Influential Albums: 828-834
Fri., Aug. 19. 2022 1:18pm 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.
828. The Fantastic Fats Domino - Fats Domino
I learned a lot about pop music history just by watching record commercials on TV growing up. I'd listen to the samples of songs they'd play, sing them around the house, and be delighted when I'd finally hear the full versions later on the radio or elsewhere. Many times I'd seek them out my myself. And that's how I got a crash course on Fats Domino. Inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as part of its inaugural class in 1986, Fats had 77 singles hit the Hot 100 between 1955 and 1968, including 11 Top hits: "Blueberry Hill" (#2), "I'm in Love Again" (#3), "I'm Walkin'' (#4), "Blue Monday" (#5), "It's You I Love" #6), "Walking to New Orleans" (#6), "Whole Lotta Loving" (#6), "Valley of Tears" (#8), "I Want to Walk You Home" (#8), "Be My Guest" (#8), and "Ain't That a Shame" (#10). Released in 1977, The Fantastic Fats Domino had all of those, plus his seven other Top 20 hits: "My Girl Josephine" (#14), "When My Dreamboat Comes Home" (#14), "Let the Four Winds Blow" (#15), "Three Nights a Week" (#15), "I'm Ready" (#16), "I'm Gonna Be a Wheel Someday" (#17), and "My Blue Heaven" (#19). In fact, the lowest-charting songs on this 20-track collection were "What a Price" (#22), and "You Win Again" (#22). Now that's how you do Fats! The only things missing are "Don't Come Knockin'" (#21) "Sick and Tired' (#22), and "What a Party" (#22). Yes, that last title is not a typo ... Fats really did have two similarly titled singles that both hit #22: "What a Price" and "What a Party."
829. The Best of The Spinners (1978) - The Spinners
Released in 1978 on Atlantic Records, this was actually the second LP called The Best of The Spinners. The first was released on Motown in '73 and had a couple Top 40 hits — "It's a Shame" (#14) and "I'll Always Love You" (#35) — but the group's glory years were on Atlantic, and those are the hits I remember from my childhood: "They Just Can't Stop It The (Games People Play)" (#5), "Could It Be I'm Falling in Love" (#4), "I'll Be Around" (#3), "The Rubberband Man" (#2), and their only #1 hit, "Then Came You," with Dionne Warwicke (Warwick was spelling her last name with an "e" on the end at the time per the recommendation of astrologer Linda Goodman). Ironically, the first four of those tunes hit #1 on the R&B chart, but the last one only hit #2. I'm a fervent fan of all five, and they're all on this album, as are two more Spinners #1 R&B songs I learned to love later: "One of a Kind Love Affair" (#11 pop) and "Mighty Love - Pt. 1" (#20 pop). There's one other Top 40 hit represented, "Ghetto Child" (#29 pop, #4 R&B), but the remaining two tracks also hit the pop Hot 100 and the R&B Top 40: "Sadie" (#54 pop, 37 R&B) and "How Could I Let You Get Away" (#77 pop, #14 R&B). The group would score a couple more Top 10 hits in the early 80's with "Working My Way Back to You/Forgive Me Girl" (#2 pop, #6 R&B) and "Cupid/I've Loved You for a Long Time" (#4 pop, #5 R&B). I think those ones are all right, but there was something special about those Spinners singles from '72-76 that put them on another level for me. It's probably because they were all produced by the legendary Thom Bell, best known for being an architect of the Philadelphia soul sound ... even though he was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and The Spinners originated in Detroit. Anyway, if you start playing any of that beautiful music they made together, I'll be around.
