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10 great albums from 1988 turning 30 this year

By Steve Spears
Published: January 3, 2018

It's hard to objectively rank the genius of an album. Ultimately it comes down to personal preference – which theoretically can never be wrong. (Was I wrong to like Kiss' Destroyer back in the late '70s? Never!)

The year 1988 didn't give us as many landmark albums as 1987, in which Joshua Tree, Appetite for Destruction and Pleased To Meet Me. Consider it a transition year as the music business put aside the influence of MTV and began to ponder the direction of the business as the decade was wrapping up. Many of the albums we honor today received mixed reviews from critics and relative indifference by fans.

Here are our 10 favorite albums from 1988:

Straight Outta Compton (NWA) – Aug. 8: The debut album for Hall of Famers N.W.A. was a wake-up call on many levels and was the band's only release with rapper Ice Cube.

Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 (Traveling Wilburys) – Oct. 18: An unexpected byproduct of the friendship between George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison and Tom Petty. Even more poignant today now that three members have passed away.

Water from the Wells of Home (Johnny Cash) – May 1: This was the – wait for it – 75th album by Cash, and its music was performed by a who's-who of the music business including contributions by Paul McCartney, Waylon Jennings, Hank Williams Jr., Glen Campbell and Emmylou Harris.

Lovesexy (Prince) – May 10: No track aside of Alphabet St. cracked the top 10. It would ultimately be the Purple One's least successful album in almost a decade.

Green Thoughts (The Smithereens) – March 16: Aw, Pat DiNizio – you left too soon. But you left behind Green Thoughts, which includes fans favorites Only a Memory, House We Used To Live In and If The Sun Doesn't Shine.

Naked (Talking Heads) – March 15: The final album from the band actually was adored by critics, who likened it to their iconic Remain in Light work. I could listen to the song (Nothing But) Flowers on an endless repeat.

If I Should Fall From Grace with God (The Pogues) – Jan. 1: Another critics' darling, If I Should Fall From Grace with God would prove to be the Pogues' most commercially successful album as well. The title track alone is proof the band will never fall from grace.

OU812 – (Van Halen) – May 24: Don't make me phonetically spell out the album title for you. Sammy Hagar's second disc with the Van Halen brothers gave us Black and Blue, Finish What Ya Started and When It's Love.

Lincoln (They Might Be Giants) – Sept. 25: I didn't discover TMBG until a record club auto-shipped me Flood in the early '90s. Too bad I missed this one, which includes their signature hit Ana Ng.

Tougher Than Leather (Run-D.M.C.) – Sept. 15: You know this one just from this line. "Who's house? Run's House!" The group's fourth album went platinum.