Influential Albums: 912-918
Thu., Nov. 10. 2022 4:30pm EST
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.
912. Guy's Greatest Hits - Guy Mitchell
Guy Mitchell (born Al Cernik in Detroit MI) is yet another '50s artist with two #1 hits whom I discovered while collecting chart-toppers in college. In his case, the songs were "Singin' the Blues" (#1 for 10 weeks in 1956) and "Heartaches by the Number" (#1 for two weeks in '59), and let me tell you, folks: They're both fun to croon. Between '50 and '59, Mitchell had seven other Top 10 hits: "My Heart Cries for You" (#2), "My Truly, Truly Fair" (#2), "The Roving Kind" (#4), "(There's a Pawnshop on the Corner in) Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania" (#4), "Sparrow in the Treetop" (#8), "Belle, Belle, My Liberty Belle" (#9), and "Rock-A-Billy" (#10 U.S., #1 U.K.). Released in 1959, Guy's Greatest Hits contained all of the above with the exception of "Heartaches by the Number," which came out late that same year. "Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania" and "The Roving Kind" are both very amusing songs. I like his '58 single "The Lord Made a Peanut," too, although it wasn't much of a hit (#56 in Australia only). Mitchell also starred in the movies Those Redheads from Seattle (1953) and Red Garters (1954) and the television shows The Guy Mitchell Show (1957) and Whisperin' Smith (1961). What a Guy!
913. A Night on the Town - Rod Stewart
A Night on the Town was Rod Stewart's seventh LP, released in June 1976, almost directly between two similarly titled albums by Queen: A Night at the Opera (November '75) and A Day at the Races (December '76). Rod's record reached #2, whereas Queen's reached #4 and #5, respectively. A Night on the Town sold two million copies in the United States. I think I bought it on 8-track at some point, because I needed its first single, "Tonight's the Night (Gonna Be Alright)," for my collection of #1 songs. Rod had four #1 U.S. hits in his career, and every one of 'em stayed at the summit for at least three weeks, but "Tonight's the Night" was the biggest, spending eight weeks there. It only went to #5 on the U.K. chart, though, where two other Top 40 U.S. singles from A Night on the Town did even better: "The Killing of Georgie (Part I and II)" (#30 U.S., #2 U.K.) and the Cat Stevens cover "The First Cut Is the Deepest" (#21 U.S., #1 U.K.), later redone by Sheryl Crow (#14 pop, #1 adult contemporary).
914. The Very Best of Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan - Rufus with Chaka Khan
Although Rufus found fame as a funk band in the '70s, they actually arose from the ashes of American Breed, a '60s pop group best known for their hit "Bend Me, Shape Me" (#5), although they had two other Top 40 hits, "Step Out of Your Mind" (#24) and "Green Light" (#39). I discovered and cherished "Bend Me, Shape Me" as an oldie in high school, and I remember my friend Brian Wolfe playing "Green Light" on our BackTracks radio show in college, but I'd never have imagined that American Breed would morph into an act that could come up with something as unbelievably funky as "Tell Me Something Good" (#3 pop, #3 R&B). I remember liking that song (written by Stevie Wonder) when I first heard it as kid (thanks to my sister Gayle) although I didn't appreciate just how musically amazing it was until many years later. That's the most famous Rufus song, but 10 of their singles hit the Top 40, including two others that reached the Top 10: "Sweet Thing" (#5 pop, #1 R&B) and "Once You Get Started" (#10 pop, #4 R&B). They also had four other #1 R&B hits: "You Got the Love" (#11 pop), "Do You Love What You Feel" (#30 pop), "At Midnight (My Love Will Lift You Up)" (#30 pop), and "Ain't Nobody" (#22 pop). Furthermore, they had three additional Top 40 hits: "Hollywood" (#32 pop, #3 R&B), "Stay" (#38 pop, #3 R&B), and "Dance Wit Me" (#39 pop, #5 R&B). Released in late 1982, The Very Best of Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan had every one of the aforementioned Rufus hits except "Ain't Nobody," which didn't come out until '83 and was on a different label. Chaka Khan, who sang with Rufus from 1972-83, had three #1 R&B hits of her own as a solo artist: "I'm Every Woman" (#21 pop), "Wha Cha' Gonna Do for Me" (#53 pop), and, of course, the Prince-penned "I Feel for You" (#3 pop) with iconic rap sequences by Grandmaster Melle Mel of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five and harmonica by Stevie Wonder. "I Feel for You" came out in the fall of '84, when I was a junior in college, and I thought it was fantastic.
