Influential Albums: 617-623
Sat., Jan. 22. 2022 2:09pm 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.
617. Temptations Greatest Hits II - The Temptations
Have you ever seen the 1998 TV biopic The Temptations? My favorite moment is when they're still called The Elgins, and they pray together and ask God for a new name and then decide to call themselves "The Temptations." Does anybody else see the humor in that? Whatever happened to "And lead us not into temptation"? I don't remember this album cover for Greatest Hits II, but I borrowed a collection with a similar track listing from the IUP library when I was an upperclassman. It covers the second phase of The Temptations' career — my favorite phase — when they morphed into masters of socially conscious psychedelic soul, largely thanks to producer/composer Norman Whitfield and lyricist Barrett Strong. Released in 1970, Temptations Greatest Hits II featured 11 hits from 1966-69 plus a fantastic new Temps tune, "Ball of Confusion (That's What The World Is Today). That song went to #3 and seven of the other tracks went to the Top 10: "(I Know) I'm Losing You" (#8), "Psychedelic Shack" (#7), "Cloud Nine" (#6), "You're My Everything" (#6), "Runaway Child Running Wild" (#6), "I Wish It Would Rain" (#4), and "I Can't Get Next to You" (#1). I already had "I Can't Get Next to You" on an oldies single along with "Psychedelic Shack." It was The Temptations' second #1 song ("My Girl" was the first and was on their first Greatest Hits album in 1966), but they went on to have two more in '71 and '72 — "Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)" and "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone." Ironically, The Rolling Stones covered "Just My Imagination," but not "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone." What's up with that? All four of The Temptations' #1 songs are great, even though they are each quite different ... kind of like another band that had exactly four #1 songs, Blondie. Here's a key difference, though: Blondie had eight Top 40 hits whereas The Temptations had 38! Only one track on Greatest Hits II didn't hit the Top 20, "Please Return to Me," but even it went to #26. The sleeper hit for me on this collection is "Don't Let the Joneses Get You Down." It stalled at #20 on the pop charts but went to #2 on the R&B chart. In case you're wondering, my favorite song on their previous Greatest Hits album (besides "My Girl") is "Get Ready" (#29).
618. Frank Sinatra's Greatest Hits! - Frank Sinatra
Released in August 1968, Frank Sinatra's Greatest Hits! assembled a dozen Sinatra selections from 1964-67 and sold two million copies. It contained two #1 pop hits — "Strangers in the Night" and his duet with daughter Nancy, "Somethin' Stupid" — that's why I was there. Both of those songs also hit #1 on the adult contemporary chart, as did four other tracks on this album: "It Was a Very Good Year," "Summer Wind," "That's Life," and "The World We Knew." I like a lot of his earlier hits, too, but they're not on this collection, which only includes material released on his own Reprise Records label. In January 1999, I wrote a bunch of Sinatra spoofs for my father Frank's 70th birthday party and performed them as "Frank Jacksonatra." In November 2015, I read and enjoyed a brand-new 994-page book about the second half of Sinatra's life (1954-98) called The Chairman by James Kaplan. I realize Ol' Blue Eyes had great success late in life with his Duets albums in 1993 and '94, but they really missed a golden opportunity by not pairing him with Michael McDonald or Tom Johnston or Patrick Simmons. I mean, who could sing "Doobie doobie do" with more authenticity than those guys?
619. The Best of Peter, Paul, and Mary: Ten Years Together - Peter, Paul, and Mary
The one Peter, Paul and Mary album I actually owned was Album 1700, which contained two of my favorite PP&M songs — their only #1 hit, "Leaving on a Jet Plane," and the #9 hit "I Dig Rock and Roll Music," which has some great vocal imitations of The Mamas and The Papas, The Beatles, and Donovan. Both of those songs are on this collection, too, which I believe I first heard courtesty of my college housemate Mikey Brechbill. If you've been following this list, you'll note that he had eclectic tastes, including Buddy Holly, The Clash, Led Zeppelin, The Ramones, and Peter, Paul, and Mary. Ten Years Together contains four other Top 10 hits, "If I Had a Hammer" (#10), "Don't Think Twice It's Alright" (#9), "Blowin' in the Wind" (#2), and "Puff the Magic Dragon" (#2), which was my fourth daughter Natalie's favorite song as a child. Three of the 13 songs were written by Bob Dylan — "Blowin' in the Wind," "Don't Think Twice," and "Too Much of Nothing" (#35). Two others were written by Gordon Lightfoot — "For Lovin' Me" (#30) and "Early Morning Rain" (#90). Eleven of the tracks were Top 40 hits. My favorite title of them all is "Stewball" ... not the tune, but the title ... sounds like something nightmarish from our grade-school cafeteria. My favorite PP&M song not on this album is "The Marvelous Toy" from the 1969 album Peter, Paul and Mommy. That's another one my kids like, too. Released in 1970, Ten Years Together only went to #15, but it sold two million copies, matching the sales of their debut album from 1962, which went to #1 for seven weeks.
