150 Best Albums of 1988

“Possibly the most revered year in hip-hop,” the sticker on my copy of Ohio backpack rapper and producer Blueprint’s 2005 CD 1988 calls the year it’s named after, and “widely regarded as the greatest year in rap” agrees Shea Serrano in in 2015’s Rap Yearbook. While my own Sugarhill/Enjoy nostalgia would have prevented me from admitting it at the time, and while I still think rap music from then had lost at least as much as it had gained, I guess I can at least now see where they were coming from. I count an impressive 18 rap albums among my 150 ’88 favorites below — 11 of them not among the dozen Serrano names at the start of his book’s annual essay, which includes ones I don’t by Ice-T, MC Lyte, Big Daddy Kane, Biz Markie and Boogie Down Productions.

And yet, I’m far from convinced hip-hop was 1988’s most representative (or do I mean compelling, groundbreaking, just plain fun?) sound. As evidenced by the 12-disc vinyl box set that tops my list (only time that will ever happen), I’d instead pick the electronic post-disco house (acid and otherwise) and techno then coming out of abandoned warehouses in America’s upper midwest, as often as not the work of gay Black men, and represented below by not only The History of the House Sound of Chicago, but three more various-artist compilations in my top 15, a couple more further down, two-full-length Todd Terry projects (Royal House and, uh, Todd Terry Project), four augmented-12-inch-single “EPs” (by Phuture, Lidell Townsell, Rhythim Is Rhythm and Maurice Joshua) so rudimentary they didn’t even come with cover art, and two more single-artist albums (by Fingers Inc and Liz Torres) so obscure they’ve apparently never even come out in the US. At the moment when hip-hop had indubitably cracked the code of exploring the multivariate possibilities of albums as artforms (like say rock in the late ’60s), house and techno barely existed in album-per-sé form: They were still trying to figure out what exactly they even were (like say rap in the early ’80s), a more exciting state of being no matter how many minds hip-hop was continuing to blow. Yet house and techno would never again approach 1988’s level of reinventing the wheel and making listeners wonder what the hell’s going on here. Before long, they’d be just more genres.

Which isn’t to say we have to pick sides, and it’s not like musicians necessarily did at the time: Indie rockers World Domination Enterprises and Too Much Joy both covered L.L. Cool J songs, and plenty of those early Trax Records house sides feature people rapping. Artists both hip-hop (Wee Papa Girl Rappers, Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock, Jungle Brothers) and pop (Pet Shop Boys, Mel & Kim, Samantha Fox) had ears to the ground when it came to Chicago sounds. Prince, coming off increasingly desperate trying to keep up with both hip-hop and house on his unofficially released Black Album (and so demo-thin on his more legally legit Lovesexy that it didn’t even make my cut), went so far as to swipe a verse outright from Steve “Silk” Hurley’s “Music is the Key.” And then there’s the wacky and weird techno (and industrial)-adjacent “New Beat” emerging from Germany and Belgium, which is probably part of the house story itself — My number-two album, another compilation in my top four (1988 was a great year for compilations in general), plus EPs down below by Tribantura and A Split Second (the latter of whom could easily have placed two releases on my chart if the surprising glut of notable music I uncovered hadn’t convinced me to limit list-spots to one per customer, an edict that also adversely affected beat-boxed Brits Westworld and the Three Johns.)

Dance music of 1988 doesn’t end there, obviously. Latin freestyle had passed its commercial and probably creative peak a year before, but was still alive enough to debut a late-period Bronx girl trio (Sweet Sensation), a late-period San Juan-via-Manhattan solo diva who made the cover of Spin‘s allegedly worst-selling issue that April (Sa-Fire), and an impossible libertarian if not crypto-fascist rainy-day Miami afternoon-rock hybrid (Will To Power.) Actually, Will To Power’s non-Latino übermensch Bob Rosenberg was born (to ’50s pop thrush Gloria Mann!) in Philadelphia, also birthplace of Anglophile synth-pop outfits Book of Love and Pretty Poison, the latter also kinda quasi-freestyle, not to mention of rap acts Schoolly D and Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, not to mention of hair-metal bands Cinderella and Britny Fox (and Joan Jett if she counts as hair-metal — I’m including Philly’s suburbs), and almost of Poison (Harrisburg, PA) and Kix (Hagerstown, MD.) Go Phillies! (65-96 in 1988, sixth in the N.L. East, oh well. I hadn’t quite moved there yet. Nor had Mitch Williams or John Kruk.)

