Influential Albums: 982-988
Fri., Jan. 20. 2023 10:41pm 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:
982. Upon This Rock - Larry Norman
It's probably for the best that I first encountered this recording on a homemade cassette ... if I'd seen the photo on the front of the album sleeve, I might have had a hard time taking the whole thing seriously. It does have some deliberately silly moments, but you can't judge a record by its cover. Released on Capitol Records (the U.S. label of The Beatles and The Beach Boys) in December 1969, Upon This Rock was Larry Norman's first solo LP and is generally considered the first Christian rock album, although it wasn't regarded as a critical or commercial success at the time. A couple years later, he summed up the reception as follows: "It was too religious for the rock and roll stores and too rock and roll for the religious stores." Along with Larry (on vocals, guitar, and piano), Upon This Rock featured several members of the so-called Wrecking Crew of studio musicians who played on myriad notable 60's recordings: Hal Blaine (drums), Joe Osborn (bass), Larry Knechtel (keyboards), and Mike Deasy (acoustic guitar). Upon This Rock contains some of my all-time favorite Larry Norman cuts, including "You Can't Take Away the Lord," "Sweet Song of Salvation," "I Wish We'd All Been Ready" (which would reappear later on his Only Visiting This Planet LP), "Forget Your Hexagram," "Nothing Really Changes," and the hilarious "Moses in the Wilderness" (my kids love that one, too). I liked the rest of the tracks, too, including "I Don't Believe in Miracles," "Ha Ha World," and "Walking Backwards Down the Stairs," and "The Last Supper." In fact, this may be my favorite Larry Norman album. It's at least in my top three overall.
983. Holy Fire - Harvest
I told you these guys would be back. After we saw Harvest in concert in 1988, my friend Tim Hart bought their most recent album at the time, Holy Fire, which had just come out in August. He enjoyed it so much that he made me borrow it. I thought two tracks in particular really stood out, and the band and/or the record company must have felt the same way, because they made them the openers on sides one and two: "Holy Fire" and "Be Strong and Courageous." I still have those tunes on my phone today, and I still find them to be inspirational and encouraging.
984. Live: Radically Saved - Carman
Released in 1988, Live: Radically Saved wasn't the first in-concert Carman LP I owned (that would be Sunday's On the Way), but it sounded like a much bigger deal. Unlike most live albums by other artists, it consisted of all-new material, opening up with a non-stop barrage of great tunes: "I've Been Delivered," "Lord of All," "Radically Saved," "No Way, We Are Not Ashamed," the hilarious "Soap Song," and the Christmas-y Elvis homage "Celebrating Jesus." My cassette had eight songs on side one and only three on side two, because two of them were massively long, "Jericho: The Shout of Victory" (7:47) and "God of All Nations Medley" (21:30) ... but, man, were they good. The other two tracks were more ballad-like worship songs, "Bless God" and "I Feel Jesus." Like other Carman projects, Live: Radically Saved inspires, entertains, and amuses, but it does so on an extremely grand scale. It's my favorite Carman album, although he soon released another I enjoyed almost as much.
985. The Ministry Years Vol. 1: 1977-79 - Keith Green
Released in 1987, The Ministry Years Vol. 1: 1977-79, was basically the Keith Green equivalent of The Beatles 1962-66 (a.k.a. "The Red Album"), a double-disc first installment of a two-volume collection of the songs he recorded from 1977 till the time of his death in 1982, including numerous tracks that weren't released until 1983-84. "The Silver Album" contained 38 tracks, including three previously unreleased tracks, "Go to the Hungry Ones," "Here Am I, Send Me," and my personal favorite, "The Battle Is Already Won." I had all of the other songs, except for a jumping, gospel duet with Barry McGuire called "Walk and Talk," which had previously only appeared on a 1976 album called Firewind that featured various artists and was produced by Terry Scott Talbot. "Walk and Talk" was the crown jewel of the collection for me. We used to jam on that tune sometimes at practice in the early days of the band, before we were officially called ApologetiX.
