Influential Albums: 940-946
Thu., Dec. 8. 2022 3:11pm EST
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.
Two weeks ago, we finally got to 1988, when a born-again experience started a seismic shift in my musical tastes. The story continues below:
940. Jesus Commands Us to Go! - Keith Green
Even after Keith Green's posthumous 1983 LP, The Prodigal Son, there was still enough unreleased material in the vaults for another "all-new" album. Released in July 1984, Jesus Commands Us to Go! actually featured more of my favorites than The Prodigal Son, including another song written from the perspective of a person in one of Jesus' most famous parables. This time around it was "On the Road to Jericho," a retelling of the story of the Good Samaritan as seen through the eyes of the man he saved, which had an obvious influence on the ApologetiX parodies "Turn to Luke" and "On the Road, Away from Home." Other essential tracks for me on Jesus Commands us to Go! were "Dust to Dust," "Run to the End of the Highway," "Thank You Jesus," "Don't You Wish You Had the Answers," "Keith's Piano Prelude," and "Create in Me a Clean Heart." I had this one on loan from Tim Hart for quite some time ... it's a wonder the cassette still played when I gave it back to him.
941. Medals - Russ Taff
Since I'd enjoyed Russ Taff's self-titled third LP, I decided to purchase his second album as well. Released in 1985, Medals featured a couple songs I'd heard about from Tim Hart, the title track (about the humility, meekness, and unexpected power of Jesus — "He had no medals") and "Not Gonna Bow (about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego). Those wound up being two of my three favorite tracks on the album, along with "Rock Solid." The rest was all fine — Russ is a stellar singer, and I played this cassette plenty of times — but those were the three songs that really grabbed me. The next tier down for me would probably be "Visions," "Silent Love," and "How Much It Hurts." Mr. Taff had a couple albums up his sleeve, however, that would totally blow me away ... they just hadn't been released yet when I bought this in the spring of '88.
942. Biograph - Bob Dylan
This entry is going to answer the question many of you have asked as to whether I still own all those albums I've been writing about. Sometime in the spring of '88, I finally bought my own CD player, even though I probably already owned about a hundred CDs by that time. And if you think that's funny, there's even more to the story. When I'd had my first spiritual "tugging" in early '87 (temporary though it was), I'd started pondering my music collection, which contained hundreds and hundreds of albums, cassettes, 8-tracks, and 45's ... more music than I'd ever have time to listen to. Among other things, I collected #1 and #2 singles, including new ones as they came out, whether I liked the songs or not. Well, Lent was coming up, and I remember thinking, "Could you give up buying those #1 and #2 singles for Lent, and not go back and buy them when Lent is over?" It didn't take long for me to reach the conclusion that I could not. And that disturbed me, because it made me feel like music was more important to me than God. Regardless, I kept on buying those singles (and albums and tapes) through the end of '87. But at my five-year high-school class reunion that November, I met a female classmate and took her back to my apartment to hang out. She saw all my albums and seemed a little overwhelmed (and not necessarily in a good way) by how much music I had. Much to my surprise, I found myself blurting out, "Well, I've been thinking about getting rid of a lot of them," and she replied nonchalantly, "Oh, don't do that. I had a friend who got rid of his entire record collection and went off to find God." She obviously dismissed that friend as a bit extreme. Fast forward to early '88, before my Super Bowl epiphany, and I decided I wanted to get rid of some of the excess baggage in my music catalog. Believe it or not, I actually envied people who had smaller collections. I was really smitten with the look and sound of compact discs, so I started taking some of my less-essential vinyl LPs up to Backstreet Records at IUP and exchanging them. For every 10 records or so I brought, the owner (I think his name was Mark) would give me a new CD of my choice. Well, the more albums I traded in, the less essential the rest of my records seemed to be, so I kept going. I figured I would just keep a collection of "the best of the best" on CD. Next thing I knew, I had a whole bunch of CDs and no CD player! But an unanticipated side effect was that I felt like my head was a lot clearer, and maybe God used that to help prepare for me for the big changes that were coming in my life. Anyway, I finally bought a CD player along with Bob Dylan's 1985 box set, Biograph, a career-spanning five-record set on three CDs that included hits, deeper cuts, and many previously unreleased tracks. There was a lot of great stuff on there, including but not limited to "I'll Keep It with Mine," "Up to Me," "Mixed-Up Confusion," "Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window," "Abandoned Love, "Knockin' on Heaven's Door," and an alternate version of "Quinn the Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn). But the tracks I liked the best were the Christian tracks I hadn't heard before: "Caribbean Wind," "Groom's Still Waiting at the Altar," and the beautiful "Every Grain of Sand." Soon after, I found that I didn't even care about the "best of the best" CDs I had, and I eventually gave a bunch of them away, including this one, and sold the rest. I did the same thing with my old 45s, cassettes, 8-tracks, etc. I considered getting CD versions of my favorite Christian albums, but in the end I deliberately decided to stick with cassettes, not just because they were more portable, but because they were less collectible. I even resisted the urge to keep them all organized alphabetically the way I'd done with my secular music. I never wanted music to be the most important thing in my life again. And it never has been since, even though it's what I've been doing for a living for decades now. It's funny how God works things out when we put Him first.
