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03.18.22Influential Albums: 674-680

Influential Albums: 365-378
Fri., May. 21. 2021 12:42pm 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. Rather than listing the albums in order of preference or excellence, I've been listing them in chronological order of when they influenced me, as best as I recall. We are well into 1987 now, and you'll start seeing a lot of Christian albums once we get to 1988.

However, I've recently realized that I neglected to include many influential albums along the way, so I'm going to catching up on those for a while before we get to that momentous moment in '88 when my life and musical trajectory was forever changed. You'll still see plenty of secular albums after that, but music was never the same for me after.

365. Urban Cowboy Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
The Urban Cowboy movie and its accompanying soundtrack both came out in early June 1980. Jeff Henry got this double album that summer. I was initially interested in it mainly because of the #19 hit "All Night Long" by Joe Walsh, which I liked a lot, but the album featured five other singles that would hit the Top 40: "Stand by Me" by Mickey Gilley (#22), "Love the World Away" by Kenny Rogers (#14), "Lookin' for Love" by Johnny Lee (#5), "Could I Have This Dance" by Anne Murray (#33), and my other favorite, "Look What You've Done to Me" by Boz Scaggs (#14). Man, I love that song, especially the single version, which replaces the female backing vocals with The Eagles. It also had two other new tunes I heard on rock radio and really enjoyed, "Times Like These" by Dan Fogelberg and "Nine Tonight" by Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band. There were 18 tracks in all, including the classics "Lyin' Eyes" by The Eagles and "Devil Went Down to Georgia" by Charlie Daniels Band. Hey, maybe country-and-western music wasn't so scary after all.

366. Yesterday and Today The Beatles
Released specifically for the North American market in June 1966, Yesterday and Today was a bridge between Rubber Soul and Revolver in this section of the world. Yes, yes, we know all about the infamous "butcher block" cover and the big hits that were appearing for the first time on an album over here: "Yesterday," "Nowhere Man," "We Can Work It Out," and "Day Tripper." I was already numb to them from the 1962-66 compilation by the time I got to this album. The songs that interested me most on Yesterday and Today were "Doctor Robert," "Act Naturally," "And Your Bird Can Sing," and "If I Needed Someone." Those last three feature some of my favorite guitarwork on any Beatles album. I'd include "Day Tripper" on that list, too, if I hadn't played it to death.

367. Unsinkable Molly Brown Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
I don't know if this album belonged to my mother or my sisters, but it was another relic left behind for me to explore. The Unsinkable Molly Brown was a musical that debuted on Broadway in 1960. The film version came out in 1964, the month before I was born. Debbie Reynolds starred in this fictionalized account of the life of Margaret Brown, a real person who survived the sinking of the Titanic and achieved fame for her heroic efforts to rescue others on that fateful night. Her character is played by Kathy Bates in James Cameron's 1997 movie Titanic. My favorite songs were "I Ain't Down Yet," "Belly Up to the Bar, Boys," and "He's My Friend." Other notable numbers included "I'll Never Say No" and "Colorado, My Home."

368. Cornerstone Styx
My old buddy Dave Rhodes bought this album soon after it came out in the fall of 1979. It contained Styx's first and only #1 hit, "Babe," but the song I liked from the radio was "Never Say Never," which was never released as a single. Neither was the song "The First Time," even though our local pop station played it relentlessly and my high school used it as their prom theme the following spring. I seem to remember reading that the members of Styx not named Dennis DeYoung nixed the idea of using "The First Time" as a single because they were worried that "Babe" had already done considerable damage to their rock reputation. No, the second single on this album was "Why Me." It went to #26 on the Billboard Hot 100, but reached #12 on the Radio & Records chart, which strictly monitored airplay. I liked that one a lot. Cornerstone also included the fan favorite "Boat on the River," but the third single was "Borrowed Time," which only went to #62. That reminds me ... have you ever noticed how many times Styx uses the word "Time" in titles? "Borrowed Time," "The First Time," "The Best of Times," "Too Much Time on My Hands," "Music Time," "High Time," "While There's Still Time," "Waiting for Our Time," and "Time May Bend.' And they didn't even start doing it till their ninth album. Man, they sure made up for lost "Time"!

