Influential Albums: 835-841
Fri., Aug. 26. 2022 2:00am 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.
835. K-Tel Presents Bobby Vinton's Greatest Hits - Bobby Vinton
I learned a lot more about some artists from watching commercials than I did from listening to the radio. Such was the case with Bobby Vinton and this TV record offer:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5D1Qxt_x7Ko. Affectionately known as the Polish Prince, Vinton was the last artist to have a #1 hit ("There! I've Said It Again") before the America-invading Beatles took over in early '64 with three in a row ("I Want to Hold Your Hand," "She Loves You," and "Can't Buy Me Love") ... and he had one more before the year was out, "Mr. Lonely." He'd had a couple before that, too: "Roses Are Red (My Love)" in '62 and "Blue Velvet" in '63. They were all on this 1976 K-Tel collection, plus the Top 10 hits "Blue On Blue" (#3 pop, #2 adult contemporary #1 Record World), "Please Love Me Forever" (#6), "My Heart Belongs to Only You" (#9 pop, #2 AC), "I Love How You Love Me" (#9 pop, #2 AC). All told, Vinton had 49 Hot 100 hits, 30 of which hit the Top 40. Eight more of them are on 20 Greatest Hits, but two from later in his career that I remember from my childhood are not: "My Melody of Love" (#3 Billboard pop, #1 Billboard AC, #1 Record World, #2 Cash Box) and "Beer Barrel Polka" (#33 pop, #5 AC). They were fairly recent at the time (from '74 and '75) and on a different record label (ABC) than the others (Epic), so that's probably why. Like Perry Como, Vinton was born in Canonsburg PA, just 20 miles from Pittsburgh, and he ended up with 24 AC Top 10 hits, making him a worthy successor to Mr. C.
836. The Best of Dean Martin - Dean Martin
For all his fame as an entertainer, Dean Martin only had seven Top 10 hits, but two of them reached #1: "Memories Are Made of This" in 1956 and "Everybody Loves Somebody" in 1964. However, like his fellow Rat Pack member Frank Sinatra, Dino's early hits were on Capitol Records and his later hits were on Frank's label, Reprise, so it was difficult to find them all in one place. I bought a used single of "Everybody Loves Somebody" but had to buy an album to get "Memories Are Made of This." Released in 1966, The Best of Dean Martin featured that one plus the immortal "That's Amore" (#2) and "Return to Me" (#4). It also included "Volare (Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu)," which only went to #12 on the Billboard chart but hit #1 on the Cash Box and Music Vendor charts, because those publications listed all simultaneous hit versions of a song at the same position (Domenico Modugno had the top version overall and went to #1 on Billboard; Dean's was runner-up). Furthermore, it featured the #1 adult contemporary hit "You're Nobody Till Somebody Loves You" (#25 pop). ApologetiX has never spoofed Dean Martin, but we did play in his hometown of Steubenville OH (just 40 miles from Pittsburgh) in 2006, 2007, and 2009. The last time we were there, they had a life-size cut-out of Mr. Martin in our dressing room, and it was a bit unsettling how real that one-dimensional piece of cardboard looked when seen out of the corner of your eye. Nevertheless, we had some fun with it backstage, and memories are made of this.
837. Stop and Smell the Roses - Mac Davis
I have many memories of Mac Davis, who seemed to be everywhere in the 70's — radio, TV, and movies. First and foremost, I think of his #1 pop (and adult contemporary) hit from 1972, "Baby Don't Get Hooked On Me." My older cousin Kevin, who was a cantor in church and a singer in bands long before I ever did either, sang it to his bride at the first wedding reception I ever attended. It was a fairly current hit at the time, and I presume the dedication was meant to be tongue in cheek. Regardless, he and his wife are still together 50 years later. One of my sisters (I always figured it was Gayle) owned the Stop and Smell the Roses LP, which was released in '74. It contained two big hits: "Stop and Smell the Roses" (#9 pop, #1 AC, #40 country), and "One Hell of a Woman" (#11 pop, #20 AC). A third single, "Kiss It and Make It Better" missed the Hot 100 (#105) but made the country Top 40 (#29). And don't forget the non-charting but still entertaining "Lucas Was a Redneck." If you buy the album digitally now, you'll also get bonus tracks that include two later Mac Davis songs I remember from growing up: "Rock 'n' Roll (I Gave You the Best Years of My Life)" (#15 pop, #4 AC, #29 country in '75) and "It's Hard to Be Humble" (#43 pop, #10 country in '80). We sang the second one in chorus during my senior year in high school. Davis was an accomplished songwriter, too. He wrote the Gallery hit "I Believe in Music" (#22 pop, #12 AC), which I loved, and three of my favorite Elvis Presley hits: "In the Ghetto" (#3 pop), "Don't Cry Daddy" (#6 pop, #3 AC), and "A Little Less Conversation" (#50 U.S., #1 U.K.). Not only that, he penned the Bobby Goldsboro hit "Watching Scotty Grow" (#11 pop, #1 AC for six weeks, #7 country). My dad used to sing the opening lines of that one to me when I was in first grade. Many years later, I introduced my son to it when he was a lad.
