Influential Albums: 1234-1240
Fri., Sep. 29. 2023 6:30pm 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.
1234. Monster Ballads - Various Artists
This album mainly made my list because of the television ad that promoted it. Released in June 1999, Monster Ballads focuses on '80s power ballads ... a tried and true technique many a rock band has used to get in touch with the feminine side of their radio listening audience. The initial release featured 16 tracks, and ApologetiX spoofed two of them: "More Than Words" (Extreme) and "To Be With You" (Mr. Big). There were huge bands like Whitesnake and The Scorpions and less-famous acts such as Steelheart and KIX. A double-disc expanded edition came out later in '99 featuring 35 tracks, including interesting artists such as Faster Pussycat, Danger Danger, L.A. Guns, and Saigon Kick. Even Stryper made an appearance. But some artists seemed a little out of place, such as REO Speedwagon, The Bangles, Eddie Money, and John Waite. Lisa first made me aware of the immortal line near the end of the commercial: "Every bad boy has his soft side," and we still like to quote it. Well, I do, at least. You can see the commercial yourself at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qbuXyjftq1U.
1235. Best of Twisted Tunes, Vol. 1 - Bob Rivers
I've mentioned Bob Rivers a few times previously. Released in 1997, Best of Twisted Tunes, Vol. 1 featured 15 parodies, and they're not for the faint of heart. It's a mix of unforgettable moments and regrettable moments. Let's just say that nobody will ever accuse Rivers of making inspirational music. Strange as it may seem, though, many of his spoofs inspired me. How so? Well, he wrote clever lyrics, and the Twisted Tunes team did an impressive job replicating the vocals and instrumental qualities of the original artists. That made me want to work harder at polishing and perfecting the production of our own parodies. The highlight of Best of Twisted Tunes, Vol. 1 for me was "Downtown in the 90's," a modern (at the time) look at Petula Clark's chart-topping '60s hit "Downtown." Other favorites included "What an Ugly Man He Was" ("Lucky Man" by Emerson, Lake & Palmer) and "Minimum Wage" ("Bullet with Butterfly Wings" by Smashing Pumpkins). I was also amused by the Twisted Tunes takes on "Free as a Bird" by The Beatles, "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" by Barbra Streisand & Neil Diamond, and "Walk on the Wild Side" by Lou Reed.
1236. Best of Twisted Tunes, Vol. 2 - Bob Rivers
Best of Twisted Tunes, Vol. 2 featured 15 more parodies that frequently stretched (and sometimes snapped) the limits of what I would consider good taste. Hey, they might feel the same about ApologetiX if they ever heard our stuff. Different spoofs for different goofs. I was always on my guard when listening to a Bob Rivers album for the first time, sweeping for lyrical landmines while searching for comedy gold. When I found witty ditties that were somewhat safe, I'd revisit them. My favorites on this one were "I'm Just a Singer in a Holiday Inn" ("I'm Just a Singer in a Rock and Roll Band" by The Moody Blues), "I Used to Rock and Roll All Night" (Rock and Roll All Nite" by Kiss), and "Mr. Magoo" ("Me and Bobby McGee" by Janis Joplin. Rivers also did outlandish-but-memorable things with "Come Out and Play" by The Offspring, "Hello I Love You" by The Doors, and "Jet Airliner" by Steve Miller.
1237. Conspiracy No. 5 - Third Day
Here's another one I learned about through Lisa. Released in August 1997, Third Day's second LP had a harder edge overall than its predecessor. It didn't sell as many copies, but it did become their first album to hit the Billboard 200, going as far as #50. Four of the cuts hit the Christian charts: "Alien" (#1 Christian Rock), "Who I Am" (#1 Christian Hit Radio), "My Hope Is You" (#2 CHR), and "Have Mercy" (#2 Rock). I also like the song "Peace" and "This Song Was Meant for You." Obviously, ApologetiX has never spoofed any songs by Third Day, but in 2019 we did release a CD with a title inspired by this album — Conspiracy No. 56. It was our 56th LP and came out right after the 56th birthday of ApologetiX guitarist Tom Tincha, who has a legendary love for conspiracy theories. Coincidence? I think not!
1238. Yes! - Chad Brock
This album is not to be confused with the 1969 debut LP by British progressive rock group Yes, and it never will be ... at least not by anybody who compares the covers or listens to the first few seconds of both albums. Before becoming a country singer in the late '90s, Chad Brock was a professional wrestler in World Championship Wrestling (WCW), but you'd never guess that from his sweet-sounding voice and ear-pleasing melodies. Brock's second LP, Yes!, was released on May 2, 2000 — just a month and a day before Lisa and I got married, in her hometown of Mayfield KY. Although we honeymooned in Mountain Lake VA (eight and a half hours from Mayfield), we spent our wedding night in Nashville TN (about two hours and 15 minutes from Mayfield) and listened to a lot of country radio during that wonderful week. The title track (#1 country, #22 pop) on Yes! is one of three songs I associate with our honeymoon, and not just because I heard it frequently during that time, but because the lyrics summed up our situation: "Ohhh then it happened one night looking in her eyes. Ohhh when I popped the question, much to my surprise, she said 'Yes!' And I said 'Wow!' She said, 'When?' And I said, 'How about right now?' Love can't wait, then I asked if she believed in fate, and she said, 'Yes!' So we called a preacher, family and friends, and nothing's been the same since." Amen, Chad, amen. The album itself went to #125 on the Billboard 200 and #17 on the U.S. Top Country Albums chart. It generated two other mildly successful singles: "The Visit" (#21 country) and "A Country Boy Can Survive (Y2K version)" (#30 country, #75 pop), which also featured Hank Williams Jr. and George Jones. Additional cuts I like include "This" and "Young Enough to Know It All." Brock's other biggest country hit was "Ordinary Life" (#3) from his debut LP in '98. After leaving Nashville, he worked as a radio host in Tampa FL from 2005-10. Brock only released one single during that period, "Put a Redneck in the White House," which did not chart.
