Influential Albums 1087-93
Thu., May. 4. 2023 2:55pm 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:
1087. Radical History Tour - ApologetiX
The second professionally duplicated ApologetiX LP, Radical History Tour, came out first as a cassette on August 20, 1994. We timed the release so it would coincide with our first appearance at a decent-sized Christian music festival — Invasion '94 in Brookville PA. The tracks had been recorded and completed a couple months earlier, but we also had to wait until we could muster enough moolah to get it mass-produced. A thousand tapes seemed like a substantial supply to start with, but we eventually ran out. We later released Radical History Tour on CD in March 1999, when fans began demanding more of our older material. Unfortunately, the original 24-song cassette was over 90 minutes long, and CDs are only designed to hold 74 minutes of music on a CD (although artists/producers can sometimes push the limit to as high as 80 minutes). So we had to cut four songs out of the original for the CD version. That doesn't mean the remaining 20 were stellar, mind you. The most important track was probably the opener, "Bethlehemian Rhapsody," our parody of "Bohemian Rhapsody." It made a great impression on folks, but perhaps even more importantly, it gave us confidence that if we could pull that off, we could attempt just about anything. We later remade "Bethlehemian Rhapsody" in 2001. In fact, of the 20 tracks that made it onto the '99 CD, we've since remade 16 of them. That's pretty telling.
1088. Painted Desert Serenade - Joshua Kadison
I first discovered Los Angeles singer/songwriter/pianist Joshua Kadison when I heard his single "Jessie" on the radio. The vocals, music, lyrics, and production sounded so much like early Elton John that I thought it might be the Rocket Man himself. But the song stood on its own merits, and I'm not the only one who liked it; "Jessie" turned out to be a significant hit (#26 pop, #11 adult contemporary). It was the first cut released to radio from Kadison's debut LP, Painted Desert Serenade, which came out in the spring of 1993, although I don't think I heard it till 1994. That album yielded two other hits: "Beautiful in My Eyes" (#19 pop, #4 AC) and "Picture Postcards from L.A." (#84 pop, #16 AC). After I met my wife, Lisa, I discovered she was a fan of Joshua Kadison and owned Painted Desert Serenade. She even referenced lyrics from one of the other tracks in one our early email exchanges. The album only went to #69 on the Billboard 200, but it did sell a million copies. If you like Sir Elton circa 1971-73 you'd probably enjoy this album, because "Jessie" is by no means the only track that sounds like it could have been on Honky Château.
1089. The One - Elton John
Released in June 1992, The One was Elton John's 23rd studio LP and his first since going through rehabilitation for drugs, alcohol, and bulimia in '90. The musical results were impressive, and so were the sales — two million copies in the United States, something he hadn't done since Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirty Cowboy in '75 at the peak of his popularity. The lead single from The One was the title track, and it became the biggest hit (#9 pop, #1 adult contemporary for six weeks). As my old buddy and fellow Elton fan Tom Dellaquila pointed out to me at the time, there's a part in the chorus that sounds like "Curtains" from the aforementioned Captain Fantastic. The second single, "The Last Song," also did pretty well (#23 pop, #2 AC), but thankfully it was not the last song released to radio, because the third single was the one that did it for me. "Simple Life" (#30 pop, #1 AC for three weeks) was my favorite EJ tune since the mid-'70s. It also acted as the album's opener. Another cut, a duet with Eric Clapton called "Runaway Train," became a hit on rock stations (#10 mainstream). It simultaneously appeared on the soundtrack for Lethal Weapon 3. Of the other tracks, my favorite is "Whitewash County," followed by these three: "When a Woman Doesn't Want You," "Emily," and "Dark Street."
