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Influential Albums: 723-729
Sat., May. 7. 2022 6:07pm 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.

723. Gord's Gold - Gordon Lightfoot
This two-record set of Gordon Lightfoot's greatest hits (from 1969-75) came out in November '75, the same month as the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Not the song, mind you ... the actual ship that inspired it. Consequently, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," which would become the Canadian singer/songwriter/guitarist's second-biggest hit (#1 Cash Box, #2 Billboard) in November '76, does not appear on Gord's Gold. My brother-in-law Bob owned this album, but I was disappointed that it didn't contain the aforementioned tune, which I consider one of the most powerful pieces of pop storytelling ever put on vinyl. Thankfully, my friend Dave Rhodes had the single. While in college, I bought an oldies 45 of Lightfoot's first Top 10 hit, "If You Could Read My Mind" (#5 pop, #1 adult contemporary), another exquisite marriage of music and lyrics. Then I acquired his biggest hit, "Sundown" (#1 Billboard pop and AC, #1 Cash Box), a country-rock masterpiece I recalled from my adolescence ... with lyrics that made more sense to me as an adult. In early '92, I finally took a good listen to his other U.S. Top 10 hit, "Carefree Highway" (#10 pop, #1 AC) — which had only been something I might hear in the background on somebody else's radio up till that point. Whoa. I was blown away by it. In my eyes (and ears), the man was four for four, and each of his hits was a home run. Despite all this, it would be years before I realized that I'd probably like some of his other songs, too. I eventually purchased a 20-song collection called Complete Greatest Hits from Rhino Records that covered his career from the 60's-90's and had the big four plus his two lesser-known U.S. Top 40 hits, "Rainy Day People" (#26 pop, #1 AC) and "The Circle Is Small (I Can See It in Your Eyes) (#33 pop, #3 AC). I particularly enjoyed "The Circle Is Small." Other songs I really liked on Complete Greatest Hits that also appeared on Gord's Gold include "Early Morning Rain," "Canadian Railroad Trilogy," "Summer Side of Life," and "Cotton Jenny," a song Lightfoot wrote that fellow Canadian Anne Murray covered with great success in their home country, where it topped the pop, country, and AC charts. A few of my faves from Greatest Hits that arrived too late for Gord's Gold include "Race Among the Ruins" (#65 pop, #13 AC), "Daylight Katy" (#16 AC), "Baby Step Back" (#50 pop, #17 AC), and a moving, late-career gem called "Restless." ApologetiX spoofed "Sundown" in 2018.

724. Records - Foreigner
Released just in time for the Christmas market in 1982, Records was Foreigner's first "best of" collection. I bought the cassette but felt cheated, even though it was a non-stop barrage of hit songs. I didn't have a problem with that, of course. Unfortunately, one of the band's biggest songs, "Hot Blooded" (#3), appeared as a live version, not the hit single. Sometimes live versions can enhance a song (like "Rock and Roll All Nite" by Kiss), but that's not what happened here. And it wasn't marked as being live on the front or back cover. Seven of the 10 tracks were the single versions, which is understandable, since the album has a juke box on the front. The version of "Feels Like the First Time" is not the single version, which could have been great, since the original LP version was 34 seconds longer, but the one on Records is still 21 seconds shorter than that. Also, two of the band's Top 40 hits up until that point, "Blue Morning, Blue Day" (#15) and "Break It Up" (#26) were conspicuous in their absence. In 1992, Foreigner released a new collection, The Very Best ... and Beyond with better versions of "Hot Blooded" (not live) and "Feels Like the First Time" (full length), but it didn't have "Blue Morning, Blue Day" and "Break It Up," either. It did have later hits like "I Want to Know What Love Is" (#1), "That Was Yesterday" (#12), "Say You Will" (#6), and "I Don't Want to Live Without You" (#5), but not "Long, Long Way from Home" (#20), which Records actually did have. In 2002, the band took a third swing with Complete Greatest Hits, but even that one was missing "Break It Up," although it finally had all the rest of their hits. What part of "complete" didn't they understand? Ironically, as the collections got better, fewer people bought them. Records sold 7 million, The Very Best ... and Beyond sold 2 million, and Complete Greatest Hits sold just a million. Don't blame me; I bought all three. ApologetiX has spoofed seven of the songs on Records, but we covered the studio version of "Hot Blooded," not the live one.

