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The Consensus: U2 With a Narrow Win

December 27, 1987|RICHARD CROMELIN

In their voting for the Top 10 albums of 1987, The Times' pop-music writers capped the Year of U2 with the narrowest of wins for "The Joshua Tree." The 19 voters also responded to the intimate artistry of Bruce Springsteen and John Hiatt--veteran, critically admired singer-songwriters whose introspective '87 albums both dissected the dynamics of relationships.

Both "Joshua Tree" and the runner-up "Tunnel of Love" also hit No. 1 on the sales chart this year--a combination of critical support and commercial success that recalls 1984, when hit LP's--Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A." and Prince's "Purple Rain"--finished one-two in the critics' poll.

Like its commercial popularity, U2's critical support has grown steadily. The Irish band's "War" came in at No. 14 on an expanded list in 1983, and "The Unforgettable Fire" ("Joshua Tree's" predecessor) made No. 10 in 1984.

Springsteen has registered strongly since the first Times critics' roundup in 1978, when "Darkness on the Edge of Town" was No. 4. "The River" was No. 2 in '80, "Nebraska" No. 3 in '82, "Born in the U.S.A" No. 1 in '84, and last year's five-record live album No. 4.

"Sign 'O' the Times" marks a strong return to favor for Prince, who topped the voting in 1982 with "1999" and finished second with "Purple Rain" in '84, then hit a lull with "Around the World in a Day" and "Parade."

This year's poll also cements critical respect for Hiatt (whose "Warming Up to the Ice Age" was No. 7 in '85), the rambunctious Replacements (No. 6 in '84 and No. 1 in '85), Los Lobos (whose first album made No. 3 in '84) and the Jesus and Mary Chain (which debuted last year at No. 11).

Seven of last year's Top 10 finishers, including Peter Gabriel, Paul Simon and Elvis Costello, didn't release an album in '87, accounting for some of the turnover. But there were also some marked declines. X dominated the years 1980-83, finishing first three times and second once. But the local band's "Ain't Love Grand" didn't make this list in '85, and though this year's "See How We Are" was a strong return to their early form, it didn't restore their momentum.

Other notable no-shows: R.E.M. (which made the Top 10 on the sales chart for the first time but dropped off the critics' list after finishing No. 4 in '84, '85 and '86 and No. 2 in '83); Tom Waits (No. 10 in '83 and No. 3 in '85); Steve Earle (showed well with debut LP in '86, shut out in '87), and the BoDeans (ditto).

The individual ballots (Robert Hilburn's choices are on the opposite page):

TERRY ATKINSON:

1--"Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me," the Cure (Elektra).

2--"The Joshua Tree," U2 (Island).

3--"Tunnel of Love," Bruce Springsteen (Columbia).

4--"Sister," Sonic Youth (SST).

5--"Echo & the Bunnymen," Echo & the Bunnymen (Sire).

6--"Concrete Blonde," Concrete Blonde (I.R.S.).

7--"Happy Nightmare Baby," Opal (SST).

8--"Shaka Zulu," Ladysmith Black Mambazo (Warner Bros.).

9--"Strange Weather," Marianne Faithfull (Island).

10--"Canciones de mi Padre," Linda Ronstadt (Asylum).

RICHARD CROMELIN:

1--"Warehouse: Songs and Stories," Husker Du (Warner Bros.).

2--"Pleased to Meet Me," the Replacements (Sire).

3--"Darklands," the Jesus and Mary Chain (Reprise).

4--"Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me," the Cure.

5--"Echo & the Bunnymen," Echo & the Bunnymen.

6--"The Joshua Tree," U2.

7--"Neurotica," Redd Kross (Big Time).

8--"The Mekons Honky Tonkin'," Mekons (Twin/Tone).

9--"Locust Abortion Technician," B.H. Surfers (Touch and Go).

10--"Next Saturday Afternoon," Thelonious Monster (Relativity).

PATRICK GOLDSTEIN:

1--"Pleased to Meet Me," the Replacements.

2--"Strangeways Here We Come," the Smiths (Sire).

3--"Tunnel of Love," Bruce Springsteen.

4--"Mechanical Resonance," Tesla (Geffen).

5--"Bring the Family," John Hiatt (A&M).

6--"Poetic Champions Compose," Van Morrison (Mercury).

7--"Sign 'O' the Times," Prince (Paisley Park).

8--"Franks Wild Years," Tom Waits (Island).

9--"Next Saturday Afternoon," Thelonious Monster.

10--"On a Night Like This," Buckwheat Zydeco (Island).

PAUL GREIN:

1--"Coming Around Again," Carly Simon (Arista).

2-- " . . . Nothing Like the Sun," Sting (A&M).

3--"Live at Carnegie Hall," Liza Minnelli (Telarc).

4--"Tunnel of Love," Bruce Springsteen.

5--"Richard Marx," Richard Marx (EMI-Manhattan).

6--"A Very Special Christmas," various artists (Special Olympics/A&M).

7--"By Request," Billy Vera & the Beaters (Rhino).

8--"Everlasting," Natalie Cole (EMI-Manahattan).

9--"One Heartbeat," Smokey Robinson (Motown).

10--"Don't Disturb This Groove," the System (Atlantic).

STEVE HOCHMAN:

1--"The Joshua Tree," U2.

2--"By the Light of the Moon," Los Lobos (Slash).

3--"Bring the Family," John Hiatt.

4--"Tunnel of Love," Bruce Springsteen.

5--"A Snog on the Rocks," "Head" (Demon import).

6--"Sister," Sonic Youth.

7--"Three Squares and a Roof," the Balancing Act (Primitive Man).

8--"The Sound of Music," the dB's (I.R.S.).

9--"Happy?," Public Image Limited (Virgin).

10-"Shopping," 3 Mustaphas 3 (Ace import).

DENNIS HUNT:

1--"Savage," Eurythmics (RCA).

2--"Sign 'O' the Times," Prince.

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