369. Empty Sky Elton John
Believe it or not, Elton John's eponymous LP wasn't his first album. That honor belongs to Empty Sky, which was released in 1969 but didn't get much attention until it was re-released at the height of Eltonmania in 1975. Unless you're a big-time Elton fan, you've probably never heard of it or any of its songs, with the possible exception of "Skyline Pigeon," an EJ classic. My favorite tracks were the opener, "Empty Sky," and the closer, "Gulliver/Hay Chewed/Reprise." I also liked "Hymn 2000" and "Lady What's Tomorrow." In fact, I was probably one of the few people who preferred this album overall to the one that followed it. Three Dog Night fans would recognize the bonus track "Lady Samantha," which they covered in 1969. Elton's version wasn't on the original release of Empty Sky (it was released on a single six months earlier and did not chart) or on the cassette I bought in 1987, but it's been included on reissues since the mid-90's. Three Dog Night also covered "Your Song," which would appear on Elton's next album. I prefer the Dog's version of "Lady Samantha," but Elton's version of "Your Song." Which leads me to my next album

370. It Ain't Easy Three Dog Night
Released in late March 1970, It Ain't Easy was Three Dog Night's third studio album. I bought a used vinyl copy in college, but I ditched my record collection over 30 years ago. However, I now own it on 8-track, and the cartridge was autographed by all three of the band's lead singers (Danny Hutton, Chuck Negron, and Cory Wells). It was a gift from a fan of ApologetiX who apparently was not as big a fan of Three Dog Night. It Ain't Easy contained two hit singles. The first, "Mama Told Me (Not to Come) became TDN's first #1 hit. The second, "Out in the Country," became one of my all-time favorites. It peaked at #15. Other highlights include "Cowboy" (written by Randy Newman, as was "Mama Told Me"), "Good Feeling 1957," and "Good Time Living." It Ain't Easy also features a version of "Your Song" that came out about seven months before Elton John's. Danny, Chuck, and Cory did excellent interpretations of other people's songs, but it was too tough to top Elton on that one.

371. Highway 61 Revisited Bob Dylan
Released in August 1965, just five months after Bringing It All Back Home, this album has a similar sound and style, although this time around, it's even more electric, aside from the last track, the beautiful (musically) and, at times, grotesque (lyrically), "Desolation Row," clocking in at 11:21 in length, which made it the longest song in popular music up till that time. Highway 61 Revisited kicks off with "Like a Rolling Stone," ranked #1 on Rolling Stone magazine's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Yeah, I know what you're saying, "Of course, Rolling Stone is going to pick "Like a Rolling Stone. Duh." But they weren't alone in their assessment of its excellence and importance. It was a #2 pop hit and made a major impact on many a rock artist, including Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, and Frank Zappa. I already had that song on Greatest Hits and "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" on Greatest Hits Volume II. I loved 'em both, but there were seven other wonders to explore on Highway 61 Revisited. My top two were "Tombstone Blues" and the title track.

372. The Best of Blondie Blondie
Blondie's U.S. chart appearances were basically hit or miss, with four #1 records, and four other Top 40 hits, none of which cracked the Top 20. But the #1's are all classics — "Heart of Glass," "Call Me," "The Tide is High," and "Rapture" — each different in style than the other and yet each distinctly Blondie. All of them were on this album, as are three of the other four Top 40 hits: "One Way or Another" (#24), "Dreaming" (#27), and "Atomic" (#39), and they're all great, too. Believe it or not, although Blondie was based out of New York City, the band was even bigger across the pond. On the U.K. charts, they had 17 songs that hit the Top 40, including six #1s, two #2's and three other Top 10's. Three of those overseas-only Top 10 hits are on this album: "Sunday Girl," "Hanging on the Telephone," and "I'm Always Touched by Your Presence Dear." There was also an expanded, international edition of the album that included even more of the U.K. hits. I had the U.S. edition, and I believe I bought it in the bargain bin at Backstreet Records while I was in college.