Not that anybody considered hair-metal “dance music,” of course, even if fans did clearly dance to it, in the cheap seats at least. It was certainly more danceable than “real” metal, which is also well-represented below, especially once you get past the third-way point. (Top five: Voivod, Bloodstar, Lord Weird Slough Feg, Riot, Helstar.) And even further down there’s Queensrÿche, who were arguably both hair and real metal, and Jane’s Addiction, arguably neither! The same might be said about all-Black barrier breakers Living Colour, who got excluded because sorry their singer still grates on my nerves; as for Black (and gay and Christian)-fronted King’s X, half-Black free-jazz-metal quartet Last Exit, and all-Black major-label-but-bet-you-never-heard-of-them metal-funkers DáKrash — all placing toward the end of my list, well below half-Black major-label hard-rocking post-punk noir-goth quartet the Zarkons — I dunno, you figure it out.

Back to the disco by any other euphemism, I’d be negligent not to note veteran Eurobeat eccentrics Telex, Yello and Falco, any of whom might have contributed a chromosome or two to house-and-techno’s double helix — in fact, Telex are included among “tracks that built the house” on that History box set. Much dancing was likewise inspired by the hip-hop/r&b hybrid known as New Jack Swing (Bobby Brown, Guy, Al B. Sure! — slow dancing in his case, maybe Club Nouveau) and soul of more old-jacked bents (Teena Marie, Womack & Womack, Siedah Garrett, John Whitehead, Karyn White.)

The year swung as well with percussion perfected in South Africa, the French Antilles, Algeria, Jamaica and Brazil, not to mention “King” by no-waver-gone-samba-funk Arto Lindsay’s Ambitious Lovers (“It’s just like chess, a king can’t beat a queen”) presaging Ava Max’s 2020 dance smash “Kings & Queens” (“In chess, the king can move one space at a time, but queens are free to go wherever they like”) by a good third of a century. Add shiny-bouncy new wavish Anglopop concoctions Westworld and Transvision Vamp, plus a plethora of solo pop women highly conversant in swayable syncopations (Stacey Q, Tiffany, Taylor Dayne, Sabrina, Paula Abdul, Olivia Newton-John, several more previously mentioned), and trippers of the light fantastic had no cause to complain.

So what are you waiting for? As Rob Base would say, get on the dance floor! Which I should mention was my favorite single on his and DJ E-Z Rock’s album, significant since 1988 was also the year that Spin put “It Takes Two” on the top of their list of 100 Greatest Singles of All Time, which I’m told was a revelation to people like 14-year-old Alfred Soto, and which other friends like Kevin Bozelka have suggested was quite daring, but which personally struck me as disingenuous grandstanding: Yes, sure, great singles obviously didn’t have to be the same old stodgy classic-rock warhorses you might see on a Rolling Stone list (at least back then — they’ve evolved some since, and recently asked me for my 50 favorite songs ever, which I may or may not be able to figure out, but it does imply they’re updating again). And fine, baby steps. But given nearly a century of recorded music, for Spin to suggest in 1988 that two of the five best singles of all time came out in 1988 (“Sweet Child O’ Mine” placed at #5) came off to me as a not particularly imaginative look-what-we-can-do move, and frankly still does.

Speaking of Guns N’ Roses, in 1988 they did a song called “One in a Million” (as did Samantha Fox) that was blatantly homophobic (as was the Fresh Prince’s “Live at Union Square”) and blatantly racist and more or less the same song as X’s “Los Angeles” from a few years before. I admittedly sort of loved it at the time regardless, but don’t feel like defending it anymore and get the idea Trump-hating Axl Rose has disowned it by now anyway. Speaking of the Fresh Prince, I assumed for decades he and Jazzy Jeff debuted with a double album (like Frankie Goes to Hollywood a few years before) but turns out they’d put out an earlier one-disc in 1987; however, betwixt-GnR-and-Black-Crowes hair-boogie cowboys Rock City Angels did debut with a double LP in 1988 (albeit with a 45-RPM dance-remix-single fourth side.) And speaking of Samantha Fox, Spin let me review her 1988 album along with Death of Samantha’s (get it?) only after I raised a stink and asked why they hated fun (damn I was a young hot-head back then) and the resulting review was far from ingenious after all that (choose your battles, Chuck.)

Last things I want to say is that I just learned a couple albums below technically came out in 1987, but I’m not gonna tell you which. Opted to include them anyway, since adding them to my list of 150 best albums of ’87 would be way too much work and let’s face it pre-SoundScan release dates were as often as not mere approximations. Also I did subject myself to the 1988 Talk Talk and A.R. Kane albums that invented oceanic shoegaze dreamscape post-prog proto-Radiohead post-rock trip-hop whatever, and while they had moments (Kane’s “Sulliday” approximates factory noise) they’re mainly beyond my ken, will-o’-the-wisp vocals being a particular dealbreaker. But please don’t you fret — what survived the preliminaries will stick to way more ribs, trust me.

