Influential Albums: 1017-1023
Thu., Feb. 23. 2023 12:55pm 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:
1017. Written on the Wind - Chuck Girard
Chuck Girard first made his mark in Christian music as a member of Love Song, but he had three Top 40 mainstream pop hits with secular groups before that: "Sacred" (#20) and "So This Is Love" (#21) with The Castells in 1961, and "Little Honda" (#9) with The Hondells. After Love Song's second LP, Final Touch, in 1974, he launched a solo career in '75. He went on to release 10 albums, including five from 1975-80. The third of these, Written on the Wind, came out in '77, and I borrowed Jeff Pakula's copy. It's not as rock or country as Love Song, but it's filled with beautiful music, and Chuck has a very pleasant, sweet-sounding voice ... similar to David Gates of Bread. My favorite tracks were the opener, "Spirit Wind," and the closer, "The Warrior." Other memorable songs include "Peace in the Valley" (not the same as the classic hymn made famous by Mahalia Jackson and Elvis Presley), "Plain ol' Joe," "Fool for Jesus," "Harvest Time," and "Mary's Song." Chuck's best-known composition is probably "Sometimes Alleluia," from his eponymous solo debut album in '75. I also liked the song "Soldier" from his 1980 LP, The Stand, another record in Jeff's collection. Chuck sent me an email many years ago that I can't seem to find now (and he probably forgot that he even wrote it), although I responded to it at the time. As was the case with Larry Norman, I was shocked that the guy was aware of our existence, and I was happy to tell him he'd been an influence on us.
1018. The Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 - The Traveling Wilburys
I think I first became aware of this album thanks to an old co-worker at Foothills Litho, Drew Vosefski, the same guy who had taken me to see Bruce Springsteen in concert back in 1984 and '85. As a fan of The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, ELO, and Roy Orbison, the odds were overwhelming that I'd enjoy The Traveling Wilburys, but I wasn't really listening to secular radio in October '88, when it came out. I loved the first single, "Handle with Care" (#45 pop, #2 rock) when I finally heard it. I felt the same way about the second single, "End of the Line" (#63 pop, #2 rock). Later, my old college buddy Tom Dellaquila sent me a mix tape that included the song "Dirty World." I can't remember when I finally got to hear the whole album, but I eventually bought my own copy. Those three tracks remained my favorites along with "Last Night" (#5 rock). And being a "titles" guy, how could I not like "Tweeter and the Monkey Man" (#41 rock)? My brother-in-law Bob liked that one, as I recall. It seems to be deliberately and playfully written in the style of Bruce Springsteen, and the lyrics include the titles of nine Springsteen songs. "Heading for the Light" (#7 rock), "Rattled," and "Not Alone Anymore" weren't bad, either. Although Orbison died in December '88, the Wilburys continued as a quartet and released a follow-up LP, Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3, in October '90. I eventually bought that one, too (but not until many years later), and if this list continues long enough, I plan to eventually write about it. ApologetiX spoofed "Handle with Care" in 2018.
1019. The Top Ten Hits - Elvis Presley
In the spring of 1989, I took a job as communications coordinator (and soon after became advertising and promotions coordinator) in the marketing department for Equitable Gas in downtown Pittsburgh. That job would eventually lead to me working in corporate communications for Equitable's parent corporation, Equitable Resources Inc. (ERI). All told, I worked in an advertising and public-relations capacity for Equitable in one aspect or another for almost a full decade. At one point early in my ten-year tenure, I was asked to create an entertaining overview for a company-wide managers meeting. At the time, urban legends were spreading that Elvis Presley was still alive, with a number of sightings in Kalamazoo MI. With that in mind, I came up with the bizarre idea of doing a slide show called "Elvis and Equitable Gas," punctuated with a plethora of doctored photos featuring Elvis with various Equitable managers. For part of my soundtrack (and to get me in the mood for the project), I purchased this excellent compilation. Released in 1987, The Top Ten Hitsfeatured all 38 of Presley's Top 10 pop hits in chronological order. I'd heard most of them already on previous Elvis collections, but there were some that were relatively new to me. Of those, my favorites were "I Need Your Love Tonight" (#4), "Little Sister" (#5), "(Marie's the Name) His Latest Flame" (#4), and "Bossa Nova Baby" (#8). In the years that followed, ApologetiX would spoof seven of the tracks on this album. In 2001, we finally played in Kalamazoo MI ... but Elvis was nowhere in sight.
1020. War and Remembrance (The Best of Petra) - Petra
The year after Petra Means Rock, StarSong released an even bigger anthology called War and Remembrance, which included a mix of both hard and soft songs. I bought the two-cassette edition. Although there was some overlap with Petra Means Rock, most of the tracks were different. Both collections focused on Petra's output from 1981-88, but War and Remembrance also included a few tracks from their first three releases: "Parting Thought" (from the 1974 LP Petra); "Come and Join Us" (from the 1977 LP of the same name); and "Why Should the Father Bother," and "Yahweh Love" (from the 1979 LP Washes Whiter Than). It also contained two more songs I didn't already know from their 1982 LP More Power to Ya— "Road to Zion" and the title track. I liked 'em all, especially "Why Should the Father Bother," "Yahweh Love," "Road to Zion," and "More Power to Ya."
