Influential Albums: 709-715
Fri., Apr. 22. 2022 2:38pm 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.
709. Greatest Hits – The Miracles
I bought a discount copy of this album while I was in college, albeit grudgingly, because I needed "Love Machine (Part 1)," which had been a #1 hit in 1976. I didn't know the song very well at the time, but I wound up liking it a whole lot. My first two Miracles purchases, however, were made quite enthusiastically while I was in high school — oldies 45's of their first #1 hit, "Tears of a Clown" from 1970, and their #11 hit "Going to a Go-Go" from 1965. I was also a big fan of their mid-60's hits "I Second That Emotion" (#4) and "The Tracks of My Tears" (#16). Unfortunately, none of those songs were on the '77 LP Greatest Hits, because it only featured Miracles music from the period after Smokey Robinson left for a solo career and Billy Griffin took over as their lead singer in '72. Ironically, even though Smokey didn't sing or write "Love Machine" (Griffin co-wrote it with Miracles bass singer Warren Moore), that tune became The Miracles' biggest hit, selling over 4.5 million copies. The version on the single was only 2:55, with "Love Machine (Part 2)" on the flip side, but Greatest Hits kept them together for the full 6:52. With all that being said, The Miracles didn't have a lot of other hits after Smokey left (they had 24 Top 40 hits while he was with them), although this album has the others in addition to "Love Machine" that either hit the pop or R&B Top 40: "Do It Baby" (#13 pop, #4 R&B), "Don't Cha Love It (#78 pop, #4 R&B), and "Don't Let It End (Til You Begin) (#56 pop, #26 R&B). Consequently, Greatest Hits failed to hit the Billboard 200. Nevertheless, you can probably still find it used somewhere if you shop around. In case you're wondering, Smokey had four Top 10 hits after leaving The Miracles, and I liked them all, especially "Cruisin'" (#4 Billboard, #1 Cash Box) and "Being with You" (#2 Billboard, #1 Cash Box). Furthermore, I was a huge fan of the British group ABC's tribute record "When Smokey Sings," which hit #5 in 1987, the same year Smokey had his last two big hits, "Just to See Her" (#8) and "One Heartbeat" (#10).
710. Greatest Hits - Al Green
I first became aware of Al Green because of the soul singer's sole single to top the Billboard Hot 100, "Let's Stay Together." But the man had many more hits than that. From 1971-75, he racked up an impressive total of eight million-selling singles, seven Top 10 pop hits, and six #1 R&B hits. Two of his songs that peaked at #3 on Billboard Hot 100 actually hit #1 on other major pop charts: "I'm Still in Love With You" (#1 Cash Box, #1 Record World), and "You Ought to Be With Me" (#1 Record World). After several traumatic incidents in the mid-70's, Green switched to Gospel music, became an ordained pastor, and established the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Memphis TN. Released in April 1975, Greatest Hits, included most of the songs I mentioned or alluded to above, and the 1995 reissue included all of them. However, he had one last Top 10 hit in 1988 that you'll have to get elsewhere, "Put a Little Love in Your Heart," a duet with Eurythmics lead singer Annie Lennox, which first appeared on the soundtrack album for the Bill Murray holiday movie Scrooged. That song went to #9 on the pop chart and #2 on the adult contemporary chart, becoming Green's first AC Top 10 hit. Curiously, the 1975 edition of Greatest Hits went to #17 and didn't sell a million copies, but the 1995 reissue only went to #127 yet did sell a million copies. The album ranked #52 on Rolling Stone magazine's 2003 and 2012 lists of greatest albums of all time but dropped over 400 slots to #456 on the 2020 list.