  1. The History of the House Sound of Chicago (BCM Germany)
  2. Off Organisation For Fun (ZYX Germany)
  3. Stacey Q Hard Machine (Atlantic)
  4. New Beat Edit 1 (ZYX Germany)
  5. Pet Shop Boys Introspective (EMI Manhattan)
  6. Will To Power Will To Power (Epic)
  7. Cinderella Long Cold Winter (Mercury)
  8. Shinehead Unity (Elektra)
  9. The Real Roxanne The Real Roxanne (Select)
  10. Techno! The New Dance Sound of Detroit (10 UK)
  11. Kix Blow My Fuse (Atlantic)
  12. Henry Threadgill Easily Slip Into Another World (Novus)
  13. Best of House Music (Profile)
  14. Voivod Dimension Hatross (Noise International)
  15. In the Key of E (Desire UK)
  16. Schoolly D Smoke Some Kill (Jive)
  17. Phuture  We are Phuture (Trax EP)
  18. L’Trimm Grab It! (Atlantic)
  19. Teena Marie Naked to the World (Epic)
  20. The Scene Is Now Tonight We Ride (Lost)
  21. Fresh Rap (K-Tel)
  22. Bloodstar Bloodstar (Desert Engine)
  23. Rai Rebels (Virgin)
  24. Public Enemy It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (Def Jam)
  25. Anthony Braxton Six Monk’s Compositions (Black Saint Italy)
  26. Eric B. and Rakim Follow the Leader (Uni)
  27. World Domination Enterprises Let’s Play Domination  (Caroline)
  28. Jungle Brothers Straight Out the Jungle (Warlock)
  29. Savage Republic Jamahiriya Démocratique Et Populaire De Savage  (Fundamental)
  30. Hurricane Zouk (Virgin)
  31. The Art Farmer Quartet Blame It on My Youth (Contemporary)
  32. Death of Samantha Where the Women Wear the Glory and the Men Wear The Pants (Homestead)
  33. Mel & Kim F.L.M. (Atlantic)
  34. Westworld Rockulator (RCA)
  35. Thunder Before Dawn: The Indestructible Beat of Soweto Volume Two (Earthworks/Virgin)
  36. Joan Jett and the Blackhearts Up Your Alley (Blackheart/CBS)
  37. K.T. Oslin This Woman (RCA)
  38. Samantha Fox I Wanna Have Some Fun (Jive)
  39. EPMD Strictly Business (Fresh)
  40. Dag Nasty Field Day (Giant)
  41. Womack & Womack Conscience (Island)
  42. Fingers Inc. Another Side (Jack Trax UK)
  43. Lul Inside Little Oral Annie (Eksakt Netherlands)
  44. Acid Trax Volume 2 (Trax)
  45. Book Of Love Lullaby (Sire)
  46. Obed Ngobeni My Wife Bought a Taxi (Shanachie)
  47. Gettovetts Missionaries Moving (Island)
  48. Was (Not Was) What Up, Dog? (Chrysalis)
  49. Sa-Fire Sa-Fire (Cutting/Mercury)
  50. Dog Faced Hermans Humans Fly (Calculus UK)
  51. The Lord Weird Slough Feg Twilight of the Idols (Doomed Planet)
  52. Prince Far-I with Suns of Arqa The Musical Revue (ROIR)
  53. Ryuchi Sakamoto Neo Geo (Epic)
  54. Djavan Bird of Paradise (Columbia)
  55. Telex Looney Tunes (Atlantic)
  56. Poison Open Up And Say…Ahh! (Enigma/Capitol)
  57. Obywatel G.C. Tak! Tak! (Polskie Nagrana Muza Poland)
  58. The Zarkons Between the Idea and the Reality…Falls the Shadow (Atlantic)
  59. Riot ThunderSteel (CBS Associated)
  60. Sonic Youth Daydream Nation (Enigma/Blast First)
  61. The Ex Aural Guerrilla (Ex Europe)
  62. The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu AKA the Timelords The History of the Jams  (TVT)
  63. Randy Newman Land of Dreams (Reprise)
  64. Kid ’N Play 2 Hype (Select)
  65. Red Temple Spirits Dancing to Restore an Eclipsed Moon (Fundamental)
  66. Helstar A Distant Thunder (Metal Blade)
  67. Tribantura Lack of Sense (ZYX EP)
  68. The Fall I Am Curious Oranj (Beggars Banquet)
  69. The Latin Beat (Priority)
  70. Francky Vincent Manze Lola (Bleu Caribes France)
  71. Bobby Brown Don’t Be Cruel (MCA)
  72. The Todd Terry Project To the Batmobile Let’s Go (Fresh)
  73. Liz Torres featuring Master C & J Can’t Get Enough (Jack Trax UK)
  74. Angry Samoans STP Not LSD (PVC EP)
  75. Trax House Masters  (Blatant UK)
  76. Too Much Joy Son of Sam I Am (Alias)