373. It's Alive The Ramones
I'd seen albums by The Ramones in my Columbia House Record Club catalog, but my friend Chris Marsh was the first person I ever knew who actually bought one. I was simultaneously horrified and fascinated. Released in April 1979, It's Alive was actually recorded on New Year's Eve in 1977 at the Rainbow Theatre in London. It features live versions of 28 songs from The Ramones' first three albums. The longest song one is 2:55, the shortest is 1:14. In fact, 17 of them clocked in at less than two minutes. And then there were the titles: "Judy is a Punk," "Sheena is a Punk Rocker," "Suzy is a Headbanger," "Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue," "Pinhead," etc. I later found myself singing a couple Ramones songs after I joined my first rock band, Terminal, in 1982. Our bass player, Gerard Dominick, got us to play "Blitzkrieg Bop" and "I Wanna Be Sedated." Later, in college, my housemate Mikey Brechbill has some Ramones stuff, too. He had a cassette of End of the Century, which featured "Rock and Roll High School," "Baby, I Love You," and "Do You Remember Rock 'n' Roll Radio?" I borrowed the tape and liked those tunes. When I started writing Christian parodies in the late '80's and early 90's, I wrote a spoof of "I Wanna Be Sedated" to teach myself the books of the Old Testament in order.

374. Sladest Slade
I discovered this 1973 greatest-hits album in my brother-in-law Bob's record collection. He had spent some time studying in England during his college years in the first half of the 70's, and I'm guessing that's where he picked up this album, since Slade was huge over there at the time but never charted higher than #68 in the United States until the mid-80's. When I was in college, I had a book that listed the weekly U.K. #1 hits through the years, so I knew Slade had a bunch of 'em. I put Bob's record on the turntable and taped the two songs that Quiet Riot had recently covered, "Cum On Feel the Noize" and "Mama Weer All Crazee Now." I greatly preferred Quiet Riot's version of "Noize," but I don't think anybody could top Slade's version of "Crazee." Years later, I caught up on all the rest of the hits on this album, and there sure were a lot of them, including five that reached #1, two that peaked at #2, one that went to #4, and their first hit, which went to #16. And the boys in Slade weren't done. After this album, they had another #1, two more #2's, two #3's, two #7's, a #10, and eight other Top 40 hits. I eventually bought a later collection that had 'em all. In the wake of Quiet Riot's success, Slade finally had a couple of U.S. Top 40 hits in 1984, and I like them both a lot, "Run Runaway" (#20 U.S., #7 U.K.) and "My Oh My" (#37 U.S., #2 U.K.). ApologetiX spoofed "Cum On Feel the Noize" in 2014, but we did the Quiet Riot version. My favorite Slade hits other than the ones I've already mentioned by name are: "Get Down and Get with It" (#16), Take Me Bak 'Ome (#1), "Gudbuy T'Jane" (#2), "My Friend Stan" (#3), "Bangin' Man" (#3), and the holiday favorite "Merry Xmas Everybody" (#1). But that doesn't mean I don't like the others, 'coz eye dew!

375. K-Tel's Today's Super Greats Various Artists
What's on this three-record K-Tel extravaganza from 1973? It's almost easier to ask what isn't. Wow, what a collection! Today's Super Greats is a crash course in early 70's pop, although it also included a few from the late 60's. Tom Dellaquila let me borrow his copy in college and tape to my heart's delight. Many of the tracks were songs I remembered from my childhood, although some of them I'd never known by their title or realized who'd done them. And there were awesome anthems I'd totally missed the first time around. Today's Super Greats featured a whopping 40 songs, including eight #1 hits: "Go Away Little Girl" (Donny Osmond), "Gypsys, Tramps and Thieves (Cher), "Candy Man" (Sammy Davis Jr.), "Venus" (The Shocking Blue), "Knock Three Times" (Dawn), "Maggie May" (Rod Stewart), "The Letter" (The Box Tops), and "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye" (Steam). Those were great, but I have so many other favorites on this compilation, including but not limited to: "Beautiful Sunday" (Daniel Boone), "How Do You Do?" (Mouth & MacNeal), "Go All the Way" (Raspberries), "Gypsy Woman" (Bryan Hyland), "Sweet Mary" (Wadsworth Mansion), "If Not for You" (Olivia Newton-John), "Don't Pull Your Love" (Hamilton, Joe Frank, and Reynolds), "Oh Babe, What Would You Say?" (Hurricane Smith), "Ma Belle Amie" (Tee Set), "I Believe in Music" (Gallery), "Band of Gold" (Freda Payne), "Give Me Just a Little More Time" (Chairmen of the Board), "Daisy a Day" (Jud Strunk), "Speak to the Sky" (Rick Springfield), "Don't Expect Me to Be Your Friend" (Lobo), "Love Grows" (Edison Lighthouse), "Down by the Lazy River" (The Osmonds), "Rainy Day Feeling" (The Fortunes), "Candida" (Dawn), "Daddy Don't You Walk So Fast" (Wayne Newton), and "Let It Rain" (Eric Clapton). Two enthusiastic thumbs way up! For a complete track listing go to
https://www.discogs.com/Various-Todays-Super-Greats-3-Record-Set/release/7253952

