5 Memorable Albums Released 35 Years Ago This Month

May 1989 proved to be a pretty fruitful time for great music. While the pop charts were dominated by songs that tended to lean heavily on production while skimping a bit on the substance, you could still find artists releasing albums that relied on sharp songwriting and inventive, dynamic instrumentation.

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In fact, it wasn’t easy narrowing this list to only five albums. Let’s take a look at the choices.

Disintegration by The Cure

While the other albums on this list—and some of the others that barely missed the cut—are quite notable, Disintegration by The Cure stands apart in that you’ll often find it on all-time surveys. And deservedly so. Robert Smith found the band lineup that could perfectly express the intricacies of his songwriting. And what a set of songs he turned out. It’s a testament to Smith’s sense of hooks that gloomy tracks like “Lovesong” and “Pictures of You” became radio staples. Go even deeper into the album and you’ll find a cohesive, magnificent treatise on living with unresolved sorrow.

Big Daddy by John Mellencamp

John Mellencamp famously protested about not wanting to be a “Pop Singer” on this record (and he still came away with a Top 15 smash with the bilious song). To prove his point, he steered away from anything fancy or au courant production-wise, instead focusing on the chemistry of the studio pros that he had assembled as his steady backing band. He also didn’t worry too much about writing confessional stuff, instead tossing off empathetic character sketches of folks from all walks of life. Most moving of all: the birth-to-death tale of “Jackie Brown.”

The Miracle by Queen

The lads in Queen had gone three years without making an album before returning with The Miracle in 1989. In the interim, Freddie Mercury was diagnosed with HIV, a fact he disclosed to the band but not to the world at large. And you never would have guessed at any deep dark secrets eating at the group based on the evidence of this record. It’s mostly filled with stomping uptempo numbers that project irreverence and defiance. What it lacks in obvious pop hooks (save for the glorious “I Want It All”), it makes up for with its unmitigated thrust and instrumental excellence.

The Other Side of the Mirror by Stevie Nicks

Stevie Nicks always found a way to pick up her solo career where it left off, even when it was interrupted by her return engagements with Fleetwood Mac. Four years after Rock a Little in 1985 and two years after Mac simultaneously triumphed and imploded on Tango in the Night, she fired back with a typically sharp bunch of tracks that sounded current without bowing too much to trends. Mike Campbell and Rick Nowels pitched in as co-writers, but Nicks’ sensibilities shone through always on an album full of pleasant surprises, such as the Bruce Hornsby duet “Two Kinds of Love.”

White Limozeen by Dolly Parton

Dolly Parton had focused on crossing over to the pop world for the better part of the ’80s. But when it became increasingly difficult for country stars to make that jump in the MTV-dominated era, and her diminishing returns from her efforts to do so started to pile up, Parton made the wise decision to go back to her musical roots. On White Limozeen, her comfort level is audible, as is her enthusiasm for the project. The bluegrass cover of REO Speedwagon’s “Time for Me to Fly” was a hoot, but the heart of the album came from her original ballads “Yellow Roses” and “What Is It My Love.”

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