  77. Rock City Angels Young Man’s Blues (Geffen)
  78. The Wee Papa Girl Rappers The Beat, The Rhyme, The Noise (Jive)
  79. Sweet Sensation Take it While it’s Hot (Atco)
  80. Rage Perfect Man (Noise International)
  81. Slick Rick The Great Adventures of Slick Rick (Def Jam)
  82. The Dehumanizers Here’s to You (Ever Rat)
  83. Men & Volts The Mule (Shimmy Disc)
  84. Siedah Garrett Kiss of Life (Qwest)
  85. Royal House Can You Party (Idlers)
  86. Guns N’ Roses G N’ R Lies (Geffen)
  87. Celtic Frost Cold Lake (Noise International)
  88. Jelly Bishops Kings of Barstool Mountain (Last Time Round EP)
  89. Yello Flag (Mercury)
  90. The Bellamy Brothers Rebels Without a Clue (MCA Nashville)
  91. Coroner Punishment for Decadence (Noise International)
  92. Pay it All Back Vol. 2 (On-U Sound UK)
  93. Caifanes Caifanes (RCA Mexico)
  94. Tiffany Hold an Old Friend’s Hand (MCA)
  95. Club Nouveau Listen to the Message (Warner Bros.)
  96. The Golden Eagles Lightning and Thunder (Rounder)
  97. N.W.A. Straight Outta Compton (Ruthless/Priority)
  98. Membranes Kiss Ass…Godhead! (Homestead)
  99. Blue Öyster Cult Imaginos (CBS)
  100. Ultramagnetic MCs Critical Breakdown (Next Plateau)
  101. Night Ranger Man In Motion (MCA)
  102. Brocas Helm Black Death (Eat Metal)
  103. Red Lorry Yellow Lorry Nothing Wrong (Beggars Banquet)
  104. Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock It Takes Two (Profile)
  105. Ambitious Lovers Greed (Virgin)
  106. Jane’s Addiction Nothing’s Shocking (Warner Bros.)
  107. Al B. Sure! In Effect Mode (Warner Bros./Uptown) 
  108. Transvision Vamp Pop Art (Uni)
  109. Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ Whisper Tames the Lion (Island)
  110. John Whitehead I Need Money Bad (Mercury)
  111. A Split Second A Split Second (Wax Trax! EP)
  112. Les Rita Mitsouko Marc & Robert (Virgin France)
  113. Prince The Black Album (Erotic City/Warner Bros. promo)
  114. Antiseen Honour Among Thieves (Bona Fide)
  115. Taylor Dayne Tell it to My Heart(Arista)
  116. Sabrina Super Sabrina (Videogram Italy)
  117. Manilla Road Out of the Abyss (Leviathan)
  118. Lidell Townsell Jack the House (Trax EP)
  119. Paula Abdul Forever Your Girl (Virgin)
  120. Olivia Newton-John The Rumour (MCA)
  121. Dustdevils Gutter Light  (Rouska/Fundamental EP)
  122. Pretty Poison Catch Me I’m Falling (Virgin)
  123. Falco Wiener Blut (Sire)
  124. Rhythim Is Rhythim It is What it Is (Transmat EP) 
  125. J.J. Fad Supersonic: The Album (Ruthless/Atco)
  126. The Three Johns Deathrocker Scrapbook (ROIR)
  127. Maurice Joshua with Hot Hands Hula I Gotta Big Dick (Trax EP)
  128. Mekong Delta The Music of Erich Zann (Steamhammer) 
  129. Precious Metal That Kind of Girl (Chameleon)
  130. Guy Guy (MCA/Uptown)
  131. Edelweiss Edelweiss (GiG Europe EP)
  132. DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper (Jive)
  133. King’s X Out of the Silent Planet (Megaforce)
  134. Midnight Oil Diesel and Dust (Columbia)
  135. The Pogues If I Should Fall From Grace With God (Island)
  136. Green River Rehab Doll (Sub Pop)
  137. The Holy Cows We Never Heard of You Either (Herb Jackson)
  138. Coven Worship New Gods (Crom)
  139. Queensrÿche Operation: Mindcrime (EMI-Manhattan)
  140. The Del Lords Based on a True Story (Enigma)
  141. Randy Travis Old 8×10 (Warner Bros.)
  142. Britny Fox Britny Fox (Columbia)
  143. Karyn White Karyn White (Warner Bros.)
  144. Head of David Dustbowl (Blast First)
  145. Th’ Inbred Kissin’ Cousins (Toxic Shock)
  146. Mantronix In Full Effect (Capitol)
  147. Smashed Gladys Social Intercourse (Elektra)
  148. Metallica …And Justice For All (Elektra)
  149. Last Exit Iron Path (Virgin)
  150. DáKrash DáKrash (Capitol)

