Influential Albums: 814-820
Sat., Aug. 6. 2022 6:35pm 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.
814. Tom Jones' Greatest Hits - Tom Jones
Prince Charles may hold the official royal title, but for many music lovers (especially those of the female persuasion) Welsh singer and sex symbol Tom Jones was their personal Prince of Wales. From 1965 through '71, he racked up 17 U.S. Top 40 hits. Five of those hit the U.S. Top 10: "It's Not Unusual" (#10), "What's New Pussycat?" (#3), "I'll Never Fall in Love Again" (#6), "Without Love (There Is Nothing)" (#5), and "She's a Lady (#2 Billboard, #1 Cash Box, #1 Record World). Meanwhile, 14 of them hit the U.S. adult contemporary Top 10. During that same span, he had a dozen U.K. Top 10 hits, six of which hit either #1 or #2. Jones even had a #1 country song in '77 with his comeback hit, "Say You'll Stay Until Tomorrow" (#15 pop, #3 AC) and one final Top 40 hit (with The Art of Noise) in the winter of '88-99 with his remake of the '86 #1 hit, "Kiss" (#31), which brings us back to Prince. Released in December 1973, Tom Jones' Greatest Hits featured all of the aforementioned U.S. Top 10 pop hits except "Without Love (There is Nothing)," which is strange since it also topped the AC chart. However, the album did include "Green, Green Grass of Home" (#11 pop, #12 AC), "Love Me Tonight" (#13 pop, #2 AC), "Delilah" (#15 pop, #8 AC), "Help Yourself" (#35 pop, #3 AC), and "Daughter of Darkness" (#13 pop, #1 AC). Tom Jones' Greatest Hits only went to #185 on the Billboard 200, but that could be because he hadn't had a hit in a couple years. Besides, the beloved belter and balladeer already had 10 gold albums by then, and four of those had reached the Top 10. I bought two or three used Tom Jones 45's back in the day, and have purchased other songs of his digitally since then. ApologetiX has never spoofed him, but that doesn't mean we won't someday; I love singing stuff like that!
815. Legend - Poco
After spending their entire career and almost all of the '70s without a Top 40 single, the country-rock group Poco scored a couple Top 20 hits in 1979: "Crazy Love" (#17) and "Heart of the Night" (#20). And that was nothing compared to how well those songs performed on the adult contemporary chart. "Crazy Love" went all the way to #1 and stayed there for seven weeks, becoming the biggest AC hit of the year, while "Heart of the Night" made it to #5. Boy, do those two tunes bring back memories of that year for me. They both were on the band's 11th studio LP, Legend, which actually came out in November '78. The splendid, hard-driving title track was released as a third single, but its performance was less than legendary, bubbling under at #103. Nevertheless, it's a great song, as is the title track on the 1980 follow-up album, Under the Gun, although that single only went to #48. Ironically, Poco had to wait almost all of the '80s before finally finding two more Top 40 hits in '89: "Call It Love" (#18) and "Nothin' to Hide" (#39). Both of those made the AC Top 10, too. "Call It Love" went to #2, and "Nothin' to Hide" went to #10. If you're an Eagles fan, you'd probably like Poco (diehard followers call themselves "Poconuts"). In fact, two Eagles bassist-vocalists previously played with Poco: Randy Meisner, who sang lead vocals on "Take It to the Limit" (#4 pop and AC) and Timothy B. Schmit, who sang lead vocals on "I Can't Tell You Why" (#8 pop, #3 AC) and "Love Will Keep Us Alive" (#22 pop airplay, #1 AC). Not only that, Poco featured two former members of The Buffalo Springfield: Jimmy Messina, who would go on to further fame as part of Loggins and Messina; and Richie Furay, who later became a pioneer in Christian rock music and a pastor. None of the aforementioned stars were still with Poco by the time Legend came out, but longtime members Rusty Young (steel guitars, guitars, and vocals since '68) and Paul Cotton (lead guitar and vocals since '70) were. Charlie Harrison (bass) and Steve Chapman (drums) completed the Legend line-up. The album, featuring cover art by future Saturday Night Live cast member Phil Hartman (he'd designed another previous cover for Poco and two for the group America), reached #14 on the Billboard 200 and sold half a million copies. Poco's final two Top 40 hits were both on the similarly titled Legacy LP, which went to #40 and also sold half a million copies. Messina, Furay, and Meisner returned for that record, which reunited all five members who had played on the band's 1969 debut album, Pickin' Up the Pieces.