915. Ice Cream Castle - The Time
Released in July 1984, The Time's third LP generated two big hits, "Jungle Love" (#20 pop, #6 R&B) and "The Bird" (#36 pop, #33 R&B). Well, technically those two tunes probably weren't as big to the general populace as they were to my circle of friends at the time, but they always got the dance floor going when played during parties at my alma mater, Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP). A third single, "Ice Cream Castles," bubbled under the Hot 100 but did well on the R&B chart (#106 pop, #11 R&B). Both "Jungle Love" (no relation to the Steve Miller standard, which reached #23 in 1977) and "The Bird" were featured in Prince's blockbuster movie Purple Rain, which also came out in July '84. In fact, the artist later known as "the artist formerly known as Prince" produced the entire Ice Cream Castle album along with Time lead singer Morris Day and wrote all six of the songs, although Day co-wrote the three singles. Just when it appeared that time had run out for The Time, they came back in 1990 with their biggest hit of all, "Jerk Out" (#9 pop, #1 R&B), also produced by Prince, who co-wrote it with Morris Day, Jimmy Jam, and Terry Lewis. Jam and Lewis were original members of The Time, but had left the band in '83, a year before Ice Cream Castle. Nevertheless, I doubt they had any regrets in the long run, as they became hugely successful songwriters and producers, most notably with Janet Jackson. During the course of their career, the two have written over 40 Top 10 hits! Oh we oh we oh!
916. Now - The Tubes
I used to see this one in the cut-out bins a lot. It was hard to miss the very distinctive cover, drawn by Tubes drummer Prairie Prince, who was also a graphic artist, a founding member of Journey (although he left before they recorded their first album), and a later member of Jefferson Starship from 1992-2008. Released in May 1977, Now was The Tubes' third LP. I think my college housemate Dave Anthony bought it while we were at IUP. It didn't have any hits (not many Tubes albums did), but it contains a few of my favorite Tubes songs: "Smoke (La Vie en Fumer)," "This Town," and "My Head Is My Only House Unless It Rains." Those last two had already been done by other artists. "This Town" was a remake of a 1967 Frank Sinatra minor hit (#53 pop, #17 adult contemporary) written by Lee Hazelwood, and "My Head Is My Only House Unless It Rains" was a cover version of a 1972 song written and performed by the critically acclaimed and ultra-strange Captain Beefheart (a.k.a. Don Van Vliet). The Captain himself played saxophone on a track on Now, the cleverly titled "Cathy's Clone." Two other noteworthy tracks are "I'm Just a Mess," the only track from Now to make it onto The Tubes' first "hits" compilation, and "God-Bird-Change," a catchy instrumental that later appeared on their first live album. Despite the absence of airplay, Now made it to #122 on the Billboard album chart.
917. McCartney - Paul McCartney
Paul McCartney's first LP, McCartney, wasn't the first solo album by a member of The Fab Four, but it was the first by an ex-member. It came out on April 17, 1970, one week after "the cute Beatle" had stated in a press release that he was no longer working with the group. Even without the benefit of any hit singles, it went to #1 for three weeks but was knocked out of the top spot by the final (non-compilation) Beatles LP, Let It Be. Irony abounds, but there would be more to follow; three years later, McCartney's album Red Rose Speedway knocked The Beatles 1967-70 out of the peak position ... and was in turn knocked out of #1 by the George Harrison LP Living in the Material World. Many people criticized McCartney's debut disc (also known as "the cherry album") for being underproduced while simultaneously complaining that Let It Be was overproduced. Be that as it may, both have their charms. I borrowed my old housemate Dave Anthony's copy of McCartney while we were in college. The standout tracks for me were "Maybe I'm Amazed" and "Every Night," although I prefer the live versions — the former on Wings over America (1976) and the latter on Concerts for the People of Kampuchea (1981). Of course, ex-Beatle Paul could always be counted upon for ear-catching ditties, and there were plenty of them on this record, including (but not limited to) "The Lovely Linda," "That Would Be Something," "Man We Was Lonely," "Junk," and "Teddy Boy." When the smoke cleared, McCartney's solo career would yield 36 Top 40 hits, 23 Top 10 hits, and nine #1 hits. He released McCartney II in 1980 and McCartney III in 2020.
918. American Beauty - The Grateful Dead
I only ever bought two Grateful Dead albums — their 1987 comeback LP, In the Dark, (which I already covered earlier on this list), and their 1970 landmark LP American Beauty. A couple songs that mentioned the Grateful Dead — "Hair" by The Cowsills (#2 in '69) and "The Boys of Summer" by Don Henley (#5 in '85) — did better on the pop charts than the Dead ever did. Their sole Top 40 hit was "Touch of Grey" (#9) in 1987. However, American Beauty did include two of their other five Hot 100 hits: "Truckin'" (#64) and "Sugar Magnolia" (#91). I only had a book of Top 40 hits at the time, and there was no internet accessibility, so I didn't know if either of those songs had hit the charts ... I just knew that I liked 'em both a whole bunch when I heard 'em on the radio and in college. And that's why I eventually bought American Beauty. Other Dead classics on this album included "A Box of Rain," "Friend of the Devil" and "Ripple." My favorite of those was "A Box of Rain." Believe it or not, the first Grateful Dead song I ever heard was "Alabama Getaway" (#68), when it was released as the first single from their Go to Heaven LP in 1980. I was a big fan of that tune, but I couldn't find it on 45 at the time, although I eventually purchased it on iTunes. ApologetiX spoofed "Truckin'" in 2010.
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.