Influential Albums: 961-967
Fri., Dec. 30. 2022 12:15am 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.
961. Songs for the Shepherd - Keith Green
Released just three months before his untimely death in 1982, Songs for the Shepherd was Keith Green's fourth non-compilation LP. His music seemed to be increasingly focused on worship, almost as if he was practicing for Heaven. The album opens and closes with two beautifully arranged-and-performed songs, "The Lord Is My Shepherd" (that's how I learned Psalm 23) and "Holy, Holy, Holy" (a hymn I'd known from an early age). My other favorite tracks were the simple-yet-profound "You Are the One," "Jesus Is Lord of All," and "Glory, Lord Jesus." I probably sang all five of the aforementioned tunes to all five of my kids when they were little. However, the most famous original song on Songs for the Shepherd is probably "There Is a Redeemer" (written by Keith's wife, Melody), which has since been covered by many other artists and has appeared in at least 20 hymnals.
962. Quiet Night - Larry Norman and The Young Lions
Larry Norman fans reading these journal entries are probably eager for me to get to the albums that are generally considered the main course of his discography, but I'm trying to go in the order in which I heard them. So blame my friend Dana. Released in 1984, Quiet Night was credited to Larry Norman and The Young Lions (a name Larry used for a group of musicians he was working with at the time). Although he did the lead vocals, Larry only wrote four of the songs, and two of those were brief instrumentals. Tom Howard wrote the other eight. My favorite tracks were "Iron and Steel," "Let the Master Make It Right," and "Sigrid Jane." Other memorable tunes included "Shine Your Light," "I Found Love," and "I Don't Wanna Lose You." Of those, Larry wrote "Sigrid Jane" and "I Don't Wanna Lose You."
963. Down in the Groove - Bob Dylan
In late May 1988, Bob Dylan released his first album since I'd experienced my big spiritual awakening. Despite my disappointment with his previous album, Knocked Out Loaded, I decided to give him another chance with Down in the Groove. I remember one of the critics jokingly called it "Down in the Mouth." I was happy to see a track called "Death Is Not the End." It wasn't exactly a jaunty number but, in addition to the line "death is not the end" which appeared frequently in the verses and choruses, it had an inspirational bridge: "For the tree of life is growing where the spirit never dies — and the bright light of salvation up in dark and empty skies." Furthermore, the album's most popular song, "Silvio" (which hit #5 on the mainstream rock chart and featured backing vocals by three members of The Grateful Dead) contained multiple allusions to the afterlife: "One of these days and it won't be long, going down in the valley and sing my song — I will sing it loud and sing it strong — let the echo decide if I was right or wrong — Silvio, silver and gold won't buy back the beat of a heart grown cold — Silvio, I gotta go find out something only dead men know." The rest of Down in the Groove was an uneven affair, but it had some winning moments. After "Silvio," my favorites were "Had a Dream About You, Baby," "Ugliest Girl in the World," "Let's Stay Together," and "Shenandoah." I saw Bob Dylan in concert several months later (with opening act Steve Forbert, best known for "Romeo's Tune," which hit #11 in 1980) at Pittsburgh's Civic Arena on September 13, 1988. He had a great band backing him up, but they did very different arrangements of his classic songs, and I couldn't understand what he was singing much of the time. Often he'd be halfway through a famous number before I'd realize what it was ... I'm not kidding! I saw Dylan two more times in Pittsburgh: at IC Light Amphitheater on July 16, 1991, and at Coca-Cola Star Lake Amphitheater on July 18, 1996. Amazingly, his performances were markedly better each time.
964. Back to the Street - Petra
I can't remember exactly where Back to the Street falls in my personal timeline, but I'll make an educated guess and put it here. Released in 1986, it was Petra's first LP with John Schlitt replacing Greg X. Volz on lead vocals. It was also their first one produced by the Elefante brothers, John (who was lead vocalist for Kansas from 1981-84) and Dino. Like previous Petra projects, it contained a number of songs with clever titles, such as "King's Ransom," "Fool's Gold," "You Are I Am," and "Altar Ego." I liked all of those songs, but my favorites were "Shakin' the House," "Whole World," "Thankful Heart," and the title track. Back to the Street was also Petra's fourth and final album to feature a guitar spaceship on the cover, but the band Boston has since regained the lead in that department. Be that as it may, my advice to Petra would be: Don't look back.
