Influential Albums: 849-855
Sat., Sep. 10. 2022 12:02pm 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.
849. The Very Best of Ray Stevens - Ray Stevens
I'm hard-pressed to think of an artist with #1 pop hits as disparate as Ray Stevens' "Everything is Beautiful" (1970) and "The Streak" (1974), although both were important songs on the soundtrack of my childhood. Then again, what else should I expect from the man who introduced me to "Ahab the Arab" (#5) and "Gitarzan" (#8) but also played "Misty" (#14) for me? Released in 1975 The Very Best of Ray Stevens included all five of those, plus two more of his nine Top 40 hits: "Mr. Businessman" (#28) and "Jeremiah Peabody's Poly Unsaturated Quick Dissolving Fast Acting Pleasant Tasting Green and Purple Pills" (#35). It's missing one of my favorites, "Harry the Hairy Ape" (#17), and "Along Came Jones" (#27). Technically, Stevens had one other Top 40 hit, "In the Mood," as the Henhouse Five Plus Too, although it sounded like a group of clucking chickens. From 1961-79, he hit the Hot 100 a total of 26 times under his own name. Stevens' country career started later and lasted longer, from 1969-2001, with 34 songs on that chart. His biggest country hits were "The Streak" (#3), "Misty" (#3), and "Shriner's Convention" (#7), and his final country chart entry was "Osama-Yo' Mama" (#48) in 2001. Stevens' adult contemporary career only lasted from 1970-79, but it included 11 AC Top 40 hits, including a couple we haven't mentioned earlier, "A Mama and a Papa" (#4) and "All My Trials" (#6). His final AC hit was "I Need Your Help Barry Manilow" (#11). He is a member of both the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Christian Music Hall of Fame.
850. Hooked on a Feeling - Blue Swede
Three years before ABBA hit #1 with "Dancing Queen," 15 years before Roxette had their first chart-topper with "The Look," and 20 years before Ace of Base took first place with "The Sign," another group planted the flag of Sweden at the apex of the Billboard Hot 100. Blue Swede's "Hooked on a Feeling" took America by storm in 1974. The song itself had already been a top-five hit for B.J. Thomas in 1969, but the "ooga-chaka" chant Blue Swede added was worth four extra spots. Don't believe me? B.J.'s version stalled at #5 on the Billboard, Cash Box, and Record World charts; Blue Swede's reached #1 on all three. Well, they actually took the "ooga-chaka" from Jonathan King's '71 version, which didn't chart in the States but was a #23 U.K. hit. Not too many people remember today, but "Hooked" wasn't the only Top 10 U.S. hit for the Swedish septet. Later in '74, they had made it to #7 with a sped-up cover of The Association's #2 hit from 1967, "Never My Love." Both "Hooked" and "Never" were on Blue Swede's U.S. debut LP, Hooked on a Feeling. Sandwiched between them, there was another single, "Silly Milly" (#71 U.S., #9 Sweden), which sounds a little like Blue Swede doing Sweet. Blue Sweet, anyone? The Hooked on a Feeling album, which peaked at #80 on the Billboard chart, also included cover versions of other hit songs, such as "Something's Burning," "Working in the Coal Mine," and "Always Something There to Remind Me." Ah ... that Swede soul music. Too bad they never covered the 1986 #3 hit "I Can't Wait" by Nu Shooz. Wouldn't you love to hear some Blue Swede Shooz?
851. A Place in the Sun - Pablo Cruise
Let's get this out of the way first: Pablo Cruise was a group, not a guy. I debated whether to list their third LP, A Place in the Sun (1977), which went to #19; or their fourth, Worlds Away (1978), which went to #6. Both sold a million copies and spawned songs I heard a lot during my first two years of active radio listening. I wound up choosing A Place in the Sun, because I liked its first two singles so much: "Whatcha Gonna Do" (#6 U.S., #1 Canada) and "A Place in the Sun" (#42 U.S., #36 Canada). A third single, "Never Had a Love," didn't fare as well but reached the same semi-obscure slot in Canada as it did in the States (#87 U.S., #87 Canada). The singles on Worlds Away actually did better overall: "Love Will Find a Way" (#6 U.S., #5 Canada), "Don't Want to Live Without It" (#21 U.S., #10 Canada), and "I Go to Rio" (#46 U.S., #39 Canada). The San Francisco-based yacht-rock group had two more Top 40 hits, "I Want You Tonight" (#19 U.S., #18 Canada) and "Cool Love" (#13 U.S.), which somehow never charted in Canada. I always thought the intro to "Love Will Find a Way," which was released in May '78, sounded remarkably similar (albeit more mellow) to the intro to Foreigner's "Hot Blooded," which was released in June '78. In fact, they were both in the Top 10 simultaneously for four straight weeks that summer. The week "Hot Blooded" entered the Top 10 at #8, "Love Will Find a Way" was at #9, and the week "Love Will Find a Way" peaked at #6, "Hot Blooded" was a #5.