816. Firin' Up - Pure Prairie League
Casablanca Records is best remembered as the label that brought us Donna Summer The Village People, and Kiss. And if you think one of those things is not like the others, how about country-rock band Pure Prairie League? Well, they actually didn't appear on the Casablanca label until their eighth LP, but once they did, I doubt they regretted it. Released in February 1980, Firin' Up reached #37 on the album chart and featured Pure Prairie League's first and only Top 10 hit, "Let Me Love You Tonight" (#10), which also hit #1 on the adult contemporary chart and stayed there for three weeks. For those of us listening to radio regularly in 1980, it was a big part of our summer soundtrack and the first time we'd heard the voice of future country superstar Vince Gill, who'd joined the group in the fall of '78. Of course, we'd already heard Pure Prairie League before that, thanks to their '75 hit "Amie" (#27 pop, #20 AC). The next two singles from Firin' Up produced diminishing returns — "I'm Almost Ready" (#34, but it rocks) and "I Can't Stop This Feelin'" (#77) — but Pure Prairie League's next album, Something in the Night (1981), gave them one last noteworthy hit, "Still Right Here in My Heart" (#28 pop, #4 AC). Gill left the band that same year and launched his successful solo career in 1983, garnering 25 Top 10 country hits, seven of which reached #1. He married Amy Grant in 2000. Although Gill once declined an offer to join Dire Straits, he has served as Eagles co-lead guitarist since 2017 and also provides backing vocals and occasional lead vocals. Gill was born and raised in Oklahoma, but Pure Prairie League got their start in Ohio, which seems about as unexpected as them ending up on Casablanca Reocrds. ApologetiX has never spoofed any songs by PPL, but we attempted to sing "Amie" in my last secular band as a tribute to a girl named Amy who used to come to our practices. Our one married member's wife wasn't named Amy, so she put the kibosh on that pretty quickly.
817. New Clear Days - The Vapors
Not many people remember The Vapors, but music fans of a certain age probably know the British new-wave/power-pop band's one big hit, "Turning Japanese" #36 U.S. pop, #3 U.K.). It went to #1 in Australia and even became a minor hit in Japan. The 1980 album from whence it came, New Clear Days (#62 U.S., #44 U.K.), was The Vapors' first LP. My friend Michael Ranieri owned it and taped "Turning Japanese" for me along with the album's second single, "News at Ten," which didn't chart in the States but went to #44 on the U.K. chart. The Vapors' next album, Magnets, came out in March 1981 and went to #109 on the Billboard 200, although it missed the U.K. chart. However, Magnets did give The Vapors their one other charting single, a deceptively catchy number about a notorious cult leader, "Jimmie Jones" (#39 U.S. rock, #44 U.K.). Yes, that's correct ... in their homeland, three out of the band's four records (two singles, one album) peaked at #44. Wouldn't that qualify as high-caliber music? The band broke up in '82. However, they finally reunited in 2016 and released their long-awaited, unanticipated third album, Together, in 2020. It reached #87 on the U.K. album chart but didn't hit the Billboard 200. ApologetiX spoofed "Turning Japanese" in 2017.