3 comments

  1. via facebook:

    Michael Lach
    You still really like Cinderella, huh?

    Chuck Eddy
    Their one great album, sure. First, third and fourth albums are merely good.
    Also love this! (And anybody who doesn’t is not human.)

    Michael Lach
    Chuck Eddy Yup. I always liked Heartbreak Station a lot, so you’ve prompted me to go play that one again. Thanks.

    Chuck Eddy
    I reviewed Heartbreak Station in Rolling Stone, if you’re interested.

    —–

    Alfred Soto
    I love this list. Guess I should check out the Olivia Newton-John. From the review: “Patti Smith’s moral equivalent of Ronstadt’s Nelson Riddle move” is right on.

    Christian Iszchak
    I love the list and the essay even more. Your writing is so brilliant. Regrettably, I don’t read these every time (too much staring at a screen at work) but when I do they’re always hugely entertaining.

    Chuck Eddy
    I’m glad to hear that! Stuff on this blog (and, particularly these best-album-list introductions) are pretty much the *only* writing I do these days. (Also, I couldn’t figure out how to end this one. Last sentence just kinda peters out.)

    —–

    Zac Harmon
    Great #1! I found that Stacey Q album in a dollar bin recently, which was a very ‘Chuck Eddy Moment’.

    Sara Quell
    The Lobo > The 3DN. (“Wolves; Higher”)

    Sara Quell
    “Woof. (A cheap shot, but that’s all I deserve)”

    Alexander Shashko
    That box set is one I’ll never, ever remove from my collection. It’s amazing.

    David Cantwell
    You mean Chuck’s #1, I am assuming? It is amazing dance music but also, if only for my brain, perfect writing music. Thank you both for the reminder.

    Alexander Shashko
    David Cantwell Yes, I meant number one. I’ll have to try it with writing (or, more likely, grading…)

    —–

    Nate Patrin
    1) rap’s greatest year is 1994, and I’m not just saying that out of “I started senior year of high school then” bias. Nas, Biggie, and OutKast’s debuts alone! (That some of rap’s worst years weren’t far away makes it a bit more bittersweet, though.)

    2) not entirely sure about the decree that house and techno wouldn’t reinvent themselves so drastically ever again — maybe not in the States, but the UK’s acid house-hardcore-breakbeat-jungle lineage in the late ’80s early ’90s, even in the largely retrospective way I’ve experienced it, is absolutely staggering.

    3) co-signing that appraisal of the Spin list. “It Takes Two” is a jam, but it’s also a funny choice for a fuck-you-dad claim-staker. Were Run-D.M.C. too gauche?

    Nate Patrin
    4) “One In A Million” vs. “Los Angeles” is a comparison I can’t believe isn’t being constantly made by everyone, ever

    Chuck Eddy
    I still think rap’s best year was 1980 or 1981, but you probably knew that.

    Nate Patrin
    Chuck Eddy I bet hearing “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel” as a genre’s breakthrough moment* must’ve been a pivotal thing
    *”Rapper’s Delight” and “King Tim III” are generally considered the first rap recordings, Pigmeat Markham and Lightnin’ Rod notwithstanding, but Flash cut the first actual hip-hop record from my POV, and it can’t be underestimated how strange it must’ve sounded to hear a *DJ routine* that you could buy in stores and (maybe) hear on the radio (if you were lucky)

    Chuck Eddy
    It literally felt to me like music from another planet.

    Nate Patrin
    by the time I paid attention to music on a more active level hip-hop had already been around for a few years — long enough to get full-length motion pictures and so forth, so for the most part it was Always There for me. That’s got to be what really separates me from the older people in my so-called generational cohort.

    Chuck Eddy
    xp Ditto seeing Funky 4 +1 on Saturday Night Live. And, I insist, hearing house music for the first time while driving through Chicago 6 or 7 years later. Which, again I insist, electronic music has never felt like to me since.

