Influential Albums: 681-687
Sat., Mar. 26. 2022 1:05pm 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.
681. Monkee Flips - The Monkees
Released in 1984, the full title of this album was Monkee Flips: The Best of The Monkees Volume Four. Although it wasn't explicitly stated, the first three volumes were Greatest Hits (1976), More Greatest Hits of the Monkees (1982), and Monkee Business (1982). I had purchased each of those but never bought this one. I didn't need to; my college radio-show partner and mentor Brian Wolfe already owned it on vinyl and let me borrow it. In fact, The Monkees were the band we bonded over. I had 12 of the 14 songs on Monkee Flips already — or I would have bought it myself — but the two I needed were ones I really wanted to hear, and I was not disappointed. They were definitely worth the price of admission ... or in this case, the price of a blank cassette to record them. The two tunes I alluded to were the 1969 single "Teardrop City" (#56 Billboard, #37 Cash Box, #33 Record World) and "I Love You Better," the flip side of their final charting single before the '86 reunion, "Oh My My" (#98), which also appears on this album. As an added bonus for geeks like me, Monkee Flips contained a previously unreleased alternate mix of the popular Nesmith-penned tune "Circle Sky" with a different lead vocal. The rest of the tracks were all great, too, but there's no sense expounding upon them, because you wouldn't recognize the titles unless you're a rabid Monkees fan (not to be confused with a rabid-monkeys fan ... something that's even rarer), and if you are, you already know about the greatness of those songs and this compilation.
682. Greatest Hits - War
Although they're often forgotten when people talk about important 70's artists, the California-based funk-rock group War had a dozen Top 40 hits, seven of which reached the Top 10. Six of those sold a million copies apiece, as did their #16 hit "Slippin' Into Darkness." War first found fame as the back-up band to former Animals frontman Eric Burdon, who sang with War from 1969-71. Only one of their singles during that period reached the Top 40, but it was a biggie: "Spill the Wine" (credited to Eric Burdon and War) peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 on August 22, 1970. The song at #4 that week was "War" by Edwin Starr. So you had War at #3 and "War" at #4. My sisters had both of those 45's, and I liked 'em both, but all that War was a little confusing for my six-year-old self. The song "War" went to #1 the following week. The band War never had a #1 hit, but they did have a #2, "The Cisco Kid," in '73. Their third-biggest hit, "Why Can't We Be Friends," went to #6. Three of their songs went to #7: "The World is a Ghetto," "Low Rider," and "Summer." Their other Top 10 hit was "Gypsy Man" (#8). War's Greatest Hits LP hit the stores in the summer of '76. "Summer," which wound up being the band's final Top 10 hit, made its debut on this album. In a clever marketing move, that single was officially released on June 21, the first day of summer, although it didn't reach its peak position until September 25, a few days after summer was over. It became War's only #1 adult-contemporary hit and was a favorite of my old college roommate Tom Dellaquila. I think he owned Greatest Hits, which contains everything by them I've already mentioned except "Spill the Wine." Furthermore, it features the classics "Me and Baby Brother" (#15) and "All Day Music" (#35). A couple of my other college roommates, Kevin Bailey and Gary McGinnis, also liked War's final charting single, "Outlaw," which came out in 1982. That song only went to #94 on the pop chart, but it went to #13 on the R&B chart. Subsequent compilations Anthology (1994) and The Very Best of War (2003) include all the goodies on Greatest Hits, plus many other songs, including "Spill the Wine" and "Outlaw." Incidentally, I first met Tom, Kevin, and Gary during my freshman year in college when we all lived on the same floor. And the name of our dorm was ... wait for it ... Wahr!
