Hard Rock Music Time Machine – 5/26/16 – May Theme…The Year 1991
Each Thursday, Hard Rock Music Time Machine takes a journey back in time to feature a variety of songs that date back as far as the ’70s, the ’80s (the glory days of hard rock), hidden gems of the ’90s and hard rock/metal songs of the new millennium (as recent as a few years ago).
Whenever possible, it will also contain interviews from featured artists discussing the inspiration and meaning behind their songs. On the last Thursday of each month, we will be doing special themes that feature songs based on specific categories or years.
This month’s special theme is the year 1991, which was chosen for specific reasons. For fans of ’80s hard rock and heavy metal, this was the year that one era ended and a new one began. This stark transition is more notable than the typical changing of a decade because of the seismic shift that took place towards the end of the year.
In addition to appearing on the embedded YouTube playlist below, all songs featured on Hard Rock Music Time Machine can be listened to individually by clicking on the hyper-linked song titles above each review.
ADAM WALDMAN – (Publisher, Hard Rock Daddy)
LENNY KRAVITZ – “It Ain’t Over Til Its Over” (1991)
We tend to group musical time periods by decades. However, 1991 is notable because it created a line of demarcation, due mostly to the grunge movement that would alter the hard rock music landscape for a good portion of the ‘90s. The debate rages on as to whether Nirvana was the cause of this seismic shift in the genre. My personal belief is that they set the wheels in motion at the very least.
The summer of 1991 is memorable for personal reasons, so it’s understandable why some of my favorite songs from that year helped to form an indelible soundtrack of a time and place in my life. However, the summer of ’91 was an important time in general for hard rock because it was the end of an era that focused on an upbeat, feel-good mindset. What would follow is a darker, more angst-ridden period that, quite frankly, was more than a little depressing.
Lenny Kravitz may not the be the first name that comes to mind when you think of hard rock, but having seen him perform live in the fall of ’91, I can tell you that his show rocked more than many artists who are considered heavier than him. “It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over” was going to be featured anyway, but this decisioin was validated when it was announced that Kravitz will be the supporting act on some of the upcoming Guns N’ Roses reunion shows. Like Prince (but with much less fanfare) Kravitz’s appeal in the hard rock world is undeniable. His entire 1991 sophomore album (Mama Said) is outstanding. The lead single on the album (“Always On The Run”) is a heavier track, but “It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over” got the nod because of its meaning to me. This one is a very special dedication to a journey that began 25 years ago.
MR. BIG – “To Be With You” (1991)
Although Mr. Big’s sophomore album (Lean Into It) was released in the spring of ’91, it is also an album that brings back memories of the summer of that year, especially “To Be With You.” The closing track to a memorable album is arguably one of the greatest power ballads of all-time. Songs like this were a staple of the decade that preceded its release, however, in what seems like one fell swoop, they simply disappeared from the mainstream.
Even though this song falls well within the category of power ballad, there is something about it that differentiates it from most. Perhaps it is the soulful vocals of Eric Martin or the beauty of the harmonies in the chorus. Or maybe, it is the fact that the acoustic instrumentation never deviates into the shredding guitar solos that defined most ‘80s power ballads.
Like the Lenny Kravitz track above, this song holds special meaning to me and always takes me back to the summer of ’91 whenever I hear it. If you’re a fan of ‘80s hard rock and metal, power ballads never go out of style, but they do have a definitive sound of the decade. Because “To Be With You” didn’t feature all of the usual elements of a power ballad, it manages to avoid sounding “dated” even when it comes on the radio today. A lot has changed since this song came out 25 years ago, but thankfully, some things have stayed the same. This one will always be a classic and a personal favorite.
ANDY CHEUNG – HRD Music Scout
INFECTIOUS GROOVES – “Therapy” (1991)
Funk in metal? That’s never been done before! Anyone familiar with Infectious Grooves knew what a great supergroup they were in 1991, and were NOT hair metal nor grunge. Fronted by Mike Muir of Suicidal Tendencies, a young Robert Trujillo (now In Metallica), Adam Siegel from Excel, Stephen Perkins from Jane’s Addiction and a host of guest guitarists and vocalists including Ozzy Osbourne, Infectious Grooves was a funky heavy metal party. Their album The Plague That Makes Your Booty Move…It’s the Infectious Grooves is an essential in your metal collection. I miss 1991, a time when everyone didn’t take themselves so seriously.
SEPULTURA – “Arise” (1991)
One of the founding fathers of modern death/thrash metal is Brazil’s Sepultura. Founded in 1984 by Max Cavalera (vocals and guitar), Igor Cavalera (drums), Andreas Kisser (lead guitar) and Paulo Jr. (bass). “Arise” (the title track off of the band’s fourth studio album) was released during a time when metal was dominated by big hair and spandex on one spectrum, and flannel shirts and cargo shorts on the other. This song is the epitome of great thrash metal; the crunchy, fast guitars, drum fills from hell, low gruff vocals and a memorable guitar riff throughout the whole song. Everybody scream with me…“I see the world old!! I see the world dead!!!”
ROB DELL’AQUILA – HRD Music Scout
CRIMSON GLORY – “Deep Inside Your Heart” (1991)
Progressive metal pioneers Crimson Glory brought us this moving power ballad back in 1991. The band’s amazingly talented frontman, Midnight, died in 2009. He was replaced for a stretch by Todd La Torre, who has since gone on to front Queensryche following their breakup with Geoff Tate.
YES – “Saving My Heart” (1991)
In 1991, then current members of YES (Chiris Squire, Trevor Rabin, Tony Kaye, and Alan White) came together with past members (Jon Anderson, Bill Bruford, Rick Wakeman, Steve Howe) to release Union. The album was a collection of songs by both, but with no overlap between the two groups. This beautiful ballad was written by Trevor Rabin and performed by his group, who were then the current members.
CHRIS HERZEGOVITCH – HRD Music Scout
BADLANDS – “The Last Time” (1991)
1991 saw the second album from Badlands, led by the legendary vocalist Ray Gillen and guitarist Jake E. Lee. “The Last Time” is a track that showcases their fantastic, bluesy metal style. Lee’s continuously active guitar work, along with Gillen’s emotional vocals, makes this rueful track a great kickoff to the Voodoo Highway album.
ARMORED SAINT – “Last Train Home” (1991)
One of Armored Saint’s best has it all…great vocals, rhythm, guitars (especially the solo), and an introspective message that urges the start something new: “It’s a sign to make a change among the platform crowd, words clear as clouds say you can’t remain the same…” This track is from Armored Saint’s lauded Symbol of Salvation album, which is ranked 424 in Rock Hard magazine’s book of The 500 Greatest Rock & Metal Albums of All-Time.