1090. Going Home - Pearl Brick
Let's get this straight first: Pearl Brick is a lady, not a band. Her debut LP was released in 1991, the same year as Pearl Jam's, but there's not a grungy thing about it ... more of a country-tinged, Appalachian feel, although the album starts with some beautiful piano, and side one closes with a bit of a rocker. I'd seen Going Home on the shelves at my local Christian bookstore but didn't pick it up until 1994, when they were going out of business. I'm very glad I finally did; Pearl has a lovely voice, and the music and lyrics are wonderful. I used to play this cassette on my way to and from work in downtown Pittsburgh (I was living east of the city, in Herminie PA, at the time and had an hour-long commute). Two of the tracks rank among my all-time favorite songs: "Oh for the Life of Me" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3eF6xKlEdoM and "Going Home" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ctALyD2mAPA. Other highlights include "I Know You'll Be There," "There's a Light," and "At Last," but all 10 tunes are terrific, so I would be remiss if I didn't mention "See Through Servant," "Heart of Gold," "Take Your Shoes Off," "Angels," and "I Will Wait."
1091. Forever Friends - Jon Gibson
Jon Gibson's sixth non-compilation LP, Forever Friends, was released in 1992, but I got my copy in the fall of '94 when our local Christian bookstore was going out of business. As I mentioned earlier on this list, I already owned and loved his fourth LP, Body & Soul. I wasn't avidly following the Christian music charts in '92 and '93, but from what I've read, the hits were "Happy to Know Jesus," "You Are the One," "Can't Live Without Jesus," "Found a Home," "Forever Friends," and a cover of Stevie Wonder's "Happier Than the Morning Sun." Not knowing any of that at the time, my favorite tracks included those last two and the roof-raising closer, "To My Father's House." Whew, what a barn-burner! Meanwhile, "Forever Friends" and "Happier Than the Morning Sun" — two mellow-but-powerful songs addressed directly to the Lord — can still get me choked up.
1092. Greatest Hits - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
If you're gonna have a Petty party, Greatest Hits is great place to start. I discovered this album at my dentist's ski lodge ... how often do you get to say something like that? It was December 1994, although the compilation actually came out in November '93. I'd owned plenty of Petty in my musical lifetime, but Greatest Hits added two new numbers: "Mary Jane's Last Dance" (#14 pop, #1 mainstream rock) and a cover version of the rock classic "Something in the Air" (#19 mainstream) — I love the original 1969 version by Thunderclap Newman (#37 pop, #1 U.K.), by the way. The 18 tracks on Greatest Hits included selections from all of Petty's previous projects except his 1987 LP Let Me Up I've Had Enough. I'd never owned that one, but I had purchased the 45 of its biggest hit, "Jammin' Me" (#18 pop, #1 mainstream for 4 weeks), which was co-written by Bob Dylan. I used to sing it with my last secular band in '87. Greatest Hits went to #5 on the Billboard 200 and sold 12 million copies stateside, well over twice as many as his second-biggest seller, Full Moon Fever. ApologetiX has spoofed four of the songs on Greatest Hits — "Don't Do Me Like That," "Refugee," "I Won't Back Down," and "Runnin' Down a Dream" — but I wouldn't mind doing a few more. One that we almost certainly won't do is "I Need to Know." Released in 1978, it only went to #41 on the pop chart (and the rock chart didn't exist back then). Nevertheless, it's one of my favorite TP tunes, and I'm glad it makes an appearance on this collection.
1093. Street Life: 20 Great Hits - Bryan Ferry & Roxy Music
This was another one in my dentist's library. Released in 1986, Street Life: 20 Great Hits combined 14 tracks by Roxy Music with six by their lead singer, Bryan Ferry. Ironically, although he'd had 10 U.K. Top 40 hits by the time this album came out, Ferry wouldn't have his first and only U.S. Top 40 hit, "Kiss and Tell" (#31) until the following year, so it's not on Street Life. Roxy Music had just one U.S. Top 40 hit as well, "Love Is the Drug" (#30), but it came out in 1975, so it is on this collection. The group had 17 U.K. Top 40 singles —10 of which reached the Top 10 — including one #1 hit, a cover version of John Lennon's "Jealous Guy." I was already familiar with some of their stuff, but Street Life expanded my horizons. I appreciate how the second part of the album title doesn't overpromise ... "great hits," not necessarily "greatest hits." My favorite tracks on it at the time were: "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall," "Oh Yeah," "More Than This," "Avalon," and "Jealous Guy." When I get to a more comprehensive Roxy Music compilation later on this list, I'll include their earlier material, because that's when I really grew to appreciate it and to understand how and why they were an influence on two other groups I loved, The Cars and Duran Duran.