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South African Top Ten
Rock Albums of the 90s

compiled by Kurt Shoemaker, December 2001
    These are my favorite ten South African rock albums or rock bands from the 90s, selected from my about fifty CDs of that decade. I mention that to let the reader know I don't have a complete collection of SA rock of the 90s, but that I have enough to reflect my admiration for the quality of work produced by many SA musicians. This list could have ended up my Top 20, or Top 30, but Top 10 is reasonable in length....

    More or less ranked in order of how I perceive greatness, though the nearer the top the more blurred the distinctions grow so that the top three or four could be considered as squeezing all together into the #1 spot.

  1. The Electric Petals -- 'Polynation' -- Great title, great cover photo, great music. Rock music of South Africa and the world, with a consciousness set in both. An inspired work.

  2. Jack Hammer -- 'Death of a Gypsy' -- Masterful guitar rock album. The suite of songs comprising the middle of the CD rise to rock art as far as I'm concerned. Powerful stuff. All of Piet Botha's work, solo or with friends, such as Jonathan Martin, is A#1.

  3. Koos Kombuis en die Warm Blankes -- 'Blameer dit op Apartheid' -- Really rocks, really talks. Seven big rock songs and a bluesy bonus -- rock songs as good as you'll find anywhere. (I got this CD in the 'Madiba Bay Box Set', with 'Madiba Bay', a Greatest Hits, which goes back to the 80s, so is out of my decade, but excellent as well.)

  4. Squeal -- 'Long Pig', 'Man and Woman', and 'Civilized?' -- Here's where I finesse my way past the top 10 set-up and slip in two extra albums by singing the praises of Squeal's 3-CD body of work. Excellent, muscular, lean, and loping rock -- some fast and furious, others "ballady". All fine rock from frontman David Birch and his friends.

  5. Bernard Binns -- 'Physiognomy of the Soul' -- A CD of variety that nonetheless holds together and carries the listener through many emotions and styles, with rock substance. Binns knows his craft.

  6. Off the Edge -- 'On the Run' -- Guitar master Peter Hanmer, with Tony Groenewald and Judy Marshall. Perfect electric guitar music for cruising the highways of Texas -- try it sometime and you'll agree. Also check out Peter's more recent work; 'St. Aidans' off 'Just Another Band' soars.

  7. Wonderboom -- 'Is It?' and 'Never Ever Ever Ever' -- At six tracks each, I'm counting them as one 90s work to squeeze them both in. A fun rock band, a couple of whose members are from The Electric Petals, so their solid rock sensibilities and experience here shine for the listener's pleasure.

  8. Springbok Nude Girls -- 'Afterlifesatisfaction' -- I enjoy most of this album very much. A few songs could have been edited from the 18 tracks (one only 11 seconds long, though), but the great stuff here is often breathtaking and thoroughly engrossing -- seizing one's attention, as rock should do.

  9. Sugardrive -- 'Sand.Man.Sky' -- From what I've heard, this is their finest album. Full of big and fuzzy rock riffs. Sometimes slow and moody, with mixed results, but best when they tilt hard into a song, as with 'Wired'.

  10. Battery 9 -- 'Protskrog' -- Often frenetic and driving, this is a good representative CD of Battery 9's range and prowess. From hard techno rock to ballad style, Paul Rickert sings it all. If you like this, then find 'Gris' for a video of a Battery 9 show, plus some more aggressive tunes, then find their other two CDs, 'Strop' and 'Wrok'.

    There it is. Some of my favorite 90's rock music from South Africa. But really, if you want to talk about great SA rock, don't get me started! I could go on forever & ever & ever & ever. {Yes, we know, Kurt, we know... - ed}

For more classic rock albums from SA's music history go here...

Also recommended: SA Rock Gold

A 59 track, 3 CD set of the cream of South African Rock, from the early '70s through to the '90s.

South Africa's Rock Lists

South Africa's Rock Files