    Alfred Soto
    can we extend Nate’s 1994 to 1993-1994-1995, i.e. a looong hip-hop year?

    Nate Patrin
    Alfred Soto starting in November ‘93 gets us Midnight Marauders and Enter the Wu-Tang, at the very least

    Alfred Soto
    Nate and ends in 1995 with Ironman.

    Nate Patrin
    Alfred Soto that was ‘96, but most of the other great first-wave solo Wu records are ‘94-‘95. Also ‘The Infamous’.

    Alfred Soto
    Nate, fuck, right. So many Wu solo joints in late ’95

    Brian MacDonald
    I stand with 1991, but yeah, 1994 was amazing.

    Chuck Eddy
    You guys and your ’90s.

    Like

  2. via facebook:

    Michaelangelo Matos
    “Yet house and techno would never again approach 1988’s level of reinventing the wheel and making listeners wonder what the hell’s going on here.”
    LOL no

    Chuck Eddy
    I suspected you’d take issue with that statement.

    Michaelangelo Matos
    This sounds like another galaxy, never mind another planet.

    —-

    Kevin Bozelka
    Chuck Eddy, will cyberslap you later. Have a midterm to post.

    Edd Hurt
    That Bellamy Brothers album is underrated…

    Chuck Eddy
    Maybe even by me! But it’s definitely a good’un.

    ——–

    Steve Pick
    1988 – I was solidly entrenched at a cool record store, the Post-Dispatch had given me a column without calling it a column – asking me for weekly articles on some record or other musical topic – and I started doing radio, originally with back-to-back rock and jazz shows. I was enthralled with a lot of music that year, but little of it shows up on your list.

    Steve Pick
    Part of it is I never understood house music – yeah, the beats are cool, but there are no songs. I don’t know – I wasn’t around anybody really hip to it at the time, and I was an album guy frustrated with a primarily singles genre where it was more important to know the producer than the artist named on the record. I did enjoy some singles off some of the non-house albums you list, but unless I went too fast, I’m flummoxed by anybody thinking there were at least 150 albums more riveting than Amnesia by Richard Thompson. (Though I probably then, and maybe still now would agree that your no. 12 entry, Easily Slip Into Another World by Henry Threadgill, was better.)
    ·
    Alfred Soto
    Steve, with respect, house produced plenty of great songs, and the anonymity of singers never bothered me: a trait in disco too. They’re Everyman or Everywoman. From Gloria Gaynor to Sharon Redd and Paris Brightledge is no distance, and I’d toss blond master of blankness Bernard Sumner too into that lineage.

    Chuck Eddy
    Guess it depends what you mean by “songs.”

    Chuck Eddy
    And Thompson mostly lost me after Hand of Kindness. (I like a couple things much later on — In the ’80s, I felt like he succumbed to slickness.)

    Steve Pick
    Chuck Eddy Obviously an elastic term, but my memory of house music is painfully shy of anything to latch onto outside the rhythms. Maybe that’s enough, or maybe I just should have gone to a Detroit club.

    Steve Pick
    Alfred Soto Yeah, I’m speaking without really knowing anything – what I heard at the time didn’t interest me, and I’ve never gone back to hear it again. I completely respect you and Chuck, both of whom actually have put in the time to listen to this stuff.

    Alfred Soto
    I do like Amnesia, though!

    Chuck Eddy
    Believe it or not, I hate dance clubs. I do like chant songs though. Anyway, I’m not even sure I’d agree with Alfred that house vocals were anonymous. Plenty were straight out the church, but I loved the ominous pseudo-Euro vocals too.
    And the rhythms were straight-up Chicago barrelhouse boogie-woogie, a direct line back to Albert Ammons and Meade Lux Lewis. But that was *early*; when house turned into just diva music, it mostly lost me.Mike Freedberg wrote about it better than anyone else at the time.

    Alfred Soto
    I hope it’s clear I meant “anonymous” as compliment. Church/choir singers belt you out of the joint without my learning the singers’ names. Freestyle was more assembly line and, for me, even more human.

    Chuck Eddy
    Oh, it was clear. And I do understand what you’re saying.

    Kevin Bozelka
    Songs are for boys.

    Alfred Soto
    favorite Cure song

    Chuck Eddy
    Albums are for boys even more. (Which might explain why I find album lists so much easier to fathom than song lists these days — Well, over the course of history anyway. Present-day singles lists aren’t hard at all.)
    Doesn’t Sara Quell just say songs are some things attached to riffs?
    Frank Kogan on Public Enemy, 1988: “This is boy rock, no girly mush — boys acting IMPORTANT.”

