As I compiled the list, I came up with 15 albums, too many for a top 10 obviously. So here are the honorable mentions, the 5 must haves that didn't make it into the top 10. I don't go into as much depth on these as I will on the top 10, but these need to be shared:
- Open Up and Say... Ahh! - Poison
Released May 21, 1988
This album's release was at the start of the summer of 1988, which was a big summer for this list. My friends and I seized on this album from the minute we heard the first single "Nothin But A Good Time". Of course, the biggest hit from this album was "Every Rose Has Its Thorn", a song that resonated with a few of us that summer due to lost loves. This album was in heavy rotation as my buddies and I drove around that summer and did summertime stuff. It was a defining album for that moment in my life. I had been a fan of the band since their first album, but this album established them as legitimate musicians as opposed to "guys that looked like girls that played some catchy songs."
- Slave To The Grind - Skid Row
Released June 11, 1991
From the first time I heard Sebastian Bach sing "Youth Gone Wild" off of Skid's first self-titled album, I was hooked by this band. But it wasn't until they released this album that they blew me away. This album literally blew me away. I had heard the single "Monkey Business" prior to the release of this album, and the song was hard driving like nothing off their first album. So when I picked this up the day it was released, and each tune was just as hard and heavy as the previous, I was floored. I remember now the band saying they set out to make a harder record, something that is opposite of most bands that tended to mellow with each release. Skids managed to do just that, and it makes this album a must-have.
- Operation: Mindcrime - Queensryche
Released May 3, 1988
Another "summer of 88" favorite, this album is just solid from beginning to end. I had never listened to a "concept" album before, and it never really interested me. But as I listened to this album, and each song was so solidly written, recorded and produced, I got drawn into the storyline. As I have aged the themes of that storyline have lost their luster, but as an 18 year-old when it came out this was right in my wheelhouse. I still listen to this album today and enjoy it, and I remember seeing Queensryche play it live in its entirety in the early 90s.
- Trixter - Trixter
Released May 29, 1990
There are some bands that are underrated and never get their due. Trixter is one such band. This album hit at the right time: I had just turned 20 and their music just registered with me. "Only Young Once" in particular, since I felt as if I was transitioning from one phase of life (teens) to another (early adulthood). I defy anyone to listen to this album more than once and not get drawn into the catchiness of these songs. "One In A Million" will always be one of my all time favorite songs. But all of these are enjoyable, and though I had this on cassette originally, I wouldn't have skipped a single track even if I had originally owned this on CD. Their second and last studio recording, "Hear!", got lost in the grunge movement's music industry take-over, but this album is timeless.
- Pride - White Lion
Released June 21, 1987
How this isn't in my top 10 I have no idea. From the fall of 1987 through the spring of 1988 I listened to this album almost exclusively. In fact, a buddy of mine banned this from his car in the spring of 88 because all of them were sick of the album. (They also hated that as every song came on I would announce: "OH! This is my favorite song!") This band is also underrated, and were actually more popular for their next album "Big Game", which wasn't as good in my opinion. Their first album "Fight To Survive" was outstanding, though hard to find. "Pride" though is the album that is a must have. Every song (all my favorites!) is outstanding. And the range of songwriting is better than a lot of bands in the genre. From the acoustic and touching "When The Children Cry", to the poppish "Wait", and to less known cuts like "Don't Give Up" and "Lady Of The Valley", the songs have variety and are all catchy.
Overall, any guitar-oriented rock fans should have these 5 albums in their collection. If you were a child of the 80s, or early 90s, and enjoyed this genre, you should own these albums. All are enjoyable, underrated, and timeless.