Before 1993, Tower Records and Honolulu-based Jelly’s were my primary sources for music, but my demands as a customer were … specialized. A lot of music about which I was curious just wasn’t carried at the local stores.
Then I was told about online music shops available through telnet. Yes, before there was ever an Amazon.com or even a World Wide Web, there were merchants leveraging the power of the Internet. For a time, I did a lot of selling and buying on rec.music.marketplace.cd, while CDConnection, Music Boulevard and CDNow were accessible through telnet before each launched a web presence.
Because I lived in Hawaiʻi, shipping costs tended to offset any discounts these sites offered, but the ability to bypass the limited stock of local shops felt empowering. It seems passé now, especially in a post-Napster/iPod era, but even the hint of greater access to a world of music was thrilling. A few of the items on this list wouldn’t have been acquired any other way.
Musicwhore.org Favorite Edition 1994
Talitha Mackenzie, Solas
You have to hand it to someone who can suss out the commonalities between Scottish waulking songs and mouth music with Jamaican dancehall and Bulgarian women’s choirs. Solas brings ancient and modern together in a way that didn’t feel contrived, and Mackenzie does an amazing job navigating the quick melodies.
Freedy Johnston, This Perfect World
For his major label debut, Freedy Johnston scaled back the rough abandon of his critically-acclaimed second album, Can You Fly? Butch Vig produced the album and in typical fashion polished up Johnston’s sound. Johnston sounds really beautiful when he’s not trying to rock it out, and This Perfect World has some of his best writing.
Wayne Horvitz/Pigpen, V as in Victim
Just listen to the podcast.
Harry Connick, Jr., She
Fans wanting to pigeonhole Connick as a crooner really did not like this album. I picked it up because it wasn’t a crooner album.
Guided By Voices, Bee Thousand
Is this really an album or a lo-fi collage? Although containing 20 some odd tracks, Bee Thousand is a little more than half an hour long. Some tracks pop in and out like snatches of an idea, but somehow the entire disc holds together. Guided By Voices would go on to record more traditional albums, but this demo quality masterpiece leverages its limitations in all the right ways.
Everything But the Girl, Amplified Heart
Before Todd Terry’s remix of "Missing" would turn Everything But the Girl into a Saturday Night Live staple, the husband-wife duo recorded jazz-pop albums along the lines of Basia and Sade. Amplified Heart would be the last of such albums before the pair remodeled their sound, and it was a strong send-off.
Kronos Quartet, Night Prayers
Night Prayers focused on composers from Central Asia, and it’s probably Kronos’ darkest album next to Black Angels. Pieces from Franghiz Ali-Zade, Sofia Gubaidulina, Giya Kancheli and Dmitri Yanov-Yanovsky lean heavily toward the dense and dramatic.
Jayne Cortez and the Firespitters, Cheerful & Optimistic
John Zorn/Masada, Alef
As inscrutable as John Zorn can get on some of his compositions, he’s still a sharp melodicist. The first of 10 Masada albums finds the Ornette Coleman-like group riffing on some of Zorn’s catchiest hooks.
Madonna, Bedtime Stories
Madonna was really trying people’s patience around the time of Erotica, what with her coffee table book Sex and an obnoxious appearance on David Letterman. Bedtime Stories showed up in relative modesty, although I think the OJ Simpson trial pretty much drowned out everything else around that time. The album itself is perhaps Madonna’s most restrained, the excess of Erotica streamlined to a sleek R&B sound. Björk even pens the title track for the album. Madonna originally wanted Björk to write the entire album, but Björk declined. I wish I had my old issues of Pulse! magazine readily available — Björk has some real money quotes about why she didn’t want to work with Madonna.