620. Decade - Neil Young
I owned Neil Young's 1969 album Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (another one from my brother-in-law Dan), but my old roommate Tom Dellaquila had Decade. Released in October 1977, this triple album had 35 tracks in all — not just solo selections but songs Neil recorded with Buffalo Springfield; Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; and Crazy Horse. My favorites include "Mr. Soul," "I Am a Child," "Cinnamon Girl" (#55) — I had those first three on other albums I owned — "Old Man" (#31), "Sugar Mountain," "After the Gold Rush," "The Needle and the Damage Done," "Like a Hurricane," and the #1 hit "Heart of Gold." Neil had but three Top 40 hits, yet somehow he only found space for two of them on these six sides of vinyl. The other one, "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" (#33), was eventually included on his Greatest Hits album in 2004. Although he's written some great lyrics in his career, the Neil Young words that brought me the most delight were spoken, not sung ... at the recording session for "Tears Are Not Enough" by Northern Lights, the Canadian equivalent of "We Are the World" by USA for Africa and "Do They Know It's Christmas?" by Band Aid. Producer David Foster told Neil he had sung flat on a particular word. His reply? "That's my sound, man." I love that story. ApologetiX spoofed "Cinnamon Girl" in 2010.
621. Greatest Hits - Cher
Released in October 1974, Greatest Hits assembles Cher's solo hits from her years on MCA Records (1971-74), including three songs that went to #1: "Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves," "Half Breed," and "Dark Lady" — each a classic story song. It also includes one other Top 10 hit, "The Way of Love" (#7) and four other tunes that hit the Top 50. My favorite of those is "Train of Thought" (#27). My sister Kris was a big fan of Cher and used to watch her TV shows with Sonny Bono and without, so I certainly saw and heard my fair share of Cher. I also remember seeing her relationships with Sonny and Greg Allman discussed on the cover of tabloids in the store when I went grocery shopping with my parents. Thanks to Kris, I was very familiar with all three of the aformentioned #1 hits and enjoyed them all. We owned the 45's for "Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves" and "Train of Thought." But this album only represents one phase of Cher's career. She'd already had a #2 solo hit in 1966 with "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)," and she would finally score a fourth #1 hit in 1999 with the song "Believe." Between 1979-89, she also had Top 10 hits with "Take Me Home" (#8), "I Found Someone" (#10), "After All" (#6, a duet with Peter Cetera), "If I Could Turn Back Time" (#3), and Just Like Jesse James (#8). And, of course, between 1965-72, she had five Top 10 hits with Sonny: "I Got You Babe" (#1), Baby Don't Go" (#8), "The Beat Goes On" (#6), "All I Ever Need Is You" (#7), and "A Cowboy's Work Is Never Done" (#8). I've had a bunch of Cher's solo singles and hits with Sonny on vinyl, cassette, or MP3 at one time or another. My daughter Heather is a big fan of "Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves." When my friend Dave Rhodes was a kid, he thought title of that song was "Thieves! Thieves! Grab Those Thieves!"
622. Emotional Rescue - The Rolling Stones
In one of my previous Stones entries, I had said I wasn't going to include this album because I didn't know it as well as the others, but, upon further reflection, I was actually more familiar with it than I had previously remembered. Released in June 1980, Emotional Rescue was the bridge between two better-remembered albums, Some Girls (1978) and Tattoo You (1981), although it went to #1, just as they did. Emotional Rescue sold two million copies in the United States, whereas the other two sold six million and four million, respectively. The title track was released as the first single and went to #3, but it took a while to grow on me. I find it highly entertaining now; Jagger's monologue two thirds of the way into the song cracks me up. The second single, "She's So Cold" wasn't as big a hit (#26), but I liked it instantly and used to sing it in impromptu jam sessions with one of my old neighborhood friends who played guitar. His youngest brother was a friend of mine, too, and I think he had this album. That's how I got to know and love the opening track on side two, "Where the Boys Go." The opening track on side one, "Dance Pt. 1," was pretty good, too. It wasn't released as a single, but it hit #9 on the Billboard Dance chart. Actually, the majority of songs on this Emotional Rescue are fairly catchy, although the cover art looks like it was designed by the Predator in that old Arnold Schwarzenegger movie.
623. More Creedence Gold – Creedence Clearwater Revival
I already owned the Creedence Gold record when I got to college, but sometime while we were at IUP, my old roommate Lance Craig got the follow-up, More Creedence Gold, on cassette. Released in November 1972 and April 1973 respectively, those two albums and their 22 tracks could have accommodated all 20 of CCR's chart hits, but they don't. Conspicuous in their absence were two #2 hits, "Green River" and "Travelin' Band," plus "Commotion," "Long as I Can See the Light," and "Someday Never Comes." I don't know if Fantasy Records was planning a third volume and never got around to releasing it or what. The double-album Chronicle Vol. 1 finally put all 20 on one collection in 1976. All griping aside, there were five great non-hits I might have missed if they hadn't been on More Creedence Gold: "Porterville," "Good Golly Miss Molly," "Don't Look Now (It Ain't You or Me)," "Molina," and "Bootleg."
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.