Great Music Mags: ICE - The Class Of 1994

Where were you in 1994? I had started a new job in the middle of 1993 and, by Christmas, had received a promotion with an accompanying pay raise so 1994 was looking pretty good on the horizon. In 1994, we celebrated our all-important 7th Wedding Anniversary and our kids turned 7, 4 and 1 while I turned 28, outliving several of my rock idols. Looking back, I don't know how I didn't gain tons of weight - for most of the year, my meals at work were one order of crazy bread from Little Caesar's and a thirty-two-ounce fountain Dr. Pepper from the convenience store. Which reminds me, I need to run a quick errand - be right back.
I attended exactly one concert in 1994 - Pink Floyd on their Division Bell tour - and though the show was a doozie (at $32.50, it was my most expensive ticket up to that point), my overall experience was not. We had driven up in shorts and tees but a cold front moved in by the time we got there with temps dropping to below 60 in the windy stadium and we spent all of our concert swag money on stupid overpriced ASU sweats so we could stay warm before we even got in for the show.
As you can see from the gallery of ICE cover scans below, 1994 was a great year to be an ICE reader and CD buyer. The cover price held steady at $2.95 through the year and after the January 1994 issue, a smoother, glossier paper stock was used as ICE expanded from 12 pages an issue to 16. The postal delivery person that year got in the habit of folding our mail before sticking it in the mailbox, creasing at least five of my issues of ICE. A new jazz column from David Okamoto who was music editor of the Dallas Morning News at the time was also introduced in issue 83 - February and issue 88 - July featured a picture on the cover for the first time that year. Four more issues with pictures on the cover would appear before the year was over. The December issue came wrapped in a double sided wrapper (above), printed inside and out, for Polygram's busy Chronicles catalog development department. And while the box set mania carried over from 1993, the recurring theme in 1994 was tribute albums. That's why I chose the August issue (#89) to headline today's post as it says it all:

The big news on these covers for me, beside the bevy of tribute albums, was:
  • the deletion of the Beach Boys two-fer discs (issue 86 - May) which sent me scrambling to buy the ones I hadn't yet acquired. Ended up getting most of them cheap from Columbia House;
  • that same issue also had news of Bill Laswell's Black Arc series on Rykodisc that featured P-Funk veterans not named George Clinton (I would buy all five as well as the similar Axiom Funk double-disc Funkcronomicon that followed in 1995);
  • the official legitimate if limited-time-only release of Prince's Black Album was announced in the final issue of the year (issue 93 - December) and I had my copy just after Thanksgiving and could stop listening to the horrible sounding vinyl bootleg I had;
  • lastly, the story of my first mislabeled CD. Rhino had reissued KC & the Sunshine Band's classic Part 3 album with bonus tracks as Part 3...And More that year and I bought it the week before Christmas. As I usually did, I unwrapped the disc barely out the door so I could play it in the car on the way home or to work. I popped the disc in and was surprised to hear Stevie Ray Vaughan. Skipped to next track and it was Eric Clapton. One more skip brought Lenny Kravitz. I ejected the disc and took it back into the store, more amused than mad. I apologize for not remembering exactly what happened next but I got another KC disc that played and got to keep that other disc which turned out to be The Unplugged Collection, Volume One, a compilation of performances from the MTV show of the same name though the art on the disc reads KC & the Sunshine Band's Part 3...And More.
Let me know in the comments what your favorite CD purchases were in 1994. Did you go for Dookie? Or were you hot for Hootie all along? Maybe you scooped up some of the many now classic rap and hip-hop albums from that year? Or did you get your mosh on with Smash, The Downward Spiral, and Far Beyond Driven?

To give you some small insight into what the tastes were of ICE readers back then, here are the results of the 1993 Holiday Reader's Poll, which were published in issue 83. Of particular interest twenty-two years later are the answers to the fifth question, labeled V.


  1. The best CD of 1994 is easily Seal's second self-titled album. You're entitled to your own opinion, of course, but if you disagree with my choice, you're obviously wrong.

    Also in 1994, the first ten volumes of Rhino's most excellent Just Can't Get Enough: New Wave Hits of the '80s series hit the shelves. I started with Volume 5 that summer after attending my 10 year high school reunion.

    1. My friends loved showing off their car stereos with that exquisitely sounding Seal disc. It was only later, when listening to other CDs, that you could tell their systems just weren't that good - Seal and Trevor Horn were working miracles.

      It was a really great year for this fan of Eighties music as EMI's Living In Oblivion series and Richard Blade's Flashback Favorites series on Oglio appeared in the Various Artists section alongside the definitive Rhino series you mentioned. The bare-bones, ten track discs of Priority's Rock Of The '80s were also out at that time as were The Right Stuff's Sedated In The Eighties compilations.

  2. ICE was an excellent resource. I discovered it in the late '80s, and subscribed for a time in the '90s. I especially liked the "going underground" section, as I collected bootlegs in those years - Beatles, Springsteen and Neil Young, but others as well - and they were one of few sources of that sort of information.

    1994, concert-wise, was a good year for us. Saw some great shows - Nanci Griffith on her Other Voices, Other Rooms tour (with Iris DeMent opening up), was one, Mary Black another, and Shawn Colvin yet another. Also saw Johnny Cash for the first and only time on what turned out to be his last tour; June came out and sang with him on a few songs (Jackson and If I Were a Carpenter). Plenty of other shows, though I'd have to cogitate for a while to remember them.

    Lots of great albums that year, too - not as heady a year as '93, but still solid. Sleeps With Angels by Neil & Crazy Horse was (and would still be) my favorite of the year. Others that I still listen to include Nanci's Flyer, Cash's American Recordings, Colvin's Cover Girl and Paul Weller's Live Wood, which I picked up on import. I always liked Oasis better in theory than in practice, but Definitely Maybe was quite good.

    1. Other than the Release Dates section, my favorite columns were The CD Watchdog, where buyers warned one another about problem releases and ICE would try to get answers from responsible parties at the issuing labels, and Collector's Corner, specifically, the Promos section. Using that info and dealers listed in Goldmine, I was able to acquire quite a few cool promo only discs in the primitive days before eBay.

      Speaking of the Going Underground column, after reporting on a legitimate release of early Springsteen material titled Prodigal Son in the January issue, there were follow-ups in the next few issues including Springsteen's lawyers filing an injunction which apparently led to bootleg copies of the collection appearing in shops soon after.

      I dabbled in a a few vinyl and compact disc Prince bootlegs but they sounded horrible which turned me off of the whole scene for a time. Then I met a guy who collected nothing but Led Zep boots and I was amazed at how good they sounded. And then those Beatles Unsurpassed Masters discs were just crazy. Bought a few copies of that Hot Wacks guide, which was just fun to read, but never really got into in any other artist's unreleased stuff but Prince. With few exceptions, concert recordings are not my bag - would have rather been there, feeling that incredible energy you must dig in all your concert-going experiences.

      Offspring's Smash and TLC's CrazySexyCool were probably my most played discs in 1994. I liked discs by Oasis, Bush, Green Day and Live as well. And damnit if Hootie's "Let Her Cry" didn't rip my heart out the first few hundred times I heard it.