683. On the Threshold of a Dream - The Moody Blues
Released in April 1969, On the Threshold of a Dream was the fourth Moody Blues LP overall and their third with Justin Hayward and John Lodge. It yielded just one charting single, "Never Comes the Day," which only went to #91 on the Billboard Hot 100 and did not chart in the U.K. The album itself was much more successful, topping the U.K. album chart and reaching #20 in the States, where it also sold a million copies. I first heard a number of its songs on Caught Live + Five and This Is the Moody Blues, two albums I already mentioned on this list. In addition to "Never Comes the Day," those songs included "In the Beginning," "Lovely to See You," "Dear Diary," "The Dream," "Have You Heard Pts. 1 and 2" "The Voyage," "Are You Sitting Comfortably?" I liked all of those tunes, so I don't know why it took me so long to buy On the Threshold of a Dream and listen to the rest of them (and to hear studio versions of the ones I only knew from live recordings). I finally did, though, and enjoyed them all: "To Share Our Love," "Send Me No Wine," "So Deep Within You," and "Lazy Day." Although the album was released on the Deram subsidiary label of Decca Records, it inspired the name of The Moody Blues' custom label, Threshold, which the group would use for the next 30 years.
684. H2O - Daryl Hall & John Oates
Released in October 1982, H2O brings back memories of my freshman year in college. Its songs were all over the radio, and copies of the album were all over campus. It sold two million units in the United States alone and hit #3 on the Billboard 200 album chart, the most successful showing of Daryl Hall & John Oates' illustrious career. Unlike their previous two LPs, H2O yielded only three hit singles, but they all made the U.S. Top 10. The first, "Maneater," became the biggest pop hit of their career, staying atop the charts for four weeks. It also became the duo's biggest rock hit, too, reaching #18 on that chart. Furthermore, it went to #14 on the adult contemporary chart. The other two singles — "One on One" (#7 pop, #4 AC, and #2 on the Radio & Records chart) and "Family Man" (#6 pop, #36 AC) — were no slouches, either. A fourth song, "Italian Girls" went to #24 in Canada but didn't hit the charts in Italy or anywhere else. "Family Man" was actually a remake of a minor hit by British musician Mike Oldfield (of Tubular Bells fame) and Scottish singer Maggie Reilly. Their version hit #29 in Canada and #44 in the U.K. in 1982. ApologetiX spoofed "Maneater" in 2015. When I first met future ApX guitarist Tom Milnes in 1993, he was in a Christian power trio called H3O. A Bible-study buddy of mine had raved to me about their musical ability several years earlier. Although that friend and I have since fallen out of touch, Milnes and I usually talk one on one at least once a week.
685. Agent Provocateur - Foreigner
I was a Foreigner fan, but their fifth album, Agent Provocateur, is primarily on this list because it elicited one of the funniest reviews I ever read in Rolling Stone. I haven't been able to find the exactly wording online, but it went something like this: "Every year or two, the Foreigner helicopter swoops down, bringing its usual cargo of hits. This year, it only delivered one — a baby gorilla called 'I Want to Know What Love Is.'" I still chuckle at that, even though it's not entirely accurate. Released in December 1984, Agent Provocateur actually produced a second Top 15 hit, "That Was Yesterday" (#12 pop, #4 rock), plus two other 45's that went to #54: "Reaction to Action" (which also hit #44 on the rock chart) and "Down On Love." A fifth track, "Tooth and Nail" hit #47 on the rock chart. But they were all massively overshadowed by "I Want to Know What Love Is," which sold two million copies and became Foreigner's first and only #1 pop hit. It even made it to #3 on the adult contemporary chart ... and therein lies the problem. Foreigner fans were willing to allow the mellow "Waiting for a Girl Like You" (a #2 pop hit that also hit #5 on the AC chart) on the band's previous album, because it came sandwiched between rockers "Urgent" and "Juke Box Hero." Every rock band is expected to have one power ballad. But two was too much to take, even though both "Waiting for a Girl Like You" and "I Want to Know What Love Is" did hit #1 on the rock chart. Agent Provocateur went to #4 on the Billboard 200 album chart, selling over three million copies in the United States alone (my junior-and-senior-year college housemate Dave Anthony had one of them), and probably at least a million elsewhere ... but it negatively impacted the band's street cred among many long-time fans, who felt ... uh ... provoked. Foreigner laid low for a few years after that but came back strong in '87: Lead singer Lou Gramm kicked things off with a huge solo hit, "Midnight Blue" (#5 pop, #1 rock), and the band closed the year with "Say You Will," which almost exactly duplicated Gramm's solo chart performance (#6 pop, #1 rock). That was the first single from their sixth LP, Inside Information. The second single, "I Don't Want to Live Without You," was their softest yet and became the band's first #1 AC hit, although it also hit #5 on the pop chart. Foreigner hasn't hit the Top 40 since, but Gramm did have another solo Top 10 hit, yet even that was mellow — "Just Between You and Me" (#6 pop, #4 AC). The band still squeezed out three more Top 10 rock hits, though: "Heart Turns to Stone" (#7), "Lowdown and Dirty" (#4), and "Soul Doctor" (#5). Those last two are legitimate rockers, and "Soul Doctor," released in 1992, is one of my all-time favorite Foreigner tunes. ApologetiX has spoofed seven Foreigner songs, but none from Agent Provocateur or afterward, although I used to sing "Midnight Blue" in my last secular band.
