Influential Albums: 407-413
Fri., Jun. 25. 2021 4:11pm 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 were well into 1987, and you'll start seeing a lot of Christian albums once we get to 1988.
However, in May 2021, I realized that I'd neglected to include many influential albums along the way, so I've been 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.
407. Greatest Hits and Mob Rules Black Sabbath
The guys in Terminal gave me two Black Sabbath albums to borrow. The first was a record called Greatest Hits, released in 1977, featuring the "hits" of the Ozzy Osbourne era. The second was a 1981 cassette called Mob Rules, the second album from the short-lived, much-loved, Ronnie James Dio era. Greatest Hits has about everything you'd expect: "Paranoid," "Iron Man," "War Pigs," "N.I.B.," "Sweet Leaf," "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath," etc. Mob Rules has two songs that made the Billboard mainstream rock chart, "Turn Up the Night" ("#24) and "Voodoo" (#46). I never heard either song on the radio, but I really liked "Turn Up the Night." That song went to #37 on the U.K. pop chart. Another song, "The Mob Rules," went to #46 in the U.K. My big takeaway from Greatest Hits was the song "Paranoid," which I had to learn for Terminal. I'd never heard it before then. ApologetiX eventually spoofed that song in 2015. I thought the cover artwork on each of those albums was scarier than the actual music. Greatest Hits used a flipped image of a famous painting from 1562 called The Triumph of Death, by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. I can't describe it better than Wikipedia: "The painting shows a panorama of an army of skeletons wreaking havoc across a blackened, desolate landscape. Fires burn in the distance, and the sea is littered with shipwrecks." Mob Rules used a 1971 painting called Dream 1: Crucifiers by Greg Hildebrant, one of The Brothers Hildebrant, who were famous fantasy and science-fiction artists. They are probably best known for their Lord of the Rings calendars. I used to have one of those calendars hanging in my room in high school, even though it was already outdated, because the artwork was so impressive. Black Sabbath never had a Top 40 hit — no surprise there — but they did have two songs that charted on the Billboard Hot 100. Those two were "Paranoid" (#61) and "Iron Man" (#52) — no surprise there, either.
408. Flirtin' with Disaster Molly Hatchet
Molly Hatchet was southern rock that really did rock. I first heard the song "Flirtin' with Disaster" (which just missed the Top 40, charting at #42) in high-school art class. That only seems proper, since the cover of the album it came from was painted by famous fantasy artist Frank Frazetta. His artwork graced the covers of the first three Molly Hatchet albums. This was the second, and it charted the highest and sold the most, although all three went platinum. I've sung two songs from it in two different bands. ApologetiX spoofed "Flirtin' with Disaster" in 2014, but my first band, Terminal, used to do "It's All Over Now" back in 1982. I was more familiar with The Rolling Stones' version, but the rest of the guys in the band favored Molly Hatchet's version. They also got me to learn the title track from Molly Hatchet's third album, Beatin' the Odds. That song went to #107 on the Billboard pop chart. The first album had a couple songs I really liked, too: the Greg Allman-penned "Dreams I'll Never See" (#106) and "Gator Country." Believe it or not, "Flirtin' with Disaster" was the third single from the album that bears its name. The first two were the melodic "Jukin' City" (it even has a whistle in it like "Flirtin'") and the aforementioned "It's All Over Now," neither of which charted. Other popular songs on it included "Whiskey Man" and "Boogie No More."
409. Blonde on Blonde Bob Dylan
I'd first read about this legendary LP in an article in Bananas magazine in 1978, which named it one of the Top 10 rock albums of all time at that time. It's not even in my Top 10 Dylan albums of all time, but I did still enjoy it, and it was a revolutionary record. Released in 1966, Blonde on Blonde was one the first double albums in rock history. Like many other double albums, there's so much music that it's harder to digest. The opening track, "Rainy Day Women No. 12 & 35," went to #2 on the pop charts, but maybe it would have gone higher if they'd just named it after the chorus. Then again, if it were called "Everybody Must Get Stoned," it might not have made the charts at all back then! ApologetiX spoofed that one back in 1992. Other highlights were "I Want You," "Just Like a Woman," and "Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again." I already had the first three on Greatest Hits and the fourth one on Greatest Hits Volume II. Another famous track is "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands," which took up an entire side, because it was 11:23 long. Aside from the hits, my favorite tracks were "Absolutely Sweet Marie" and "4th Time Around," which many see as Dylan's response to The Beatles' "Norwegian Wood." I also love the titles of "Temporary Like Achilles," "Obviously 5 Believers," and "Leopard-Skin Pillbox Hat." P.S., I've never read this anyplace, but surely I'm not the only person to bring it up: Have you ever noticed that the last seven chords of "Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again" are basically the same as the intro to "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" by Elton John on his own landmark double album?
