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‘Rolling Stone’ Readers Pick the Top 10 Albums of the Nineties

Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ named Number One; Smashing Pumpkins only band to hit the list twice. Plus: Watch videos from each album

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Nirvana's 'Nevermind' named Number One; Smashing Pumpkins only band to hit the list twice. Plus: Watch videos from each album

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2. Radiohead – ‘OK Computer’

It's almost impossible to imagine now, but before Radiohead released OK Computer in June of 1997 the band was seen by many as a one-hit wonder. Their second LP The Bends didn't have a hit anywhere near the size of "Creep," off their 1992 debut Pablo Honey, and the American tour behind it featured many dates opening up for Alanis Morissette. OK Computer changed all that, though it did take a few months to find a mass audience. Fourteen years later Radiohead remains one of the biggest names in music, even if a vocal minority of fans feel that they peaked with OK Computer.

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3. Pearl Jam – ‘Ten’

Weeks before Nevermind hit shelves in September 1991 Pearl Jam released Ten. Videos for "Jeremy," "Even Flow" and "Alive" were soon in constant rotation on MTV, and Kurt Cobain wasn't thrilled about the competition. In 1992 he said that Pearl Jam were "pioneering a corporate, alternative and cock-rock fusion." The two camps eventually made peace. "I don't think he ever really figured out the band," Vedder told Rolling Stone in 2006.  "However, I think that if he had survived, I think he would have gotten it. Now, mind me, those are big words, but I really think it's true."

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4. U2 – ‘Achtung Baby’

U2 had their backs up to the wall when they went to a Berlin to begin work on Achtung Baby in 1990. Their previous project was the soundtrack to the ill-fated movie Rattle and Hum, and as a new decade began they were in serious danger of looking like dinosaurs. Instead, they totally re-imagined their sound and style – discovering irony along the way. While fellow late Eighties superstars Dire Straits, Bon Jovi, Peter Gabriel and INXS limped into the Nineties, U2 found themselves packing stadiums across the world with tons of new hits.

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5. Oasis – ‘(What’s The Story) Morning Glory?’

It's difficult to overstate just how massive Oasis were in England after the release of their second LP (What's The Story) Morning Glory. No band since The Beatles had hit that big, and copies sold as quickly as they could be printed. When everything calmed down it was the third-best-selling album in the history of England, bested only by The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper Lonely Hearts Club Band and Queen's Greatest Hits. They were also pretty popular in America, scoring huge radio hits with "Wonderwall" and "Champagne Supernova." Unsurprisingly, the whole thing went to their heads and their follow-up LP, Be Here Now, was a disaster. 

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6. The Smashing Pumpkins – ‘Siamese Dream’

In late 1993 the Smashing Pumpkins were an inescapable presence on MTV, with their videos for "Disarm" and "Today" playing around the clock. The two massive hits made them one of the most popular groups of the exploding alternative music scene. But relations in the band were tense before the disc even came out. Bassist D'arcy Wretzky and guitarist James Iha complained that frontman Billy Corgan had overdubbed their work on the disc, and that he wasn't open to their input. The band continued through 2000 before massive internal problems split them apart. Today Corgan tours with a new line-up of the band.

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7. Metallica – ‘Metallica (The Black Album)’

Metallica's army of hardcore fans found their 1991 self-titled disc to be a betrayal. Metal bands weren't supposed to score huge radio hits, or wind up playing stadiums alongside Guns N' Roses. They also weren't supposed to write songs as catchy as "Enter Sandman" or as gentle as "Nothing Else Matters." They may have lost some stubborn, old fans with The Black Album – but they more than made up for it by bringing in a whole generation of new ones. Twenty years later they're still one of the biggest bands in the world, and The Black Album remains their best selling disc.

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8. Jeff Buckley – ‘Grace’

Jeff Buckley's 1994 debut LP Grace was highly acclaimed when it came out in May of 1994, but when Buckley tragically drowned just three years later it took on a whole new meaning to many listeners. Containing possibly the definitive rendition of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," the disc showcases one of the most stunning singing voices of the past few decades. It was re-released in 2004 with a slew of bonus tracks, including a surprisingly faithful cover of the MC5's "Kick Out The Jams."

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9. The Smashing Pumpkins – ‘Mellon Collie & The Infinite Sadness’

It's been the great debate amongst depressed teenagers for over 15 years: What's the better Smashing Pumpkins album, Siamese Dream or Mellon Collie & The Infinite Sadness? Rolling Stone readers went with the former by a handful of votes. Mellon Collie does contain more classics, including "Tonight, Tonight," "1979," "Bullet With Butterfly Wings" and "Zero." It was also the last disc with the classic line-up of Billy Corgan, James Iha, Jimmy Chamberlin and D'arcy Wretzky. Judging by Wretzky's recent mug shot and Corgan's recent statements, they'll almost certainly never come together again.

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10. Guns & Roses – ‘Use Your Illusion 1 and 2’

These are technically two different albums, but since they were released on the same side they are widely seen as a double album. Even most hardcore Guns N' Roses fans admit that it's bloated and all over the place, but the high points ("November Rain," "Civil War," "You Could Be Mine" "Don't Cry") rank among the best work the band ever did. The original group split after a long tour supporting the disc, and Axl Rose has made it quite clear that he will never again share a stage with Slash. GNR are eligible for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame next year, so the world will finally be able to call his bluff.

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