Influential Albums: 512-518
Fri., Oct. 8. 2021 5:48pm 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'd 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.
512. Clouds – Joni Mitchell
Released in 1969, Joni Mitchell's second album takes it title from a line in its most famous song, "Both Sides, Now," which had already been a Top 10 hit for Judy Collins the previous year, although Joni is the one who wrote it. The second-most famous song on Clouds is "Chelsea Morning," which Collins also covered and took to #79 pop and #25 adult contemporary. I prefer Judy's version of "Both Sides, Now" but Joni's version of "Chelsea Morning." Although I eventually bought my own copy of Clouds on CD, my sister Gayle owned the record when I was growing up, and I thought the self-portrait Mitchell painted even looked a bit like Gayle. The other song I remember most from back then was "Songs to Aging Children Come," with its spooky-sounding, chromatic harmonies. "Roses Blue" is a bit creepy, too, not just for its music but also its subject matted — a woman named Rose who has immersed herself in the occult and distanced herself from friends, including the singer herself. Happier-sounding tunes include "I Don't Know Where I Stand" and "That Song About the Midway." Although Mitchell would develop a more polished sound on subsequent releases, her prodigious songwriting talent was already in full view. Gayle has told me that, in her personal opinion, Joni is the greatest songwriter ever, and my sister is not prone to hyperbole. I don't know for sure which person I'd put at the top of my list, but I'd definitely have Joni in the upper echelon.
513. Funny Girl – The Original Soundtrack Recording
Released in 1968, the movie Funny Girl starred Barbra Streisand, reprising the role she'd made famous four years earlier in the Broadway musical of the same name, which had already generated a #5 hit for Streisand, "People." I'm not sure whether it was my mother or my sisters who bought this soundtrack album, but it was in our family's record collection, and I vividly remember both the front and back covers. I associate the music from the show — and Streisand in general — with my sister Kris, who became quite an actress herself in high school and college. In addition to "People," the most memorable songs for me were "I'm the Greatest Star," "I'd Rather Be Blue Over You," and "Don't Rain on My Parade" We also owned the soundtracks to Streisand's next two movies, Hello Dolly! (1969) and On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (1970). Furthermore, we had two of her hits on 45, "Stoney End" (#6 in 1971) and "The Way We Were" (#1 in 1974).
514. Straight Shooter – Bad Company
When I was growing up, our next-door neighbor Mrs. Davis' youngest brother, David Zeller, used to come visit occasionally from Kentucky. He was a year older than I, and I always enjoyed his stays in Greensburg PA. Dave was the first person I ever met from the Bluegrass State and the first friend I ever had with a genuine southern accent. He eventually spent his entire senior year of high school in Greensburg, living in his sister's basement. This was one of two records I remember him owning. At the time, the only track I was familiar with was the #10 hit "Feel Like Makin' Love," although I might have heard (or at least heard of) the album-rock classic "Shooting Star," too. A few years later, I tried out for a band in Greensburg while I was in college, and that's the first time I heard "Good Lovin' Gone Bad." They wanted me to sing it as part of my audition, but I didn't know it, so the drummer sang it instead. I never got called back by that band (I think they stuck with their drummer as singer), but it was still worth it to learn that fantastic song. Released in 1975, the triple-platinum Straight Shooter was Bad Company's second album. "Good Lovin' Gone Bad" was actually the first single, before "Feel Like Makin' Love," and it went to #36 on the pop charts. I eventually bought a used copy of Straight Shooter on cassette years later at Jerry's Records in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh. Even though I liked Bad Company's hits, I was surprised at how many great songs were on this album. In fact, I don't think there's a bad tune on it. Some of my favorite non-hits were "Deal with the Preacher," "Wild Fire Woman," "Call on Me," and "Weep No More." ApologetiX has spoofed "Feel Like Makin' Love" three times and "Shooting Star" twice.
