1. PEARL JAM - "Alive"
When Pearl Jam's "TEN" was released in 1991, I didn't blink an eye. I was not what you would consider a fan of the "Grunge" movement. I had grown up with Progressive Rock, 70's AOR and 80's New Wave... the epitome of polished music. When Seattle began pumping out a new generation of bands that were giving the 80's music establishment the middle finger, I was less than enthused. I still remember the time in 1994 when I finally caved in and gave the album a listen. It was this song, ALIVE, that sucked me in. More specifically, it was the guitar. The thing that sets Pearl Jam apart from their peers (yes, Nirvana, I'm looking at you) was the fact that the members of the band were truly good musicians. Now, before you Nirvana lovers become Zeke haters, keep in mind that I have a lot of respect for Dave Grohl. A LOT of respect. He's talented. 'Nuff said.
2. SUN 60 - "Never Seen God"
Around the same time that Pearl Jam's "Alive" was finding it's way under my skin, another American band was doing the same thing. SUN 60 was a band that had a couple of minor Alternative hits before once again sinking back into obscurity. From Salt Lake City radio standards, "Merry X-Mess" was probably the biggest hit, but this track, "Never Seen God" was the one that knocked my socks off. At the time, I was employed at Franklin Quest (now Franklin Covey) and would spend my day rocking out to discs on my Discman. I still remember the afternoon that I blasted this song, and kept pushing repeat... repeat... repeat. And, if that wasn't enough, I ended up having the pleasure of seeing them live. You think their charismatic singer can rock a microphone... you should see what she can do to a flugelhorn.
3. INSPIRAL CARPETS - "Two Worlds Collide"
The more I reflect on this portion of the mix, the more I realize that it is a mid-90's streak of songs... Porcupine Tree excluded. The mid-90's were an era of Brit-Pop. Bands like Blur, Oasis, Bush and others were beginning to erupt onto the music scene. Grunge was beginning to fade, and we were once again returning to a more structured sound. In the Brit-Pop movement, there were specific pockets... such as the "Manchester Sound". If I'm not mistaken, Inspiral Carpets were part of that group of bands. This song is still, to this day, one of my favorite songs of all time. I could never hear it enough. I don't know what it was... or is... that screams out to me, apart from the beautiful noise that erupts during the chorus. Whatever it is... it works.
4. PORCUPINE TREE - "Shesmovedon"
Again, anyone that knows me... or knows my love of music... knows my love of Porcupine Tree. To briefly explain my background with this band, I was an avid fan of No-Man (a parallel project from British musician, Steven Wilson) back in the mid 90's. As the 20th Century turned into the 21st Century, computer technology had expanded to include the wide use of mp3 files, not to mention file sharing services like Napster and Audio Galaxy. The latter was my choice of downloading options. The critics of these sites cited that the ability to download music for free was killing the music industry. For me, this could not be farther from the truth. In 2001, I finally decided I would investigate the music of Porcupine Tree, one of the "other" projects by Mr. Steven Wilson. I downloaded 16 tracks from Audio Galaxy, and compiled them all onto an mp3 CD. Upon my first listen, I was blown away by 15 of the 16 tracks. Being that I worked at a CD store, I promptly began ordering anything that was available by the band. Take that, critics of file sharing! Said sites actually INSPIRED me to purchase what would eventually become hundreds of dollars of purchases by this one amazing band.
Shortly after 9/11, I think I am safe to say that everyone's day-to-day life became more surreal. Experiences became more pronounced. To me, music did, too. One of the first Porcupine Tree albums to arrive was "Lightbulb Sun", which featured this song. I will never forget the first Saturday in October of that year. It's the day that I was first hit by this song. I listened to it over and over, become more and more consumed by the guitar solo. It wasn't that the solo was particularly technical or beautiful.... just moving. To this day, it still remains one of my favorite Porcupine Tree songs.
5. THE VERVE - "Sonnet"
Another mid-90's gem.... "Sonnet", by The Verve, has remained one of my favorite songs from the era, not to mention one of the first songs that I learned after picking up the guitar. There is nothing more to say..... it's a Pop masterpiece.