Influential Albums: 968-974
Sat., Jan. 7. 2023 12:26am 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:
968. Stop This Flight - Larry Norman
This is the last of the Larry Norman albums on my list before we get to the biggies. Released in 1986, Stop This Flight was a live release, and Larry did plenty of talking between the songs, and I enjoyed hearing what he had to say. The most memorable tracks for me were "Woman of God (Proverbs 31)" — the Lord gave me one of those when He sent me my wife, Lisa — "Messiah," "Stop This Flight," "I Hope I'll See You in Heaven," and "What's Wrong with This Body?" All in all, they made for pleasant-enough listening, but the next few Larry LPs I heard would really blow my mind and became my all-time favorites.
969. Send Us to the World - Harvest
I bought this cassette shortly after seeing Harvest in concert at a church east of Pittsburgh with some of my Bible study friends in 1988. At the time, Harvest was a duo made up of Jerry Williams and Ed Kerr. Their fourth CD, Send Us to the World, came out in 1983. The two standout tracks for me were the openers on sides one and two: "The Blood of the Lamb" and "The Army of the Lord." I believe Harvest played both of them at the show I attended ... even though they were "oldies" (from five years earlier) by then. The titles may sound like hymns, and the album itself is rather mellow, but those two songs are powerful anthems. In fact, "The Blood of the Lamb" is one of my all-time favorite songs and still inspires me today when I play it. Two other tunes that left an impact were "I Am the Lord" and the title track. A couple Harvest songs not on this album that were popular with our Bible study group were "Give Them Back" and "Because I Am." Another of their later albums would yield two more anthems I still enjoy. Stay tuned; it's coming soon.
970. Soldiers Under Command - Stryper
Having enjoyed Stryper's first and third LPs, it was only a matter of time till I asked my friend Dana if I could borrow the second, which I'd already heard about from an old guitarist friend. Released in May 1985, Soldiers Under Command was the group's first to hit the upper half of the Billboard 200 (#84) and to go gold (sales of over half a million copies). The three tracks that led off side one did it for me: "Soldiers Under Command," "Makes Me Wanna Sing," and "Together Forever." The album closes with Stryper's version of "Battle Hymn of the Republic," a famous song sometimes referred to as "Glory, Glory Hallelujah" or "Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory." The original version, written in 1861 by Julie Ward Howe, is significant to ApologetiX, because it's a classic example of Christian lyrics set to the melody of a popular secular number. In this case, the tune was "John Brown's Body" (also from 1861), which in turn was derived from an old church camp song from the late 1700's and early 1800's, "Say, Brothers, Will You Meet Us."
971. Rattle and Hum - U2
Many of us who attended Tuesday-night Bible study in downtown Pittsburgh were in our twenties, including two married couples. We enjoyed each other's company so much that we started meeting together for prayer and fellowship on Friday nights at the home of one of those couples in nearby Penn Hills, east of Pittsburgh. A number of us were geeked when U2 released a new double-album, Rattle and Hum, on October 10, 1988, and someone played some of it the following Friday. I went out and bought my own cassette copy soon after. Nine of the 17 tracks were studio recordings, the rest were live. Rattle and Hum rattled off four singles: "Desire" (#3 pop, #1 rock), "Angel of Harlem" (#14 pop, #9 rock), "When Love Comes to Town" (with B.B. King) (#68 pop, #6 rock), and "All I Want Is You" (#83 pop, #4 rock). Those songs were even more successful on the U.K. pop chart, where three of them went to #1 and the other, "Angel of Harlem," went to #3. I liked all four. My favorite non-hits were "Hawkmoon 269," "Van Dieman's Land," "God Part II" (an answer to John Lennon's 1970 solo song "God"), and the live version of "Silver and Gold." Musically, I thought U2 were as good as ever. My favorite lyrical moment on the album was sung by B.B. King: "I was there when they crucified my Lord — I held the scabbard when the soldier drew his sword — I threw the dice when they pierced his side — but I've seen love conquer the great divide." I wish there were more moments like that on Rattle and Hum. The lyrics in my cassette contained an extra verse that wasn't sung on the recording: "When I woke up I was sleeping on the street —I felt the world was dancing, and I was dirt beneath their feet — When I woke up I saw the Devil looking down — but my Lord He played guitar the day love came to town." It's funny; the general spirituality of U2's songs attracted me when I still hadn't found what I was looking for, but by October '88 I was hoping for something more specific in their lyrics. ApologetiX spoofed "Desire" in 2013 and U2's Rattle and Hum version of "All Along the Watchtower" on one of our early cassettes in 1992.