1239. Lonely Grill - Lonestar
Nashville-based country group (that sounds redundant, doesn't it?) Lonestar started out in 1992 as Texassee, because all five members were from Texas, although they met in Tennessee at the Opryland USA theme park. Lisa and I spent our wedding night at the Opryland hotel. Released June 1, 1999, a year and two days before we got married,Lonely Grill was Lonestar's third LP and their first without bassist/vocalist John Rich, who left in '98 to form the duo Big & Rich with Big Kenny. Although the funky first single, "Saturday Night" (#47 country), missed the country Top 40, the next four all hit #1 on the country chart and also made the pop Top 40, including one single that topped both charts. They were: "Amazed" (#1 country, #1 pop), "Smile" (#1 country, #39 pop), "What About Now" (#1 country, #30 pop), and "Tell Her" (#1 country, #39 pop). Lonely Grill went to #23 on the Billboard 200 and #3 on the U.S. Top Country Albums chart and sold three million copies. Other non-hits worth a listen include "Lonely Grill," "You Don't Know What Love Is," "Simple as That," and an acoustic version of Lonestar's 1998 #2 country single "Everything's Changed." Probably the catchiest cut of all 12 tracks was "Don't Let's Talk About Lisa," but I can't accommodate such a request. In fact, the main reason this album appears on my list is because it features a song that played a lot on our honeymoon — "What About Now," which was released as a single a month and a half before we got married. It was perfect music to be playing on our car radio as we drove off into the distance, having just met online less than five months earlier (and in person less than four months earlier): "And we could hang around this town forever making plans, yeah, but there won't ever be a better time to take this chance, yeah. And what about now, how 'bout tonight? Baby, for once let's don't think twice. Let's take that spin that never ends that we've been talkin' about." And the lyrics to "Amazed" remind me of my amazing bride and apply to our life ever since: "I don't know how you do what you do. I'm so in love with you — it just keeps gettin' better. I wanna spend the rest of my life with you by my side, forever and ever. Every little thing that you do — baby, I'm amazed by you."
1240. Who Needs Pictures - Brad Paisley
The other day, I asked my wife, Lisa, if any songs (by any artist) reminded her of our honeymoon, and she immediately said, "Me Neither." That extremely clever and catchy Brad Paisley tune was released in February 2000, but we heard it on the radio for the first time (and the second, third, etc.) the week after we got married. Both of us loved it, and I enjoyed singing the first two words of the chorus to Lisa as a response in the months (and probably years) that followed, whenever the situation called for it (although I might have felt the situation called for it more than she did). Paisley was born and raised in Glen Dale WV, just 65 miles from Pittsburgh, although he's a Cleveland Browns fan. By 2023, Paisley had notched 35 Top 10 country singles, 20 of which reached #1, including a record-setting 10 in a row from 2005-10. He married actress Kimberly Williams in 2003, best known for playing Steve Martin's daughter in the Father of the Bride movies (1991 and '95) and Jim Belushi's sister-in-law on the television series According to Jim (2001-09). She also played Pastor Greg Laurie's mother in Jesus Revolution in 2023. "Me Neither" (#18 country, #85 pop) was the third and lowest-charting single from Paisley's debut LP, Who Needs Pictures, which was released June 1, 1999, almost exactly a year before we got married (June 3, 2000). The other three were "Who Needs Pictures" (#12 country, #65 pop), "He Didn't Have to Be" (#1 country, #30 pop), and "We Danced" (#1 country, #29 pop). Those selections aimed more for the heart than the funny bone, but they're all quality cuts. I also like the amusing "It Never Woulda Worked Out Anyway," "Long Sermon," "Don't Breathe," and "Sleepin' on the Foldout." Meanwhile, "Holdin' on to You" and "I've Been Better" are serious numbers but also clever. And the instrumental "Nervous Breakdown" is a fine piece of work, too. Paisley is a gifted songwriter and wrote or co-wrote every track except the last one, the traditional Gospel hymn "In the Garden." The album sold a million copies and went to #102 on the Billboard 200 and #13 on the U.S. Top Country Albums chart. Who Needs Pictures is an ironic title for us, because our wedding photos didn't turn out so well; most of them were too dark. Thankfully our engagement photos (taken by the same person) and our marriage turned out wonderfully.