Influential Albums 1164-1170
Thu., Jul. 20. 2023 12:17am 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.
Note: Just because an album appears on this list doesn't mean I give it a blanket endorsement. Many of the secular albums on this list are mainly there because they wound up being spoofed by ApologetiX.
1164. The Hollow - Tom Franzak
In earlier entries, I mentioned a couple cassettes my old high-school buddy Dave Rider lent me in 1987 by a guy named Tom Franzak, an artist who released a pair of contemporary Christian (CCM) LPs on Myrrh Records in '83 and '85. Those two tapes left a lasting impression on me. However, that was all I ever heard from Tom Franzak ... until 10 years later. I just happened to see a blurb that said he would be doing a concert at a church in the Pittsburgh area. I made it my business to be there and sat as close to the stage as I could. He noticed I was singing along in my seat (not loudly, mind you) and even jokingly commented on that from the stage: "This guy knows all the words." When the show was over, I had the pleasure of meeting him in person and telling him about the impact he'd made in my life. I also picked up one of his later releases, The Hollow, and listened to it a lot. Unfortunately, I lent it to somebody and never got it back. Perhaps that's fitting, since I kept Dave's cassettes so long. Anyway, my favorite tracks on it were "Unless a Grain Falls" and "Somewhere They're Dancing." Another memorable track was "Powerless." Tom had been based in Los Angeles when he released those '80s cassettes, but, at the concert, I discovered he was actually a native Pennsylvanian. Although originally from the eastern side of the state near Philadelphia (born in Bethlehem PA and raised in Nazareth PA, believe it or not), he had moved to the western side, near Pittsburgh. Shortly after the show, Tom and I exchanged emails. He invited me to meet him for a meal sometime, but I was too shy to take him up on his offer. Karl later did some website design work for him. I met up with Tom again at one of our concerts in 2000. It was an outdoor church festival, and he happened to be in the area. In November 2004, I finally took him up on his offer, and we had a nice long conversation at a local Eat'n Park restaurant. I've sent him some emails and messages over the years since then to remind him how much his music has meant to me.
1165. Lemon Parade - Tonic
Released in July 1996, Lemon Parade was the debut LP from Los Angeles rock band Tonic. The first three tracks were released to radio in the same order as they appear on the album: "Open Up Your Eyes" (#68 pop airplay, #2 mainstream rock for three weeks, #22 alternative), "Casual Affair" (#8 mainstream), and "If You Could Only See" (#11 pop airplay, #1 mainstream for five weeks, #3 alternative for five weeks). Of those, the hard-driving "Casual Affair" is probably my favorite. If you like the aforementioned songs, you'll probably enjoy the rest of Lemon Parade, because it has a pretty consistent sound, although that doesn't mean it's boring. I started working on a parody of "If You Could Only See" in '98. I finally finished the lyrics in 2020 and ApologetiX released it later that year. Joe Cataneo played guitars on that recording. Tonic is one of his favorite bands; he saw them live in 2019. Lemon Parade reached #28 on the Billboard 200 and sold one million copies.
1166. All the Pain Money Can Buy - Fastball
Formerly known as "Magneto U.S.A.," alternative pop-rock band Fastball originated in Austin TX. Their second LP, All the Pain Money Can Buy, came out in March 1998 and sold a million copies, going as high as #29 on the Billboard 200. I enjoyed immensely all three of the hits: "The Way" (#5 pop airplay, #25 mainstream rock, #1 alternative for seven weeks, #2 adult Top 40 for 10 weeks), "Fire Escape" (#86 pop, #25 mainstream, #13 alternative, #19 adult Top 40), and "Out of My Head" (#20 pop, #3 adult Top 40 for five weeks). ApologetiX released a parody of "The Way" in 1999. I bought All the Pain Money Can Buy in order to write that spoof, but I instantly fell in love with "Fire Escape." It's one of my favorite songs from the '90s and should have been a much bigger hit. And I still find myself singing "Out of My Head" spontaneously on random occasions a quarter of a century later.
1167. Stunt - Barenaked Ladies
I'd been hearing about Toronto-based alternative-rock band Barenaked Ladies for at least a year or two by the time they released their fourth studio LP, Stunt, in July 1998. They were one of those "I'll have to check 'em out someday" acts. I could tell by their titles that the boys in BNL were clever writers, but I had no idea those Canadian comedians were such masterful musicians. Wow. Karl was high on the album's first single, "One Week" (#1 pop, #1 alternative for five weeks), and drew my attention to it. I also started hearing "It's All Been Done" (#44 pop, #15 alternative) on the radio, and I liked that one, too, so I bought the cassette. Two other cuts charted. The first, "Alcohol" (#33 alternative), didn't do much for me. The second, "Call and Answer" (#121 pop), was breathtakingly beautiful ... but, being Barenaked Ladies, they had to insert a diabolical twist at the end. My favorite non-hits among the 13 tracks were the tongue-in-cheek sci-fi ballad "Light Up My Room" and the charming, disarming, and ultimately alarming duet "Some Fantastic." I also liked "Who Needs Sleep?" and "Never Is Enough." Stunt made it the whole way up to #3 on the Billboard 200 and sold four million copies in the United States. I wrote a parody of "One Week" in '98, and ApologetiX recorded and released it in '99. I'll talk more about that later on this list.
