Influential Albums: 856-862
Thu., Sep. 15. 2022 5:21pm 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.
856. Best of Lobo - Lobo
My first exposure to Lobo (a.k.a. Roland Kent LaVoie) was his first hit, "Me and You and a Dog Named Boo" (#5), from 1971. My sisters had the 45 and left it behind for me after they moved out of the house. I also have childhood memories of his biggest hit, "I'd Love You to Want Me" (#2 Billboard, #1 Cash Box, #1 Record World), from '72. When I was in college, Tom Dellaquila introduced me to Lobo's third and final Top 10, "Don't Expect Me to Be Your Friend" (#8), from '73. All three of those songs were #1 hits on the adult contemporary chart, as was his '79 comeback single, "Where Were You When I Was Falling in Love" (#27). I was actively listening to the radio by the time that one came out. Lobo had four other Top 40 hits: "It Sure Took a Long, Long Time" (#27 pop, #3 AC), "How Can I Tell Her" (#22 pop, #4 AC), "Standing at the End of the Line" (#37 pop, #25 AC), and "Don't Tell Me Goodnight" (#27 pop, #2 AC). However, two of my favorite Lobo tunes were the near-misses "She Didn't Do Magic" (#46 pop) and "A Simple Man" (#56 pop, #17 AC), both of which I discovered through various-artist compilations from the 70's. Released in '75, The Best of Lobo featured all of the aforementioned songs with the exception of "Where Were You When I Was Falling in Love," because that one wouldn't exist for another four years. The 12 tracks also included "Rings" (#43 pop, #8 AC) and "I'm the Only One" (#14 AC). Sadly, The Best of Lobo didn't have "Walk Away from It All," which I fondly remember as the flip side of "Me and You and a Dog Named Boo." At one point in his late teens, the man who would eventually become Lobo was in a local Florida band called The Rumours, which included two other future stars: singer-songwriter-comedian Jim Stafford and country-rock pioneer Gram Parsons. After his pop hits dried up, Lobo had one Top 40 country hit, "I Don't Want to Want You" (#40), which seems kind of hypocritical coming from the man who'd sung "I'd Love You to Want Me" less than a decade earlier.
857. The Best of Spirit - Spirit
Los Angeles-based rock band Spirit produced just one Top 40 single, "I Got a Line on You" (#25), but that tune is two and a half minutes of pop-rock perfection! I sang it in my last secular band in 1987 and spoofed it with ApologetiX in 2020. Spirit had three other Hot 100 hits: "1984" (#69), "Mr. Skin" (#92), and "Animal Zoo" (#97). I like them all, especially "Mr. Skin" and "Animal Zoo." I've also heard "Nature's Way" (#111) on album-rock stations from time to time. Released in 1973, The Best of Spirit had all five of those songs, plus a couple that bubbled under the Hot 100, "Dark Eyed Woman" (#118) and "Mechanical World" (#123). Other notable tracks included "Fresh Garbage," "Uncle Jack," and "Nothin' to Hide." Spirit's classic line-up featured five members, the most famous of which were guitarist-vocalist Randy California (a.k.a. "Mr. Skin" because of his shaved head) and vocalist-percussionist Jay Ferguson, who later sang on the hit "Run Run Run" (#27) with his new band, Jo-Jo Gunne, plus the solo hits "Thunder Island" (#9) and "Shakedown Cruise" (#31). Ferguson also composed the theme song to the American version of the television show The Office. The original release of The Best of Spirit had 11 tracks, but the current digital version on iTunes has 16. One of the additions was the instrumental "Taurus," whom many people, including members of Spirit, think was the inspiration for the intro to Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven." According to Randy California, who wrote "Taurus" but died in 1997, Zeppelin opened for Spirit on the first American tour and even played "Fresh Garbage" in their set.
858. Diana Ross' Greatest Hits - Diana Ross
Released in 1976, just a week and a day after the United States celebrated its Bicentennial, Diana Ross' Greatest Hits featured all four of her #1 solo hits (she'd previously had 12 chart toppers with The Supremes) up till that point: "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," "Touch Me in the Morning," "Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You're Going To)," and "Love Hangover." Ross would add a couple more in the early 80's with "Upside Down" and "Endless Love" (with Lionel Richie). My first childhood memories of her music are "Touch Me in the Morning," which my sister Kris had on 45, and "Last Time I Saw Him" (#14 pop, #1 adult contemporary), which Kris had on sheet music. That one's on Greatest Hits, too. Four of the other five tracks also hit the top 40: "Good Morning Heartache" (#34 pop, #8 AC), "One Love in My Lifetime" (#25), "Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)" (#20), and "Remember Me" (#16). The remaining track, "I Thought It Took a Little Time (But Today I Fell in Love)" missed the Top 40 (#47) but hit #4 on the AC chart. At the time, Ross had no other Top 10 pop hits aside from her four chart-toppers. However, that changed dramatically in the 80's, when she had six Top 10's besides the two #1's I mentioned earlier: "I'm Coming Out" (#5), "Why Do Fools Fall in Love" (#7 pop, #2 AC), "Mirror, Mirror" (#8), "It's My Turn" (#9), "Muscles" (#10), and "Missing You" (#10 pop, #4 AC). My favorite Ross singles were "Touch Me in the Morning," "Upside Down," and her relatively unsuccessful duet with Michael Jackson from the 1978 movie The Wiz, "Ease on Down the Road" (#41 pop, #40 AC). I bought that one on 45 myself and played it a lot.
