Influential Albums: 477-483
Sat., Sep. 4. 2021 1:35pm EDT
J. Jackson, lead singer and lyricist for ApologetiX here again.
Here are the latest entries in the "albums that influenced me" series I started writing in May 2020. Rather than listing the albums in order of preference or excellence, I've been listing them in chronological order of when they influenced me, as best as I recall. We were well into 1987, and you'll start seeing a lot of Christian albums once we get to 1988.
However, in May 2021, I realized that I'd neglected to include many influential albums along the way, so I've been catching up on those for a while before we get to that momentous moment in '88 when my life and musical trajectory was forever changed. You'll still see plenty of secular albums after that, but music was never the same for me after.
477. K-Tel's Music Express – Various Artists
I bought a used copy of this collection in college, probably at Backstreet Records. Originally released in 1975, it included six #1 hits, but I think I may have already had them all elsewhere with the possible exception of "Mandy" by Barry Manilow. I already had the two fabulous #3 hits on it, too — "Sky High" by Jigsaw and "Jackie Blue" by The Ozark Mountain Daredevils — but they were on a severely scratched-up old copy of K-Tel's 36 Super Gold Hits, so it was nice to get an upgrade. Music Express also contained a couple of #5 hits — "Chevy Van" by Sammy Johns and "Poetry Man" by Phoebe Snow — two catchy tunes with lyrics that reflected the anything-goes attitude of the swingin' 70's. The other track I was most interested in was an instrumental TV theme that went to #10 — "The Rockford Files" by Mike Post. If that artist's name sounds familiar, it might be because he had another instrumental taken from television six year later that also went to #10 — "The Theme from Hill Street Blues." Furthermore, he wrote "Theme from The Greatest American Hero," which Joey Scarbury took to #2 in 1981, believe it or not. But the sleeper hit on Music Express that kept me coming back was "Dynomite" by Tony Camillo's Bazuka. That song also went to #10, although I'd never heard it on the radio. It's primarily an instrumental (and a very funky one), too, aside from the occasional exclamations of "Dynomite!" (based on an exclamation made popular by Jimmy "J.J." Walker on the television show Good Times) and choruses that repeat that word. It was also sampled in Dickie Goodman's #4 hit "Mr. Jaws" later that year. For a complete track listing, go to https://hercsktelalbums.blogspot.com/2013/11/music-express-1975.html
478. Hold Out – Jackson Browne
This isn't Jackson Browne's most critically acclaimed album, but it is his only #1 album, and the only one of his albums I actually owned, thanks to Columbia House Record Club and an unreturned record-of-the-month selection. I've purchased many of his songs on iTunes, though. Anyway, the singles on Hold Out were "Boulevard" (#19 on the Billboard Hot 100, but #4 on the Radio & Records Top 50), "That Girl Could Sing" (#22), and "Hold On, Hold Out" (#103). Our local FM station played them all. There were only seven songs on Hold Out. Of the non-singles, my favorite was the opening track, "Disco Apocalypse." I remember the first time I ever heard Jackson Browne; it was the song "Running on Empty," and they were playing its parent album in Rocket Records in Greensburg. ApologetiX eventually spoofed that song in 2019, but my favorite song from that album is "The Load Out/Stay." Of his hits, I also like "Doctor My Eyes," "Rock Me on the Water," "The Pretender," "Lawyers in Love," "Ready or Not" and "Redneck Friend." I also liked his 1985 duet with Clarence Clemmons, "You're a Friend of Mine." Many people don't realize this, but Jackson's biggest hit of all came from the Fast Times at Ridgement High soundtrack; "Somebody's Baby" went to #7 on the Billboard Hot 100. I wasn't a huge fan of that tune, but I sure did like the movie when I was in college.
479. First Under the Wire – Little River Band
This was yet another accidental purchase through the Columbia House Record Club. That being said, I liked Little River Band and already owned the 45 of their Top 10 hit "Lady" (which I thought was one of the most beautiful songs ever) from their previous LP, Sleeper Catcher. That album also included their biggest hit, "Reminiscing," a #3 hit in 1978. First Under the Wire had a couple of Top 10 hits, too — "Lonesome Loser" (#6) and "Cool Change" (#10). Of those two, I preferred "Cool Change," but I grew to appreciate the splendor of "Lonesome Loser" and eventually suggested that ApologetiX spoof it, which we did in 2020. The one non-hit from First Under the Wire that has stuck with me through the years is "The Rumour." The first LRB hits I ever heard were "Help Is on Its Way" and "Happy Anniversary," in 1977, and I liked both of them. I later learned the group had an earlier Top 40 hit in 1975, "It's a Long Way There," which I've never heard on the radio. When I finally searched it out and gave it a listen, I was pretty impressed. Little River Band had 13 U.S. Top 40 hits in all. Of the later ones, my favorite was "The Other Guy."