965. Roll With It - Steve Winwood
This album may look innocuous — and it sounds innocuous, too — but there's more than meets the eye as to why it appears at this point in my list. When I share my testimony, I often say that after everything came together for me as a believer in January and February 1988, there was no turning back. For the most part, that's true. However, in August '88 I had a brief faith crisis. I'm going to tell you about it here, and you'll see why soon enough. But first, let me give you a little background information: Before I became a born-again Christian, I had no desire to get married. I loved my freedom, and I loved going out with different girls. I hadn't started dating till I was a senior in high school, but I'd made up for lost time in college. Once I gave my heart to Jesus, though, I didn't have room for random romantic interests. He became the most important person in my life. And I also started thinking that I would like to settle down with a likeminded lady. In July, it seemed that I might have met my match. I asked her out, and she readily agreed. However, I made the mistake of telling all my friends and family I thought I'd found "the one," even though I hadn't known her for that long. The date started out decently, but about midway though, the fog rolled in. It was an unmitigated disaster. That was bad enough, but having to answer friends and family afterward who were eager to hear how everything went was excruciatingly embarrassing. Then, against my better judgment, I listened to my brother-in-law when he told me I should call that girl again, and things went from bad to worse. I was devastated. How could God have allowed me to get myself into this mess? I wasn't about to renounce my faith, but for the first time in months, I didn't want to think about it. I'd been asked to be a groomsman for an old college buddy's wedding the next weekend in Chambersburg PA (two and a half hours away), so I just tried to forget about things and party. Although I'd stopped listening to secular music in February, I rushed out to the store to buy three popular songs I was interested in: "Sweet Child O' Mine" by Guns N' Roses, "Devil Inside' by INXS, and "Roll With It" by Steve Winwood. I found the first two on cassette singles (or as they called them back then, cassingles), but wound up buying the Roll With It album. I also listened to the radio a bit on my road trip to Chambersburg. The hot new hit they were playing was "Simply Irresistible" by Robert Palmer. Since I have space constraints here, I won't go into all the details, but God actually turned that trip into an opportunity for me to witness to some old friends without having any intention of doing so. They practically begged me to do it. In fact, I wound up witnessing to myself, in spite of myself. By the time I got home, I was fired up for the Lord again. Still, I felt like I'd wasted time and money on the secular music. Fast forward to October 2022 when ApologetiX released a parody of "The Devil Inside." Long before that, we'd covered "Sweet Child O' Mine" in 1992, 2012, and 2013. We did "Simply Irresistible" in 2000 and 2022. And we spoofed "Roll With It" in 2019. Ironically, that parody was called "Go Witness." By the way, before going on that trip to Chambersburg, I'd also purchased The Grateful Dead's classic LP American Beauty, which I wrote about earlier on this list. That album's best known track is "Truckin'," which ApologetiX spoofed in 2010. And what did we call it? "Trust Him." Our totally trustworthy God not only renewed my faith when I was running away from Him, He later gave me new lyrics for every one of those songs, so my money and time weren't wasted after all. And the likeminded lady He eventually brought into my life, the lovely Lisa, is a true American beauty inside and out who makes me very grateful I'm not dead!
966. The Basement Tapes - Bob Dylan and The Band
I purchased this album at the same time as Roll With It by Steve Winwood, who first found fame with The Spencer Davis Group, Traffic, and Blind Faith before having huge hits on his own. Of course, there have been countless times in rock history when a singer left a band and had significant solo success, but rarely has a band left a singer and gone on to greater glory. Nevertheless, The Band did it twice. From 1957-63, while known as The Hawks, they backed up rockabilly singer Ronnie Hawkins. Then, from 1965-67, they served as Bob Dylan's backing group, before graduating to further fame and acclaim on their own as The Band in 1968. Released in June 1975, The Basement Tapes was a double-album comprising recordings from 1967-68 with some overdubs made in '75. Sixteen of the tracks feature Dylan on the lead vocals with The Band in a supporting role. The other eight feature The Band on their own. The songs and performances are charming, homespun, quirky, and delightful. My favorite tracks featuring Dylan are: "Lo and Behold," "Yea! Heavy and a Bottle of Bread," "Tiny Montgomery," "Clothes Line Saga," "Please Mrs. Henry," "Odds and Ends," "Too Much of Nothing," and "Million Dollar Bash." My favorites featuring just The Band are: "Don't Ya Tell Henry," "Ruben Remus," "Katie's Been Gone," "Orange Juice Blues (Blues for Breakfast)," and "Yazoo Street Scandal." ApologetiX never spoofed anything from The Basement Tapes, but we did make all of our early tapes (aside from concert recordings) in the basement, including a couple Dylan parodies.
967. No Compromise - Keith Green
I believe I bought Keith Green's second LP, No Compromise, on cassette at the Family Christian Stores in Monroeville in August 1988. The album itself had been released a decade earlier, in November 1978. I knew four of the 12 tracks already from The Keith Green Collection: "Asleep in the Light," "Soften Your Heart," "You!," and "How Can They Without Jesus?" I particularly liked the first three of those tunes, although "Asleep in the Light" is so convicting it's hard to "like." What a powerful piece of music! Among the songs on No Compromise that I hadn't heard before, my favorites were "Dear John Letter (To the Devil)," "The Victor," "Stained Glass," and "Altar Call."