Influential Albums: 870-876 (and 856-862)
Thu., Sep. 29. 2022 11:31am 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.
This week, we are on entries 870-876, but it was brought to my attention that we neglected to include the article on entries 856-862 in our newsletter two weeks ago, even though we did include entries 863-869 in last week's newsletter. Consequently, this week, we'll start with 856-862 and then skip straight to 870-876.
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: Entries 863-869 were included in last week's newsletter.
870. The Best of Gladys Knight & The Pips - Gladys Knight & The Pips
Gladys Knight & The Pips had Top 10 hits on three different labels (Vee-Jay, Soul, and Buddah), Top 20 hits on four different labels (including Fury), Top 40 hits on five different labels (including MCA), and Hot 100 hits on six different labels (including Columbia). But their peak period of pop productivity was on Buddah (yes, the label misspelled the name Buddha) from 1973-74, when they had four consecutive Top 5 hits: "Midnight Train to Georgia" (#1 pop, #1 R&B), "I've Got to Use My Imagination" (#4 pop, #1 R&B), "Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me" (#3 pop, #1 R&B), and On and On" (#5 pop, #2 R&B). Those four songs are the main course on the 1976 release The Best of Gladys Knight & The Pips. Also present are "The Way We Were/Try to Remember" (#11 pop, #6 R&B) and "I Feel a Song in My Heart" (#21 pop, #1 R&B), and "So Sad the Song" (#47 pop, #12 R&B). The group had six other #1 R&B hits not on this collection: "Every Beat of My Heart" (#6 pop), "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" (#2 pop), "If I Were Your Woman" (#9 pop), "Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye)" (#2 pop), "Save the Overtime (For Me)" (#66 pop), and "Love Overboard" (#13 pop). Both "Grapevine" and "Neither One of Us" also hit #1 on the Cash Box pop chart. "Midnight Train to Georgia" was originally titled "Midnight Plane to Houston." I learned that factoid when I was in college, but in 2018, I found out the rest of the story in an interview I read with the song's writer, Jim Weatherly, who also wrote "Neither One of Us." He said the following: "One evening in 1970, I called Lee Majors, an actor friend who had just started dating model Farrah Fawcett. Lee and I played college football and were in a flag-football league together. Farrah answered the phone. She said Lee wasn't home and that she was packing to take a midnight plane to Houston to visit her folks. 'What a great line for a song,' I thought. After I got off the phone, I grabbed my guitar and wrote 'Midnight Plane to Houston' in about 45 minutes — the music and lyrics." The song was first covered by Cissy Houston (Whitney's mother), but her people asked for permission to change the title to "Midnight Train to Georgia," so the song's name was changed from Houston because of a Houston. In another strange twist of fate, earlier the same year "Midnight Train to Georgia" hit #1, "Love Train" by The O'Jays and "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia" by Vicki Lawrence went #1 back to back.
871. The Everly Brothers: 1957-1962 - The Everly Brothers
Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986 as part of its inaugural class, The Everly Brothers had a ton of hits. Unfortunately, they switched labels mid-career, so for many years you couldn't get all the big ones in one place. This 1987 compilation from Warner Special Products almost fixed that problem. It contained 14 of their 15 Top 10 hits — seven from Cadence Records and seven from Warner Records. Unfortunately, the missing hit was one of their biggest, "Wake Up Little Susie" (#1), originally on Cadence. I'm not sure why it wasn't included; I'm guessing there was some licensing issue. Brothers Don and Phil had three other #1 hits: "All I Have to Do is Dream," "Bird Dog," and "Cathy's Clown." They also had two #2 hits: "Bye Bye Love" and "Problems." The Everly Brothers: 1957-1962 featured 22 tracks, all of which hit the Top 40. For a complete track listing, go to https://www.discogs.com/master/402962-The-Everly-Brothers-The-Everly-Brothers-1957-1962. Some of my first exposure to the music of The Everly Brothers was through cover versions by other artists, including Linda Ronstadt's "When Will I Be Loved" (#8 for them, #2 for Linda); Anne Murray's "Walk Right Back" (#7 for them, #15 adult contemporary for Anne); and Simon & Garfunkel's "Wake Up Little Susie" (#27 pop, #5 AC). Although it was only released as an album track (in 1960), The Everly Brothers also did the original version of "Love Hurts," which Nazareth covered and took in #8 in 1976. Roy Orbison had released a version as the flip side of his #1 single, "Running Scared" in '61. ApologetiX spoofed "By Bye Love" in 1992 (on our very first live cassette) and "Wake Up Little Susie" in 2003. Don Everly's daughter Erin was the girlfriend (and wife, briefly) of Guns N' Roses lead singer Axl Rose and the inspiration for that band's only #1 hit, "Sweet Child o' Mine," which ApologetiX spoofed several times, most recently in 2013.