986. The Ministry Years Vol. 2: 1980-82 - Keith Green
Released in 1988, The Ministry Years Vol. 2: 1980-82, was basically the Keith Green equivalent of The Beatles 1967-70 (a.k.a. "The Blue Album"). I discovered both it and The Ministry Years Vol. 1: 1977-79 in the late fall of '88, and I always thought they were released simultaneously, but the first volume actually came out in '87. "The Gold Album" contained 34 tracks (a total of 37 songs if you count the four in "Scripture Song/Medley"), including two previously unreleased tracks, "Summer Snow" and "Cut the Devil Down." I favored the "new" tracks on 1977-79 over the ones on 1980-82, and I liked "The Silver Album" better overall than "The Gold Album," but this collection has some wonderful songs on it, too. In 1989, Keith's widow, Melody, would publish his biography, No Compromise: The Life Story of Keith Green. I read that soon after and really enjoyed it as well, although it had a bittersweet ending.
987. Fuel on the Fire - Morgan Cryar
In October '88, I met another person through our Friday prayer group who would turn into a lifelong friend, Thom Passante. I already knew and liked his older brother, Art, from Tuesday Bible study. In fact, we used to have the Friday get-togethers at Art's house. But I met Thom at a surprise birthday party for him that was held at another location. Thom and I (and sometimes Art) did many comedy collaborations over the next few years to entertain at parties and picnics, including some homemade cassettes and videos featuring impromptu skits. Thom was a fan of the Christian variety show Fire by Night, hosted by Blaine Bartel. He eventually got to be on the show, and I met Blaine many years later at an event ApologetiX played. Anyway, long before that any of that, one of the episodes featured a guy named Morgan Cryar, and I really liked his song "Pray in the U.S.A." Thom had that song on a store-bought cassette of Morgan's 1986 LP, Fuel on the Fire, and let me borrow it so I could make a copy. I was familiar with one of its other tracks, "I Need the Rock," from hearing the 101 Band play it on those Christian cruises I attended. I liked that song a lot. too. My additional favorites from Fuel on the Fire were "I'm Not Alone," "Underneath Your Feet," and "I Gotta Know" — basically all of side one. Thom later became a youth pastor (and eventually a pastor) and coordinated a Morgan Cryar concert a few years later at the church where he served. I attended that concert and got a chance to meet Morgan briefly, but that was still a year or two before ApologetiX made its big debut.
988. Never Say Die - Petra
Later in 1988, I took a chance and invited my childhood friend Dave Rhodes to our Tuesday-night Bible shortly after he graduated college. Two years younger than I, Dave had grown up in my neighborhood (he moved there in the mid-70's) and had gone on to Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) like me and even joined the same fraternity (Alpha Phi Omega, the national service fraternity). In fact, he eventually served as our chapter's president during his senior year. It was pretty cool to have a friend with all that common ground, but I didn't know what he'd think of the Bible study. Thankfully, he liked it a lot and started attending regularly with me, and soon we shared yet another group of friends. In fact, in November 1990, he married one of our mutual pals from that Bible study, Beth Wallack. I was honored to be best man at their wedding, and they're still going strong over three decades later! Dave and I had also been sharing pop and rock music as long as we'd known each other, and the same thing happened with Christian music. Although I'd been listening to Petra since that spring, he got hold of their fourth LP, Never Say Die (1981), before I did and encouraged me to check it out. I was amazed at how good it was! There was a great mix of quiet, poignant tunes like "The Coloring Song" and "For Annie" and rockers like "Chameleon," "Angel of Light," "Without Him We Can Do Nothing," and "Praise Ye the Lord." Those were my favorite tracks on the album, but I also enjoyed "Father of Lights," "Killing My Old Man" (clever Bible reference), and the title track. Many years later, after ApologetiX was well established, I received an email from Dave Egan, the man who wrote "The Coloring Song," the only track on the album not written by a member of Petra. It was a real kick to find out he even knew who we were, let alone contacted us.