College Countdown: 90FM’s Top 90 of 1989, 44 and 43

44. R.E.M., Green

When R.E.M. released the album Green in 1988, fans immediately took note of the greater directness to the songs, especially when it came to some of the political messages the Athens band was trying to convey. It even marked the first time the band included printed lyrics with the packaging of the album, although it was only for one song, the potent “World Leader Pretend.” With that in mind, one of the interpretations of the album’s title is that its a reference to the environmental movement that several of the band members were becoming more deeply involved with at the time of the recording. They were so dedicated to the cause, in fact, that Georgia Senator Wyche Fowler helped organize a benefit in Washington to honor those efforts. All that praise doesn’t mean the band can’t discern some hypocrisy in their advocacy. As lead singer Michael Stipe put it: “There are huge contradictions when pop stars support environmental causes. On one hand, the arts and entertainment industry has always offered society and alternative way of looking at itself–the political cutting edge has always been expressed through the arts, whether painting, music, theater or film. And yet, taking the music industry as an example, there’s a tremendous amount of environmentally destructive waste–my entire career is based on vinyl and plastic.” Of course, wrestling with those sorts of contradictions is one of the chief ways that artists find their way to their best work, an outcome that’s clearly the case with Green, which stands as one of the band’s finest.

43. Jackson Browne, World in Motion

Jackson Browne has been politically involved for years, but his music took a sharp turn into forceful expresofsion of his views with the 1986 album Lives in the Balance, an album so thoroughly in line with his views that even the sleeve reversed the usual design to have its opening for the vinyl on the left. That commitment with the follow-up, World in Motion, released in the summer of 1989. Recruiting friends like Bonnie Raitt, David Crosby and Sly and Robbie, Browne took aim at the injustices he saw across the planet while still holding out some level of hope that inspired patriots can change things for the better. That’s what prevented the record from turning into a mere diatribe. It was just a more preserved version of Browne’s contributions to No Nukes concerts and Amnesty International concert tours. If albums are a songwriter’s primary goal is provide moving expressions of self then Jackson Browne made sure he was explaining his views loud and clear in the grooves of his records.

90 and 89
88 and 87
86 and 85
84 and 83
82 and 81
80 and 79
78 and 77
76 and 75
74 and 73
72 and 71
70 and 69
68 and 67
66 and 65
64 and 63
62 and 61
60 and 59
58 and 57
56 and 55
54 and 53
52 and 51
50 and 49
48 and 47
46 and 45

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