711. The Best of Earth, Wind & Fire, Vol. 1 - Earth, Wind & Fire
I bought an Earth, Wind & Fire album for my sister Gayle when I was in high school, but I can't recall if it was All 'n All or I Am. My guess is that it was the latter, because I remember her liking "Boogie Wonderland" (#6) and "After the Love Has Gone" (#2), which were both on I Am ... but I think she also liked "Fantasy" (#32), which was on All 'n All. At the time, I was more interested in "September" (#8), which first appeared on The Best of Earth, Wind & Fire, Vol. 1 (1978), the album between All 'n All (1977) and I Am (1979). That album also included the big hits "Shining Star" (#1), "Sing a Song" (#5), "Got to Get You Into My Life" (#9), "That's the Way of the World" (#12), and "Getaway" (#12). Earth, Wind & Fire had a total of eight #1 R&B hits and eight million-selling singles. I think one of my college roommates sophomore year, Gary McGinnis, had a 45 of their last big hit, "Let's Groove" (#3 in 1981). Though The Best of Earth, Wind & Fire, Vol. 1 only included the first half of their hits, it went to #6 and sold over five million copies. In 1988, the band finally released Vol. 2, which only went to #190 and sold a mere half million, despite having the same number of Top 40 hits (eight) as Vol. 1. ApologetiX spoofed my favorite EW&T song, "Shining Star," in 2016. Before we released it on a single, Tom Tincha, Jimmy "Vegas" Tanner, and I performed it live with the New Community Church worship team (including a full brass section). You can view an entertaining video of that here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S33u4cRI29E
712. All the Great Hits - The Commodores
First of all, you can't trust the title of this 1982 compilation; it's missing The Commodores' first two Top 10 hits, "Sweet Love" (#5) and "Just to Be Close to You" (#7). It does contain the next seven, though: "Easy" (#4), "Brick House" (#5), "Three Times a Lady" (#1), "Sail On" (#4 Billboard, #1 Cash Box, #1 Record World, #1 Radio & Records), "Still" (#1), "Lady (You Bring Me Up)" (#8), and "Oh No" (#4). It also includes their first Top 40 hit, the instrumental "Machine Gun" (#22). The other two tracks on All the Great Hits were brand-new songs, both of which were released as singles: "Painted Picture" (#70 pop, #19 R&B) and "Reach High" (did not chart). I realize the need to add something new to stimulate longtime fans to buy a greatest hits collection, but it's a bummer, since those two songs took up space that could have been allocated to the missing two Top 10 hits. Then again, those were the first two singles after Lionel Richie left the band, so they needed the extra boost. All the Great Hits only went to #37 but eventually sold half a million copies. One of those copies belonged to my freshman college roommate, Kevin Bailey. I think he also owned Lionel Richie's self-titled debut solo album, which featured three more Top 10 hits, "Truly" (#1), "You Are" (#4), and "My Love" (#5). In 1985, The Commodores finally scored their first and only post-Richie Top 10 single, "Nightshift." It became their third-biggest pop hit (#3) their second-biggest adult contemporary hit (#2), and my #1 favorite Commodores song. My other faves are "Easy" and "Sail On." The group got their name by throwing a dictionary in the air and picking the first word trumpet player William King's finger landed on. Yes, they are well aware of how dangerously close they came to being called The Commodes. ApologetiX spoofed "Easy" in 2016.
713. Greatest Hits - KC and The Sunshine Band
There aren't many artists out there who could put out a greatest hits album containing five #1 hits, but singer/keyboardist/songwriter/producer Harry Wayne Casey (KC) and his group (originally called KC & The Sunshine Junkanoo Band) did. "Get Down Tonight," "That's the Way (I Like It)," "(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty," "I'm Your Boogie Man," and "Please Don't Go" all topped the Billboard Hot 100 between 1975 and 1980, and they're all on Greatest Hits, which was released in February '80. In fact, "Please Don't Go" was the first #1 song of the 80's. Greatest Hits also includes the #2 hit "Keep It Comin' Love" and the disco classic "Boogie Shoes" (#35), from Saturday Night Fever. KC had another #2 hit, "Yes, I'm Ready," with Teri DeSario a month after Greatest Hits came out, but that one wasn't attributed to The Sunshine Band and wasn't on TK Records. In 1984, KC had one last big hit, "Give It Up," which went to #18 in the United States but topped the U.K. pop chart for three weeks. KC and his musical partner, Sunshine Band bassist Richard Finch, also wrote, produced, and played on George McCrae's 1974 #1 hit "Rock Your Baby." It could have become KC's first hit, but the vocals were far too high for him to sing, so they enlisted McCrae instead. ApologetiX spoofed "Get Down Tonight" in 2003, and in the outro section of that parody, we also spoofed his other four #1 hits and "Keep It Comin' Love."