    Kevin Bozelka
    Songs are good when the Go-Betweens do ’em.

    Steve Pick
    Kevin Bozelka or for people with great love for formal constraints when if they are willing to open themselves to new forms every now and again.

    Kevin Bozelka
    Steve Pick, wrong! Just kidding! I love me some Go-Betweens.

    Like

  3. via facebook:

    Steve Pick
    Other than that, though, I was mostly enjoying the Virgin Earthworks compilations you list at numbers 23, 30, and 35, and the hip hop albums at 24, 26, and 28, not to mention your number 31 Art Farmer album I got as a promo when nobody else seemed to care. I remember my aunt complimented me when I played that on my jazz radio show, but she didn’t care for it when I played anything like the Threadgill.

    Steve Pick
    I’m sure I would also list Thin White Rope’s In the Spanish Cave way up in my faves that year. Your number 49, What Up Dog by Was (Not Was) was and remains a fave, too. Otherwise, I’d have to do more research.

    Alfred Soto
    I might move THE GREAT ADVENTURES OF…into the top ten today.

    Chuck Eddy
    I do love parts of it. Really hate parts of it too, though.

    Alfred Soto
    As ever, as ever especially with this album.
    ·
    Mike Freedberg
    1988 was for me very much a transition year. Wasn’t sure where the music was headed or where my affinities would lie. Not until about 1994-95 was I sure.
    Funk was finished, house looked done for (but sure wasn’t), freestyle lost it’s edge, British rock lacked much, and Montreal pop had an off year. Rap was in full refresh mode, not yet newly Sharp (much the same was true in jazz)
    The year’s best album — by far — was Mylene Farmer’s Ainsi soit je. Other than it, there was Sisters of Mercy’s Floodland and also lots of singles that I liked (And still do). Some came from Flemish Belgium (“cold wave”), others from Chicago, many from NYC.

    —–

    Kevin Bozelka
    Chuck Eddy, I never said Spin putting “It Takes Two” at #1 was brave (or if I did, then it was bravery in the face of Boomer indifference/disdain). I said they were flat-out right! It simply is one of the greatest singles of all time; it just is. Even Xgau agrees (see link below). And look, I’m down with you claiming they were being disingenuous *as long as* you have the same reservations when Rolling Stone or whoever does something similar. And if Spin named any of the following singles the greatest ever, then I’d way believe them! And cheer them! And boogie! And cry! 1. T. S. Monk: “Bon Bon Vie” (Mirage 1981)
    2. Culture Club: “Time (Clock of the Heart)” (Epic 1982)
    3. LiLiPUT: “Eisiger Wind” (Rough Trade 1981)
    4. Funky 4 + 1: “That’s the Joint” (Sugarhill 1981)
    5. Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock: “It Takes Two” (Profile 1988)
    6. Madonna: “Like a Prayer” (Sire 1989)
    7. Afrika Bambaataa & the Soul Sonic Force: “Looking For The Perfect Beat” (Tommy Boy 1982)
    8. Paula Abdul: “Cold Hearted” (Virgin 1989)
    9. Big Stick: “Crack Attack” (Buy Our 1987)
    10. Taana Gardner: “Heartbeat” (West End 1981) http://www.robertchristgau.com/get_artist.php?name=rob+base

    Chuck Eddy
    Why wouldn’t I think the same about Rolling Stone? Rolling Stone lists are mostly just boring. And they’ve never been so blatantly grandstandy about it. But sure, as I said in that intro, Rolling Stone have struggled to keep up ever since. I’d love to send them a top 50 anyway, but I don’t have one handy (same reason I never sent them a top 50 album list last year) and don’t know where to start anymore.

    Kevin Bozelka
    Chuck Eddy Just. Making. Sure.

    Chuck Eddy
    I could do a top 50 album list NOW, after I’ve relistened to every decent album ever made over the past few years. (Too late!) With singles, that’d be…difficult.

    Mike Freedberg
    I saw AftikaBambaataa abd his crew live at the Channel in about 1986 or so. One of the two awful-est shows that I have ever seen.
    But yes, two or three great singles

    Mike Freedberg
    “Heartbeat” is definitely. siick

    Chuck Eddy
    But ugggh…..”Like a Prayer,” really??? Doubt I’d put it in Madonna’s top 30.

    Kevin Bozelka
    Chuck Eddy really!

    Chuck Eddy
    Why do you hate disco so much?

    Kevin Bozelka
    Chuck Eddy, why do you hate oral sex so much?

    Chuck Eddy

    Chuck Eddy
    Also, who listens to lyrics?

    Kevin Bozelka
    Chuck Eddy, yeah, lyrics are kinda boyish.

