Influential Albums 1080-86
Fri., Apr. 28. 2023 2:29pm 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:
1080. The Gift: A Colours Christmas - Various Artists
Released in 1986 by Maranatha! Music, this instrumental LP is my all-time favorite Christmas album. I'm trying to present these entries chronologically as to when they showed up in my life, which is why The Gift: A Colours Christmas appears here on the list. I think I first heard it in December '93, but I dig it out every year ... and I dig it every time I play it. I'm not sure how to categorize the contents, but the overall audio aura reminds me a bit of Mannheim Steamroller. It has a pretty consistent sound but contains contributions from Jeff Lams, John Andrew Schreiner, Tom Howard, Harlan Rogers, Smitty Price, and Kenneth Nash. The songs are traditional; the arrangements are not. That can backfire when you're doing well-known Christmas carols, but for some reason it works on this project. I think of The Gift: A Colours Christmas as mood music, although that mood varies from melancholy to joyful. The epic six-and-a-half-minute closer, "Angels We Have Heard On High / We Three Kings / God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," was the selection that sealed the deal for me. Other tracks I treasure include "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear," "The Invitation / O Come, All Ye Faithful," "Joy to the World," "What Child Is This," "Carol of the Bells," and "Bring a Torch."
1081. Squint - Steve Taylor
As mentioned previously, I discovered Steve Taylor in 1988 and immersed myself in his music catalog ... but I had to wait until 1993 for him to put out a new solo album, Squint. And when he finally did, I was so distracted by all the stuff we were doing with ApologetiX that I don't think I checked it out until at least '94. In fact, it took a recommendation from my old friend Dave Rhodes, who let me borrow his cassette copy. Taylor's wonderful wit was sharper than ever, with songs like "The Lament of Desmond R.G. Underwood-Frederick IV," "Bannerman," "Smug," "Easy Listening," and "Cash Cow (A Rock Opera in Three Small Acts)." Yet the two tracks I loved most were dead serious: the powerfully poignant "Jesus Is for Losers" and the incredibly inspirational "The Finish Line." Of course, even when Taylor was playing it straight, he was still a master of lyrical curveballs. I'd eventually learn that his lyrics could be just as effective when sung by others, as I'll explain down the line on this list. At some point later, I saw Steve perform material from Squint in concert for Family Day at Kennywood, a legendary, beloved, Pittsburgh-area amusement park. Although the show was outdoors, it was one of the loudest I've ever attended. ApologetiX played Family Day at Kennywood in 2006, and I'd imagine that we were probably one of the loudest shows some other people have ever attended.
1082. Don't Censor Me - Audio Adrenaline
I first heard the Audio Adrenaline anthem "Big House" used by The Liberty Christian Drama Players at the Paradise Club in May 1994. I couldn't get that chorus out of my head and kept singing it, so somebody gave me the album it came from, Don't Censor Me, as a Christmas gift. Although I didn't realize it at the time, I'd actually heard a couple songs from the band's 1992 self-titled debut LP — "My God" (on the Saturday Night Light radio show on WPIT FM) and "PDA" (on a mix tape a friend had made). They were catchy but a bit more raw. Released in October '93, Don't Censor Me was Audio Adrenaline's second album and contained five tracks that reached the Top 15 on the Christian Hit Radio (CHR) chart: "Big House," "My World View," "Rest Easy," "Can't Take God Away," and "A.K.A. Public School." Even so, aside from "Big House," the cuts I like best on the album are actually "We're a Band, "Soulmate," "Scum Sweetheart," and the title track. Additional Audio Adrenaline albums would follow, featuring future favorites.
1083. Get a Grip - Aerosmith
Aerosmith's 11th studio LP, Get a Grip, came out in April 1993. I bought a used cassette copy at the end of June 1994, days before my 30th birthday. That's fitting, because the album's first single was called "Livin' on the Edge" (#18 pop, #1 rock for nine weeks). Three other singles from Get a Grip also hit the Top 25 of the pop chart: "Cryin'" (#12 pop, #1 rock for six weeks), "Amazing" (#24 pop, #3 rock), and "Crazy" (#17 pop, #7 rock). The similarity in titles among those last three tunes prompted a Saturday Night Live routine that used various combinations like "Amazing Crazy Cryin'." I never saw the skit myself ... only heard about it second hand ... but I found the concept amusing ... or should I say "amuzing"? Although I purchased Get a Grip for the sake of potential parodies, ApologetiX never spoofed any of those songs. However, we did allude to all four of them (and another from a later album) at the end of our 2004 live recording of "Walk His Way," where I say, "Religion on the edge. I like my ... religion on the edge. It's amazing. But I ain't crazy, and I ain't cryin', and I ain't j-j-jaded no more." Two other cuts from Get a Grip also got a lot of airplay: "Eat the Rich" and "Fever," both of which peaked at #5 on the rock chart. I was instantly impressed with the thundering sound of the rockin' "Eat the Rich," which acted as the album's opener after a 24-second rap intro. Get a Grip became Aerosmith's first #1 album, moving seven million units in the States alone. With sales like that, perhaps Steven Tyler and Joe Perry (who wrote or cowrote all 14 tracks) should have been more careful about whom they encouraged their enthusiasts to eat.