725. Fragile - Yes
As I mentioned long ago on this list, I traded my youngest older sister Gayle's discarded copy of In the Court of the Crimson King by King Crimson for The Yes Album when I was in high school, after she had already graduated college. Ironically, I obtained the follow-up Yes LP, Fragile, through a sister, too. It was another abandoned album I found in our basement, but I'm not sure if it had belonged to Gayle or my oldest sister, Jeannine. None of my three sisters had prog-rock proclivities, but they'd also left behind John Barleycorn Must Die by Traffic and Tarkus by Emerson, Lake & Palmer. I guess the fact that they didn't take any of those albums with them proves the point that they weren't prog lovers. I suspect that some of those records may have originated with an equally abandoned hippie boyfriend. Released in November 1971, Fragile was the fourth LP by Yes but their first to feature Rick Wakeman on keyboards. It was also their first to hit the Top 10, going to #4 and selling two million copies in the United States. It charted higher than any of their other albums except Close to the Edge (#3) and sold more copies than any other aside from 90152, which sold three million sold stateside. The most famous song on Fragile was "Roundabout" (#13 Billboard, #10 Cash Box), the band's biggest pop hit until "Owner of a Lonely Heart" topped the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1984. The album version of "Roundabout" was 8:29, but the single was criminally cut to 3:27. The B-side of that 45, "Long Distance Runaround," is also on Fragile and became a rock classic of its own, as did the album's 11-minute-plus closing track, "Heart of the Sunrise." Other notable cuts include "South Side of the Sky" and "The Fish (Schindleria Prematurus)." The latter is almost an instrumental, as are three other songs on Fragile, "Mood for a Day," "Cans and Brahms," and "Five Percent per Nothing." Believe it or not, Fragile even inspired rock band Bachman-Turner Overdrive. In The Billboard Book of Number One Albums, Randy Bachman explained that the title of BTO's third album, Not Fragile (which went to #1 in 1974), was a deliberate response to Yes' fourth album: "Fragile was very delicate and symphonic and kind of classical in a way. Ours was the exact opposite. It was just blunt, hit them over the head with a guitar and drum beat kind of thing. But it wasn't a slam against Yes." ApologetiX has spoofed three BTO songs, but we haven't spoofed Yes ... yet. Incidentally, Fragile was the first album ever purchased by ApX keyboardist Rich Mannion, at the tender age of seven.

726. Evolution - Journey
Like the album before it, Journey's fifth LP, Evolution, featured two tracks that often get played in tandem on rock radio. This time around, it was "Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'" and "City of the Angels." Like "Feeling That Way" and "Anytime" on Infinity, only one of the songs was released as a single. However, "Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'" did become the band's first Top 40 (and Top 20) hit, journeying all the way to #16 in October 1979 and selling a million copies. It was actually the second single from Evolution. The first, "Just the Same Way," only went to #58 but got a lot of airplay on my favorite Pittsburgh FM station at the time, 96 KX. In fact, that song was the first Journey tune I remember ever hearing on the radio. It featured Steve Perry sharing lead vocals again with keyboardist Gregg Rolie, who had been the band's original lead singer. A third single from Evolution, "Too Late," came out in January '80. Living up to its title, "Too Late" may have suffered from its delayed release; it only went to #70. Perry is rightly remembered as Journey's iconic lead singer, but Rolie was no slouch. Before co-founding Journey in '73, he sang lead on Santana's first five Top 40 hits: "Evil Ways," "Oye Como Va," "Black Magic Woman," "Everybody's Everything," and "No One to Depend On." Although he left Journey in 1980, Rolie had one last Top 40 hit in 1991 with The Storm: "I've Got a Lot to Learn About Love" (#26 pop, #6 rock). ApologetiX spoofed "Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'" in 2009. It was the first of five Journey songs we've covered.

727. Dream Into Action - Howard Jones
The first time I saw Howard Jones was on a late-night video show in January 1984. The last time I saw him was at Stage AE in Pittsburgh in June 2016. He played on the same bill with Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and headlining act Barenaked Ladies. My daughter Janna accompanied me. Howard opened the show and played just about everything a casual HoJo fan like me could ask for ... except his biggest U.S. hit, "No One Is to Blame" (#4 pop, #1 adult contemporary, #20 rock, #16 U.K.) ... but he came back during The Barenaked Ladies' set to sing it with them, maximizing the impact. That song originally appeared on Howard's second album, Dream Into Action (although it was later re-recorded for the single version) along with "Things Can Only Get Better" (#5 pop, #38 AC, #21 rock, #6 U.K.), "Life in One Day" (#19 pop, #16 AC, #36 rock, #14 U.K.), and "Like to Get to Know You Well" (#49 pop, #4 U.K.). Another track, "Look Mama," went to #10 in the U.K. Released in March 1985, Dream Into Action was Howard's biggest album by far in the United States, going to #10 and selling a million copies. It was his second-biggest in the U.K., going to #2. His previous LP, Human's Lib, had gone to #1 there and contained his first two U.S. Top 40 hits, "New Song" (#27 pop, #3 U.K.) and "What Is Love?" (#33 pop, #20 rock. #2 U.K.). Howard would go on to have four more Top 40 hits after Dream Into Action: "You Know I Love You ... Don't You?" (#17 pop), "Everlasting Love" (#12 pop, #1 AC), "The Prisoner" (#30 pop, #24 rock), and "Lift Me Up" (#32 pop, #10 AC). ApologetiX spoofed "Things Can Only Get Better" in 2020.

