Influential Albums: 716-722
Fri., Apr. 29. 2022 6:54pm 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'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.
716. Barbra Streisand's Greatest Hits Vol. II - Barbra Streisand
Almost nine years elapsed between Barbra Streisand's Greatest Hits (January 1, 1970) and Barbra Streisand's Greatest Hits, Vol. II (November 15, 1978) ... and the years had been kind to her. The first volume only went to #32 on the album chart and sold two million copies. It contained just two Top 40 pop hits, "People" (#5 pop, #1 adult contemporary) and "Second Hand Rose" (#32 pop, #5 AC). The second volume topped the Billboard 200 for three weeks and sold five million copies. It featured three #1 pop hits, "The Way We Were," "Evergreen (Love Theme from "A Star Is Born)," and "You Don't Bring Me Flowers," a brand-new duet with Neil Diamond that was released as a single just a couple weeks before this album. Streisand and Diamond had already recorded solo versions of that song on their previous albums. When DJs in Louisville KY, Chicago, and Detroit spliced the versions together, listener response was so great that the two superstar singers eventually agreed to rerecord it together ... a collaboration made easier by the fact that they both were signed to the same record label, Columbia. Amazingly, it only went to #3 on the AC chart, but four other songs on Greatest Hits Vol. II had been #1 AC hits: "The Way We Were," "Evergreen," "My Heart Belongs to Me" (#4 pop), and "Songbird (#25 pop). The album also included "Stoney End," which went to #2 on the AC chart and #6 on the pop chart. Growing up in the Jackson home, I inherited my sisters' 45's of "The Way We Were" and "Stoney End," which I particularly liked. After Greatest Hits Volume 2, Streisand went on to have 17 more Top 10 AC hits. They included two #1 pop hits — a duet with Donna Summer called "No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)" and "Woman in Love" — and four other Top 10 pop hits: "The Main Event/Fight" (#3), "Guilty" (#3), "What Kind of Fool" (#10), and "I Finally Found Someone" (#8). The second and third of those songs were duets with Barry Gibb and the last one was a duet with Bryan Adams. ApologetiX has spoofed Barry and Bryan but not Barbra. Nevertheless, memories of her music light the corners of my mind.
717. 12 Greatest Hits Vol. II - Neil Diamond
Picture this scene: Neil Diamond, just starting out in the business, hands out business cards and says, "My name's Diamond; give me a ring." But I digress ... Released in May 1982, 12 Greatest Hits Vol. II featured Neil Diamond songs from 1973-81. It only went to #48 on the Billboard 200 but sold 3 million copies. The first volume had covered 1968-72 and had gone to #29, selling 4 million copies. Vol. II contained 11 Top 40 hits, including his chart-topping duet with Barbra Streisand, "You Don't Bring Me Flowers," plus nine others that hit the Top 20: "Love On the Rocks" (#2), "Longfellow Serenade" (#5), "Hello Again" (#6), "America" (#8), "If You Know What I Mean" (#11), "Yesterday's Songs" (#11), "Desiree" (#16), "September Morn'" (#17), and "Forever in Blue Jeans" (#20). Five of the aforementioned songs also hit #1 on the adult contemporary chart. In fact, 11 out of the 12 songs on this collection hit the AC Top 10, including the non-single, "Beautiful Noise" (#8 AC). The only one that didn't, "Be," came oh so close (#11 AC, #34 pop). Although there would be no 12 Greatest Hits Vol. III, Diamond still had something left in the tank after Vol. II. From 1982-89, he accumulated nine more Top 10 AC hits, four of which hit the pop Top 40, most notably the E.T.-inspired "Heartlight" (#5 pop, #1 AC). I associate the songs on Vol. II with two people, my friend Dave Rhodes' mother, who was a big Neil Diamond fan while those songs were coming out, and my sister Gayle, who liked "September Morn'" and "You Don't Bring Me Flowers." My favorites on this album are "Longfellow Serenade," "America," "Desiree," and "Forever in Blue Jeans," which my friends and I thought was "Reverend Blue Jeans" when we first heard it on the radio. Having grown up on Captain Kangaroo, perhaps we thought the reverend was a relative of the captain's right-hand man, Mr. Green Jeans.