480. Stevie Wonder's Original Musiquarium I – Stevie Wonder
This compilation features Stevie Wonder's most popular songs from 1972 through 1982, the year it was released. I was excited when I first saw it in stores, but double albums were daunting to this boy's budget. I finally bought it 20 years later, after I already had recordings of a number of its songs. Stevie Wonder's Original Musiquarium I included five #1 hits and six others that hit the Top 10. That was before the days of iTunes. Now you can make your own Musiquariums. Unlike most greatest-hits collections, this one featured 25 percent all-new material — four out of 16 tracks, all released as singles. Two of them ("That Girl" and "Do I Do") became big pop hits, and a third one ("Ribbon in the Sky") was a Grammy-nominated Top 10 R&B hit that has since become a standard of sorts. My favorite cuts on Musiquarium are "Higher Ground," "Sir Duke," "Boogie On, Reggae Woman," "You Haven't Done Nothin'," "Isn't She Lovely," "Master Blaster (Jammin')," "I Wish," and "Superstition" (which I first purchased as a reissue 45 in 1979). ApologetiX has already spoofed the last two, and I'd like to do more.
481. Play It Loud: A Decade of Gold Rock and Roll – Various Artists
This is the first of two compilations from the Arista Flashback Series I found in the bargain bins in the summer of 1984. Released in 1982, Play It Loud: A Decade of Gold Rock and Roll featured 10 songs from 1961 through 1975, so they gave you four bonus years with your decade. It featured two #1 hits that were fairly hard to find at the time: "Saturday Night" by Bay City Rollers and "Brother Louie" by Stories. It also provided me with pristine vinyl versions of two other #1 hits, "I'm a Believer" by The Monkees and "The Letter" by The Box Tops. Furthermore, it contained a #2 hit that wasn't easily obtained on an album in the mid-80's — "The Rapper" by The Jaggerz, led by Pittsburgh's Donnie Iris. Other uncommon goodies included "Little Girl" by Syndicate of Sound, "Little Willy" by The Sweet, and "I'm on Fire" by Dwight Twilley Band. For a complete track listing, go to https://www.discogs.com/Various-Play-It-Loud-A-Decade-Of-Gold-Rock-And-Roll/release/8412497
482. Golden Emotion: A Treasury of Million-Selling Ballads – Various Artists
This is the second of two compilations from the Arista Flashback Series I found in the bargain bins in the summer of 1984. Released in 1982, Golden Emotion featured 10 classic ballads from 1968 ("Angel of the Morning" by Merilee Rush) through 1979 ("I'll Never Love This Way Again" by Dionne Warwick). It only boasted one #1 hit, but that hit was "Seasons in the Sun" by Terry Jacks, a terrific tearjerker adored by any American kid who had a heart in 1974. It included two #2 hits, too: "All by Myself" (Eric Carmen) and "One Less Bell to Answer" (The Fifth Dimension). Furthermore, it featured two #3 hits with titles from opposite ends of the spectrum: "The Worst That Could Happen" (Brooklyn Bridge) and "The Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me" (Gladys Knight & The Pips). I also appreciated the two #6 hits: "Midnight Blue by Melissa Manchester and "Right Time of the Night" by Jennifer Warnes, an artist who was a part of two duets that hit #1, "Up Where We Belong" (with Joe Cocker in 1982) and "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" (with Bill Medley in 1987). Nine of the tracks on Golden Emotion hit the Top 10, but one of these things was not like the others. The person singing the tenth track, "You Light Up My Life," was not Debby Boone ... it was Kacey Cisyk. Boone's version went to #1 for 10 weeks in 1977; Cisyk's version was released two months later and only went to #80. Believe it or not, though, hers is actually the original version from the soundtrack of the movie of the same title. In the movie, Cisyk's vocals are lip-synched by actress Didi Conn, who went on to play Frenchy in the movie Grease in 1978 ... and in Grease 2 in 1982.
483. The Album – ABBA
As I've mentioned before, my old neighborhood friend Dave Rhodes had the most kid-friendly mom in the neighborhood. She was just about always willing to let us play in their basement. And when you played in Dave Rhodes' basement, you got to hear whatever his latest album (or 45) was. He didn't foist it on you; I was eager to hear his new records, because Dave had good taste. He bought this album in 1978, probably because we all liked the second single, "Take a Chance on Me," which became ABBA's second-biggest U.S. hit, peaking at #3. The previous single, "The Name of the Game," went to #12 and was a song I ended up liking even better than "Take a Chance" in the long run. My other favorite song on the album was "Eagle," which was intended to be the third U.S. single but was later withdrawn. At 5:51, it's the longest ABBA song, and not a second of it is wasted. Other notable tracks are "I Wonder" and "Thank You for the Music." Those ones took years to grow on me, but "Thank You for the Music" is now one of my favorites.
Note: Just because the albums on my list influenced me back then doesn't mean I give them all a blanket endorsement now. I started actively listening to music in the early 70's and didn't become a born-again Christian until early '88. However, I hope you'll see (as I do) how God's hand was at work behind the scenes from the start, preparing me for the work I believe He intended for me to do.