Forbidden], but this is a classic Sabbath album for me. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kkihaICItis&list=PLBzBwYhHpqLLszPlcn8dgdqh-AvQ4Mxmp&index=2
Ozzy Osbourne – Ozzmosis 
I followed Ozzy’s career from the Blizzard of Ozz album til about here. Frankly, after he split up the original band, and became a solo act with players and writers coming and going album to album, I thought there was a steady decline with each record. No More Tears in ’91 was good, but I wasn’t crazy about it; but I did take to this album when I heard “Perry Mason”. Also loved the heavier tracks here – “Denial” and “Tomorrow”, as well as “See You On The Other Side”. Fave cut being the Jim Vallance co-written “I Just Want You”, an epic Ozzy tune, with classic intro from Rick Wakeman. Geezer Butler also played on this! Too bad it didn’t come out on vinyl at the time. Ozzmosis is the next best thing he did following the first 4 [studio] albums, and I don’t think Ozzy’s done much since this [that I care to remember].
KJJ, Feb 2020