27 Jun 2017
I’ve been hearing this phrase a lot recently, ‘can you believe this album is 20 years old’, whether it a friend reminiscing about our favourite albums growing up, or a radio station celebrating a classic album reaching it’s 20-year mark. This got me thinking, was 1997 truly a great year for albums releases, or is it just that I’m at that age when a lot of my ‘favourite’ albums were released so I’m just noticing this being said more this year. So I’ve looked back through the album releases of 1997 and discovered some truly great albums of their time …
French dance duo Daft Punk released their debut album ‘Homework’ at a time where there was nothing like this being heard, especially in the UK mainstream scene where Britpop had dominated for the last several years. An electro funk sound with elements of house and techno, the stand out tracks being Da Funk and Around The World. Arguably the success of this album paved the way for a French electro invasion, Cassius and Air most notably following with successful UK releases.
Following Music for the Jilted Generation was a hard ask, but the release of The Fat of the Land took The Prodigy to a new level. This album is so fierce, a sort-of Punk crossover, that managed to appeal to the rock and indie kids, but at the same time staying firmly relevant in the dance scene, and even satisfying with various the hip-hop influences. The single releases came with controversy, namely Firestarter and Smack My Bitch Up, but this didn’t stop this album going on to sell over 10 million copies worldwide.
So, this seems like the most obvious choice for a classic album released in 1997, though at the time of release it wasn’t an immediate success. It took the release of A Thousand Trees plus the hype around the booming Welsh rock scene at the time, for the album to be noticed. Putting aside the ‘sing-along pub hits’ feel this album now has, this was a hugely accomplished debut album. The tracks are raw rock indie songs simply telling stories about life in a small Welsh town. Powerful, anthemic songs that people seem to find easy to relate to. Of course, the Stereophonics went on to become one of the biggest rock indie bands of their time, and their success will always come back to this album.
On March 9th 1997 The Notorious B.I.G. was shot in a drive-by shooting in LA and tragically died. He was, and still is touted as one of the greatest rappers of all time. Sixteen days after his death, Biggie Small’s second album, Life After Death, was released posthumously on the planned release date. The album had massive critical acclaim not just from the rap scene, and the huge success of tracks such as Hypnotize, Mo Money Mo Problems and Nasty Boy brought gangsta rap crashing into the mainstream.
By the time 1997 rolled around the Britpop scene was gracefully fading away, and Blur, who were at the heart of the Britpop scene, were moving on. Their self-titled fifth studio album had more of an alt-rock style influence, and the strength of lead tracks Bettlebum and Song 2 meant that this become Blur’s most successful selling album. Blur have continued with the stylistic changes with their subsequent albums, so it’s difficult to compare, but I do feel this album was their best.
Inspired by the 1971 film Vanishing Point, Primal Scream’s fifth studio album of the same name feels like it should be a concept album or the soundtrack to a dark road movie. You can hear several genres running through the album – dub, funk, psychedelia, dance, soul, all coming together to produce an extraordinary piece of work. It’s also the first album to feature Mani formerly of the Stones Roses on bass, which no doubt adds to the pure quality of the album.
18 months after the band had split, The Verve made an unexpected but remarkable comeback and released one of the most incredible pop rock albums of it’s time, Urban Hymns. Anthems such as Bitter Sweet Symphony, The Drugs don’t Work, Luck Man and Sonnet make this album a true classic, gaining huge critical acclaim and going on to sell over 10 million copies worldwide.
The Super Furries 2nd album Radiator is far more accomplished than the rawness of Fuzzy Logic. Moving into a more complex song-writing phase and introducing a mix of genres that just seem to work together perfectly. Even a techno break out in Mountain People completes this incredible album in style. It’s hard to rank the Super Furries albums as each one is so different in terms of style and direction, though Radiator is often, and rightly, deemed as their best piece of work.
And 1997 certainly wasn’t done there, here are some more significant albums released 20 years ago …
Is your favourite album mentioned here? Or do you have another favourite from 1997?