The year began with 4,000 tons of toxic waste being dumped in Haiti and ended with Pan Am Flight 103 being blown up over Lockerbie, Scotland, but not everything that happened in 1988 was negative. America was transitioning out of the Reagan years and beginning to see cracks in the Iron Curtain that would eventually lead to further transparency in Eastern Europe. If that wasn’t significant enough, Stephen Hawking published “A Brief History of Time,” the Jamaican bobsled team debuted in Calgary, and Kirk Gibson gifted us one of Vin Scully’s greatest calls when he hit a walk-off home run in Game 1 of the World Series.
Another thing that happened in ’88 is that I was born on May 25. When I reflect on the past 35 years, a slew of emotions rise to the surface, but regret is not one of them. I’ve made sacrifices to build a life, family, and career I can be proud of, and I’d like to believe that I’ve done a good job of staying the course even when it feels as if the universe is out to get me.
Accompanying my reflections this week will be the albums that I consider to be my favorites from what the Chinese Zodiac refers to as the “Year of the Dragon.”
Are they all universally lauded as the best of that year?
Maybe, maybe not, but they’re the ones that continue to move me after all this time.
Queensrÿche – “Operation: Mindcrime:
The singing, playing, and writing are flawless, but it’s also one of the rare concept albums in which the story doesn’t sound ridiculous out of context.
Metallica – “…And Justice For All”
The first release without Cliff is a snarling and salient critique of a society that isn’t quite as equitable as it claims to be.
Tracy Chapman – “Tracy Chapman”
There weren’t a ton of mainstream artists talking about a revolution in the ’80s, but Chapman’s debut is as honest as it gets.
Public Enemy – “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back”
PE’s definitive statement is also my choice for the greatest hip hop album of all time.
The Church – “Starfish”
Vh1 once had “Under the Milky Way” as one of the greatest one-hit wonders of the ’80s, which is an insult to everything this band did before and has done since this ethereal classic.
King’s X – “Out of the Silent Planet”
The title of the album comes from C.S. Lewis, but the music contained within it comes from three guys whose reputation as “musician’s musicians” was just getting started.
Roxette – “Look Sharp!”
Big, bright pop was a staple of the decade and this is one of my favorites of the bunch.
Living Colour – “Vivid”
Vernon Reid’s guitar histrionics hooked me right away, but I’ve come to appreciate the songwriting and Corey Glover’s vocals more as I’ve gotten older.
Helloween – “Keeper of the Seven Keys, Part II”
European power metal is an acquired taste, but, if you’re at all curious, here’s a good place to start.
Jane’s Addiction – “Nothing’s Shocking”
The first mainstream alternative rock record and a must-have for anyone’s collection.
Honorable Mentions – Iron Maiden – “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son,” Ozzy Osbourne – “No Rest for the Wicked,” Traveling Wilburys – “Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1,” Pixies – “Surfer Rosa,” and Big Daddy Kane – “Long Live the Kane”
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