838. Raspberries' Best Featuring Eric Carmen - Raspberries
Like Eagles and Carpenters, Raspberries was a group that declined the definite article, although most people still say "The Raspberries." My old roommate Tom Dellaquila owned this cassette, a veritable Raspberry barrage. Released in 1976, Raspberries' Best Featuring Eric Carmen captured the career highlights of this short-lived Cleveland power-pop band: "Go All the Way" (#5), "I Wanna Be with You" (#15), "Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)" (#18), "Let's Pretend" #35), "Tonight" (#69), and "Don't Want to Say Goodbye" (#86). In fact, the only one of their seven Hot 100 entries missing was "I'm a Rocker" (#94), although the album still found room for all eight minutes of the epic "I Can Remember." There's also the Beach Boys homage "Drivin' Around" and the gorgeous "Starting Over." Of the hits, my favorites are "Overnight Sensation" and "Go All the Way," which ApologetiX spoofed in 2017. Raspberries lead singer Eric Carmen left for an even more successful solo career in '75, scoring eight Top 40 hits: "All By Myself (#2), "Make Me Lose Control" (#3), "Hungry Eyes" (#4), "Never Gonna Fall in Love Again" (#11), "Change of Heart" (#19), "She Did It" (#23), "Sunrise" (#34), and "I Wanna Hear It from Your Lips" (#35). My favorites of those are "She Did It," "Make Me Lose Control," and "Sunrise." Released as the third single from Eric's debut solo album, "Sunrise" sounds like a combination of Elton John's "Funeral for a Friend," and The Beach Boys' version of "I Can Hear Music," with a little bit of Chicago's "Old Days" and John Carpenter's Halloween theme thrown in for good measure. Considering the fact that I love all four of those songs ... well, you do the math. And has there ever been a more appropriately titled solo debut single then "All By Myself"? Meanwhile, he also wrote two great Top 10 hits for Shaun Cassidy: "That's Rock and Roll" (#3) and "Hey Deanie" (#7). Eric Carmen was the genuine article, even if his band had no definite article.
839. Gaucho - Steely Dan
Joe Bauman was a year older than I and used to sit next to me on the bus in high school. He had a great sense of humor, and I remember him eagerly anticipating two albums during our time riding together: Women and Children First by Van Halen and this one. Released in November 1980, Gaucho was Steely Dan's seventh LP (not counting Greatest Hits), and the long-awaited follow-up to the critically acclaimed and commercially successful Aja, which I already owned. I eventually purchased all nine of the band's non-compilation studio albums, and Gaucho is probably my least favorite. It did yield two successful singles: "Hey Nineteen" (#10 pop, #11 adult contemporary) and "Time Out of Mind" (#22 pop, #13 AC, #13 rock), featuring guitars by Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits. The first song from Gaucho I heard on the radio was actually "Babylon Sisters," which was way too slick and mellow for my tastes at the time. The two hits grew on me, though, especially "Time Out of Mind," and I appreciated "Hey Nineteen" more as I grew older and started to understand some of the references in the lyrics better. I also like sound of the title track, which reminds me of their fourth and fifth albums, Katy Lied and The Royal Scam. The Gaucho LP went to #9 and sold a million copies, but there would be no more new Steely Dan albums for the next 20 years. Lead singer-keyboardist and co-founder Donald Fagen released his first solo LP, The Nightfly, in October '82, and it produced two chart hits: the oft-played "I.G.Y. (What a Beautiful World)" (#26 pop, #8 AC, #17 rock) and the underrated "New Frontier" (#70 pop, #34 AC). Ranked by EQ Magazine as on the Ten Best Recorded Albums of All Time, The Nightfly sold a million copies, went to #11, and was nominated for seven Grammy awards.
