Top 20 Hair Metal Albums of the Eighties
WINGER—Winger (1988) Endless vilification on Beavis and Butt-Head has insured that the Winger name can never be fully rehabilitated. Nevertheless, it would be cruel (but not unusual) to deny songs like “Seventeen,” “Madalaine” and “Headed for a Heartbreak” their due. Propelled by the fusion-honed chops of drummer Rod Morgenstein and guitarist Reb Beach’s Vai-like fluidity, Winger were actually in it for the music as well as the money, and the group never failed to throw at least one flawlessly executed prog-rock stunt into their otherwise slick pop ditties. All that said, the totally deplorable cover of Jimi Hendrix’ “Purple Haze” that soils this disc almost makes you feel like Kip and the boys got what they deserved.
EXTREME—Extreme (1989) Aerosmith they weren’t, but Extreme’s flawless musicianship, spot-on backing vocals and white-boy funk grooves, plus guitarist Nuno Bettencourt’s total domination of his instrument ensured that this hard-workin’ quartet would forever be remembered as Boston’s second best hard rock band. There’s nary a clunker on the group’s 1989 debut, and the mildly rebellious “Mutha (Don’t Wanna Go to School Today)” succeeds admirably in ripping off Van Halen’s “Spanish Fly,” “Eruption” and “Unchained” in one fell swoop.
Skid Row—Skid Row (1989) While they started out as meek protégés of Don Jon Bon Jovi, Jersey’s Godfather of Metal, this album, propelled by the riotous “Youth Gone Wild” and the “guns don’t kill people, screwed-up teens with guns kill people” ballad “18 and Life,” would quickly prove that Skid Row didn’t need to ride on anybody’s coattails for long. Vocalist Sebastian Bach quickly established that his good looks and the almost offensive power of his bullet-proof voice were only two of his three most important attributes—the third, of course, being his uncanny and totally sociopathic ability to get into shitloads of trouble. Others may disagree, but in my book, Skid Row were the real rock and roll deal; down-and-dirty working-class kids with the gift of riff.
THE CULT—Sonic Temple (1989) Were they a goth band? A new wave quartet? An AC/DC tribute outfit? All of the above, actually. After shape-shifting more times than that weird-looking alien on Deep Space 9, the Cult finally settled into a lushly produced hard-rock groove that suited Ian Astbury’s “I am the lizard king on steroids” voice and Billy Duffy’s bag of admirably well-recycled Jimmy Page licks to a perfect tee. Produced impeccably by Bob Rock, the King Midas ofmetal, Sonic Temple was one of the last great hair metal records or, perhaps, the first real neo-metal album. Thanks to the recent rise of cock-rock revivalists like Buckcherry and Loudmouth, Temple tracks like “Fire Woman,” “Sweet Soul Sister” and “New York City” sound uncannily au-courant 10 years after their release.
MÖTLEY CRÜE—Dr. Feelgood (1989) While Kurt Cobain was sitting in his bedroom plotting the demise of all things hair, Mötley Crüe were hard at work recording what would prove to be their magnum opus. With the infallible Bob Rock kicking their collective asses into maximum overdrive, the group reached new heights. The greatly underrated Mick Mars dished out sizzling guitar tones and ultra tasty solos. Vince Neil found his inner voice. And bassist/songwriter Nikki Sixx perfected his already rock-solid riff-writing. “Dr. Feelgood,” “Kickstart My Heart,” “Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)” and “She Goes Down” are as good as pop metal ever got, and the album’s undeniable quality was reflected in its blockbuster sales. Say what you will, but Mötley Crüe made sure that the Eighties went down in a blaze of glory.
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