714. All My Best - Slim Whitman
Music historians generally regard 1979 as the year disco met its demise. Some credit the infamous Disco Demolition Night in July at a Chicago White Sox home game against the Detroit Tigers. Others mention The Knack and their hostile takeover of the singles and album charts in August with "My Sharona" (six weeks at #1) and Get the Knack (five weeks at #1). But let's not forget country singer-songwriter-guitarist Slim Whitman. His 1979 greatest hits compilation, All My Best, sold approximately 1.5 million units, becoming the #2 best-selling TV-marketed album in music history. Neither I nor my friends had ever heard of him before, but that commercial was all over the tube, and the deadly denizens of disco were no match for the man's haunting, all-knowing smile; distinctive, pencil-thin moustache; and unmistakable, effortless yodel. He had all of us viewers captivated from the moment he started singing "Una Paloma Blanca," and he sealed the deal with his next number, "Rose Marie," which hit #4 on the country chart in the United States in 1955 but stayed at #1 on the U.K. pop chart for 11 consecutive weeks ... longer than Elvis or The Beatles, as anybody who watched the commercial can tell you. In fact, it was longer than anyone else, too, until Bryan Adams set a new mark of 16 weeks in 1991 with "(Everything I Do) I Do It for You." And what about "Vaya Con Dios," "Red River Valley," and "There Goes My Everything"? They were all present and accounted for on All My Best. Slim's career-making #2 country hit from 1952, "Indiana Love Call," led off the 20-song collection and even wound up playing a vital role in the 1996 movie Mars Attacks! As we also learned in the commercial, Slim was voted #1 male international recording artist in England four years in a row! So I ask you: How on earth could this album be "not available in stores"?!! I remember making a homemade comedy tape with my friends spoofing that commercial along with some other TV-advertised record compilations of that era by Jim Nabors, Boxcar Willie, and Roger Whitaker. I know we weren't the only ones having laughs over Slim Whitman, but the man was legit. Over the course of his seven-decade career, he sold somewhere between 70 million and 120 million-plus records, releasing over 100 albums. Although Slim never had a Top 40 hit during the rock era, dig these credentials: He toured as an opening act for Elvis in the 1950's. At least two Beatles cited him as an influence; His left-handed style inspired Paul McCartney, and George Harrison said Whitman was the first person he ever saw playing a guitar. Meanwhile, Michael Jackson listed Slim as one of his 10 favorite vocalists (right between Sam Cooke and Otis Redding). Amazingly, Whitman outlived all of those music legends aside from McCartney, finally passing at the age of 90, having been married to the same woman for 67 years. Those are familiar numbers to me, because my own father lived to the age of 90 and died just four months short of his 67th wedding anniversary with my mom.
715. On the Radio: Greatest Hits Volumes I & II - Donna Summer
When On the Radio: Greatest Hits Volumes I & II topped the Billboard 200 in the fall of 1979, it made Donna Summer the first artist ever to have three consecutive #1 double albums. The previous two were Bad Girls (1979) and Live and More (1978). Her album before that, Once Upon a Time (1977) was a double album, too, although it only went to #26. Furthermore, between Once Upon a Time and Live and More, Summer also had four songs on a Top 10 triple album, the soundtrack for Thank God It's Friday. Maybe you could imagine a prog rock band being that prolific, but a disco diva? On the Radio: Greatest Hits Volumes I & II contained 16 tracks, including two new songs, a chart-topping duet with Barbra Steisand called "No More Tears (Enough is Enough) and "On the Radio" (#5 Billboard, #1 Record World). In addition, it featured three other #1 hits — "MacArthur Park," "Hot Stuff," and "Bad Girls" — plus these five Top 10 hits: "Love to Love You Baby" (#2 Billboard, #1 Record World), "Dim All the Lights" (#2), "Last Dance" (#3), "Heaven Knows" (#4), and "I Feel Love" (#6 U.S., #1 U.K.). After this album, Summer would go on to have four more Top 10 hits: "The Wanderer" (#3), "Love Is in Control (Finger On the Trigger)" (#10), "She Works Hard for the Money" (#3), and "This Time I Know It's for Real" (#7). My favorite Summer songs are "I Feel Love," "MacArthur Park," and "Hot Stuff," although I enjoy other ones, too. I remember my sister Gayle being partial to "Last Dance" and my sister Kris liking "Bad Girls." ApologetiX spoofed "Hot Stuff" in 2014.
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.