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October 26, 2023

Rock redux: Decade defining albums

Ainsley Dwyer
Each decade of the late 20th century has had a subgenre of rock that defined the era. The Sidekick entertainment editor Ainsley Dwyer goes through the years from 20, 30, 40, 50 and 60 years ago to find the best rock album of that year.

Over time, rock music has evolved to new subgenres that define each decade. Comparing what was considered rock in the ‘60s would be laughed at by fans to what was considered rock during the ‘90s. In this version of Rock Redux, I will be going back to 2004, 1994, 1984, 1974 and 1964 to discuss each year’s most underrated rock album. 

2004 – Contraband by Velvet Revolver

With a band consisting of the former drummer, guitarist and bassist of popular hard rock band Guns N’ Roses, this album’s instrumental is already anticipated to be phenomenal. This album is a hard rock masterpiece and vocals by Scott Weiland bring the instrumental to their full potential and that is what makes this a good album.

The steady pulse of the bass by Duff McKagan, the hypnotizing guitar clashing that beautifully works by Slash and Dave Kushner of Wasted Youth and the fast-paced drumming of Matt Sorum is what bring the album together into a nice little bow for Weiland to create vocals that are the cherry on top to this album.

It is similar but different from Guns N’ Roses: it still has the classic hard rock yet has influence of grunge and punk added onto it that brings something familiar but new. The singing of Guns N’ Roses is something belonging to the 1980s and the singing of Contraband has a visible influence of grunge and punk such as Nirvana and Kurt Cobain.

My favorite of the album is “Big Machine” because of its catchy rhythm and meaningful lyrics about being a star and choosing the life of being famous at the cost of being “tied to the big machine.

1994 – Strategem by Big Head Todd and the Monsters

I had never heard of this band until my dad and I were in Josey Records in Farmers Branch last year. He found the tab saying “Big Head Todd and the Monsters” under the Rock CDs section of the store. He pulls up the album Sister Sweetly and points to a blond man on the right who I learned played bass for the band, Rob Squires. 

“That’s Uncle John’s childhood best friend.” 

As soon as we got home, I searched up the band and went on a deep dive and played their music in the back to listen to the kind of music they had made. While reading how all the members went to my mom’s high school in Littleton, Colo or the album my dad showed me went platinum, I realized I was enjoying jamming to the music.

I first listened to Sister Sweetly and eventually listened to this album, Strategem. I immediately fell in love. This album is a good mix of alternative and country rock. They have good instrumentals and amazing vocals by Todd Park Mohr that flow the album into a continuous wave. 

With lovely guitar against pulsating drums from drummer Brian Nevin, this album works well to AirPlay while cleaning your room or bumping your head as you walk through the hallway. And though you have to be seeking it to hear it, the bass by Squires is the piece of this magnificent puzzle that would fall apart without him. 

My favorite of the album “Neckbreak” is the fourth least streamed of the album. The song is full of incredible guitar and rhythmic drums against the growling of the bass. This is a good album to play at a family barbecue or cleaning your house with its flow of guitar and drums with a bit of a country twang to it, similar to Kid Rock.

1984 – Last In Line by Dio

When you think of hard rock or metal of the 1980s, Van Halen, Guns N’ Roses or Bon Jovi may pop into your mind. But Dio is a band that does not earn enough credit for their incredible contribution to the rock genre during the 1980s. 

Guitarist Vivian Campbell stand out throughout the album and continuously shined through his amazing shredding and his ability to blend with the beats of drummer Vinny Appice and create a phenomenal instrumental for lead singer Ronnie James Dio. It is hard to describe how incredible Campbell and Appice sound playing together. 

My favorite song off the album is a tie between “Breathless” and “One Night in the City.” Both have remarkable guitar and good fun rhythm. The vocals of James Dio is what makes this album and these songs shine in a decade of incredible music.

Songs are typically fast paced, and I can only imagine how they sound live. However, a few of the songs had a slow tempo that I often find myself bopping my head to while listening. 

If you enjoy the classic metal and hard rock bands of the 1980s, I strongly recommend giving this album and Dio a listen.

1974 – Red by King Crimson

While being close to 40 minutes long, this album’s tracklist consists of five songs. The shortest is 6:08 minutes long. 

The shortest one is my favorite. It may be one of the greatest songs I have ever heard. The song “Fallen Angel” tells the story of a man who grieves for his brother who joined a gang in New York City who had been stabbed to death. 

King Crimson does not get enough recognition for their amazing instrumental talent. Bill Bruford deserves more attention as a drummer. The guitar of Robert Fripp blends beautifully with Bruford. And though most of the album time is instrumental, the vocals and bass of John Wetton makes this album flow easy and create songs to get lost into. 

King Crimson has had six lead vocalists and nine drummers but none compare to Wetton and Bruford. Their talents blend naturally to create a harmonious melody. With features of saxophones, violin, cornet, oboe and cello, this album creates an unexpected but beautiful mixture of jazz and heavy rock. 

This album remains in my top three on my list of the best albums I have ever heard. Relistening to it and taking notes, one word became almost annoying by how much I wrote it down: beautiful. It is hard to describe this album as anything without using that word. It is a work of hypnotizing melodies and the long length of the songs pass by in a flash once you fall into the alternate universe that is Red by King Crimson.

1964 – The Animals by The Animals 

The Animals is an album most known for containing the band’s biggest hit “House Of The Rising Sun.” Yet, those who do not continue to listen to the album are truly missing out on some amazing folk and blues rock.

The vocals by Eric Burdon are hauntingly beautiful and hypnotizing the listeners through the raspy yet soothing voice he brings to the songs. The instrumentals create a fun backing that Burdon is able to work well off of. There is heavy influence by The Beatles and yet The Animals are still able to work it well and create something for itself.

I would describe the rest of the album after “House Of The Rising Sun” as the perfect pick for background music in a high school movie made or set in the ‘50s to mid-‘60s with a prom or spring fling dance scene. It just feels like a good album to jam to and have fun with. 

My favorite songs of the album are “The Right Time” and “Memphis, Tennessee” because of their beautiful instrumentals and Burdon’s exceptional singing. He has a deep, blues-rock voice that makes him stand out from other singers of this era. 

Follow Ainsley (@ainsleydwyer) and @CHSCampusNews on X.

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About the Contributor
Ainsley Dwyer
Ainsley Dwyer, Entertainment Editor
Ainsley Dwyer is a junior and the entertainment editor of The Sidekick. In her free time, you can find her hanging out with her friends, listening to dad music, watching her favorite movies, or hanging out with her dogs. She is a raging theatre kid and will sing showtunes at any given moment if it pops into her mind. You can email her at [email protected].

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