Influential Albums: 786-792
Sun., Jul. 10. 2022 3:19pm 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.
786. A Day the Races - Queen
On your Marx, get set, go! Released in December 1976, A Day at the Races sold a million copies and went to #5 on the Billboard album chart, but it hit #1 in the United Kingdom. Its three singles all fared better across the pond as well — "Somebody to Love" (#13 U.S., #2 U.K.) and "Tie Your Mother Down" (#49 U.S., #31 U.K.), "Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy (#17 U.K. only) — although that shouldn't be surprising for such an unabashedly British band. In my opinion, those are three of Queen's catchiest songs. If I'm not mistaken, my next-door neighbor's long-term-visiting brother from Kentucky, Dave Zeller, had a copy of this LP in his very limited library. I always get the cover of A Day at the Races mixed up with its predecessor, A Night at the Opera (#4 U.S., #5 U.K.), which was released in November 1975 and sold three million copies, thanks to the singles "Bohemian Rhapsody" (#9 U.S., #1 U.K. nine weeks!) and "You're My Best Friend" (#16 U.S., #7 U.K.). Both albums feature the band's crest and use a similar typeface, but it seems to me that Day should be the light cover and Night should be the dark cover.
787. A Treasury of Great Contemporary Hits - Various Artists
This 1969 compilation from ABC Dunhill Records spotlighted top artists in that label's stable. The track listing included multiple Top 10 hits by The Mamas & The Papas ("California Dreamin'," "Monday Monday," and "Dedicated to the One I Love"), Steppenwolf ("Born to Be Wild" and "Magic Carpet Ride"), and The Grass Roots (""Midnight Confessions" and "Let's Live for Today"), As if the album weren't Mamas and Popular enough, it also contained Mama Cass's solo hit "Dream a Little Dream of Me" (#12). That left room for three more songs, "Eve of Destruction" by Barry McGuire (#1), "MacArthur Park" by Richard Harris (#2), and "Try a Little Tenderness" by Three Dog Night (#29). As the title states, it truly was A Treasury of Great Contemporary Hits. Released in July 1969, it went to #144 on the Billboard 200. My old roommate Tom Dellaquila had a copy, which he graciously made available to me for taping purposes.
788. Blind Faith - Blind Faith
My brother-in-law Dan gave me this album in January 1983, too, and I'm glad he had the U.S. edition with the bland cover. I still don't know how the U.K. edition ever made it past the censors. It's not like Blind Faith needed something extra to get people's attention ... they already had Steve Winwood (from Spencer Davis Group and Traffic), Eric Clapton (from The Yardbirds, John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, and Cream), Ginger Baker (from Blues Incorporated, The Graham Bond Organisation, and Cream), and Ric Grech (from Family), whose first name is spelled as "Rick" on the U.S. cover. Their one and only studio album together was released in July 1969, two months after the equally eponymous debut of another supergroup, Crosby, Stills & Nash. CSN's debut has probably stood the test of time better, but it only went to #6, whereas Blind Faith's went topped both the U.S. and the U.K. charts. In America, CSN's first LP outsold Blind Faith's, four million to one million. However, the Blind Faith album has sold over 8 million worldwide. It had no charting "hits" in the U.S., U.K., Canada, or Australia, but "Well All Right" and "Can't Find My Home" were released together as a single in the Netherlands and went to #20. Those two songs are my favorites on the album. A hippy friend of mine named Rich Cade first introduced me to "Can't Find My Way Home" in the fall of '82. It's still one of my favorite rock songs of all time. "Well All Right" is a cover of one of my favorite Buddy Holly songs, although it's done in a very different style. I like both versions. The other best-known songs from Blind Faith are "Presence of the Lord" and "Had to Cry Today." All four of those tracks comprised side one of the original record. Side two only had a couple tracks, "Sea of Joy" and "Do What You Like," because the latter was over 15 minutes long.
789. Stars on Long Play - Stars on 45
Just a little over six months after the tragic death of John Lennon (December 1980), the #1 record in the United States was a medley of eight Beatles songs sung by Dutch soundalike singers in a group called Stars on 45. Actually, the medley started with the intro from the 1970 #1 hit "Venus" by The Shocking Blue (another Dutch band) and 1969 #1 hit "Sugar, Sugar" by The Archies before becoming a Beatles fest. The daughters of our next-door neighbors, the Davis girls, had the parent LP, Stars on Long Play, and used to play it loud enough that I could hear it over at our house. The Beatles medley on the U.S. album is much longer (15:33) than the U.S. single version they played on the radio (4:05). It takes up the entirety of side one and contains 28 Beatles songs and one George Harrison solo hit, "My Sweet Lord." It does not, however, include "Venus" and "Sugar, Sugar"; they are part of another medley on side two. In fact, there are three medleys on side two: "Medley" (a.k.a "Boogie Nights and Other Hits") by Stars on 45; "Do You Remember" (a.k.a. "Rock 'n Roll Medley") by another Dutch band called Long Tall Ernie and The Shakers (reminiscent of Sha Na Na), and "Golden Years of Rock & Roll" also performed by Long Tall Ernie and The Shakers. The Stars on 45 medley that kicks off side two is a bizarre mix of a 12 covers, including more modern (at the time) tunes like "Boogie Nights" (Heatwave), "Funkytown" (Lipps Inc), and "Video Killed the Radio Star" (The Buggles); oldies like "Cathy's Clown" (The Everly Brothers), "Only the Lonely" (Roy Orbison), and "Breaking Up is Hard to Do" (Neil Sedaka); and hits from in-between like "Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling Again" (The Fortunes) and the aforementioned "Venus" and "Sugar Sugar." The Long Tall Ernie medleys are made up of oldies from the 50's and early 60's and had originally been hits in The Netherlands in '77 and '78. The Stars on Long Play album reached #9 on the Billboard 200, but it topped the U.K. album chart. Stars on 45 did a great job on the voices of the artists they tackled, although they had sometimes had difficulty ditching their Dutch accents, but don't you dare call them one-hit wonders. They had three more singles hit the U.S. Hot 100: "Medley II" (featuring additional Beatles covers from the last part of the medley on the Stars on Long Play album) (#67), "More Stars" (ABBA)" (#55) and "Stars on Stevie" (Stevie Wonder) (#28). Both the initial Beatles medley and the ABBA medley hit #2 on the U.K. charts. Stars on 45 also did medleys of songs by The Rolling Stones, The Supremes, Sam & Dave, and Frank Sinatra. Sadly, I'm not aware of them covering a bunch of songs by The Righteous Brothers; I'd love to hear them do a Bobby Hatfield and Bill Medley medley.
