Influential Albums: 1031-1037
Fri., Mar. 10. 2023 11:44am 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:
1031. Under Their Influence - Russ Taff
I liked Russ Taff's fourth LP, The Way Home, so much that I didn't expect him to top it, but the follow-up was awfully good, and it's probably my second favorite in his catalog. Released in the first half of 1991, Under Their Influence focused on covers of traditional spirituals. Who's "influence" was the "their" in the title referring to? Gospel singers from the first half of the 20th century like Mahalia Jackson, Blind Willie Johnson, and Brother Joe May. The album starts off with one of Johnson's compositions, "God Don't Ever Change," and it's quite powerful and wonderful. But the final track, a six-and-a-half-minute rendition of "Ain't No Grave," is flat-out unbelievable. It may be my favorite Russ Taff song, and that's really saying something. In between those two songs, Under Their Influence has all kinds of great stuff. My favorite cuts are the more upbeat numbers: "Search Me Lord" (originally done by the aforementioned Brother Joe May), "Life's Railway to Heaven," As an Eagle Stirreth Her Nest," and "Everybody Shoulda Really Oughta Been There." There's also a song written by Taff himself (along with his wife, Tori, and James Hollihan, Jr.), "Just Believe," which stands up well with the classics surrounding it.
1032. Equator - Randy Stonehill
I borrowed this album from Jeff Pakula, too. People had been telling me for a few years about two of its songs — "Shut De Dó" and "Turning Thirty." Released in 1983, Equatorhad its fair share of trademark Stonehill topical humor, with songs like "American Fast Food," "Big Ideas (In a Shrinking World)," "Cosmetic Fixation," and the aforementioned "Shut De Dó." They're all very witty, but my favorite tracks are three serious cuts on side two: "China," "Turning Thirty," and "World Without Pain," all of which are beautiful musically.
1033. Full Moon Fever - Tom Petty
Released in April 1989, Full Moon Feverwas Tom Petty's first solo LP after seven with The Heartbreakers. Petty co-produced it with Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell and ELO's Jeff Lynne, who also co-write seven of the songs. I eventually borrowed a homemade cassette copy from my friend Dana, who had taped it from the CD. It's hard to believe now, but MCA Records originally declined to release the album, because they didn't hear any hits. Full Moon Feverwent on to sell five million copies in the United States alone — better than any previous Petty project — and produced five singles: "I Won't Back Down" (#12 pop, #1 rock); "Runnin' Down a Dream" (#23 pop, #1 rock); "Free Fallin'" (#7 pop, #1 rock, #17 adult contemporary); "A Face in the Crowd" (#46 pop, #5 rock); and "Yer So Bad" (#86 pop, #5 rock). Two other cuts became hits on the rock chart: "Feel a Whole Lot Better" (#18 rock) and "Love Is a Long Road" (#5 rock). The seven songs mentioned above are also the first seven tracks on the Full Moon Fever, so somebody at MCA knew what they were doing. The eighth track, "Depending on You," is a fine tune as well. There were 12 tracks in all. The CD version of the album also had a hidden spoken track by Petty between "Runnin' Down a Dream" and "Feel a Whole Lot Better" that said, "Hello, CD listeners. We've come to the point in this album where those listening on cassette or record will have to stand up or sit down and turn over the record, or tape. In fairness to those listeners, we'll now take a few seconds before we begin side two. (Pause) Thank you. Here's side two." I thought that was hilarious. I was also pleased that Petty had covered "Feel a Whole Lot Better," which had long been one of my favorite songs by The Byrds. ApologetiX released parodies of "I Won't Back Down" in 2014 and "Runnin' Down a Dream" in 2021. I actually wrote a parody of "Free Fallin'" back in 1992, but we never recorded it. I'd still like to take a shot at that song, but if we did, I'd probably write an entirely different set of lyrics than the '92 version.
1034. Dr. Feelgood - Mötley Crüe
In the summer of 1990, I was in a record store in Myrtle Beach SC on vacation with my family when somebody put on the Dr. FeelgoodLP and let it play as I browsed the bins. It had already been out for nearly a year by then, but I wasn't listening to regular rock or pop radio at the time. I'd never really gotten in Mötley Crüe, although I'd heard their previous Top 40 hits, "Smokin' in the Boys Room" (#16 pop, #7 rock) and "Girls, Girls, Girls" (#12 pop, #20 rock) back in the day. But Dr. Feelgood seemed to have a much bigger, better sound to me, thanks at least in part to new producer Bob Rock, who had just taken The Cult to new heights with their Sonic Temple LP. Released in August 1989, Dr. Feelgood was Crüe's fifth studio LP and their first and only #1 album — knocking out Paula Abdul's Forever Your Girl before being supplanted by Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814 — eventually selling six million copies in the States. It generated five singles: "Dr. Feelgood" (#6 pop, #7 rock); "Kickstart My Heart" (#27 pop, #18 rock); "Without You" (#8 pop, #11 rock); "Don't Go Away Mad (Just Go Away) (#19 pop, #13 rock); and "Same Ol' Situation (S.O.S.) (#78 pop, #34 rock). The rest of the tracks aren't duds, either, musically speaking. However, without my even knowing which songs were chart hits, the two songs that left the biggest impression on me were the title track and "Kickstart My Heart." The overall sound of the album impressed Metallica so much that they hired Bob Rock to help produce their next project, the self-titled, so-called "Black Album." ApologetiX spoofed "Dr. Feelgood" in 2015.