718. Heavy Metal: 24 Electrifying Performances - Various Artists
This 1974 double album from Warner Special Products was the second volume in their Superstars of the 70's series. I remember looking it over in the record store on multiple occasions as a young adolescent and absorbing the strange group names and song titles. I think that was the first time I ever heard/saw the term "heavy metal." It's a curious compilation. There are some totally genre-appropriate, hard-driving tracks like "Iron Man" by Black Sabbath, "Smoke on the Water" by Deep Purple, "I'm Eighteen" by Alice Cooper, and "Kick Out the Jams" by the MC5. There are other rock artists featured on this album whom you might expect — like Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, The James Gang, and Foghat — but the songs representing them are surprisingly tame for a collection called Heavy Metal. For example, the Led Zep track is the reggae romp "D'yer Maker," which wasn't exactly one that established their hard-rock bona fides (although this was the first place I ever heard of that tune). Most of the other selections on Heavy Metal are great songs but just seem miscast, like "Touch Me" by The Doors, "Domino" by Van Morrison, "Ride Captain Ride" by Blues Image, "Right Place, Wrong Time" by Dr. John, "Ramblin' Man" by The Allman Brothers, "Bang a Gong (Get It On)" by T. Rex, "Only You and I Know" by Delaney & Bonnie, "Lonely Feelin'" by War, "Give It to Me" by The J. Geils Band, "Cindy Incidentally" by The Faces, "Outlaw Man" by The Eagles, "Johnny B. Goode" by The Grateful Dead, and "Starship Trooper" by Yes (the full nine-plus minutes). Then there are a few that straddle the line, like "Stealin'" by Uriah Heep, "Bluebird" by Buffalo Springfield (the rockin' 8:54 version), and "Radar Love" by Golden Earring. Bottom line: I'd give the music an A, but the title a D. It's ironic that Warner Special Products didn't worry about getting "heavy metal" right but they took the care on the album cover to correctly list the band names for Eagles, Faces, and MC5 without the definite article, whereas most people call them "The Eagles," "The Faces," and "The MC5." I use a "the" most of the time myself when referring to those bands, since everybody else does. For a full list of all 24 electrifying performances, go to https://www.discogs.com/release/1624466-Various-Heavy-Metal-24-Electrifying-Performances
719. Schoolboys in Disgrace - The Kinks
Stop me if you've heard this one before: A schoolboy meets up with an oppressive headmaster who humiliates him and his mates, negatively affecting the man he grows up to be. No, it's not Pink Floyd's 1979 concept album, The Wall ... it's The Kinks' 1975 concept album, Schoolboys in Disgrace. Released in November of that year, Schoolboys was The Kinks' final album on RCA Records (where they'd resided since late '71) and the last of their so-called "theatrical period" before the group moved to Arista Records and really started rocking again. By the time I was an upperclassman in college, I already owned a couple Kinks compilations from the 60's and early 70's plus all their albums from 1977-84, so I bought a used copy of Schoolboys. The cover art didn't do much for me, but I figured the record was worth a shot, since it contained the original version of "The Hard Way," which had been one of my favorite songs on their 1980 live album, One for the Road. The lyrics were much easier to understand on this album's version, but it didn't rock nearly as much. My other favorite song on Schoolboys was "Jack the Idiot Dunce." A couple of songs on side two, "I'm in Disgrace" and "No More Looking Back," gave musical hints that The Kinks would soon be returning to rock, and I think they're pretty good, too. As a matter of fact, I have since found out that those two tunes were released as the A-sides of the album's two singles, although neither one charted. Ironically, the B-sides were "The Hard Way" and "Jack the Idiot Dunce." So, even though I wasn't that impressed with the album itself, I think they did a good job picking the singles.
