In 1994 apartheid ended in South Africa with the election of Nelson Mandela as the first multiracially and democratically elected president of that country. Orenthal James Simpson was arrested on multiple murder charges despite his excellent appearances in the Naked Gun movies. The cinema gave us Forrest Gump, The Shawshank Redemption and Pulp Fiction. The first passengers travelled through the Channel Tunnel and Michael Schumacher won his first F1 World Championship.

If you think the death toll in 2016 has been bad, consider that in 1994 we lost The Joker (Cesar Romero), Kojak (Telly Savalas), Bill Hicks, John Candy, Kurt Cobain, Richard Nixon, Ayrton Senna, Hannibal (George Peppard), Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Henry Mancini, Peter Cushing, Roy Castle, Danny Gatton, Burt Lancaster, Gomez Addams (Raúl Juliá) and Cab Calloway to name just the ones that pop out at me. Sheesh.

For rock music, the Dark Times were upon us, and all around was grunge. Nonetheless, a few dim gems sparkled in the muck…

Honourable mentions

Dream Theater - Awake

When DT first came to my attention in 1992 with the incomparable Images and Words, that attention was fully grabbed. That, of course, is another story to which we will come in the fullness of wossname. This was the follow-up, the attempt to fully capitalise on the proggy geist of the zeit, and it's absolutely amazing. Some of Petrucci's and Moore's finest work. If prog you can, then this you must. Top track: "6:00"

Gun - Swagger

Well yes, actually. These relatively unknown Scottish rockers had some mild success with their previous release Gallus but for my folding this was their sweet spot. Worth it for their magnificent cover of Cameo's "Word Up" (a full decade before Korn would come along with the same idea) alone, this is a solid 41 minutes of good old-fashioned rock songs, just like Mama used to make. Top track: "Don't Say It's Over"

Megadeth - Youthanasia

Again, this was perhaps overshadowed by the monumental success of its predecessor Symphony of Destruction, but now that I come back to them over a decade later I can't honestly peg which I think is the better album. Yes, this has mis-steps like most Megadeth albums (ignore the last track, it's for the best) but pound for pound, riff for riff, this delivers right up there alongside any of Mustaine's gang's releases. Top track: "Train of Consequences"

Mike Oldfield - Songs of Distant Earth

I am not going to apologise for this. You can say what you like. I love it, and I always will. I went to sleep to this album every single night for years and years and still find it to be one of the most calming and grounding pieces of music I have ever experienced. Top track: "Only Time Will Tell"

Portishead - Dummy

It was a difficult old time, the mid 90s. Brit-pop was just finding out where it had left its knackered Gibson 335, hard rock was laying in the gutter having had one too many lines of spandex (as documented elsewhere), and industrial rock and nu-metal were still getting their hobnail boots and baggy shorts on. Portishead, then, were a breath of fresh - if melancholy - air. And Beth Gibbons' voice is unlike any other, so goddamn help me. Top track: "Roads" or "Glory Box"

And the winner is…

Jeff Buckley - Grace

Jeff Buckley - Grace

I'd heard about the guy, you know? People on guitar forums – people who knew what they were talking about – would say things like "Such a shame", "Died so young", "What a talent" and "Imagine what he could have done", but I'd simply never actually heard anything by him, and was still mourning the loss of my beloved hair-metal.

So when, sometime between 2002 and 2006 (I remember which house I was in at the time, but little else) I stuck on a guitar magazine backing track for the title track "Grace", I thought to myself "Hey, this is pretty good. I think I have a copy of this somewhere with vocals… let's dig that out…" and right there I got epiphany all over the place.

"Why did no-one tell me?" I yelled to the empty air, but of course they had. For me it was one of those doors that could only be opened, I myself had to walk through it. So glad I did - this is still one of my favourite albums of all time, and I'd recommend it to anyone who likes music of any kind.

Top tracks: "Lover, You Should've Come Over", "Last Goodbye", "Grace"

Turkey of the Year

I don't really have a Turkey nomination for 1994, so much of it was just purely mediocre that very little stands out for good or for bad. But seeing as this was the year that spawned the following utter pile of shit, I'm picking…

Oasis - Definitely Maybe

For fuck's sake, no.