376. Hi Infidelity REO Speedwagon
This album was all over the radio in 1981; no wonder it was the biggest-selling LP of the year. Hi Infidelity spent 15 weeks at #1, with four Top 40 singles: "Keep on Lovin' You" (#1), "Take It on the Run" (#5), "Don't Let Him Go" (#24), and "In Your Letter" (#20). Plus a couple of other songs that got a lot of airplay on rock stations, "Tough Guys" and "Out of Season." I liked those two tunes more than most of the singles. As happens so often on this list, my favorite of the singles was the third one, "Don't Let Him Go." I was a relative newcomer to REO. I'd heard and liked "Only the Strong Survive," a single that failed to chart, from their previous album, Nine Lives. When I got to college, the first guy I made friends with, Greg Ball, was the biggest REO Speedwagon I ever met. I mean that figuratively and literally, because Greg was a former football player. Drawing was my thing at the time, and Greg asked me to do portraits of each member of the band, so I got a crash course in REO. ApologetiX has spoofed four REO Speedwagon songs, including one from Hi Infidelity, two from You Can Tune a Piano, but You Can't Tuna Fish, and one from Wheels Are Turnin'.

377. Nilsson Schmilsson Nilsson
Nilsson Schmilsson is one of my all-time favorite titles. This LP was released in November 1971 and yielded three Top 40 singles, all of which remain classics today. Rarely has an artist released an album with three hit singles as diverse as "Without You" (#1), "Coconut" (#8), and "Jump into the Fire" (#27). I loved each one (and still do). "Without You" is a cover of a song Badfinger wrote and released in 1970. Mariah Carey later did her own cover version, which went to #3 in 1994. "Coconut" is a nutty (pun only semi-intended) ditty I first learned about from my cousin Chris Kistner. "Jump into the Fire" was used to great dramatic effect by Martin Scorsese in the movie Goodfellas, in a scene where paranoid antihero Henry Hill is driving and thinks he's being tailed by a police helicopter. The other well-known song on this album is the opening track, "Gotta Get Up." During my junior year in college, my roommate Tom Dellaquila and I had a poster of Harry Nilsson in his bathrobe (just like the album cover) hanging on our wall; it came with the record. Right after graduating college, I bought a used copy of Nilsson's first hit single "Everybody's Talkin'" (#6 in 1969) at a flea market, and it really summed up the mood I was feeling at the time. I also liked his second and third hits, both of which went to #34: "I Guess the Lord Must Be in New York City" and "Me and My Arrow." The latter came from a 1971 animated children's TV special I enjoyed as a kid called The Point! Nilsson co-wrote the story and wrote and performed the soundtrack. Many years later, I discovered his #23 hit "Spaceman," which my daughter Natalie and I both really love. That's on the album Son of Schmilsson. Nilsson also wrote a couple Monkees songs I like — "Cuddly Toy" and "Daddy's Song" — and the Three Dog Night classic, "One."

378. Guys and Dolls Original Broadway Cast Album
My sister Kris had this record and played it a lot when I was in grade school, probably sometime between 1975 and '77. I've never seen the actual musical (Lisa and I were considering going to see it in Pittsburgh at Civic Light Opera in 2020 before everything got shut down), but the album is very funny and very catchy. Highlights for me were "The Oldest Established," "Luck Be a Lady," and "Guys and Dolls." The one I associate the most with my sister is "Adelaide's Lament." Other songs I still have echoing in the back of mind include "A Bushel and a Peck" (a Top 40 hit for five different artists in 1950-51), "Sue Me," "More I Cannot Wish You" and "Sit Down You're Rockin' the Boat," which Don Henley covered for the soundtrack of the 1992 movie Leap of Faith. His version reached #12 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart in 1993.

Note: Just because the albums on my list influenced me back then doesn't mean I give them all a blanket endorsement now. I started actively listening to music in the early 70's and didn't become a born-again Christian until early '88. However, I hope you'll see (as I do) how God's hand was at work behind the scenes from the start, preparing me for the work I believe He intended for me to do.