Influential Albums 1108-1114
Fri., May. 26. 2023 1:31pm 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.
Note: Just because an album appears on this list doesn't mean I give it a blanket endorsement. Many of the secular albums on this list are mainly there because they wound up being spoofed by ApologetiX.
1108. August and Everything After - Counting Crows
San Francisco rock group Counting Crows released their debut LP, August and Everything After, on September 14, 1993. They were a couple weeks late for August, but the "everything after" part worked out quite well for them ... the album sold seven million copies in the states and 10 million worldwide. That's a lot of counting for those Crows! The big hit was "Mr. Jones" (#5 pop airplay, #2 mainstream rock, #2 alternative), which spent almost a full year (47 weeks) on the Hot 100, although three other cuts also charted: "Round Here" (#31 pop airplay, #11 mainstream, #7 alternative), "Rain King" (#66 pop airplay, #4 mainstream), and "A Murder of One" (#17 mainstream). After "Round Here" but before "Rain King," the group's record label released an older track, "Einstein on the Beach (For an Eggman)," on a rarities compilation featuring various artists. Counting Crows lead singer/songwriter Adam Duritz had kept it off August and Everything After, thinking it would be ignored, but "Einstein on the Beach" went on to become the band's only chart-topper (#45 pop airplay, #1 alternative). Notable later hits included "A Long December" (#6 pop airplay, #9 mainstream, #5 alternative), "Hanginaround" (#28 pop, #37 mainstream, #17 alternative), and "Accidentally in Love" (#39 pop), remembered forever as the opening song from Shrek 2. I wrote a parody of "Mr. Jones" in 1995; ApologetiX finally recorded and released it in 2020.
1109. Blind Melon - Blind Melon
Although the rock band Blind Melon was formed in Los Angeles, three of the five members hailed from Mississippi. The other two came from Indiana and Pennsylvania. Released in September 1992, the group's eponymous debut LP eventually went to #3 and sold 4 million copies, but that didn't happen until the song "No Rain" (#1 mainstream rock, #1 alternative, #20 pop) started creating a buzz on MTV in July '93. The iconic video featured a bespectacled, tap-dancing girl in a bee outfit who looked a lot like the girl on the front of the album. That cover art was actually based on an old photo of Blind Melon drummer Glen Graham's sister, Georgia, at a jazz/tap/ballet recital in 1976. ApologetiX released a live parody of "No Rain" in '95 and a studio version in '97. I found a great big, super-puffy bumblebee suit backstage at our concert in Paducah KY on December 14, 2002, and couldn't resist putting it on for part of the show. I still have photographic evidence, but I can't remember if we actually played our parody of "No Rain" that night or not. I only started keeping official records of our set lists in 2005. It wasn't a regular part of our show in the 2000s, but I'll bet we still gave it a go. The Blind Melon album had only one other charting cut, "Tones of Home" (#10 mainstream, #20 alternative). I also like the song "Change." Sadly, lead singer Shannon Hoon died of a cocaine overdose in October 1995. He was only 28. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3qVPNONdF58&list=RD3qVPNONdF58&start_radio=1
1110. Monster - R.E.M.
R.E.M.'s ninth studio LP, Monster, was unleashed in late September '94 and became the group's second #1 album (their previous project, Automatic for the People, had stalled at #2). It was the third R.E.M. release in row to sell four million copies in the United States. In early '95, I bought the first two singles on cassette: "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?" (#21 pop, #2 mainstream, #1 alternative) and "Bang and Blame" (#19 pop, #3 mainstream, #1 alternative). Three additional cuts would hit the charts: "Star 69" (#74 pop airplay, #15 mainstream, #8 alternative), "Strange Currencies" (#47 pop, #8 mainstream, #14 alternative), and "Crush with Eyeliner" (#113 pop, #20 mainstream, #33 alternative). Musically, the album seemed a little rougher around the edges than previous R.E.M. releases, but it was a Monster, after all. ApologetiX put out a live parody of "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?" in '95 and a studio version in 2017.
1111. Home - Blessid Union of Souls
Released in March 1995, Home was the debut album by Cincinnati-based pop-rock band Blessid Union of Souls. It only reached #78 on the Billboard 200 but sold half a million copies. I really enjoyed the first single, "I Believe" (#8 pop, #5 adult contemporary, #1 Radio & Records), and the Prince-esque follow-up, "Let Me Be the One" (#29 pop, #24 AC). A third cut also charted although it was not available as a single, "Oh Virginia" (#54 pop airplay, #27 Adult Top 40). ApologetiX opened for Blessid Union of Souls at a well-known Pittsburgh venue, Graffiti, on February 18, 1998 ... so I was able to tell their lead singer, Eliot Sloan, in person how much I enjoyed those tunes. By then, they had three more chart singles under their Blessid belt; "All Along" (#70 pop, #27 AC), "I Wanna Be There" (#39 pop, #25 Adult Top 40), and "Light in Your Eyes" (#46 pop, #16 AC). The group would have only more hit after that, but it was one of their finest — "Hey Leonardo (She Likes Me for Me)" (#33 pop, #16 Adult Top 40).