1021. Keep on Rockin' - Various Artists
I borrowed this cassette compilation from a friend in the spring of 1990. By that time, I had already been writing occasional Christian parodies for almost two years to educate myself (biblically and musically) and to entertain my friends at Bible studies and parties. Released in 1986 by Warner Special Products, Keep on Rockin' featured 45 hits from the late '60s and early '70s. It had all kinds of great tunes, and I was already familiar with most of them, but there were some I either hadn't heard or at least hadn't played to death, most notably "Cherry Hill Park" by Billy Joe Royale, "Morning Girl" by The Neon Philharmonic, "Time Won't Let Me" by The Outsiders, "Time Is Tight" by Booker T. & The MG's, "Love Is All Around" by The Troggs, and "Society's Child (Baby, I've Been Thinking)" by Janis Ian. One of the great things about Keep on Rockin' was that it included a lot of songs you didn't see over and over again on other collections, like "Gloria" by The Shadows of Knight, "Spirit in the Sky" by Norman Greenbaum, "Love the One You're With" by Stephen Stills; "Soul Deep" by The Box Tops, "Sunday Will Never Be the Same" by Spanky & Our Gang, "Love (Can Make You Happy)" by Mercy; "Six O'Clock" by The Lovin' Spoonful; "Time Has Come Today" by The Chambers Brothers, "On the Road Again" by Canned Heat, "You Keep Me Hangin' On" by Vanilla Fudge, "Truckin'" by The Grateful Dead, and "I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night" by The Electric Prunes. ApologetiX went on to spoof six of the songs on Keep on Rockin' ... and we have all the instrumental tracks already recorded for a seventh. For a complete track listing, go to: https://www.discogs.com/master/747628-Various-Keep-On-Rockin
1022. Les Misérables - The Complete Symphonic Recording
I first saw Les Misérables onstage at the Benedum Center in downtown Pittsburgh on January 9, 1990 — "Equitable Gas Night" (I kid you not) — thanks to a discount ticket promotion offered through the company for whom I worked. What an incredible, powerful musical! Notice how I resisted the urge to say it was a "gas," the actors were all "naturals," and the singers had "great sets of pipes." In the late spring of that year, I started dating a girl in the Washington DC area (so I had a lot of time to listen to music in my car) who had one of the cast recordings on cassette. I think it was The Complete Symphonic Recording, which was released in 1989 and is the only version in English to feature the entire score. The song that moved me the most at the time was "At the End of the Day," but there were so many wonderful numbers ("Do You Hear the People Sing?," "The ABC Café / Red and Black," "Bring Him Home," "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables," to name a few) and I enjoyed reliving what I'd seen in person. It was great practice, because Les Misis my wife's favorite musical (well, technically it fluctuates between #1 and #2 with The Phantom of the Opera, depending on which one she's experienced most recently). She's seen Les Misfour or five times on stage (once with me, plus we also saw it at the movies together) and has owned five different recordings, if you count the movie. It was one of my mother's faves, too. I remember that she and my dad really liked "Master of the House." When our second-oldest daughter, Heather, was a little girl, she loved to sing the song "Castle on a Cloud" and would do so for anybody at the slightest prompting. Our fourth daughter, Natalie, also counts Les Misas one of her top five shows, and she will take to task anybody who criticizes Russell Crowe's singing in the movie.
1023. Triumphant Return - Whitecross
By the spring of 1990, a guy named Karl Messner had started visiting our Tuesday-night Bible study. On one of those occasions, he saw and heard me perform a sampling of the biblical parodies I'd been writing since '88. He liked them and suggested we get together and jam. Karl was a much better guitarist than I and was good at singing harmonies. He also taught me a few fancier chords and a song called "Simple Man" by his favorite Christian band at the time, Whitecross. After we'd worked on it for a while, he suggested we perform it at the upcoming wedding reception of his sister Krista, who was about to marry some dude named Keith Haynie. I'd never met either of them before, so it was hard for me to believe they'd be enthused about the idea, but he assured me that it would be cool with them. By this time, I knew his other sister, who attended our Bible study and also played guitar and sometimes jammed with us. She was in the wedding party, and I went as her guest. Little did I know that Keith and Krista would someday become two of my closest friends. Keith wound up joining ApologetiX as our bassist in 1995 and eventually became my roommate on the road. He and Krista and their kids are like family to my wife, my kids, and me. Keith tells me now that he wasn't sure what to make of it when we dedicated "Simple Man" to him. Were we implying he was some simple-minded simpleton? Good thing he liked Whitecross just as much as Karl, if not more. In the meantime, Karl and I went on to form ApologetiX with Jeff Pakula and Andy Sparks, who were each mentioned in other recent entries. We played our first official concert on March 27, 1992. "Simple Man," which reminds me a little of "Heaven" by Warrant, came from the third Whitecross LP, Triumphant Return. Ironically, that album came out in January 1989, the same month and year as Warrant's album Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich, which contained the song "Heaven." On the whole, though, Whitecross reminded me more of a different 80's hair-metal band, Ratt. I thought Whitecross lead singer Scott Wenzel sounded a lot like Ratt's Stephen Pearcy, but we could go round and round about that. My old neighborhood friend Chris was also familiar with Whitecross and had been impressed with their lead guitarist, Rex Carroll. Other songs on Triumphant Return that stuck with me were "Attention Please" "Red Light," "Behold," "Shakedown," and the Van-Halenish instrumental "Flashpoint."