1084. The Lion King - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
In mid-July 1994, I visited my oldest sister Jeannine and her husband and four kids in Stone Mountain GA. While there, we went to see a couple movies at Jeannine's recommendation, one of which was Disney's The Lion King. It had been out for a month by then, and my nephew and nieces already owned the soundtrack. As a fan of both Elton John and Tim Rice (who wrote the music and lyrics, respectively), I was likely to like it. The first five tracks were the big numbers featured in the film itself: "Circle of Life," "I Just Can't Wait to Be King," "Be Prepared," "Hakuna Matata," and "Can You Feel the Love Tonight." Next came four instrumental pieces from the movie score by Hans Zimmer, followed finally by Elton's own renditions of "Circle of Life," "I Just Can't Wait to Be King," and "Can You Feel the Love Tonight." Of course, I'd already heard that last one plenty of times on the radio. It not only went to #4 on the pop chart; it topped the adult contemporary chart for eight weeks! I thought it was marvelous ... some of his best work in years. The second single, "Circle of Life," only made it as far as #18 on the pop chart but reached #2 on the AC chart and stayed there for three weeks. Consequently, The Lion King soundtrack sold 10 million copies stateside and stayed atop the Billboard 200 for 10 weeks. For a little perspective, consider the fact that the previous #1 album was by Stone Temple Pilots and the next was by Boys II Men. And, hey, the movie wasn't bad, either. That's a good thing for me, considering the fact that I now have five kids, so I've had to watch it and two sequels many times over the course of the next three decades.
1085. Forrest Gump - The Soundtrack
The second movie my sister Jeannine took me to see in July 1994 ended up being my second favorite film of all time — Forrest Gump. And what a soundtrack! 32 songs on two CDs, with hits from 1956 through 1980. Apparently, I wasn't the only one who was impressed; it went on to sell 12 million copies in the United States alone and peaked at #2 for five weeks on the Billboard 200. ApologetiX has spoofed seven of the songs on this album: "Hound Dog" (Elvis Presley), "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35" (Bob Dylan), "Break On Through" (The Doors), "Mrs. Robinson" (Simon & Garfunkel), "Joy to the World" (Three Dog Night), "Sweet Home Alabama" (Lynyrd Skynyrd), and "Running on the Empty" (Jackson Browne), which appeared as a bonus track on the 2001 edition. I thought the movie made excellent use of the music (not an easy thing to do, since most of the songs had been played to death long before '94), particularly "Volunteers" (Jefferson Airplane), "Fortunate Son" (Creedence Clearwater Revival), "Against the Wind" (Bob Seger), and a couple other songs that didn't appear on the soundtrack album — "All Along the Watchtower" (Jimi Hendrix) and "Free Bird" (Lynyrd Skynyrd). ApologetiX also spoofed those last two tracks, along with another tune that appeared in the film but not on the album, "Get Down Tonight" (K.C. and the Sunshine Band). Furthermore, we spoofed the cover of this album and one of the sayings from the movie with our 2015 LP Music Is as Music Does.
1086. The Sign - Ace of Base
Released in late November 1993, The Sign was Ace of Base's debut LP in North America. Some of the selections had already appeared a year earlier on the familial foursome's (three of the members were siblings) first album elsewhere, Happy Nation — most notably their breakthrough hit in the States, "All That She Wants" (#2 for three weeks). But three new songs on The Sign became the next three singles: "The Sign" (#1 for six weeks), "Don't Turn Around" (#4), and "Living in Danger" (#20). The titles of those last two could have served as a fitting warning to ABBA and Roxette ... there was a new Swedish superstar act in town, coming for the crown. The Sign sold 10 million copies, topping the Billboard 200 for two non-consecutive weeks in the spring of '94. I was aware of the album by then, but most of my exposure to it happened that summer while visiting my nephew and nieces in Georgia. "Beautiful Life," the first single from the group's follow-up LP, stalled at #15. However, Ace of Base had one more Top 10 hit up its sleeve, a cover of "Cruel Summer," which went to #10 in '98, just a notch below Bananarama's original, which went to #9 in 1984.