686. Don't Say No - Billy Squier
Released in April 1981, Don't Say No appeared to me to be an impressive debut disc for Billy Squier, but it was actually his second LP ... the first one just hadn't produced any songs that generated significant airplay. Don't Say No, however, featured four songs that became FM fixtures: "The Stroke" (#17 pop, #3 rock), "In the Dark" (#35 pop, #7 rock), "My Kinda Lover" (#45 pop, #31 rock), and "Lonely Is the Night" (#28 rock). Consequently, it hit #5 on the Billboard 200 album chart, whereas its 1980 predecessor, The Tale of the Tape, only went as far as #169. The flip side of the "My Kinda Lover" single, "Christmas Is the Time to Say I Love You," also got plenty of airplay, although it wasn't included on Don't Say No. My first memory of hearing "The Stroke" was while working for my dad's printing company early in the summer of '81. At the time, I thought it was a naughty song, and it was obvious that the guy who was blasting it in the bindery did, too. Don't Say No went on to sell three million copies. Billy's next two albums extended his success streak but with gradually diminishing returns. Emotions in Motion (1982) hit #5 but only sold two million copies, and Signs of Life (1984) hit #11 with sales of one million. Each of them did generate a #1 rock hit, though: "Everybody Wants You" (#32 pop), which I loved, and "Rock Me Tonite" (#15 pop), which I didn't. Many people credit the "Rock Me Tonite" video with ruining Squier's career — he never had another Top 40 pop hit after that — but he did release 10 more songs that hit the rock Top 40, including three that reached the rock Top 10. Rap star Eminem sampled "The Stroke" for his #3 pop hit "Berzerk" in 2013 and "My Kinda Lover" for his album track "Shady XV" in 2014. ApologetiX spoofed "The Stroke" in 2015. Apparently, in the early to mid-2010's, it was hip to B. Squier.
687. Gary Puckett & The Union Gap's Greatest Hits - Gary Puckett & The Union Gap
Assassinations. Riots. War. To put it mildly, the state of the Union was not great in 1968. The state of the Union Gap, however, would never be better. Springing seemingly from out nowhere, Gary Puckett & The Union Gap started their chart career with four singles that hit the Top 10 in '68: "Woman, Woman" (#4 in January), "Young Girl" (#2 in April), "Lady Willpower" (#2 in July), and "Over You" (#7 in October). Winter, spring, summer, or fall, Gary Puckett had it all. "Young Girl" and "Lady Willpower" hit #1 on the Cash Box chart, too. A couple more big hits followed in 1969: "Don't Give in to Him" (#15) and "This Girl Is a Woman Now" (#9). Unfortunately, Gary's group would never hit the Top 40 again. I always thought it was interesting how their first three hits had "Woman," "Girl," and "Lady" in the title, and their final hit had both "Girl" and "Woman" in the title. GP&UG did have one final single that reached the Hot 100 in 1970, "Let's Give Adam and Eve Another Chance," which just missed the Top 40 (#41) in spite of its intriguing title. Every one of the aforementioned songs is on Gary Puckett & The Union Gap's Greatest Hits, which was released in July 1970. It only went to #50 on the Billboard 200 album chart, but it did sell over a million copies. One of those copies was mine — on 8-track, no less. I got it as part of a twofer deal from Columbia House Record Club along with Dr. Hook and The Medicine Show Revisited. Puckett finished his chart career with a pair of solo singles that peaked at #61 and #71 in '70 and '71, although his concert career was far from over. I saw him perform live as one of the opening acts for The Monkees at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena in the summer of '86, but there appeared to be gap where the Union should have been.
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.