830. The Best of The Stylistics - The Stylistics
Instantly recognizable by the signature falsetto of lead singer Russell Thompkins Jr., The Stylistics had five elegant Top 10 pop hits from 1971-74: "I'm Stone in Love with You" (#10), "You Are Everything" (#9), "Break Up to Make Up" (#5), "Betcha By Golly, Wow" (#3), and "You Make Me Feel Brand New" (#2 Billboard, #1 Cash Box, #1 Record World). You can find each of those lovely songs on this collection. Released in 1975, The Best of The Stylistics also includes "Rockin' Roll Baby" (#14), "Let's Put It All Together" (#18), and "People Make the World Go Round" (#25). The remaining two tracks were Top 10 R&B hits, but didn't make the pop Top 40: "Heavy Fallin' Out" (#41) and their very first chart single, "You're a Big Girl Now" (#73). As a matter of fact, every track on The Best of The Stylistics was a Top 10 R&B hit. The group had two other Top 40 hits during that timespan that are not on this album — "Stop, Look, Listen (To Your Heart)" (#39) and "You'll Never Get to Heaven (If You Break My Heart)" (#23) — and both of them hit the R&B Top 10, too. Like The Spinners, The Stylistics were produced by Thom Bell and associated with the Philly soul sound, but unlike The Spinners, they were actually from Philadelphia.
831. Greatest Hits - The O'Jays
What they do! The O'Jays were formed in Canton OH, home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and were eventually inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in nearby Cleveland. I saw them perform live in Washington DC in 1984, the same year this compilation came out. They were part of a huge roster of famous artists appearing at a big Independence Day celebration along with The Beach Boys, America, Hank Williams Jr., Three Dog Night, Justin Hayward and John Lodge of The Moody Blues, and Ringo Starr. Although The O'Jays originated in Ohio, they are rightly remembered as representing the fabled Philadelphia soul sound like The Spinners and The Stylistics. Whereas those latter two groups were produced by Thom Bell, The O'Jays worked with the other two famous producers of that scene, Leon Gamble and Kenny Huff. I first became conscious of The O'Jays in '78 when they released their comeback single "Use Ta Be My Girl" (#4). I remember the DJ saying they'd been around for 20 years, and I wondered why I'd never heard of them before. People probably feel similarly when somebody tells them ApologetiX has been around for 30 years ;) Of course, they'd already had a bunch of hits, including the Top 10 smashes "Put Your Hands Together" (#10), "For the Love of Money" (#9), "I Love Music (Part I)" (#5), "The Back Stabbers" (#3), and the chart-topping "Love Train." Greatest Hits has all of them except "Put Your Hands Together" (bummer ... great tune). It also includes the Top 40 hit "Forever Mine" (#28 pop, #4 R&B). Four of The O'Jays' Top 10 singles hit #1 on the R&B chart, as did five other songs by the group, two of which are included on Greatest Hits: "Darlin' Darlin' Baby (Sweet Tender Love)" and "Stairway to Heaven," which has nothing to do with the Led Zeppelin classic, aside from the fact that they're both over six minutes long.
832. The Coasters' Greatest Hits - The Coasters
In just three short years — 1957, 1958, and 1959 — The Coasters scored six Top 10 pop hits (all written by the legendary songwriting team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller) that built their career: "Searchin'" (#3 pop, #1 R&B), "Young Blood" (#8 pop, #1 R&B), "Yakety Yak" (#1 pop, #1 R&B), "Charlie Brown" (#2), "Along Came Jones" (#9), and "Poison Ivy" (#7 pop, #1 R&B). I especially liked the last four. Some would say they've been coasting ever since, although they did have several more Top 40 singles: "Red Red Run" (#36), "What About Us" (#17), "Wait a Minute" (#37), and "Little Egypt (Ying-Yang)" (#23). Released in 1959, The Coasters' Greatest Hits contained all six of the Top 10 hits. It didn't make the Billboard album chart, though ... none of their albums did. Nevertheless, in 1987, The Coasters became the first group ever inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Pretty good for a "novelty act." And they're timeless; my kids enjoy those songs as much as I do. The sax solos on "Yakety Yak," "Charlie Brown," and "Along Came Jones" were all played by King Curtis, who was himself inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000. I thought he deserved a little respect here, seeing as he also played the solo on "Respect" by Aretha Franklin.