852. The Vogues' Greatest Hits - The Vogues
The pride of Turtle Creek PA (12 miles from Pittsburgh), The Vogues scored eight Top 40 singles from 1965-69. Their first two hits were their biggest — "You're the One" and "Five O'Clock World," both of which went to #4 — and two of my favorite songs from the sixties. Later in their career, they had two more Top 10 singles: "Turn Around, Look at Me" and "My Special Angel," both of which went to #7. "My Special Angel" also went to #1 on the adult contemporary chart. and "Turn Around, Look at Me" went to #3. Their earlier singles didn't make the AC chart. All of the above were on The Vogues' Greatest Hits, released in January 1970, as were "Magic Town" (#21), "Till" (#27 pop, #5 AC), and "No, Not Much" (#34 pop,#6 AC). Their only Top 40 hit missing was "The Land of Milk and Honey" (#29 and a fine tune), although the collection did include "Woman Helping Man" (#6 AC #47 pop), "Earth Angel (Will You Be Mine)" (#7 AC, #42 pop), "See That Girl" (#13 AC only), "Moments to Remember" (#17 AC, #47 pop), and "Green Fields" (#19 AC, #92 pop). In other words, every song on The Vogues' Greatest Hits hit the Top 20 on either the pop chart or the AC chart, aside from "Magic Town," which just missed by one. However, purists may not like the fact that Reprise Records added orchestral parts to their first three hits, which had been on the Co & Ce label — "You're the One," "Five O'Clock World," and "Magic Town" — so they'd match their later hits, which were on Reprise. ApologetiX has never spoofed The Vogues, but our alum keyboardist Bill Hubauer played keyboards for them from 1985-86.
853. The Best of England Dan & John Ford Coley - England Dan & John Ford Coley
Hello. Yeah, it's been a while, but from 1976-79, the Texas duo England Dan & John Ford Coley had half a dozen Top 40 pop hits. Four of them reached the pop top 10 and all six reached the adult-contemporary top 10: "I'd Really Love to See You Tonight" (#2 pop, #1 AC), "Nights Are Forever Without You" (#10 pop, #6 AC), "It's Sad to Belong" (#21 pop, #1 AC), "Gone Too Far" (#23 pop, #8 AC), "We'll Never Have to Say Goodbye Again" (#9 pop, #1 AC), and "Love Is the Answer" (#10 pop, #1 AC). England Dan Seals was the brother of Jim Seals of fellow soft-rock duo Seals & Crofts. In fact, Jim was the one who gave Dan that nickname when they were kids, because Dan liked The Beatles and used to do a fake British accent. Sadly, both brothers are no longer with us. John Ford Coley was born John Edward Colley but became John Ford Coley when he hooked up with England Dan. Released in December '79, The Best of England Dan & John Ford Coley had all of the aforementioned singles, although it was missing another song of theirs I used to hear on the radio, "You Can't Dance" (#49 pop, #22 AC). The pair parted ways in 1980 when Dan left for a solo career in country music as Dan Seals. Some England Dan & John Ford Coley fans may have thought he'd gone too far, but he ended up having even greater success — 11 #1 country hits, including one that almost hit the pop Top 40, "Bop" (#42).
854. A Tonic for the Troops - The Boomtown Rats
The first person I ever heard mention Irish new-wave group The Boomtown Rats was my neighborhood friend Jeff Henry, who'd seen them on TV and learned they were big across the pond. However, it was my high-school friend Michael Ranieri who finally put a couple of their songs on a tape for me. One of those was their sole U.S. Hot 100 hit, "I Don't Like Mondays" (#73 U.S.), the second of two #1 U.K. songs for the Rats. The other song was "She's So Modern" (#12 U.K.) — a sloppy-sounding piece of punk pop that really grew on me. It was the lead single from their second LP, A Tonic for the Troops (1978), an album that became their first U.K. Top 10 (#8) and their first to make the U.S. Billboard 200 (#112). The title was taken from a line in "She's So Modern." The second single, "Like Clockwork," became the band's first U.K. Top 10 hit, peaking at #6. The third single, "Rat Trap," earned them their first U.K. #1, and rightly so ... it's my favorite of their songs that I know. The Rats had five other U.K. Top 20 hits: including "Banana Republic" (#3), "Someone's Looking at You" (#4), "Lookin' After No. 1" (#11), "Diamond Smiles" (#13), and "Mary of the 4th Form" (#15). Most people in the United States probably hadn't heard of the group before their lead singer, Bob Geldof, organized Band Aid and released the smash single "Do They Know It's Christmas?" (#13 U.S., #1 U.K.) and subsequently coordinated the huge Live Aid concerts in the summer of '85. Yes, of course I owned that single and watched those concerts! I even bought the four-disc DVD set years later. Geldof actually had a Hot 100 single, too, "This Is The World Calling" (#82 pop, #23 rock), in 1986. It runs in my mind that my old roommate Tom Dellaquila had that song and possibly its parent album on cassette.
855. Gold - Ohio Players
Dayton-based funk group Ohio Players had two huge #1 pop hits in the mid-70's, "Fire" and "Love Rollercoaster." Both of those songs also hit #1 on the R&B chart, as did "Funky Worm" (#15 pop), "Sweet Sticky Thing" (#33 pop), and "Who'd She Coo?" (#18 pop). Released in October 1976, Gold had all of those except "Funky Worm," which was on a different label, as was another early hit not included on this album, "Ecstasy" (#31 pop, #12 R&B). Gold did, however, include "Skin Tight" (#13 pop, #2 R&B), "Fopp" (#30 pop, #9 R&B), "I Want to Be Free" (#44 pop, #6 R&B), and "Jive Turkey (Part 1)" (#47 pop, #6 R&B). The album itself went to #31 and did indeed go gold. I borrowed an earlier Ohio Players album from a receptionist at my summer job while I was in college. Back when "Love Rollercoaster" was a hit, rumor had it that a scream heard right before the second verse was the sound of a woman being murdered in the studio. The scream was actually the band's keyboardist-vocalist William "Billy" Beck, who is alive and well and still playing with them today. In fact, since 2000, he's also been minister of music at Friendship Baptist Church in Warren OH. The urban legend apparently grew out of a comment (that was not meant to be taken seriously) made by a California DJ in the winter of '75-76. I know I certainly heard the tale at the time (Casey Kasem even mentioned it on his American Top 40 radio show), and so did the guys in Ohio Players. However, according to their drummer, Jimmy "Diamond" Williams, "The band took a vow of silence because you sell more records that way."
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.