859. The Best of The Sylvers - The Sylvers
The late 60's had The Cowsills. The early 70's had the Jackson Five, The Osmonds, and The DeFranco Family. The early 80's had DeBarge. The late 80's had The Jets. But what about the late 70's? That would be The Sylvers. Though only eight of their singles hit the Hot 100, The Sylvers were literally the biggest of all those groups of singing (and playing) siblings. There were 10 kids in the Sylvers family, and nine of them were in the group! They had two huge hits: "Boogie Fever" (#1 Billboard, #1 Cash Box, #1 Record World) and "Hot Line" (#2 Record World, #4 Cash Box, #5 Billboard). Their third-biggest single, "High School Dance" did pretty well, too (#11 Record World, #13 Cash Box, #17 Billboard). In my old neighborhood, Dave Rhodes' sister, Cindy, had the "Boogie Fever" 45. That was a great tune, but my jam was definitely "Hot Line." In the fall of '76, there was probably no song on the radio I liked better ... although I wouldn't have advertised that fact to my Kiss-loving classmates. Almost 40 years later, in the spring of 2015, "Hot Line" was in heavy rotation on our morning playlist when I was driving Janna and Heather to school. They enjoyed it as much as I did. Released in '78, The Best of The Sylvers features all three of those hits, plus their next-highest-charting single, "Cotton Candy" (#59 Billboard, #74 Cash Box, #116 Record World).
860. Greatest Hits - Volume I & Volume II - Billy Joel
Billy Joel had already achieved so much success by the time his first career-spanning collection came out that Columbia Records decided to make it a double album. Released in August 1985, Greatest Hits - Volume I & Volume II reached #6 on the Billboard 200 and sold 11.5 million copies in the United States and 18 million worldwide. Like many compilations, it contained a couple new songs his label hoped would become hits. Mission accomplished: "You're Only Human (Second Wind)" made the Top 10 (#9 pop, #2 adult contemporary, #26 rock) and "The Night Is Still Young" made the Top 40 (#34 pop, #13 AC). Even with 19 other tracks to choose from, some notable hits were missing, though: "The Entertainer" (#34 pop, #30 AC), "Honesty" (#14 pop, #9 AC), "Sometimes a Fantasy" (#36 pop), "She's Got a Way" (#23 pop, #4 AC), "Leave a Tender Moment Alone" (#27 pop, #1 AC), "An Innocent Man" (#10 pop, #1 AC), and "Keeping the Faith" (#18 pop, #3 AC). The last two would eventually make it onto Greatest Hits Volume III in 1997.
861. Modern Times - Jefferson Starship
My old college friend Dave Anthony owned this on vinyl. We were housemates junior and senior year, but I actually taped selections from it during freshman year when we lived on the same floor of the same dorm. Released in April 1981, Modern Times only went to #26 — not nearly as high as the five Jefferson Starship non-compilation LPs that preceded it — but it still sold half a million copies, the same as the band's previous release, Freedom at Point Zero. Grace Slick, who had not appeared on Freedom at Point Zero, returned for Modern Times, so it was the first album where we got to hear her singing with Mickey Thomas, who had taken over as lead singer in 1979. The lead single was possibly my favorite song by the group, "Find Your Way Back" (#29 pop, #3 rock), and that's really saying something, because the rest of my Jefferson Starship Top 10 provides some pretty stiff competition. I remember the first time I first heard it on the radio. The DJ was talking about how the band hadn't released anything in such a long time, and I thought, "Yeah, that's right." Meanwhile, it had only been a year and a half since they'd released "Jane." The second single, "Stranger" was mildly successful (#48 pop, #17 rock). A third single, "Save Your Love" barely registered a blip on the rock radar (#104 pop, #48 rock), although I prefer it to "Stranger." I confess that the other song on Modern Times I really liked in college was the occasionally profane "Stairway to Cleveland with its rapid-fire lyrics. I used to sing "Find Your Way Back" with a guitarist friend in the neighborhood the year before I joined my first rock band.
862. Rolled Gold: The Very Best of The Rolling Stones - The Rolling Stones
You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find ... a lot Rolling Stones compilations on my list. Rolled Gold was a double album released in the U.K. in November 1975. It went to #7 there. I bought an imported version at some point as a gift for my brother-in-law Dan, and he regifted it to me in pristine condition in '83. Released on Decca Records, it comprised hits from 1963-69, when the Stones were with Decca, before they signed with Atlantic Records and started their own label. I already had 25 of the 28 tracks (the usual suspects) on my other Stones anthologies. The only exceptions were a couple of Chuck Berry covers — their debut single, "Come On" (#21 U.K.), and "Carol," which only charted in France (#9) — plus "Out of Time," a song originally released as an album track on the U.K. edition of the Aftermath LP in 1966. Mick Jagger produced a version by Chris Farlowe that same year that hit #1 on the U.K. chart. Decca released a new version with Jagger's vocals and the backing tracks from Farlowe's version as a single in '75 (#81 U.S., #45 U.K.). I wouldn't have gone to the trouble of buying a two-record set just to get those three songs, but I was happy to have them handed to me on a golden platter (or two).
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.