Here is part two of why I consider 1987 an influential year in music, for me personally at least. (Part one, in case you missed it …)
Kronos Quartet, White Man Sleeps
The second major label release from Kronos Quartet got a lot of favorable ink, and the press was really in awe of a classical music ensemble that defied its audience’s traditions. No formal wear? Scandal! I was attracted by the idea of a group that didn’t discriminate against any particular kind of music. Jimi Hendrix and Ornette Coleman belonged on the same program as Kevin Volans and Béla Bartók. White Man Sleeps is not my favorite Kronos recording — that would go to Black Angels — but it arrived at an opportune time. For a teenager looking for some kind of music to alienate everyone around him, White Man Sleeps was perfect.
Sinéad O’Connor, The Lion and the Cobra
When everyone went apeshit over Sinéad O’Connor’s cover of "Nothing Compares 2 U", I was wondering, "Where were you fuckers for her first album?" I actually found I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got disappointing as compared to The Lion and the Cobra. The production wasn’t as rich. The Lion and the Cobra, on the other hand, had some intense moments — "Troy", "Never Get Old", "Jerusalem". I Do Not Want … felt maudlin by comparison.
Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris, Trio
I didn’t listen to this album till a good eight years later, when I was heavy into Emmylou Harris’ Wrecking Ball. Back in high school, I would have scoffed at country music, like any good Hawaiʻi local would do. In college, I was far more receptive, and I was enamored of Wrecking Ball. So I started to explore Harris’ back catalog, which included Trio. Man, what a super group. It helps the material chosen from the album does a superior job of highlighting the combined firepower of their three voices. Ronstadt’s turn on "Telling Me Lies" is quite the apex. There’s a bit of a mondegreen I keep hearing: when Ronstadt sings the line, "You don’t know what a man is until you have to please one", I keep thinking she’s going to sing "You don’t know what a man is until you have to be one."
I don’t know if signing with a major label did R.E.M. any favors. Document was the last album the band recorded for I.R.S., and by then, R.E.M. had evolved from subtle country-rock to bombastic country post-punk. The eccentricities of Document were something of a far cry from the subdued charms of Murmur. I would only discover this distinction much later in life. Back then, I had gotten into Green, and I had only started exploring R.E.M.’s catalog.
(To be continued …)