840. Connie - Connie Francis
I first learned about Connie Francis in 1975, thanks to a TV commercial for this 25-track two-record set (or two 8-track tapes) from Sessions. Known to many as "The First Lady of Rock & Roll," Francis certainly earned that title by becoming the first female to top the Billboard Hot 100, with "Everybody's Somebody's Fool." She would later have two more #1 hits, "My Heart Has Mind of Its Own" and "Don't Break the Heart That Loves You." But if you saw the commercial, you know there was so much more, including "My Happiness" (#2), "Who's Sorry Now" (#4 U.S., #1 U.K.), "Where the Boys Are" (#4), "Lipstick on Your Collar" (#5), "Together" (#6), "Among My Souvenirs" (#7), "Many Tears Ago" (#7), "Breakin' in a Brand New Broken Heart" (#7), "Second Hand Love" (#7), "Mama" (#8 U.S., #1 U.K.), "Frankie" (#9), "Vacation" (#9), and "When the Boy in Your Arms (Is the Boy in Your Heart" (#10). This collection included every one of 'em, plus "Stupid Cupid," which stalled at #14 in the States but topped the U.K. chart for six weeks. And those were just the Top 10 hits; Connie had 67 Hot 100 hits overall, 35 of which reached the Top 40. Her last single of note, "(Should I) Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree?," was an answer record to the Tony Orlando & Dawn smash ... alas, it only went to #104. ApologetiX has never done any Connie Francis songs, but Keely Singer, who has sung lead female vocals on a number of our parodies, has done a Connie Francis tribute show, accompanied by our friend Greg Macaluso, who has played piano and keyboards on a number of our parodies. I saw that show myself in 2019, and it was quite impressive, not just for Keely's stellar vocals (and Greg's great playing) but also for her knowledge of Connie's career and her ability to sing some of Connie's foreign-language hits as well. Although we've never spoofed Connie Francis, SCTV did. I have to admit, this 1979 clip had me laughing when I saw it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1aVSR2xQPEw
841. Neil Sedaka's Greatest Hits - Neil Sedaka
Eleven years before Led Zeppelin unleashed the most requested rock song of the 70's, singer-songwriter Neil Sedaka had a Top 10 hit with his own "Stairway to Heaven" (#9). It was the second of six Top 10 singles he put out between 1959 and 1962, along with "Oh! Carol" (#9), "Calendar Girl" (#4), "Happy Birthday, Sweet Sixteen" (#6), "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do" (#1), and "Next Door to an Angel" (#5). But those songs aren't on Neil Sedaka's Greatest Hits, which focuses on the music he released on Elton John's Rocket Records label during his surprising career resurgence from 1974-76. That's the Neil Sedaka I grew up with ... most notably a pair of #1 hits from the first and fourth quarters of '75: "Laughter in the Rain" and "Bad Blood" (with uncredited backing vocals by Elton). Neil Sedaka's Greatest Hits came out in the fall of '77 and includes both of those songs plus the five other Top 40 hits he had during that time: "The Immigrant" (#22 pop, #1 adult contemporary), "That's When the Music Takes Me" (#27 pop, #7 AC), a slowed-down remake of "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do" (#8 pop, #1 AC), "Love in the Shadows" (#16 pop, #4 AC), and "Steppin' Out" (#36 pop, #45 AC), which also features Elton on backing vocals. I guess I should mention here that Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song" came out over four years before Sedaka's "The Immigrant." They're both great tunes, though. And, believe it or not, Neil's first album (released in 1959), was actually titled Rock with Sedaka. I'm serious; look it up! Of course, nobody has ever confused him with Robert Plant or Jimmy Page, but back in the 70's, I really did think he looked an awful lot like Bob on Sesame Street. This compilation also included the original versions of three other Sedaka songs that other artists had big hits with in '75 and '76: "Love Will Keep Us Together" (#1) and "Lonely Night (Angel Face)" (#3 pop, #1 AC) by Captain & Tennille and "Solitaire" by Carpenters (#17 pop, #1 AC). Neil had one last Top 40 hit in 1980, "Should've Never Let You Go" (#19 pop, #3 AC), with his daughter, Dara. He also helped with the English translation of the lyrics of ABBA's first hit outside of Sweden, "Ring Ring" (#1 Sweden, #2 Norway and Austria, #5 Netherlands, #7 Australia, #32 U.K.)
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.