872. Rocky IV - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
I'll start this entry by confessing that I'm not as big a fan of the movie Rocky IV as many others are. I really enjoyed the first three and went to the theater with high hopes when it came out in the holiday season of 1985-86. It had some good moments — and I still quote the "I must break you"/"Go for it" exchange between Ivan Drago and Rocky — but I thought it relied too heavily on flashbacks from the previous movies. I haven't seen it since, although I liked it enough that I still went to see Rocky V when it came out in 1990. I had a similar issue with the first single from the Rocky IV soundtrack, "Burning Heart" by Survivor, but it went to #2, so I still bought it. I'd loved "Eye of the Tiger" from Rocky III and "Gonna Fly Now" from the original Rocky movie. Both of those songs were #1 hits, but I would have wanted them for my record collection even if they weren't. I just thought "Burning Heart" was too much of rehash of "Eye of the Tiger" with not enough of the stuff I liked about its predecessor. However, I was totally into the second single, James Brown's "Living in America" (#4), and I bought that 45 enthusiastically. The Rocky IV soundtrack actually had two more singles, "Heart's on Fire" by John Cafferty (#76) and "No Easy Way Out" by Robert Tepper (#22 pop, #12 rock). It also included "Eye of the Tiger" again for good measure. So it shouldn't be surprising that this album hit #10 on the Billboard 200. That's even better than the soundtrack for Rocky III (#15) and miles ahead of Rocky II (#147), but still not as good as the original Rocky, which went to #4.
873. The Best of Roy Orbison - Roy Orbison
Roy Orbison was another oldies artist I first learned about through an infomercial. This 1975 collection from Arcade Records had eight of his nine Top 10 hits at the time: "Running Scared" (#1), "Oh! Pretty Woman" (#1), "Only the Lonely (Know the Way I Feel)" (#2), "Crying" (#2), "Dream Baby (How Long Must I Dream)" (#4), "In Dreams" (#7), "Blue Angel"(#9), and "It's Over" (#9). The only one missing was "Mean Woman Blues" (#5). But it did have "Blue Bayou" (#29). Fifteen years after this album came out — and four months after his death at age 52 — Roy had one last Top 10 hit, "You Got It" (#9). I really liked that song and the stuff he had just done with The Traveling Wilburys. ApologetiX spoofed their song "Handle with Care" in 2018. We've never spoofed any of Roy Orbison's solo hits, but a 1989 parody of "Oh! Pretty Woman" by 2 Live Crew parody resulted in a landmark 1994 Supreme Court ruling involving the doctrine of fair use that opened up doors for us and other parodists everywhere. His other #1 song, "Running Scared," came out just a year after the similarly titled "Running Bear" by Johnny Preston topped the charts. Roy also inspired one of my favorite band names, The Swiss Family Orbison, a power-pop group from Scotland, not Switzerland.
874. Countdown to Ecstasy - Steely Dan
Although Steely Dan's first LP contained two singles that went to #6 and #11, none of the songs on their second LP, Countdown to Ecstasy, even hit the Top 60. No matter. My old roommate Tom Dellaquila introduced me to the wonders of the album's second single, "My Old School" (#63), while were underclassmen at my old school, Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP). The first single, "Show Biz Kids" (#61) wasn't bad, either. Countdown to Ecstasy also led off with the FM classic "Bodhisattva." They're all strong songs, brimming with the offbeat humor we expect from Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, but the ones that I keep going back to are the other five tracks: "Razor Boy," "The Boston Rag," "Your Gold Teeth," "Pearl of the Quarter," and my favorite, "King of the World." Released in July 1973, Countdown to Ecstasy was the lowest-charting of the group's nine studio albums by far. It only went to #35 and sold half a million copies, whereas all the others hit the Top 20 (five made the Top 10 and none peaked lower than #17) and sold at least a million copies. Nevertheless, I think it's one of their most consistently great albums.
875. Eagles - Eagles
I think my next-door neighbors the Davises had this album in the collection, although I never felt led to put it on the turntable while I was babysitting for them. It had an impressive trio of singles for a debut LP — "Take It Easy" (#12), "Witchy Woman" (#9), and "Peaceful Easy Feeling" (#22) — but I'd already heard those songs a bunch of times on the radio and on Their Greatest Hits 1971-75. However, the group's eponymous effort had some great non-hits, too. My favorites are "Tryin'" (lead vocals by Randy Meisner), "Chug All Night" (lead vocals by Glenn Frey), and "Nightingale" (lead vocals by Don Henley). ApologetiX has spoofed "Take It Easy" in 1992 and 2007 and "Peaceful Easy Feeling" in 2014.
876. Beautiful Loser - Bob Seger
Bob Seger's eighth studio LP, Beautiful Loser, generated two singles that hit the Billboard pop chart: "Katmandu" (#43) and the title track (#103), plus the rock-station staple "Travelin' Man." A fourth song, a cover version of Tina Turner's "Nutbush City Limits," would hit the Hot 100 (#69) when Seger put out a live version the following year. Released in April 1975, Beautiful Loser only went to #131 on the album chart, but it eventually sold a million copies, as superstardom was waiting just around the corner for Seger. In 1976, he would release two LPs that would permanently establish him as a rocker to be reckoned with: Live Bullet (#34, five million copies) and Night Moves (#8, six million copies). ApologetiX spoofed "Katmandu" in 2022.
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.