1168. Dizzy Up the Girl - Goo Goo Dolls
Released in September 1998, Dizzy Up the Girl was the sixth studio LP by Buffalo-based alternative pop-rock band Goo Goo Dolls. I was already familiar with the group thanks to their previous project, the hilariously titled A Boy Named Goo, but this one kind of snuck up on me while I was immersed in all things ApologetiX. The album's biggest hit, "Iris" (#1 pop airplay for 18 weeks, #8 mainstream rock, #1 alternative for five weeks) originally came out six months earlier as part of the soundtrack for the movie City of Angels, starring Nicholas Cage and Meg Ryan. However, the first new single from Dizzy Up the Girl was a worthy successor — "Slide" (#8 pop, #4 mainstream, #1 alternative) — in fact, I like it even more than the impressive "Iris." Three subsequent singles also charted: "Dizzy" (#108 pop, #13 mainstream, #9 alternative), "Black Balloon" (#16 pop, #28 mainstream, #13 alternative), and "Broadway" (#24 pop, #38 alternative). Of those, my favorite is "Dizzy." I like the non-hit track "January Friend," too. Dizzy Up the Girl peaked at #15 on the Billboard 200 with sales of over five million in the United States alone. ApologetiX spoofed "Slide" in 2014. We also spoofed "Name" (#5 pop, #1 mainstream for five weeks, #1 alternative for four weeks) from A Boy Name Goo in '96 and 2017.
1169. Original Masters - Jethro Tull
This Jethro Tull compilation features a dozen selections from 1969-77. It came out in November 1995, and I bought my copy in '96 or '97 because there were a few songs on it I thought had parody potential: "Aqualung," "Locomotive Breath," and "Bungle in the Jungle." ApologetiX eventually released parodies of all three — in 2010, 2019, and 2023, respectively. But my favorite Tull tunes on this album were actually "Living in the Past," "Thick as a Brick," and "Skating Away on the Thin Ice of a New Day." Over the course of our lives, certain songs supply the soundtrack for significant moments, and Original Masters yielded one of those for me. In the late fall of '98, the corporation I worked for decided to downsize and offered a sweet early-retirement deal to all of its employees, no matter how old they were or how many years of service they had. For legal reasons, management couldn't tell any of us if we would still have our jobs or not, so it was a calculated risk to accept or reject the offer. At the time, ApologetiX was really starting to pick up momentum and needed me to handle the administrative duties full time. I needed a home computer, though, and the lump-sum payment and severance package would allow for that and also enable me to work full-time in the service of the band for the following six months without worrying about compensation. I decided to go for it, even though one of my superiors secretly informed me my job was not in danger. I remember driving home from work after finalizing the decision and popping Original Masters into my car's cassette deck. I deliberately did that so I could play "Skating Away on the Thin Ice of a New Day," because the title seemed to sum up the situation. My last day of work was in late December '98. I'm writing this entry in July 2023, so it's been almost 25 consecutive years now that God has enabled me to do ApologetiX as my sole occupation. To quote two other titles on Original Masters, "Life's a Long Song," and it's been a "Sweet Dream." Praise the Lord!
1170. Jesus Christ Morningstar - ApologetiX
Although it wasn't released until December 11, 1998, we started planning the fourth ApologetiX album in '95 ... at about the same time as the third one. I wanted it to be a chronological look at the life of Christ. At first, the working title was Back Again, which I later changed to Christology. That's a genuine theological term for the study of the nature and work of Christ, although the "Christ" in that word is pronounced like the "Christ" in "Christmas." Then in October '96, shock-rocker Marilyn Manson released his second studio LP, Antichrist Superstar. The name of that album disturbed me, as did its popularity (#3 on the Billboard 200, with sales of almost two million copies). Even though I couldn't envision us spoofing any of its songs, we decided to play off the title, which worked well, because part of the impetus for this project was to create something like Jesus Christ Superstar but with a more biblically accurate portrayal of Jesus. It was a significant step forward for us at the time, although I think our 2015 LP Easter Standard Time came a lot closer to what I had in mind back then. Regardless of the comparative quality, Jesus Christ Morningstar was a huge hit for us. It was our first release to get a proper review in a major newspaper, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Our local rock station, 102.5 FM WDVE, even played the opening track, "Hotel Can't Afford Ya." 'Twas the season, after all. Because our previous CD, Ticked, featured only '90s parodies, especially alternative stuff, it had a limited audience. Jesus Christ Morningstar had songs from the '60s, '70s, '80s, and '90s ... something for everybody. Right about then, I came across an online list of names and email addresses for program directors and station managers at Christian rock stations all over the United States. I sent personalized emails to each of them, describing what ApologetiX did and offering to send a free copy of our new CD. In those early days of internet awareness, emails were still a nice novelty, and it was a lot easier to reach important people than it is now. A surprising number of radio folks responded positively to my emails, and an amazing amount of their listeners responded enthusiastically when songs from Jesus Christ Morningstar were played on the air. Soon, we were getting phone calls from Christian bookstores all over the United States, asking how to order our CDs. For example, I remember receiving requests from six different stores in Hawaii over the course of two days, because the local station, KAIM, was playing us. Alo-huh? Mind blown.