Back in March, each of us set out to pick 100 of our favorite albums. The intention was simply to focus on personal favorites rather than trying to pick a list of the 100 greatest albums of all-time.
When we got done with those lists, we compared our choices, and 12 of our picks were the same. So we decided to rank those 12 picks in order and present them in descending order from No. 12 to No. 1. Today we present No. 10.
- Chuck Cox and Kendall Webb
ALBUM OF THE DAY
Grave Dancers Union (1992)
"Somebody To Shove," "Runaway Train," "Black Gold," "Without a Trace" and "The Sun Maid"
This is an album that Kendall and I have always considered a favorite and enjoyed together more times than I can count. Although it is Soul Asylum's sixth studio album, it was my first exposure to the Minneapolis band's music. Especially from a lyrical standpoint, I had never heard anything like it. Even when I listen to Grave Dancer's Union today, I find it hard to believe it was released during my junior year of college because it still sounds so fresh and creative. In fact, "Trying to do the right thing, play it straight. The right thing changes from state to state," from "Without a Trace," is one of my all-time favorite lyrics. That's just one example of the greatness of lead singer Dave Pirner's immense songwriting prowess. Music has the ability to take you back to a particular time and place in your mind, and this album never fails to make me reminisce about being in college. Soul Asylum is still cranking out solid records, including this year's aptly-titled Hurry Up and Wait, but this gem remains closest to my heart.
This album dropped in May of 1992 just as Chuck and I were wrapping up our final semester at Kilgore College, a junior college located in East Texas. By that time, we had been sharing music for almost two years, and we both had big dreams and plans. Chuck was headed to Nacogdoches, Texas, in the fall to continue his journalism studies at Stephen F. Austin State University, and I was headed to Austin to do the same at the University of Texas at Austin.
But we had some time to enjoy this record together before we hit the road to our respective destinations, and this album is part of the soundtrack of that summer and that general era of my life. As for the music itself, Dave Pirner sounds like a punk rocker fronting a pretty damn good alternative rock band, and that's pretty much what was happening. Grave Dancers Union was Soul Asylum's sixth album, and the band were veterans of the town's adventurous punk rock scene. The album represented a make-or-break moment for the band after being dropped by A&M after three underperforming records. They were signed to Columbia on a rare second-chance major-label deal, and man, did they ever make it. Fueled by the success of the runaway hit "Runaway Train," the album went on to sell three million copies and represents the best collection of songs the band ever committed to tape.
Looking back, one of the more surprising elements of the record's sound was the undeniable country-rock tinge of several songs including "Runaway Train." It's even more apparent in a song like "Homesick" which could almost pass for a Jayhawks' cut. In fact, both bands were based in Minneapolis, and were connected in even deeper ways as you'll see in our bonus album below.
BONUS ALBUM OF THE DAY
Down By The Old Mainstream (1995)
Why I Love It
Golden Smog is a fairly obscure supergroup that has featured members of Soul Asylum, The Replacements, The Jayhawks, Wilco, The Honeydogs and Big Star at various times.
After releasing the EP On Golden Smog in 1992, the band issued its proper debut in 1995 with this release featuring Pirner, Soul Asylum's frontman, along with Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, Gary Louris of The Jayhawks and others. It's a relaxed affair of Midwestern roots-rock that the frontmen all perfected in their home bands before coming together here.
"Glad & Sorry," "He's A Dick" and "Radio King"