Influential Albums: 610-616
Sat., Jan. 15. 2022 3:38pm EST
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.
610. The Way It Is - Bruce Hornsby and the Range
The first time I heard the song "The Way It Is" on the radio in the fall of 1986, I wondered if it was a new release by John Cougar Mellencamp. The singer's phrasing was similar and the lyrics were reminiscent of things Mellencamp liked to sing about. Later, I found out it was a new artist, Bruce Hornsby and the Range, but lack of familiarity didn't stop the single from going to #1 on the pop chart and the adult contemporary chart. It also went to #3 on the rock chart. ApologetiX spoofed "The Way It Is" 25 years later, in the fall of 2011. Subsequent singles from The Way It Is, "Mandolin Rain" (#4 pop, #1 AC, #2 rock) and "Every Little Kiss" (#14 pop, #3 AC, #18 rock) did well, too. The album itself went to #3 and sold over three million copies. "Valley Road," the first single from the follow-up album, Scenes from the Southside, went to #5 pop, #1 AC, and #1 rock. I like all four of those songs a whole bunch. Hornsby's other claims to fame include writing the #1 hit "Jacob's Ladder" for Huey Lewis, co-writing and playing keyboards on #8 hit "The End of the Innocence" by Don Henley, and becoming a touring keyboardist/vocalist with The Grateful Dead from September 1990-March 1992. Looking back, can you really blame me for thinking "The Way It Is" was Mellencamp? I mean, Bruce Hornsby did sing in his range.
611. Dire Straits - Dire Straits
The first time I heard "Sultans of Swing" in early 1979, I didn't know who it was (Dylan? Clapton?), but I knew I liked it. I bought the single, which went to #4 on the pop chart. The flip side, "Southbound Again," was catchy, too. I played that little 45 to death, but I had no idea just how much I would eventually come to appreciate Dire Straits and their lead singer/lead guitarist Mark Knopfler. He's one of my favorite lyricists in all of rock and roll. I didn't get to listen to more of the band's debut album until many years later, but there's plenty to like, especially "Down to the Waterline," "Water of Love," and "Wild West End." The album went to #2 in the United States and sold over two million copies here and over four million worldwide.
612. Gather Me - Melanie
I bought this 8-track because it told me to. "Gather Me," it said, right on the cover. But seriously, folks, I wasn't big on gathering 8-tracks, but I was big on gathering #1 hits, and I wanted "Brand New Key," which had topped the charts for Melanie (a.k.a. Melanie Safka) on Christmas Day 1971 and stayed there for three weeks. It's a song I still remember quite fondly from youth, although I was blissfully unaware that she might be talking about anything besides roller-skating. Gather Me went to #15 and sold half a million copies. It also contained the #31 hit "Ring the Living Bell." A third song, "Some Day I'll Be a Farmer," was released as a single, too, but bubbled under at #106. Melanie had three other Top 40 hits in her career: "Lay Down (Candles in the Rain) (#6), "Peace Will Come (According to Plan) #32), and "The Nickel Song" (#35).
613. Blondes Have More Fun - Rod Stewart
Released in November 1978, Blondes Have More Fun was Rod Stewart's ninth LP. It hit #1 in February 1979, staying at the top for three straight weeks. I bought a used copy at an indoor flea market in the winter of 1982-83 with a bunch of other albums I've mentioned earlier on this list. I purchased Blondes Have More Fun primarily because it contained "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy," which went to #1 for four weeks, but I had also enjoyed the second single, "Ain't Love a B****" (#22), when it was still on the radio. Other memorable tracks included "Is That the Thanks I Get," "Scared and Scarred," and the title track. There's also a cover of the old Four Tops song "Standin' in the Shadows of Love" that sounds an awful lot like "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy." Now that I'm familiar with Rod's early albums, I understand why people were so disappointed that he "sold out" with this album, but if you're gonna sell out, four million copies isn't a bad number. Nevertheless, if I had my druthers with that era of Rod, I'd rather listen to something like "You're in My Heart (The Final Acclaim) from '77 or "Young Turks" from '81.