    Steve Pick
    Chuck Eddy Like A Prayer was my gateway back into Madonna via John Wesley Harding’s version of it. (And hey, w what year did Here Comes the Groom come out?)

    Mike Freedberg
    I’m with Chuck re Madonna.
    Not a fan of “Like a Prayer”
    Best album : Ray of Light
    Drove from Bologna to Florence one beautiful day in 1998. Had it on the radio for half the trip. Just magical…

    Chuck Eddy
    I liked Ray of Light enough to Pazz & Jop it the year it came out; may underrate it now since I was dating a crazy new age cult person who dragged me to regular guru sessions at the time (long story), and I tend to associate the album with her. “Like a Prayer”, to me — single, maybe whole album — is like her Sgt. Pepper’s. Best song on Like a Prayer the album is “Keep It Together” (even better in its dance remix but still), which is like her “Family Affair.” Albumwise, honestly don’t think she ever improved on her debut, when she could have been anybody (unless You Can Dance counts). Best song: “Borderline.” Best song not on the debut: “Into the Groove.”

    Mike Freedberg
    Both songs wonderful, but there’s at least three on Ray of Light that lift me to the moon

    ———

    Kevin Bozelka
    P. S. If someone said Macklemore & Ryan Lewis: “Downtown” or How To Dress Well: “Repeat Pleasure (A. G. Cook Remix)” or Childish Gambino: “This Is America” or Miss Prada: “Voodoo Pussy” or Dead Rose Music Company: “Faith” or Beyoncé: “Countdown” was the greatest single of all time, I’d believe them!

    Chuck Eddy
    Are any of those from this year, though? Again, it wasn’t just the “It Takes Two” placement alone that bugged me. It was the overall presentation.

    Kevin Bozelka
    Chuck Eddy ok then 645AR: “Yoga” or Lil Uzi Vert: “You Better Move” or others. Haven’t hunkered down with 2021 releases yet. But there will be great singles this year, natcherly.

    Chuck Eddy
    Never said there wouldn’t be! I’ve never claimed great singles stopped.

    Kevin Bozelka
    Chuck Eddy, right, but you DID claim Spin was disingenuous. SO if SOMEONE said 645AR: “Yoga” was the greatest single of all time less than a year after its release, I’d believe them!

    Chuck Eddy
    Honestly, I’d put my 35++ P&J singles lists up against anybody’s. But if I claimed they erased the previous six+ decades, I’d be an idiot or a liar.

    Kevin Bozelka
    Chuck Eddy oh you.

    Chuck Eddy
    Actually, this IS inspiring me to come up with that all-time top 50 for Rolling Stone, so thanks. (And yes, “That’s the Joint” would still be at the top.)

    Chuck Eddy
    Also, on an individual list, cool. With Spin, it was just about BRANDING.

    Kevin Bozelka
    Chuck Eddy, brand my ass!

    Chuck Eddy
    [Searches for ass-branding emoji.]

    Jaz Jacobi
    Was that the same SPIN that contained the “best movies” list where something like 5% of the choices starred Rowdy Roddy Piper?

    Kevin Bozelka
    Jaz Jacobi no.

    ——–

    Jaz Jacobi
    I can without even scrolling past the top 20 that this list is going to be one long “albums I ONLY own because of the inscrutable influence of Chuck Eddy in my life” list…

    Jaz Jacobi
    I think I own 30 of these NOW [see above], but in the actual year of 1988 I think I only had two of these, and rather predictably they were perhaps the two most canonically respectable choices, Sonic Youth and Public Enemy. [I think I had the Jane’s Addiction LP for a few weeks in 1988, but it sucked so much I got rid of it pretty quick.]

    Jaz Jacobi
    “the cover of Spin‘s allegedly worst-selling issue that April (Sa-Fire)”–interestingly, that issue was one of only maybe 3 or 4 I bought off the stands as new issues in my teens [I picked the bulk of them up later, used]; can’t remember which article motivated me to buy that one? [It took me about another two to three decades to find out whether Sa-Fire herself was a real music act! Freestyle did NOT trickle down into ANY sort of visibility where I lived at the time…]

    Chuck Eddy
    You thought she might be a…hologram??

    Jaz Jacobi
    I don’t know what I thought! It just seemed like the only moment in my youth where I, a person who supposedly kept up with this stuff pretty vigorously, saw someone on the cover of a music magazine in my youth, and yet never detected any real world pre… See More

    Jaz Jacobi
    Fortunately, as an older and out-of-touch person, I now many years of experience under my belt of constantly encountering mentions of very famous musicians I never have heard of personally…

    Like

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