972. Sunday's On the Way - Carman
In the fall of '88, I finally found a cassette copy of the Carman LP that contained "Sunday's On the Way." Not surprisingly, the album was titled Sunday's On the Way. Seeing as it was released in 1983, early in Carman's career, I would have been satisfied if the title track had been the only good song ... or at least the only funny one. However, there were plenty of them, including "The Well," "Just Like My Jesus," "Temptation Boogie," and my favorite, "God Don't Care (What the Circumstance)." The serious songs were good, too, including "Yahweh" and "Bless the Name of Jesus." As a matter of fact, I think I liked this one the best of the three Carman albums I'd heard up till that point. But there were a couple more coming my way that I'd like even better.
973. For Him Who Has Ears to Hear – Keith Green
Although Petra was the Christian music act with guitar spaceships on their covers, the CCM album that most reminded me of Boston's legendary debut LP was Keith Green's debut LP, For Him Who Has Ears to Hear, which came out just nine months later. Musically, the two recordings are nothing like each other, but both have an amazing consistency of quality from start to finish ... freshman efforts that sound like they were made by tenured professors with multiple PhDs. Released in May 1977, For Him Who Has Ears to Hear features 10 of my favorite Keith Green songs, which is notable because there are only 10 tracks on it. I knew three of them already from The Keith Green Collection: "You Put This Love in My Heart," "Your Love Broke Through," and "He'll Take Care of the Rest." But the other seven were equally excellent. The one that took the longest for me to appreciate as "When I Hear the Praises Start," but once I "got" it, I loved it. Others grabbed me right way, like "I Can't Believe It, "Because of You," "No One Believes in Me Anymore (Satan's Boast)," and "Song to My Parents (I Only Want to See You There)." I also love the other two tracks, "Trials Turned to Gold" and "Easter Song." None of those songs just take up space. "No One Believes in Me Anymore" helped inspire the ApologetiX parodies "Singled You Out" and "Hell Is Warmer."
974. Only Visiting This Planet - Larry Norman
In addition to all the Christian albums he introduced me to in 1988, my friend Dana also gave me a huge stack of back issues of CCM magazine to check out. One of them contained an article titled "The 25 Best Contemporary Christian Albums of All Time." As you might imagine, I was very interested in reading that one. Sitting at #1 on the list was Larry Norman's 1972 LP Only Visiting This Planet, the first installment in his famed "Trilogy." And once Dana finally got around to making me a copy of that one, I could easily see (and hear) what the fuss was about. Its two most famous songs are probably "I Wish We'd All Been Ready" (later redone by DC Talk) and "Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music" (later redone by Geoff Moore and The Distance). In addition to those tunes, my favorite tracks were "Why Don't You Look into Jesus," "The Outlaw," "I Am the Six O'Clock News," "The Great American Novel," and "Reader's Digest." You can also hear echoes of "I Wish We'd All Been Ready" and "The Outlaw" in the ApologetiX parodies "Lightning Flashes" and "Jehovah," respectively (and respectfully). Even when CCM revised and expanded its list to 100 albums in 2001, Only Visiting This Planet had merely fallen to #2. If you want to see the list as it looked in its original form, go to https://www.listchallenges.com/ccm-magazines-25-best-contemporary-christian