720. Straight Up - Badfinger
Badfinger had more success than any other group on Apple Records not named The Beatles. I was more of a singles guy than an album guy when it came to Badfinger, but my two favorite singles of theirs both came from the Straight Up album: "Day After Day" (#1 Record World, #3 Cash Box, #4 Billboard) and "Baby Blue" (#9 Cash Box, #12 Record World, #14 Billboard). In fact, "Day After Day" is one of my favorite songs, period. I remembered it fondly from my childhood and was delighted to discover the 45 (with the famous Apple label) in a Columbus OH record store in 1984. A couple of my college buddies, Paul Donahue and Tom Dellaquila, introduced me to "Baby Blue" in my early years at IUP. That song reached a whole new level of fame when it was used as the closing music on the final episode of Breaking Bad in 2013. Ironically, although ApologetiX has released two Badfinger parodies, we spoofed the band's other two big hits, which both came earlier: "Come and Get It" (#3 Record World, #6 Cash Box, #7 Billboard) and "No Matter What" (#4 Record World, #6 Cash Box, #8 Billboard). Released in December 1971, Straight Up was Badfinger's third LP. Technically, it was their fourth if you count the 1969 album the group released when they were still called The Iveys). Straight Up went to #31 on the Billboard 200, their second-best showing, after their previous album, No Dice (1970), which went to #28. No Dice contained "No Matter What" and the original version of "Without You," a song Harry Nilsson took to #1 for four weeks in '72 and Mariah Carey would take to #3 in '94. Despite the '72 successes of the singles from Straight Up and Nillson's version of "Without You," Badfinger would never have another Top 40 single on any of the three major charts, and none of their subsequent albums charted higher than #122, as their career went into a shocking downward spiral filled with managerial problems, financial woes, and legal issues. Tragically, those factors later led the two writers of "Without You," Badfinger guitarist/vocalist Pete Ham and Badfinger bassist/vocalist Tom Evans, to take their own lives, in 1975 and 1983, respectively. The story of the band was told in great detail in the 436-page biography Without You: The Tragic Story of Badfinger, published in 1998. Unfortunately, the book is out of print now and almost impossible to find for less than $150 ... although easy to find at much higher prices. Tom Dellaquila is the biggest Badfinger fan I know, and he's read it, but I don't have that kind of cash lying around. I did, however, buy the 2000 compilation CD The Very Best of Badfinger, a bittersweet testimony to what once was and what might have been.
721. Closer to Home - Grand Funk Railroad
I bought a used copy of this album in college because I loved the song "I'm Your Captain (Closer to Home)," an epic tune that clocked in at just over 10 minutes. The five-and-a-half-minute single version, reversely retitled "Closer to Home (I'm Your Captain)" went to #22 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming Grand Funk Railroad's first Top 40 hit. It was actually the second single from Closer to Home. The first, a piledriving number called "Sin's a Good Man's Brother," failed to chart. Interestingly, "Sin's a Good Man's Brother" was the first track on side one and "I'm Your Captain (Closer to Home)" was the last track on side two. A third track, "Mean Mistreater," was later re-recorded live and hit #47. Although Grand Funk Railroad established themselves with a legendary loudness, all eight songs on this record are consistently catchy. Released in June 1970, Closer to Home was the band's third studio LP. All three albums were released within a 10-month span, and GFR's growing momentum was reflected in chart position and sales: On Time (#27, half a million sold), Grand Funk (#11, a million), and Closer to Home (#6, two million). Five months later, they'd release a live album, appropriately titled Live Album (#5, two million). Not bad for a critically despised act with only one Top 40 hit at the time. Nevertheless, they were already selling out big venues — including Shea Stadium, faster than The Beatles — and they'd eventually garner (or Farner) 19 hits on the Hot 100, nine of which reached the Top 40, with four of those hitting the Top Five, including two #1's. Their highest-charting album would be their 1973 LP, We're an American Band, which reached #2 on the Billboard 200, although Closer to Home sold more copies. The band's guitarist-singer, Mark Farner, later released several Christian albums, and a couple of them will appear on this list down the road.
722. Rock and Roll Diary: 1967-80 - Lou Reed
Released in 1980, Rock and Roll Diary: 1967-80 was a career-spanning anthology of Lou Reed's (under)groundbreaking work with The Velvet Underground plus subsequent solo selections up until that point. My high-school friend Michael Ranieri owned it, and I got him to tape me Reed's one Top 40 single, "Walk on the Wild Side" (#16) ... which somehow seemed a lot more wild back in those days. Later, after years of seeing/hearing critics and other rock artists rave about Reed and the Velvets, I sought out more of his (and their) music, including "Perfect Day," "Waiting for the Man," "Rock & Roll" "Sweet Jane," "Heroin," and "Pale Blue Eyes," all of which are featured on Rock and Roll Diary: 1967-80. Surprisingly, his only other charting solo singles, "Sally Can't Dance" (#103) and "Satellite of Love" (#119), were not included on this compilation. Then again, if you're looking for hits, you're probably not going to gravitate toward Lou Reed or The Velvet Underground. Nothing by the Velvets ever charted, although three of their songs were voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ("Heroin," "Sweet Jane," and "White Light/White Heat") and two made the Rolling Stone 500 ("I'm Waiting for the Man" and "Sweet Jane"). My favorite Reed/VU tunes are "Waiting for the Man" and "Rock & Roll." Rock and Roll Diary: 1967-80 went to #178 on Billboard 200, only spending four weeks on the chart.
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.