943. The Champion - Carman
I borrowed this cassette in the spring of '88 from one of the ladies who sang with me in the Oremus chorale group. Originally released in '85, The Champion was the follow-up to Comin' On Strong, the one Carman album I already owned. Overall, it seemed like a bigger production to me than its predecessor, epitomized by the eight-and-a-half-minute title track, which appeared last on side two. What a showstopper! Carman took the drama from powerful previous songs like "Sunday's on the Way" and "Lazarus Come Forth," and cranked it up on a cosmic scale. No wonder "The Champion" hit #1 on the contemporary Christian music chart. The man really knew how to captivate his listening audience. Two additional favorites for me were "Prepare to Die" and "Abundance of Rain." The other big number from The Champion was "Revive Us, Oh Lord," which also hit the Top 10 on the CCM chart. The album itself became his first of seven to sell at least half a million copies. More Carman to come.
944. I Predict 1990 - Steve Taylor
In June 1988, I went to my first big Christian music festival, Creation '88 in Mount Union PA, along with Tim Hart and several girls I knew from the Oremus chorale group. It was a three-day event, with a roster full of big-name artists and speakers, but the performer who left the biggest impression on me was a person I'd never heard of before ... some crazy, high-energy guy named Steve Taylor. He came out on stage wearing an all-white ice-cream-man outfit and started throwing water balloons into the crowd. His music was loud, but the lyrics that I could understand were very funny, and his breathless (from running around so much) comments between songs were entertaining and enlightening. He was obviously quite the thinking man. I went to the merchandise area and picked up his latest cassette at the time,I Predict 1990, which had actually been released in '87. I was not disappointed. In both his solo work and his later collaborations with The Newsboys, Steve would prove time and again to be one of the most clever lyricists I've ever encountered — Christian or otherwise. Although I've never met the man personally, his songs challenged me to become a better believer and a better songwriter. But it all started for me with this album, and my favorite tracks on it are "Innocence Lost," "Jim Morrison's Grave," "Since I Gave Up Hope I Feel a Lot Better," and "Jung and the Restless."
945. Just Another Injustice - Mark Farner
Another artist who caught me by surprise at Creation '88 was Mark Farner. Wait a minute ... wasn't he the guitarist and singer from Grand Funk? What was that dude doing at a Christian music festival? In between songs like "Rock and Roll Soul," "Footstompin' Music," and "I'm Your Captain," Farner explained, sharing his own testimony of how he came to Christ. After the concert, I bought a cassette copy of his 1988 debut Christian solo LP, Just Another Injustice, for my buddy Tom. I got Mark to autograph it and talked very briefly with him. One of the album's ballads, "Isn't It Amazing," became a #2 hit on the Christian pop chart, but my favorite song was "Come to Jesus," a rocker that built upon the old "Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so" Sunday school song and took it in a new direction. Other memorable tunes included "Airborne Ranger," "Judgement Day Blues," "An Emotional Look at Love," "Just Another Injustice," and "Only You." Further Farner fare would follow in the future.
946. Crack the Sky - Mylon Lefevre & Broken Heart
One of the main artists at the Creation '88 festival was Mylon Lefevre & Broken Heart. I'm pretty sure they were the closing act on one of the three nights. This was not the mellow Mylon from my More cassette. He'd rocked it up quite a bit in the five years since that album came out. One particular song that caught my ear was the thundering "Crack the Sky," about a man asking God to take him home. It was a great marriage of music and message. Another booming number they performed was "Love God, Hate Sin," which reminded me a little of Loverboy's "Lovin' Every Minute of It," although I liked Mylon's music a lot better, not to mention the lyrics. Both "Crack the Sky" and "Love God, Hate Sin" had rousing choruses that were easy to learn and hard to resist. That was enough to get me to buy the 1987 LP Crack the Sky. Whoever put that project together wisely made those two tracks the opening one-two punch on the album. I got the cassette version, so I played those songs more than any of the others, but the other two most memorable tracks for me were last two songs on the other side, "Heart On Fire" and "For My Growing." Listening to it now, there's a lot of the electronic drums that were so prevalent at the time, and they haven't aged well, but the title track is timeless.