410. Miles of Aisles Joni Mitchell
My sister Gayle was a major Joni Mitchell fan, and it rubbed off on me, although it took years, and Gayle never tried to get me to listen to her. There were four Joni albums that I specifically remember Gayle owning when I was growing up. In June 2021, I asked her which of them she got first, and she said it was this one. Miles of Aisles is a live, two-record set that was released in November 1974, just 10 months after Joni's sixth studio album, Court and Spark (I mentioned that one a long time ago on this list). Each of those LPs hit #2 on the Billboard album charts. There isn't much overlap in material; only one of the 18 songs performed on Miles of Aisles came from Court and Spark. Fifteen of them are from the albums she released before that, and there are also two brand-new tracks. The hit single, however, was a remake of her 1970 song "Big Yellow Taxi"
you know, the one that goes "They paved paradise and put up a parking lot," and has been famously covered by The Neighborhood in 1970 (#29 pop, #30 AC), Amy Grant in 1994 (#67 pop, #18 AC), and Counting Crows featuring Vanessa Carlton in 2003 (#42 pop, #5 AC). I thought that tune was terrific, and it turned out to be true: The Paradise Club, the place where we made our debut as ApologetiX and played many of our early concerts from 1992-94, was eventually demolished and paved over, and it's now a parking lot. Anyway, Joni's original, studio version of the song only went to #67 (just like Amy's), but this new, live one went to #24, outpacing all the others. A second song on Miles of Aisles that left a big impression on me was "The Circle Game." There are a ton of great tunes on this collection, but I'll cover them when I get to other Joni albums on this list. I seem to remember Gayle playing this album in January 1975, right about the same time I was in the next room reading a copy of Batman #261 (100 pages for 60 cents!!!), the second superhero comic book I ever bought.
411. So Far Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Released in 1974, this was the first "best of" album for CSN and CSNY. I bought a used copy of it
in college, I think. My sister Gayle had the album Déjà Vu and had left it behind in our basement, but I never listened to it. That's ironic, because the title track from that album wound up being my favorite song on this album. My other favorites were "Woodstock," "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes," and "Helplessly Hoping." Of course, I also liked the ever-popular "Our House," "Teach Your Children," "Wooden Ships," and "Ohio." Hey, have you ever noticed how the verses in "Ohio" have a similar melody to "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" by Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty? Compare "Tin soldiers and Nixon's comin'" with "It's hard to think about what you wanted." Anyway, I was bummed that this album didn't include two of my other favorites, "Marrakesh Express" (their very first Top 40 hit) or "Carry On" (the flip side of the "Teach Your Children" single). I rectified that program years later by making my own collection via iTunes, where you can get those songs and later hits like "Just a Song Before I Go," "Wasted on the Way," and "Southern Cross." In this, the golden age of digital playlists, you can also sprinkle in Top 40 hits that have the classic CSN sound but are actually subsets of the group, like "Immigration Man" (Graham Nash & David Crosby), "Chicago" (Graham Nash), and "Love the One You're With" (Stephen Stills).
412. Toys in the Attic Aerosmith
This album was my first exposure to Aerosmith. I seem to remember first hearing it played by my cousin Debbie in Columbus OH in the summer of '76, but I'm not positive. I also remember hearing songs from it on the bus in high school in the early 80's. The big hits on Toys in the Attic were "Walk This Way" and "Sweet Emotion," and I loved both of them. I mentioned their influence already in my entry for Greatest Hits. Furthermore, like most of the rock fans I knew in high school, I confess that I was amused at the time by the rude little ditty at the end of side one that shall remain nameless here. Two other tracks that really left an impression on me were "No More No More" and "Adam's Apple." I really like "Uncle Salty" and the title track, too. I think it's cool that Aerosmith led off this album with "Toys in the Attic" and then put a song called "Rats in the Cellar" on their next album, Rocks.
413. 16 Greatest Hits - Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons
I bought this remarkable record in college. It has all of Frankie Valli's big solo hits and many (but not all) of his biggest hits with The Four Seasons, including five #1 songs ("Sherry," "Rag Doll," "My Eyes Adored You," "December 1963," and "Grease"), one #2 ("Can't Take My Eyes off You"), and three #3's ("Dawn," "Let's Hang On," and "Who Loves You"). However, it's missing two #1's ("Big Girls Don't Cry" and "Walk Like a Man") and one #3 ("Candy Girl"). The Four Seasons had six other Top 10 hits that aren't on this collection, either, although it does include Frankie's other Top 10 solo hit, "Swearin' to God" (#6). I realize that the album was limited to 16 songs, but it seemed strange that a greatest hits included "Stay" (#16), "Ain't That a Shame" (#22), "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" (#24), and "Alone" (#28) at the expense of higher-charting, more iconic songs like "Candy Girl" (#3), "Ronnie" (#6), "Workin' My Way Back to You" (#9), and "C'mon Marianne" (#9). No sense griping, though, now that you can cherry pick them and customize your own digital collection. My kids went through a Four Seasons stage a while back. They especially loved the goofy version of Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright" that Frankie and the boys released in 1965 under the name The Wonder Who, which somehow made it the whole way up to #12. ApologetiX spoofed "December 1963" in 2001, although we replicated the remix that hit #14 in 1994.
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.