790. Desperado - Eagles
It seems hard to believe now, but there was an Eagles studio album that didn't contain any Top 40 hits. It wasn't their debut LP, either, because that one had three that reached the Top 25. Their sophomore effort, however, was deemed a commercial failure at the time. Designed as a concept album centered around a Wild West theme (more than a decade before Jon Bon Jovi was "Wanted Dead or Alive," going down a "Blaze of Glory"), Desperado was released in April 1973 and didn't even make the Top 40 of the Billboard album chart, stalling at #41. It generated two singles, "Tequila Sunrise" (#64) and "Outlaw Man" (#59). I know what you're saying ... "Outlaw Man"? What the heck is that? And how in the world did "Tequila Sunrise" not hit the Top 40? And why wasn't "Desperado" released as a single? Well, some things take time to catch on. "Tequila Sunrise" and "Desperado" are classics now, of course. I first saw this album as a teenager while I was babysitting for my next-door neighbors, the Davises. Some babysitters are eager to see what's in the fridge and the pantry; I was more interested in what was in the record collection. Nevertheless, I didn't really get into this album until many years later, when I bought it for myself. It contains some of my favorite Eagles songs: "Doolin-Dalton," "Twenty-One," "Bitter Creek," and "Doolin-Dalton/Desperado (Reprise)." I also like "Saturday Night" and the three tracks I mentioned earlier in this entry. Desperado is the only Eagles album to feature the band members on the front cover. Although the record appeared to be a musical misstep at the time, it eventually sold two million copies.
791. Big Hits (High Tide and Green Grass) - The Rolling Stones
Big Hits (High Tide and Green Grass was the first official Rolling Stones "best of," released in March 1966, at a point in their career when Brian Jones was still getting as much attention as Mick and Keef. It went to #3 and sold two million copies By the time my brother-in-law Dan gave me his old copy in early 1983, I already owned the 1972 double-album "best of" Hot Rocks 1964-71, which had supplanted Big Hits as the definitive Stones collection. Both albums had "Time Is on My Side" (#6 U.S.), "Heart of Stone" (#19 U.S.), "Play with Fire" (#96 U.S.), "As Tears Go By" (#6 U.S.), "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction)" (#1 U.S., 1 U.K.), "Get Off My Cloud," (#1 U.S., #1 U.K.) and "19th Nervous Breakdown" (#2 U.S., #2 U.K.). However, there were some songs on Big Hits that didn't make it onto Hot Rocks, including two of my favorite early Stones hits, "It's All Over Now" (#26 U.S., #1 U.K.) and "The Last Time" (#9 U.S., #1 U.K.). I had them on a cassette I'd recorded of a radio special a few years earlier, but it was nice to own them on vinyl along with a few I hadn't heard before: "Not Fade Away" (#48 U.S., #3 U.K.), "Tell Me (You're Coming Back)" (#24 U.S. only), and "Good Times, Bad Times" (the flip side of "It's All Over Now").
792. The Nylon Curtain - Billy Joel
Billy Joel's eighth studio album, The Nylon Curtain, came out in September 1982, just as I was starting college at IUP. It eventually hit #7 and sold two million copies in the United States. The Nylon Curtain generated three reasonably popular singles: "Pressure" (#20 pop, #8 rock), "Allentown" (#17 pop, #19 adult contemporary), and "Goodnight Saigon" (#56 pop). My favorite of those was "Pressure." It's a noisy, nasty little tune, but Billy did some clever things with the music and the lyrics. I think Tom Dellaquila's freshman roommate, Rocco, may have had The Nylon Curtain on cassette. My roommate, Kevin, had the "Pressure" 45. I remember him acquiring it at about the same time as the Diana Ross single "Muscles" (#10 pop), which was written and produced by Michael Jackson. None of us could have imagined at the time how popular Michael would become in 1983 with the Thriller album. Billy would have a career resurgence in '83, too, with his An Innocent Man album, which eventually produced six Top 40 singles, including "Tell Her About It" (#1) and "Uptown Girl" (#3). But getting back to The Nylon Curtain, I also remember Casey Kasem playing "Allentown" on American Top 40 and pointing out that, although there was indeed steel in Allentown PA, there was no coal, contrary to what the song implied. Joel has since said that he was using Allentown as a metaphor for the region, seeing at there is plenty of coal mining elsewhere in Pennsylvania. Hey, the lyrics do say, "and they've taken all the coal from the ground." Maybe they just took it so long ago that nobody remembers it was ever there.
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.