818. She's the Boss - Mick Jagger
Mick Jagger's first solo LP finally arrived in February 1985, between the Stones albums Undercover and Dirty Work, and eight months after his big hit single with The Jacksons, "State of Shock" (#3 pop, #42 rock). She's the Boss contained two Top 40 singles of its own: "Just Another Night" (#12 pop, #1 rock) and "Lucky in Love" (#38 pop, #5 rock), both of which I thought were decent. Each of them made it to #11 on the dance chart, too. A third track, "Lonely at the Top," also hit the rock Top 10 (#9). All three featured Jeff Beck on guitar, and "Lonely at the Top" had additional guitars by The Who's Pete Townshend. The album itself reached the #13 on the Billboard 200 and sold a million copies. Jagger's next record hit the pop Top 10, but that was a standalone single with David Bowie, "Dancing in the Street" (#7 pop, #3 rock), which came out in August '85. His second solo album, Primitive Cool, hit the stores in September '87 and produced one more Top 40 single, "Let's Work" (#39 pop, #7 rock). The follow-up single, "Throwaway" missed the top 40 (#67 pop, #7 rock), but I liked it enough to buy the 45. Both of those tracks also featured Jeff Beck on guitar. Jagger didn't release his third album, Wandering Spirit, until 1993. Its first single, "Sweet Thing," only went to #84 pop (#36 rock), but two other tracks did very well on the rock chart: "Wired All Night" (#3 rock) and "Don't Tear Me Up" (#1). He would have one more Top 40 rock hit, "God Gave Me Everything" (#24 in 2001), and one more Top 40 pop hit, appearing with Jennifer Lopez on "T.H.E. (The Hardest Ever)" by will.i.am (#36 pop in 2011).
819. Greatest Hits - Johnny Rivers
Johnny Rivers amassed 16 Top 40 hits from 1964-77. Released in 1981, Greatest Hits featured 13 of them, including all nine of his Top 10 hits: "Poor Side of Town" (#1), "Memphis" (#2), "Secret Agent Man" (#3), "Baby, I Need Your Lovin'" (#3), "Rockin' Pneumonia - Boogie Woogie Flu" (#6), Seventh Son (#7, of course), "Mountain of Love" (#9),"Tracks of My Tears" (#10), and "Swayin' to the Music (Slow Dancin')" (#10). It also had the classics "Maybelline" (#12). "Summer Rain" (#14), "Midnight Special" (#20), and "Help Me Rhonda" (#22). In fact, Greatest Hits contained every one of his Top 20 hits, too, except "(I Washed My Hands in) Muddy Water" (#19). That's O.K.; I prefer Elvis Presley's '71 rendition anyway. Like Linda Ronstadt, the overwhelming majority of Rivers' hits were cover versions, but he was a great interpreter of other people's material. Ironically, although he only wrote one of his Top 40 hits, that one turned out to be his only chart-topper, "Poor Side of Town" (co-written by Lou Adler). The first Rivers song I really noticed was "Swayin' to the Music (Slow Dancin')," because it came along in '77, the year I finally started listening to the radio on my own. That song was written by Jack Tempchin, the same guy who wrote the Eagles' classics "Peaceful Easy Feeing" and "Already Gone." ApologetiX spoofed "Secret Agent Man" in 1999.
820. Little Shop of Horrors - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
I saw this film in the theater when it came out during the Christmas season of 1986-87. By the time I did, I'd already purchased Steve Martin's single from the soundtrack — "Dentist!" I'd seen a clip of it on TV and thought it was hysterical. It never hit the Hot 100, although Martin did have three previous singles (one each from his first three albums) that did: "Grandmother's Song" (#72), "King Tut" (#17), and "The Cruel Shoes" (#91). The Little Shop of Horrors soundtrack LP went to #47 on the Billboard 200. Of course, Martin wasn't the only singer on that album with a chart history. Audrey II, the killer plant and co-star of the show, was voiced by Levi Stubbs, the famous lead singer for the Four Tops, who had 47 Hot 100 hits. Stubbs sang three numbers on the soundtrack, the most famous of which is "Mean Green Mother from Outer Space." My two other favorite songs from the film are "Prologue (Little Shop of Horrors)" and "Skid Row (Downtown)." And I loved the performances of the Greek chorus/narrators, Crystal, Ronette, and Chiffon (Tichina Arnold, Michelle Weeks, and Tisha Campbell). The musical was written by the songwriting team of Alan Menken (music) and Howard Ashman (lyrics), who later collaborated on the Disney musicals The Little Mermaid ('89), Beauty and the Beast ('91), and Aladdin ('92). Although he didn't sing anything and doesn't appear on the soundtrack, I loved John Candy's performance as Wink Wilkinson in the film. It's so "weirrrrrd!" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x79Cowuz4QU
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.