Influential Albums: 863-869
Thu., Sep. 22. 2022 12:02am 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.
863. The Best of The Staple Singers - The Staple Singers
Roebuck "Pops" Staples and his kids — son Pervis and daughters Cleotha, Mavis, and Yvonne — were longtime legends of the gospel and R&B scene, having signed their first professional contract in 1952. However, I never heard of them until I started collecting #1 hits. The Staple Singers had two of those: "I'll Take You There" in 1972 and "Let's Do It Again" in 1975. The Best of The Staple Singers came out in 1974, so it only had "I'll Take You There," but I greatly prefer that one anyway. This compilation also had the two-million-selling "Respect Yourself" (#12 pop, #2 R&B) and the million-selling "If You're Ready (Come Go with Me)" (#9 pop, #1 R&B), along with three other Top 40 hits: "Touch a Hand, Make a Friend" (#23 pop, #3 R&B), "Heavy Makes You Happy (Sha-Na-Boom Boom)" (#27 pop, #6 R&B), and "Oh La De Da" (#33 pop, #4 R&B). They're all great. Aside from "Let's Do It Again," the only one of their Top 40 hits not included on The Best of The Staple Singers was "This World" (#38 pop, #6 R&B). But it did have "Be What You Are" (#66 pop, #18 R&B), "City in the Sky" (#79 pop, #4 R&B), and "You've Got to Earn It" (#97 pop, #11 R&B). Instantly likeable stuff. No self-respecting 70's soul-music fan should be without some Staple Singers.
864. Bill Withers' Greatest Hits - Bill Withers
Although he didn't start singing professionally until the age of 32, Bill Withers made up for lost time. By the time he was 35, he'd had a #3 hit, "Ain't No Sunshine" in '71; a #2 hit, "Use Me" in '72; and a #1 hit, "Lean on Me" in '72. As the Seventies rolled on, he only picked up two more Top 40 hits, and neither was anywhere near as successful: "Kissing My Love" (#31 pop, #12 R&B in '73) and "Lovely Day" (#30 pop, #6 R&B in '77). Finally, in 1981, he scored another #2 hit with Grover Washington, Jr., "Just the Two of Us." Released in 1981, Bill Withers' Greatest Hits had all of those tunes with the exception of "Kissing My Love." It also had "Grandma's Hands" (#42 pop, #18 R&B in '71). Withers wrote all of those songs himself, too, with the exception of "Just the Two of Us, "which he co-wrote with Ralph MacDonald and William Salter. Writing his own material literally paid off for Withers: In 1972, Michael Jackson covered "Ain't No Sunshine" and had a #8 U.K. hit with it. In 1987, Club Nouveau covered "Lean on Me" and topped the pop charts with it, as Withers had done 15 years earlier. In 1993, rock/hip-hop trio DC Talk released their own version and took it to #1 on the Christian pop (CHR) chart. Finally, in 1998, Will Smith did a remake of "Just the Two of Us" that reached #20 on the U.S. pop chart and #2 on the U.K. chart. When he signed his first recording contract, Withers was making toilet seats for jumbo jets, but just a few years later, he would be flying high and flushed with success. Nevertheless, he titled his second LP Still Bill.
865. The Ricky Nelson Story - Ricky Nelson
With a chart career spanning from 1957-73, Ricky Nelson set the standard for TV stars crossing over into pop music: two #1 hits, two #2 hits, nine Top 5 hits, 19 Top 10 hits, 35 Top 40 hits, and 63 Hot 100 hits. Consequently, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, just two years after his untimely death in a plane crash. Ricky's first #1 single, "Poor Little Fool," was also the first #1 hit on the first Billboard Hot 100 chart (in August 1958). His second #1 hit, "Travelin' Man," was his fifth single to have both sides reach the Top 10. His other Top Five hits included "A Teenager's Romance" (#2), "Stood Up" (#2), "Be-Bop Baby" (#3), "I'm Walking" (#4), "Believe What You Say" (#4), "Young World" (#5), and "Teenage Idol" (#5). The first Ricky Nelson song I ever remember hearing on the radio was his comeback single in '72, "Garden Party" (#6 pop, #1 adult contemporary). Of course, he was called "Rick" by then. I also remember seeing him sing "Hello Mary Lou" (#6) on Saturday Night Live in '79. The Ricky Nelson Story was another one of those great compilations presented by Sessions Records. Released in '76, it contained 40 songs, including 16 that reached the Top 10 and six others that made the Top 20. Ricky's identical-twin sons, Gunnar and Matthew, had four top 40 singles of their own in the early '90s, including the Top 10 hits "(Can't Live Without Your) Love and Affection" (#1) and "After the Rain" (#6). Ricky's father, bandleader Ozzie Nelson, had some big hits in the 1930's, including "And Then Some" (#1) and "White Sails (Beneath a Yellow Moon)" (#2). I first learned of Ozzie and his wife, Harriet, not through their famous television show, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, which ran from 1952-66, but through a later show they did (without their sons) called Ozzie's Girls, which only lasted from 1973-74. I can still hum the instrumental theme song, and I also vividly remember an episode in which Ozzie performed an old song of his from 1940 called "I'm Looking for a Guy Who Plays Alto and Baritone, and Doubles on Clarinet and Wears a Size 37 Suit." I can still sing the title line to this day. It was one of the longest song titles ever printed on a 78 rpm record.
