Best Compilation Albums of the 1990s

Though I’m a prog man at heart, I like to think of myself as open to all forms of music.  Granted, I have yet to hear a single country or rap song that I like, but I certainly love much of classical and symphonic, jazz, and various forms of rock.  One thing I miss in the rock world are compilation albums.  I definitely don’t mean “greatest hits” packages.  I mean albums that contain songs by various artists coming together for a particular purpose.  Usually, this purpose was for movie soundtracks, but not always.

Looking at my own collection–however limited–it looks to me that the best of these came out in the 1990s.  I will admit, though, that my love of these specific compilation albums might have much to do with some happy nostalgia for a pre-9/11, far more innocent world.

Here are my favorite four from that time period.

until the end of the world
Before it’s too late. . .

4. “Until the End of the World”–a soundtrack for the Wim Wenders film of the same name.  The album features songs–every one of them good–by a number of artists I would never listen to, otherwise, such as Depeche Mode, Lou Reed, and T-Bone Burnett.  Even the major bands that appear–such as Talking Heads, Nick Cave, and U2 give it their best.  My favorite song, by far, is “Calling All Angels,” performed by Jane Siberry and K.D. Lang.

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Songs in the Key of X: Short Stories of Horror and Paranoia

xfiles album
Honoring the Pulp Glory of TV’s Finest Hour since the Original Star Trek

For us old guys who love music, 1996 was a pretty memorable year.  As always at, we’ll pay tribute to that year throughout this year.  We’ll look back at 1986 and 2006 as well.  Anniversaries matter.

One of my favorite releases of 1996 was the outstanding compilation album celebrating the weirdness (the prog-ness?) of the TV show, X-Files, SONGS IN THE KEY OF X.  As with probably most of us who write for and read progarchy, I was and remain an “album” guy.  Singles are fine. . . every once in a while.  But, I want something to sink my teeth into.  Compilations rarely do.

This one was an exception, as it has a bizarre–almost pulpish–consistency in the music, ranging from grunge to country to experimental to pop to heavy metal.  Everyone from Sheryl Crow to Nick Cave to Elvis Costello to Brian Eno to William S. Burroughs appeared on the album.  Stunning, really.  Even the CD insert was great–a thick cardboard poster, folded over, and adorned in cartoonish horror.

And, it was all put together by X-Files creator and mastermind, Chris Carter.

Strangely enough, I remember day SONGS IN THE KEY OF X was released, as it was March 19, 1996, the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker, a family feast day (on my mother’s side).

Here I am, twenty years later, still thoroughly enjoying every aspect of this CD, from its music to its art.  A thing to hold and behold.