1112. Wildflowers - Tom Petty
Tom Petty's second solo LP, Wildflowers, came out in November 1994. This time around, Petty and Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell co-produced the album with Rick Rubin rather than Jeff Lynne. It's got a different vibe than Full Moon Fever, but I think it's just as good, if not ... gasp ... better. Wildflowers reached #8 on the Billboard 200 and sold three million copies in the States. Although it featured 15 tracks, only one became a Top 40 hit, "You Don't Know How It Feels" (#13 pop, #1 mainstream). I bought the cassingle for that one in early '95 and wrote a parody, but ApologetiX has never recorded it. A second single, the amusing "It's Good to Be King," hit the Hot 100 (#68 pop, #6 mainstream). Three other cuts made the mainstream rock chart: "You Wreck Me" (#2 mainstream), "A Higher Place" (#12 mainstream), and "The Cabin Down Below" (#29 mainstream). All five of those tunes are strong — I particularly like "You Wreck Me" and "You Don't Know How It Feels" — but my favorite song on Wildflowers is the title cut. I heard it a decent amount on our local rock station and was surprised to discover it didn't chart. That station also played "Honey Bee," one of the heaviest Petty recordings I've ever heard. Other tracks I like include: "Time to Move On," "Don't Fade On Me," "To Find a Friend," "Crawling Back to You," and "Wake Up Time." Petty originally planned for Wildflowers to be a double-album with 25 songs. It was re-released in 2020 with the extra 10 tracks as Wildflowers & All the Rest.
1113. Encomium: A Tribute to Led Zeppelin - Various Artists
Released in March 1995, Encomium: A Tribute to Led Zeppelin went to #17 and sold half a million copies. The second part of the title is pretty straightforward. In case you're wondering about the first part, the word "encomium" is defined by Merriam-Webster as "glowing and warmly enthusiastic praise." The album featured a dozen Zep remakes performed by various rock and alternative artists of the day. Karl got hold of a copy pretty quickly, and that's where I first heard it. None of the tracks hit the Top 40, but two of them did chart: a mellow version of "Dancing Days" by Stone Temple Pilots (#63 pop airplay, 3 mainstream rock, #11 alternative) and "Hey Hey What Can I Do" by Hootie & The Blowfish (#15 mainstream). I also heard "D'yer Maker" by Sheryl Crow on the radio a few times. Led Zeppelin's lead singer Robert Plant even made an appearance on the final track, a slowed-down duet of "Down by the Seaside" with Tori Amos. We thought he sounded like a decrepit old man, especially in contrast to her classically-trained mezzo-soprano voice. That was probably the strangest track on the album, along with a cover of "Custard Pie" by Helmet with an out-of-control David Yow guest-starring on vocals. Duran Duran ("Thank You"), Blind Melon ("Out on the Tiles"), "Four Sticks" (Rollins Band), did decent jobs with their material, and Cracker ("Good Times Bad Times") and Big Head Todd and the Monsters ("Tangerine") were O.K. However, two of the best cuts were by female artists: Four Non-Blondes ("Misty Mountain Hop") and Never the Bride ("Going to California"). That last one is probably my favorite track on the entire album. I actually like it better than the original.
1114. Greatest Hits (1992) - Queen
In May 1995, I bought a biography of Queen and took it on vacation with me to Virginia. Soon after, I picked up this compilation, which was released in September '92. I had purchased the original U.S. edition of Greatest Hits right after it came out in October 1981. That one featured 14 tracks. The '92 edition increased the total to 17, but it also deleted three tracks from the '81 edition: "Under Pressure," "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "Keep Yourself Alive." Why? Well, those three had already appeared on another 17-song collection, Classic Queen, in March '92. Queen's lead singer, Freddie Mercury, had died in November '91, causing an increased appreciation and demand for the band's music. Moreover, in February '92, "Bohemian Rhapsody" was featured prominently in the hit movie Wayne's World, which prompted the record company to reissue the song as a single, and it became even more successful in the United States the second time around (#2 in '92, as compared to #9 in '76). Anyway, the bottom line is that the '92 U.S. edition of Greatest Hits featured six songs not on the '81 U.S. edition: "Now I'm Here" (#11 U.K.), "Seven Seas of Rhye" (#10 U.K.), "Body Language" (#25 U.K., #11 U.S.) "Don't Stop Me Now" (#9 U.K., #86 U.S.), "Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy" (#17 U.K.), and "I Want to Break Free" (#3 U.K., #45 U.S.). Even the 11 songs that appeared on both editions were in a different order, and the cover art was totally different. Consequently, I consider the '81 and '92 Greatest Hits LPs to be two different albums. As iconic as "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "Under Pressure" are, I'd heard them a zillion times, so I was actually glad the '92 edition replaced them (and "Keep Yourself Alive") with the other six. Well, maybe not "Body Language" (ugh), but the remaining five were probably my favorites on the '92 edition; they were all much bigger hits across the pond than stateside. As far as U.S. sales go, the '81 Greatest Hits sold a million, the '92 Greatest Hits sold eight million, and Classic Queen sold three million.