833. A Man and His Soul - Ray Charles
Ray Charles had 91 songs that hit the Hot 100, and 11 of them reached the Top 10, including three #1 records: "Georgia On My Mind," "Hit the Road Jack," and "I Can't Stop Loving You." Being a collector of chart toppers, I had recordings of all of them. My favorite of the three was "Hit the Road Jack," but my favorite Ray Charles song overall was his first Top 10 hit, "What'd I Say (Part I & II)" (#6). Released in 1972, A Man and His Soul was a 24-track double album, and it included the four songs I mentioned by name plus five other Top 10 hits: "Busted" (#4), "Crying Time" (#6), "You Are My Sunshine" (#7), "One Mint Julip" (#8), and "Unchain My Heart" (#9). Two others were missing: "You Don't Know Me" (#2) and "Take These Chains from My Heart" (#8). I guess they figured one song about a chained heart was enough for this collection. A Man and His Soul went to #77 and sold half a million copies. Ray's biggest album was Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, which went to #1 and stayed there for 14 weeks. That's where his versions of "I Can't Stop Loving You" and "You Don't Know Me" originally appeared. He also had seven #1 R&B hits and four #1 adult contemporary hits. Most of those were Top 10 pop hits (thus already mentioned above) but a notable one that wasn't, "Let's Go Get Stoned" (#31 pop, #1 R&B), is also on A Man and His Soul. Since I eventually collected #3 hits, I also got "Love Me with All of Your Heart" by The Ray Charles Singers, but that's not the same Ray Charles. it's not very soulful, either, but I grew to like it. The "other" Ray Charles had a pretty successful career, too, as the leader of the group who bore his name. They were featured on Perry Como's records and television shows for 35 years and even got mentioned in the song "Life Is a Rock (But the Radio Rolled Me)" by Reunion. That Ray also was the male voice you heard singing the theme song for Three's Company, "Come and Knock on Our Door." ApologetiX has never officially spoofed either Ray Charles, but we did spoof "Gold Digger" by Kanye West with Jamie Foxx, which sampled the first Ray's 1955 classic "I Got a Woman." I owned that one, too, but my first Ray Charles recording was him performing "Shake Your Tail Feather" on The Blues Brothers soundtrack album. The scene in which he performs it in that movie is an absolute classic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2HeUmxbAok
834. Como's Golden Records - Perry Como
No, I'm not kidding. Perry Como had three #1 hits in the rock era — "Hot Diggity (Dog Ziggity Boom)," "Round and Round," and "Catch a Falling Star" — from 1956-58, at a time when his RCA labelmate Elvis Presley was dominating the charts with 11 #1 hits of his own that spent 58 weeks at #1. And that came after Como had 11 other chart toppers from 1945-54. In fact, he was the third most successful artist on the Billboard pop charts between 1940 and 1954, behind Bing Crosby and Glenn Miller and just ahead of The Andrew Sisters and Frank Sinatra. The man they called "Mr. C." was born in Canonsburg PA, about 20 miles from Pittsburgh. RCA released Como's Golden Records in the late summer of '58, four months after the similarly titled Elvis' Golden Records. It eventually found its way to the IUP library, where I was able to tape my selections as an upperclassman. Como's Golden Records had 14 tracks, which would have been exactly enough space for every one of his #1 songs, but that's not what the record company saw fit to do. The three from the rock era are there ("Round and Round" is my favorite), plus four others: "Till the End of Time" (1945), "Prisoner of Love" (1946), "Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes" (1952), and "Wanted" (1954). Como also had four #2 hits, but only one of those was included: "When You Were Sweet Sixteen" (1947). Don't worry, though ... "Papa Loves Mambo" (#4 in '54) still made the final cut. Although "There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays" (#8 in '54) was not included on Como's Golden Records, it does get airplay in the Jackson family vehicle every year during Christmas season. Perry Como was also the subject of one of my all-time favorite skits on SCTV in 1981: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LqwHMiJdIqU
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.