728. I Love Rock-N-Roll - Joan Jett & The Blackhearts
I still remember hearing Joan Jett's version of "I Love Rock 'N Roll" (originally recorded by The Arrows in 1975, although it never charted for them) for the first time on the bus in the final semester of my senior year in high school. Ah, yes ... rudimentary rock with a sledgehammer style and a deadpan delivery. I didn't know if it was meant to be taken seriously or not, but I thought it was seriously awesome. Apparently, so did a lot of other people; the song went to #1 on both the pop chart (seven weeks) and the rock chart (five weeks). Its parent album, I Love Rock-N-Roll, was Jett's second solo LP after the break-up of The Runaways, the all-girl rock group she was with from '75-78. Released in November '81, it initially sold a million copies in the States (although a '99 German edition of the CD says it sold 10 million ... perhaps that's worldwide) and went to #2 on the Billboard 200, where it stayed for three weeks, held out of the top spot by the Vangelis album Chariots of Fire. The hit single from that album, "Chariots of Fire," is also the record that knocked "I Love Rock 'N Roll" out of the #1 position on the Hot 100. Rarely have two competing singles and albums been so different. The second single from I Love Rock-N-Roll was a cover of "Crimson and Clover." Tommy James and the Shondells had a #1 hit with it early '69, but Jett's version did all right, too (#7 pop, #6 rock), although I prefer Tommy's. Next, her record company released a song from her previous album, Bad Reputation, "Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)" (#20 pop, #21 rock) — a cover of Gary Glitter's #2 U.K. hit from '73. The B-side of Jett's "Do You Wanna Touch" single was a cover of "Summertime Blues," which had already been a pop hit for Eddie Cochran (#8 in '58), Blue Cheer (#14 in '68), and The Who (#27 in '70). Her version went to #24 on the rock chart, and I got a real kick out of it. Although "Summertime Blues" didn't appear on the original pressings of the I Love Rock-N-Roll album, it was included on the '98 CD reissue. Tom Dellaquila's roommate freshman year, Rocco Collangelo, had the cassette back in '82. Those guys lived right down the hall from me. My Joan Jett purchases were initially limited to 45's of "I Love Rock 'N Roll" and her '87 hit "Light of Day" (#33 pop, #13 rock), written by Bruce Springsteen and credited to "The Bar Busters (Joan Jett and The Blackhearts)." Years later, I bought her '97 hits compilation Fit to Be Tied, which also included her first solo single, "Bad Reputation" (#48 rock in '81 and prominently featured in the first Shrek movie in 2001), plus later hits such as "Fake Friends" (#35 pop, #18 rock), "Everyday People" (#37 pop), "I Hate Myself for Loving You" (#8 pop, #20 rock), and "Little Liar" (#19 pop, #13 rock), although the version of "I Hate Myself" was an alternate version and the version of "Little Liar" was live. Fit to Be Tied did not include her final Top 40 hit, the AC/DC cover "Dirty Deeds" (#36 pop, #23 rock). Jett had one last rock hit, "Backlash" (#7 modern rock, #40 mainstream rock), in '91. ApologetiX has released spoofs of "I love Rock 'N Roll" three times — in 2000, 2004, and 2015. The first two times, I sang it, but the third time my oldest daughter, Janna, did, just a few months after completing her own senior year in high school.

729. The High and the Mighty - Donnie Iris
In my entry for Journey's Frontiers album, I mentioned that it received a lot of airplay in my dorm during freshman year in college, thanks to one of our hall counselors, Bill Oakley. Before he bought Frontiers, Bill was blasting this, the third LP from local legend Donnie Iris. Released in November 1982, The High and the Mighty was one of five charting albums by Iris. It charted the lowest, only inching up to #180 on the Billboard 200, but three of its tracks were released as singles "Tough World" (#57 pop, #26 rock), "The High and the Mighty" (#39 rock), and "This Time It Must Be Love" (did not chart). Now, I don't have the corresponding charts from our local Pittsburgh rock station, but I suspect we'd discover those singles made much more impressive showings there. It seemed like they all hit #1 on Bill Oakley's personal chart. The High and the Mighty also included a cover of The Dave Clark Five's "Glad All Over" (#1 U.K., #6 U.S.) from 1963. In fact, I actually heard Donnie's version a month or so before I ever heard Dave's. ApologetiX released a parody of "Glad All Over" in early 2020. Donnie Iris hales from Ellwood City PA, the home of ApologetiX members Keith Haynie and Tom Milnes. In fact, Ellwood City is the title of his tenth studio album, released in 2006. Donnie was also a member of The Jaggerz from 1964-76, writing their big '70 hit "The Rapper" (#2 Billboard, #1 Cash Box), and Wild Cherry from '78-79, not too long after their big '76 hit "Play That Funky Music" (#1 Billboard, #1 Cash Box). ApologetiX spoofed that one in 2000. We've never attempted any tunes that originated with Iris himself, but if there ever was song begging to tell the story of Uncle Laban's surprise wife swap on Jacob's wedding night in Genesis 29, it would have to be Donnie's first solo hit, "Ah! Leah" (#29 pop, #19 rock).

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.