Influential Albums: 589-595
Fri., Dec. 24. 2021 10:58am EST
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'd 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.
589. The Dream of the Blue Turtles - Sting
Released in June 1985, two years to the month after The Police's final LP, Sting's first solo album produced four Top 20 singles, just like Synchonicity. Of course, Synchronicity also spent 17 weeks at #1 and sold over 10 million copies worldwide, but The Dream of the Blue Turtles did alright for itself ... spending six weeks at #2 and selling over 5 million. The aforementioned singles were: "If You Love Somebody Set Them Free" (#3), "Fortress Around Your Heart" (#8), "Love Is the Seventh Wave" (#17) and "Russians" (#16). The first two also hit #1 on the rock chart. Our local rock station also played "We Work the Black Seam," too. I liked all four of the singles, but my favorite Sting solo hits would come from later albums. For the record, those songs are "We'll Be Together" (#7), "All This Time" (#5), "Fields of Gold" (#23), and "Brand New Day" (#103).
590. Super Trouper - ABBA
Released in November 1980, Super Trouper was ABBA's seventh album. I remember hearing its first two U.S. singles on KDKA-AM 1020 (thanks to my dad) back when they still played some music in the mornings — "The Winner Takes It All" (#8 pop, #1 adult contemporary) and the title track (#45 pop, #14 adult contemporary). Both of those songs were #1 hits in the UK. Although I like them both now, I didn't appreciate either one much at the time, but they were both earworms for sure. I was too young to identify with the sentiments of "The Winner Takes It All" and didn't know what a "Super Trouper" was. Being unaware of the spelling at the time, I figured it was more like when you say somebody has been a real trooper. In case you don't know, a Super Trouper is a directional spotlight used to follow performers when they are on stage. A third single, "On and On and On," also hit the lower regions of the Billboard Hot 100 (#90). I never heard that one back in the day, but I grew to really enjoy it many years later. It wasn't a hit in the U.K., but "Lay All Your Love on Me" was. It went #7 there. Two other notable songs were "Our Last Summer," which features prominently in the Mamma Mia! musical (as do all of the aforementioned songs except "On and On and On"), and "The Way Old Friends Do."
591. Wheels Are Turnin' - REO Speedwagon
REO Speedwagon followed-up 1980's massively successful Hi Infidelity album with 1982's Good Trouble, which sold a million copies and contained two hits, "Keep the Fire Burnin'" (#7) and "Sweet Time" (#26). Before Hi Infidelity, those numbers would have been good, but now they spelled trouble, considering the coattails on which the new record was riding. 1984's Wheels Are Turnin' did a lot better, selling two million copies and producing four Top 40 songs, "I Do' Wanna Know" (#29 pop, #5 rock), "One Lonely Night" (#19 pop, #17 rock), "Live Every Moment" (#34), and the biggest hit of their career — "Can't Fight This Feeling," which went to #1 on the pop charts for three weeks and also reached #5 on the rock chart. Written by lead singer Kevin Cronin, "Can't Fight This Feeling" was referred to by the other band members as "that stupid ballad" before it became a blockbuster. I was a big fan of "I Do' Wanna Know," "One Lonely Night," and "Can't Fight This Feeling," which ApologetiX eventually spoofed in 2018.
592. Break Out - The Pointer Sisters
You probably didn't realize this, but The Pointer Sisters had 15 Top 40 hits between 1973-85. That includes two songs that went to #2 — the Bruce Springsteen cover "Fire" in 1979 (which I loved) and "Slow Hand" in 1981. Between that, they had a #3 hit, "He's So Shy" in 1980. All three of those singles sold a million copies, too. But few could have expected the breakthrough they would experience with their tenth studio album, Break Out. a couple years later. Released in November 1983, Break Out produced four straight Top 10 singles: "Automatic" (#5), "Jump (For My Love)" (#3), "I'm So Excited" (#9) (a remix of a '82 hit that had already gone to #30), and "Neutron Dance" (#6). I especially liked those last three. If you'd played any of them at a party while I was in college, I might have found it hard to keep myself from dancing ... so count your blessings that you didn't. Those four hits were sandwiched between a first and sixth single that each just missed the Top 40, "I Need You" (#48) and "Baby Come and Get It" (#44). By the time all was said and done, Break Out had sold three million copies in the United States alone.
593. Spirits Having Flown - The Bee Gees
For the first half of 1979, The Bee Gees were like a terrifying tropical storm, destroying everything in their path. I'd liked what they'd done on Saturday Night Fever — especially "Stayin' Alive," "Night Fever," and "More than a Woman" — but the singles from Spirits Having Flown really grated on me for some reason. It almost felt like the new songs were caricatures of the stuff they had done the year before — more bombastic, more stratospheric. Nevertheless, they kept hitting #1 ... with "Too Much Heaven," "Tragedy," and last-but-definitely-my-least favorite, "Love You Inside Out." Our local radio station also played the title track. What's worse, those meddling Gibbs were breaking records previously held by my beloved Beatles! All I could do was batten down the hatches. And then, just when I thought I couldn't take it anymore, they vanished from sight. Furthermore, they suddenly seemed to have something akin to "the cheese touch" in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. It made me feel bad for the poor chaps. Of course, "poor" is a relative term: In 1997, Billboard magazine reported that Spirits Having Flown had sold over 20 million worldwide. In 2003, BBC News World Edition reported sales of 30 million. Now, when I hear these songs, they bring back happy memories of my youth, and the fear is gone.
594. Groovin' - The Young Rascals
Released in January 1967, Groovin' was the third studio LP by The Young Rascals and went to #5 on the chart. I got it, along with their second album, Collections, from my brother-in-law Dan in January 1983. Four of the songs on Groovin' were released as singles, and they all hit the Top 20: "You Better Run" (#20), "Groovin" (#1), "A Girl Like You" (#10), and "How Can I Be Sure" (#4). But my sleeper hit on this album is "Find Somebody." Greaaaat tune. I used to wonder who the "Leslie" was that Felix Cavaliere sang about in "Groovin'" — it obviously wasn't his girlfriend, because he addresses her as "you," so did one of them already have a daughter? Or was Leslie a dog they were taking for a walk in the park while groovin' on a Sunday afternoon? Why did he sing, "Life would be ecstacy — you and me and Leslie"? Years later, I realized he was actually singing, "you and me endlessly." Mystery solved
595. Back in the High Life - Steve Winwood
When I first heard Steve Winwood's #7 hit "While You See a Chance" in 1981, I had no idea I was listening to a rock legend — the voice of The Spencer Davis Group, Traffic, and Blind Faith — I just knew it was a terrific tune, so I bought the 45. Five years later, "Higher Love" hit #1, and I bought that single, too. It was the first of four Top 20 hits on Back in the High Life, followed by "Freedom Overspill" (#20), "The Finer Things" (#8), and "Back in the High Life Again" (#13). I really liked those last two. There were guest stars galore: Chaka Khan sang backing vocals on "Higher Love," Joe Walsh played slide guitar on "Freedom Overspill," and James Taylor sang backing vocals on "Back in the High Life Again." The album went to #3 and sold over three million copies in the United States. In the wake of its success, Winwood's record company remixed and re-released the song "Valerie" from his previous album, and scored a #9 hit with it (the previous version had only gone to #70 in 1982). I'm really glad they did that, because I'd missed it the first time, and it's a great song. And "Valerie" wasn't the last great song he'd find chart success with, either. However, I'm still waiting for him to release an album accompanied by only clarinet, flute, oboe, and saxophone ... Winwood with Woodwinds!
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.