515. On the Border – The Eagles
This was the other album I remember Dave Zeller owning. I didn't think the cover artwork was very interesting, so I greatly underestimated the contents, even though I already knew and liked the opening and closing tracks, "Already Gone" and "Best of My Love." Released in 1974, On the Border was The Eagles' third album and a deliberate effort by the band to move away from the country side of their music and focus more on the rock side. I didn't really give it a good listen until many years later, but when I did, I was impressed. "Already Gone" was the first single and went to #32 on the Billboard Hot 100. ApologetiX spoofed that song a couple of times in our early days. "Best of My Love" was the third single and became the first of The Eagles' five #1 hits. The second single, "James Dean," only went to #77 but still gets some airplay on classic-rock stations. It's a great piece of songwriting, courtesy of Glenn Frey and Jackson Browne, the same two guys who had written The Eagles debut hit, "Take It Easy," two years earlier. As for the other songs on On the Border, my church choir director in college liked "Ol' 55," but my favorites included "You Never Cry Like a Lover," "Midnight Flyer," and the title track.
516. At the Hop (A Collection of Classic Oldies) Vol. 2 – Various Artists
Here's another cassette I bought in college in order to stock up on #1 hits from the early days of rock and roll. Apparently, this was a double album, but my cassette only had half of it. Nevertheless, six of the 13 songs on that half went to #1, and they're all classics: "At the Hop" (Danny and the Juniors), "Honeycomb" (Jimmy Rodgers), "Young Love" (Sonny James), "Stagger Lee" (Lloyd Price), "Little Star" (The Elegants), and "April Love" (Pat Boone). As far as the other songs go, my favorite was the #7 hit "Who Put the Bomp (In the Bomp, Bomp") by Barry Mann. You don't want to confuse Barry Mann with Barry Manilow, but Mr. Mann has actually co-written more hits than Mr. Manilow — almost a hundred chart hits (98, to be exact), including selections as diverse as "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" (The Righteous Brothers), "On Broadway" (The Drifters), "We Gotta Get Out of This Place" (The Animals), "Kicks" (Paul Revere and the Raiders), "Sometimes When We Touch" (Dan Hill), "Here You Come Again" (Dolly Parton), and "Somewhere Out There" (Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram). For a complete track listing, go to: https://www.discogs.com/Various-At-The-Hop-A-Collection-Of-Classic-Oldies/release/3126455
517. Nuggets Volume Five, Pop Part III – Various Artists
I picked up a used copy this LP mainly because it was the only place I knew of where I could find these three songs I'd read about but had never heard: "Pandora's Golden Heebie Geebies" (The only Top 40 hit by The Association not to make it onto their Greatest Hits album), "Tomorrow" (the #23 hit that kept Strawberry Alarm Clock from being a one-hit wonder after "Incense and Peppermints"), and "Sit Down I Think I Love You" (The Mojo Men's Top 40 cover version of one of my favorite Buffalo Springfield songs). Four of the 14 tracks were old favorites — "Bend Me, Shape Me" (The American Breed), "You're The One" (The Vogues), "She Is a Still a Mystery" (Lovin' Spoonful), and "Where Were You When I Needed You" (The Grass Roots) — so that made this collection a safe selection. As for the other artists on this album, I was certainly interested in hearing more from The Knickerbockers and The Electric Prunes, since I knew their biggest hits. I can't decide what I like more about tracks #4 and 14 — the titles ("Got a Girl Named Wilma" and "P.S. Call Me Lulu") or the artists' names (Hackamore Brick and Primrose Circus). Here's a complete track listing: https://www.discogs.com/Various-Nuggets-Volume-Five-Pop-Part-III/master/646019
518. Darkness on the Edge of Town – Bruce Springsteen
Released in 1978, Darkness on the Edge of Town was Springsteen's fourth album but his first since 1975's Born to Run, because of a long legal battle with his former manager. I seem to remember hearing this album being played on the sound system at Rocket Records when it was still fairly new ("Adam Raised a Cain" somes to mind), and I'm sure Tom Dellaquila had it playing in my presence in college, but I didn't actively listen to it till I borrowed my co-worker Drew Vosefski's copy in the summer of 1984. The first single, "Prove It All Night," became Springsteen's second Top 40 hit, but my jam was the second single, "Badlands," which came up just short (#42). My other favorite was "Candy's Room," followed by "Promised Land" and the title track. What if Springsteen had been from New Hampshire instead of New Jersey? He could have released Dartmouth on the Edge of Town.
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.