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03.03.23Fan Follows Up on Last Week's Big Music Article
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02.25.23Music: The Sacred, the Secular, and the Subjective
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02.11.23How Did J. Meet His Wife?
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01.21.23ApologetiX Needs Help and Prayer
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12.24.22The Stories Behind the Songs on Single #24
12.23.22New Christmas Single
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12.23.22Rock Thru the Bible with ApX This Week
12.17.22Influential Albums: 947-953
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12.08.22Influential Albums: 940-946
12.08.22This Week's Bible-Reading & Rock Thru the Bible
12.08.22The Stories Behind the Songs on Single #23
12.08.22ApologetiX Christmas Playlist + Two More on the Way
12.05.22This Week's News Bulletin
12.05.22New Single: '82 & '07
12.03.22Influential Albums: 933-939
12.03.22Rock Thru the Bible with ApX This Week
12.03.22Bible-Reading Update for Next Two Weeks
12.03.22Keith Haynie Become a Grandfather Again
11.29.22This Week's News Bulletin

Influential Albums: 947-953
Sat., Dec. 17. 2022 3:12pm 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.

Three weeks ago, we finally got to 1988, when a born-again experience started a seismic shift in my musical tastes. The story continues below:

947. Lead Me On - Amy Grant
Released on June 28, 1988, Lead Me On was Amy Grant's first album of all-new material since Unguarded, over three years earlier. It was officially released on June 28, 1988, but I got to hear some of the selections a few days in advance at Creation '88, where she was the headliner on one of the nights, along with special guest Michael W. Smith. The concert was largely acoustic and also included a candlelight communion service. I can't remember all of the new songs she played, but one left a distinct impression on me, "1974," which turned out to be the album's opener. It's one of the few songs I ever loved immediately that I still enjoy just as much today. I ran out and bought the cassette soon after. My two other favorites were the poignant title track and the touching "Saved By Love." A couple other tunes that I liked a lot were "Shadows" and "What About the Love," cowritten by Janis Ian, who is best remembered for her hits "Society's Child (Baby I've Been Thinking)" (#14 in 1967) and "At Seventeen" (#3 in 1975). I also saw Amy in concert that fall at the Civic Arena in Pittsburgh as part of her Lead Me On tour.

948. The Poet - Don Francisco
I've read that Don Francisco's 1980 signature song, "He's Alive," holds the record for being the longest-running chart single in the history of Christian radio. I can understand why it remained popular for so long. It left a profound impact on me the first time I ever heard it on our local Christian radio station in '88. Sung from the viewpoint of Simon Peter, it's a powerful piece of songwriting and storytelling. Not only did it move me emotionally and spiritually, it moved me musically and lyrically. ApologetiX has done a lot songs from Peter's perspective, including "Rocky's Now My Name," "Get a Bite," "Walk on the Water," "Embarrassing Moments," "Last Night," "No Shepherd Tonight/New Other Nature," "One Headline," "Help Me, Rhoda," and "Can't Let the Crowd in My Head." There may be even more than that; I just listed those ones off the top of my head. I never realized just how many we had. And we've done many others from the perspective of Peter's fellow Apostles. I'd have to thank Don Francisco for that. It took me a while to find an album with "He's Alive," but when I did, I scooped it up. As it says on the cover, The Poet was "A Collection of the Best." Like Keith Green and Carman, Don Francisco could be funny one minute ("Steeple Song" and "The Package") and serious the next ("Holiness" and "Walking Wounded"). Furthermore, to my delight, The Poet contained four great Bible-story songs: "He's Alive," "Balaam," Got to Tell Somebody," and "Since I Met Him." Speaking of meeting, former ApologetiX guitarist Karl Messner met Don Francisco at the LiFest music festival in OshKosh WI in the artist dining area during one of the times we played there, in 2005. He knew I was a big fan of Don's work, and Don showed how I could follow-up with him via email, and we ended up having a nice back-and-forth conversation. Don couldn't have been friendlier and more gracious, and I was glad to be able to tell him how influential he'd been to me as a songwriter, and his influence continues to this day. Sadly, I've recently heard that he has since embraced some significantly unbiblical beliefs: https://bereanresearch.org/artist-don-francisco-berates-christians-for-believing-the-bible-is-true/

949. Meltdown - Steve Taylor
I bought Steve Taylor's 1984 LP, Meltdown, on my birthday, July 2, in 1988, picking up at Zondervan Family Christian Store in Monroeville Mall (the place where George Romero filmed the original 1978 Dawn of the Dead movie) on my way to go see a Jessy Dixon concert in Market Square in downtown Pittsburgh. I'd only recently discovered Family Christian Stores — this was probably my second visit — and I felt like a kid in a toy store looking at the incredible selection of books and music. I never would have imagined that one day ApologetiX CDs would be in those stores and many other Christian bookstores all over the country and elsewhere. We played our share of concerts inside of Family Christian Stores in the late 1990's and early-to-mid 2000's as well. Come to think of it, we also played a concert in Market Square in the mid-90's. But back to the Meltdown album, I popped the cassette into my car's tape deck right away, and it may have been the first album — Christian or secular — I ever heard where I liked every song at first listen. I remembered Steve doing some of the selections at Creation a couple weeks earlier, but all of the other songs on Meltdown appealed to me instantly as well. He was yet another artist who could switch from silly to serious in a second and still stay stellar. Although I liked all 10 tracks, my favorites were "Meltdown (at Madame Tussaud's)," "We Don't Need No Colour Code," "Am I in Sync?," "Over My Dead Body," "Sin for a Season, "Guilty by Association," and the incredible "Hero." The dude was Taylor-made for my tastes.