866. The Golden Hits of Lesley Gore - Lesley Gore
Pop singer Lesley Gore owns the distinction of having the first single ever kept out of the #1 slot by The Beatles (who would go on to have 20 chart toppers as a group and 16 as solo artists). Her song "You Don't Own Me" waited at #2 for three weeks in February 1964, hoping in vain for "I Want to Hold Your Hand" to falter. Alas for the lass, the Fab Four would last at #1 for 14 straight weeks with "I Want to Hold Your Hand" (7 weeks) finally yielding to "She Loves You" (2 weeks), which was then succeeded by "Can't Buy Me Love" (5 weeks). Ironically, the second single ever kept out of #1 by The Beatles was one of their own, "Twist and Shout," which had to play bridesmaid to "Can't Buy Me Love." However, Gore had already topped the chart the year before with "It's My Party." She had two other Top 5 hits between "It's My Party" and "You Don't Own Me." The first was "Judy's Turn to Cry" (#5), which picked up the story where "It's My Party" left off — both songs proved to be popular with my two oldest daughters — and "She's a Fool" (#5). Gore never had another Top 10 hit, but she did have four more Top 20 singles: "That's the Way Boys Are" (#12), "Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows" (#13), "Maybe I Know" (#14), and "California Nights" (#16). Released in 1983, The Golden Hits of Lesley Gore contains all of those except "California Nights," although it does have "Look of Love" (#27). Gore was also name-checked in the first verse of the 1974 Top 10 hit "Life Is a Rock (But the Radio Rolled Me)" by Reunion. In fact, that's probably the first time I ever heard of her.
867. Greatest Hits - Dr. Hook
New Jersey rock band Dr. Hook is probably best remembered for their 1972 hits "Sylvia's Mother" (#5 Billboard, #1 Cash Box) and "Cover of the Rolling Stone" (#6), which were included on an album I mentioned much earlier on this list, Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show Revisited. But the group reinvented themselves in the second half of the 70's with a series of mainstream pop singles, including "Only Sixteen" (#6), "A Little Bit More" (#11), "Sharing the Night Together" (#6), "When You're in Love with a Beautiful Woman" (#6), "Better Love Next Time" (#12), and "Sexy Eyes" (#5). Released in 1980, Greatest Hits included all of the above (even the two early hits) plus a couple close calls, "Walk Right In" (#46 pop, #39 adult contemporary) and "Years from Now" (#51 pop, #17 AC). The group had two more Top 40 hits after this album was released, "Girls Can Get It" (#34) and "Baby Makes Her Blue Jeans Talk" (#25). Dr. Hook finally made the cover of Rolling Stone on March 29, 1973, right after the song reached its peak on the pop charts ... but the snarky magazine only used a caricature showing three of the band members with the caption "What's-Their-Names Make the Cover."
868. 10 from 38 - 38 Special
Released in 1986, 10 from 38 featured 10 of southern-rock band 38 Special's best-known tracks up to that point. I presume the title is a nod to 10 from 6, a Bad Company compilation released the previous year. 10 from 38 included eight Top 10 rock hits (six of which hit the Top 40): "Caught Up in You" (#1 rock, #10 pop), "If I'd Been the One" (#1 rock, #19 pop), "Hold On Loosely" (#3 rock, #27 pop), "Like No Other Night" (#4 rock, #14 pop), "Back Where You Belong" (#4 rock, 20 pop), "Somebody Like You" (#6 rock, #48 pop), and "Chain Lightnin'" (#9 rock). Another track, "Rockin' into the Night" (#43 pop), probably would have made the rock Top 10 as well, but it came out the year before Billboard introduced that particular chart. The sole remaining track was "Wild-Eyed Southern Boys" (#35 rock). The only glaring omission at the time was "Teacher Teacher" (#4 rock, #25 pop), but that tune was from a movie soundtrack on another record label. I bought the cassette single of the band's first big hit after this album, "Back to Paradise" (#41 pop, #4 rock) in 1987. They went on to have three more top 10 rock hits after that, including their biggest hit of all, "Second Chance" (#6 pop, #2 rock). The other two were "The Sound of Your Voice" (#33 pop, #2 rock), and "Rock & Roll Strategy" (#5). ApologetiX spoofed "Hold On Loosely" in 2014. I'd previously sung that song (albeit briefly) in high school with my first rock band, Terminal.
869. Dionne Warwick Golden Collection - Dionne Warwick
Released in 1981, K-Tel's Dionne Warwick Golden Collection contained all 14 of her solo Top 20 hits up till that point, including nine Top 10 hits: "(Theme from) Valley of the Dolls" (#2), "I Say a Little Prayer" (#4), "I'll Never Love This Way Again" (#5), "Walk on By" (#6), "I'll Never Fall in Love Again" (#6 pop), "This Girl's in Love with You" (#7), "Anyone Who Had a Heart" (#8), "Message to Michael" (#8), and "Do You Know the Way to San Jose" (#10). Two other notable tracks were "Alfie" (#15) and Deja Vu" (#15). The year after this collection came out, Warwick released her final Top 10 solo hit, "Heartbreaker" (#10). She also had two #1 pop hits, but neither was solo, and neither is on this album: "Then Came You" (with the Spinners) and "That's What Friends Are For" (with Elton John, Gladys Knight, and Stevie Wonder). In the course of her career, Warwick had three #1 R&B hits: "Walk on By," That's What Friends Are For," and "Reach Out for Me" (#20 pop). What's more, she had six #1 adult contemporary hits: "I'll Never Fall in Love Again," "Deja Vu," "No Night So Long" (#23 pop), "Heartbreaker," "That's What Friends Are For," and "Love Power" (with Jeffrey Osborne) (#12 pop). My favorite Dionne songs are "Then Came You," "Do You Know the Way to San Jose," "I Say a Little Prayer," and another single from 1966 that just missed the Top 20 and isn't on Dionne Warwick Golden Collection, "Trains and Boats and Planes" (#20). Even with all those hits, Dionne wasn't the most successful singer in the family; that distinction would go to her cousin Whitney Houston.
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.