614. It's a Beautiful Day - It's a Beautiful Day
I first learned of this San Francisco folk-rock group in the Book of Rock Lists by Dave Marsh and Kevin Stein. That snarky compendium came out in 1981, while I was in high school, and taught me a lot. It's a Beautiful Day topped the list of worst names for rock bands, and I knew I just had to hear them. In a later edition, they were bumped to #2 by Was (Not Was). Anyway, somebody must have liked that band name, because they named their debut album the same thing. I was delighted to find it among the records my brother-in-law Dan was giving me in early 1983 and was quite surprised at how good the opening track, "White Bird," was. That song bubbled under the Billboard Hot 100 at #118 in 1969, but it probably deserved a better fate. Well, depending on how you look at life, maybe it got one later when it was used in three episodes in three different seasons of the 1980's TV series Knight Rider. Another song on the album, "Bulgaria," had been released on a single in 1968, but did not chart. It's a bit of dirge, but the songs "Hot Summer Day" and "Time Is" aren't bad. The album itself went to #48 and sold half a million copies, staying on the chart for 70 weeks. And ya gotta love that iconic cover art! The whole package really livened up the old record collection. The band's follow-up album, Marrying Maiden, went to #28 but didn't sell as many copies and only stayed on the chart for 21 weeks.
615. Live - Iron Butterfly
As you may have noticed, Iron Butterfly has a similar name structure to Led Zeppelin (i.e. a word denoting something heavy followed by a word denoting something seemingly lighter than air). Both were part of the Atlantic Records roster. Of course, Led Zeppelin went on to much greater, longer-lasting success, so most rock fans today probably assume they came first. Not so. Iron Butterfly's third album, Ball, hit the Billboard chart the very same week as Zep's debut album, and it also peaked seven notches higher (#3 vs. #10). That's ironic, but so was the Butterfly. They are best remembered for the thundering, lumbering epic "In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida." Released in 1968, that song was a staple on album-rock FM stations and gave many DJs a welcome bathroom break, but it also hit the Top 40 (#30). In fact, it re-entered the charts the following year and went to #68. However, the single version was less than three minutes long (2:52) ... over 14 minutes shorter than the album version (17:05). That means if you put the single on repeat at the same time you started the album version, you would be almost finished with your sixth play by the time the album version finished once! In case the 17-minute version wasn't long enough for you, Iron Butterfly supplied a 19-minute version on their 1970 Live LP; it takes up all of side two. I got my copy of that album from my brother-in-law Dan. Surprisingly, the band managed to fit five songs (each under four and a half minutes long) onto side one, including renditions of two other tunes that had hit the Hot 100 for them — "Soul Experience" (#75) and "in the Time of Our Lives" (#96). Before you ask: No, ApologetiX has never released a spoof of Iron Butterfly and, yes, we know what you think we ought to do with "In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida." I wrote complete lyrics for the parody over 25 years ago; we just have never gotten around to recording it.
616. The Four Tops Greatest Hits - The Four Tops
Released in August 1967, The Four Tops Greatest Hits was a smash on both sides of the pond. Ironically, it went to #4 on the U.S. album chart and topped the U.K. chart —get it? In fact, it was the first Motown album ever to hit #1 in England. I picked up an old copy sometime during college. The main attractions were the two exquisite #1 hits — "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)" and "Reach Out I'll Be There" — but eight of the remaining 10 songs were Top 40 hits, and the only two that weren't still hit the Top 45. The other Top 10 hits were "Bernadette" (#4), "It's the Same Old Song" (#5), and "Standing in the Shadows of Love" (#6), plus the near-miss "Baby I Need Your Loving" (#11). My favorite Four Tops hit not included on this album is their post-Motown #4 hit from 1973, "Ain't No Woman (Like the One I've Got)."
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.