950. Face the Music - Mylon Fefevre & Broken Heart
Although seeing Mylon Lefevre & Broken Heart at Creation '88 inspired me to buy their '87 LP, Crack the Sky, they actually had a brand-new album at the time, Face the Music. I eventually bought that one and liked it even better than the other two I already owned. My favorite tracks were "Won by One," "Sixteen," "Modern Man," "Change," and "Mercy Seat." The first four of those were rockers, and the guitars and synths seemed to have a ZZ Top flavor. "Mercy Seat," however, was a quiet, delicate, worship song. Back in 1990, during the earliest days of the band that would eventually be called ApologetiX, we used to play and sing it at our practices. But this still isn't my favorite Mylon album. Three down, one to go.

951. So You Wanna Go Back to Egypt? - Keith Green
Although this was Keith Green's third LP, it was probably the fourth I heard, courtesy of Tim Hart. The title track, "So You Wanna Go Back to Egypt," contains some of Keith's funniest lyrics, but the rest of the album is pretty serious, aside from "Lies" and "You Love the World" which still cover heavy topics but at least use an upbeat musical approach. In addition to "Egypt" and "Lies," my favorite track is "Pledge My Head to Heaven," featuring a surprise appearance by Bob Dylan on harmonica, although that's not why I like it. I enjoyed "If You Love the Lord," too. However, the song on this album that has probably made the most lasting impact on the church is "Oh Lord, You're Beautiful," which seems to have become a standard worship song in many places. I also learned some good Bible lessons from "Unless the Lord Builds the House" and "Romans VII," a chapter of the Bible ApologetiX has cited many times, most notably in our song "Seven Romans." Released in 1980, So You Wanna Go Back to Egypt was Keith's first album on the Pretty Good Records label. After releasing two successful LPs with Sparrow Records in 1977 and '78, he decided he would no longer charge money for his concerts or albums and negotiated a release from his contract. Keith and his wife, Melody, mortgaged their home to finance this record, which was only available through mail order and concerts, rather than conventional outlets like Christian bookstores. There was no official price — just whatever the recipient was willing to pay. Of the initial 200,000 copies shipped, over 60,000 were given away for free. That's the way Keith operated his music ministry from then until his death in 1982. It's also the main thing that inspired ApologetiX to start our "downloads for a donation" series of singles in 2013, which still continues today. What we did there is minor compared to what Keith did with his entire music ministry, but I wanted to give credit where credit was due.

952. So Long Ago the Garden - Larry Norman
I think I first heard of Larry Norman in passing from my senior-year college roommate, Lance Craig (Yes, they both have last names that are also first names). I know Lance listened to Randy Stonehill, and those two artists collaborated quite a bit in their early days, so it would make sense. Lance didn't listen to much Christian rock, but he had eclectic tastes and may even have played some of Larry's music during a road trip we took in the summer of '87, but it didn't leave much of an impression on me, aside from my thinking that Larry Norman was an unusual name for a rock star. Less than a year later, at some point in the spring of '88, I became friends with a guy name Dana through our Bible study group. He had the most extensive Christian music collection by far of anybody I'd ever met, and he knew all kinds of information about the various artists. Although I didn't realize it fully at the time, Dana and I were heading in opposite directions musically, as I was listening to more of the Christian rock he'd grown up with, and he was becoming increasingly involved in the secular rock I'd grown up with. I suppose it's fitting that the artist I give him the most credit for getting me into is the aforementioned Mr. Norman, who had previously been one of the lead singers of the secular rock band, People! ... best known for their 1968 hit song "I Love You" (#14 pop). The promo video for the record prominently features Larry and can be viewed online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=25k_ayuL9f4. In 1969, after leaving the group, he put out what many consider to be the very first Christian rock album. I'll get to that one later on this list, because Dana introduced me to other Larry albums before it, starting with this one. Released in 1973, So Long Ago the Garden was Larry's third official LP, and the second in a trilogy. Dana apparently had the 1980 edition, which included a couple rerecorded vocals and an extra song. My favorite tracks were "Up in Canada," "Nightmare," "Christmastime," and "Peacepollutionrevolution." The second tier for me would probably be "Baroquen Spirits" and "Lonely by Myself." Larry wrote lyrics reminiscent of Bob Dylan and sang in style that sometimes sounded similar to Leon Russell. Just like Keith Green, Steve Taylor, Carman, and Don Francisco, he could be quite comical one minute and super-serious the next. He did some controversial things and had his share of detractors but was every bit as influential on my songwriting style as those other four men. You'll be reading a lot more about his albums in entries to come; the Norman Invasion had just begun.

953. Bootleg - Larry Norman
I taped this double-album from a homemade cassette my friend Dana owned. I suppose that's the way it should be, considering the title. Released in 1972, Bootleg featured selections from 1968-72, including demos done while Larry Norman was still with Capitol Records, live tracks, recordings made with friends, and interviews. It contains some of my favorite Larry tunes: "I Think I Love You," "What Goes Through Your Mind," "No Change Can Attend," "A Song Won't Stop the World," and "Taking My Time." Many of the other cuts would later be redone on his official albums, and they're great, but I generally prefer the newer versions ... except for "Without Love You Are Nothing," later retitled "Righteous Rocker." The version on Bootleg absolutely rocks. The interviews were all great, too. Listening to him speak back then in '88, I never dreamed I'd have a face-to-face, one-on-one conversation with Larry myself a dozen years later ... and not at one of his concerts, either. But I'll tell you more about that in a future entry.