1035. Pump - Aerosmith
Aerosmith's astounding late '80s comeback continued when they followed up their 1987 album Permanent Vacation, which sold five million copies, with Pump, which sold seven million. Released in September '89, it was their first to feature four Top 40 pop hits, three of which topped the rock charts: "Love in an Elevator" (#5 pop, #1 rock), "Janie's Got a Gun" (#4 pop, #2 rock), "What It Takes" (#9 pop, #1 rock), and "The Other Side" (#22 pop, #1 rock). Pumpalso included a couple other cuts that made the Top 20 on the rock chart: "F.I.N.E" (#14 rock) and "Monkey on My Back (#17 rock). I was in isolation while all that action was going on, although I'd heard about "Janie's Got a Gun" on Bob Larson's Talk Back, a Christian radio show I listened to briefly in the early '90s. Moreover, Karl used to like to play the music to "Love in an Elevator" on guitar at our early jam sessions. I eventually borrowed a cassette copy of Pump from my friend Dana. The music rocked, the production was impressive, and Steven Tyler is a formidable vocalist and lyricist. Unfortunately, the words are just too raunchy for me ... although I do have ways of dealing with that. I wrote a parody of "Janie's Got a Gun" in the mid-'90s, which ApologetiX eventually recorded and released in 2013. I came up with several spoof ideas for "Love in an Elevator," too — dating back to those old band practices — but nothing I felt was worth expanding into a full set of lyrics.
1036. Five Man Acoustical Jam - Tesla
Sacramento-based rock band Tesla was charging up the charts as the '90s began. Their first two albums had reached the Top 40 on the Billboard 200, and their 1989 single "Love Song" had hit both the rock and pop Top 10. Tesla's third LP, Five Man Acoustical Jam, was a live affair, with acoustic guitars instead of electric. Released in November 1990, it was similar to but not associated with MTV's ongoing Unplugged series, which had started a year earlier. The big hit off the album was "Signs" (#8 pop, #2 rock), a cover version of the 1971 smash single by the Canadian quintet Five Man Electrical Band (#3 pop), whose name obviously inspired Tesla's Five Man Acoustical Jam title. Karl heard the remake and loved it. As the youngest member of our group at the time, I don't think he was familiar with the original like the rest of us. After all, he was only 14 months old when it came out! Anyway, we soon started jamming on "Signs" in practice, and I wrote a parody, which ApologetiX included on our first homemade live cassette in June '92 and our first official studio album in July '93. I thought the unplugged and acoustical jam concepts were great, and we did an "Unplug-ogetiX" show in March '93. We later released an all-acoustic album called Apol-acoustiX in 2005. Since our drummer and bassist didn't play on it, they jokingly referred to it as "Bill and Keith Unplugged." ApologetiX finally recorded and released a full-fledged live acoustic album with drums and bass — and even piano — called Soundproof in 2010. Harkening back to Tesla, we opened with a remake of our parody of "Signs." We also included a parody of "Truckin'" by The Grateful Dead, a song Tesla had covered as part of the opening track on Five Man Acoustical Jam.
1037. In the Kingdom - Whitecross
At the end of March 1991, Whitecross released their fourth LP, In the Kingdom. Karl bought the CD version soon afterward and played it often. I thought it was a significant step up sonically from their previous album. My favorite tracks were "No Second Chances," "Tell Me the Time," and "Holy War," featuring Alton Hood of D.O.C. on the rap sections. We used to love reciting some of the things he said, like "Hold on, homes, get a grip — I'm droppin' science on the Revelation tip" and "We're living large and takin' charge — gonna park you like a car in your momma's garage." Another tune, "Good Enough," shared the same title as a Van Halen song from the Sammy Hagar era, but the guitars and drums sounded more like one from the David Lee Roth era. Other memorable cuts included "If He Goes Before Me," "Love Is Our Weapon," and the title track. Whitecross lead guitarist Rex Carroll actually came to see ApologetiX in concert in Kenosha WI in 2009, and we got to talk with him before and after the show. Karl was no longer with us by then (having left the band in 2007), but ApX bassist Keith Haynie was a huge fan, and all of us appreciated Whitecross and Rex's considerable guitar talents, so it was quite a thrill.