Influential Albums 1171-1177
Fri., Jul. 28. 2023 1:38pm 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.
1171. Greatest Hits, Volume II - Chicago
Chicago's first greatest hits album, Chicago IX, took the stores by storm during the Christmas season of 1975, topping the Billboard 200 for five weeks and selling five million copies. I got my mine in '78, and wrote about it very early on this list. Their second, Greatest Hits, Volume II, arrived in 1981 but only went to #171 and didn't even sell half a million. It wasn't exactly bereft of hits, though. The contents included three songs that had hit the Top Five: "If You Leave Me Now" (#1), "Baby, What a Big Surprise" (#4), and "Old Days" (#5). Greatest Hits, Volume II featured four additional Top 40 singles, two of which reached #14 — "Alive Again" and "No Tell Lover" — and two of which reached #24 — "Questions 67 & 68" and "Dialogue Part I and II." Well, actually, for some reason, the record company only included "Dialogue Part II," even though they listed both parts on the track listing. That was a bit of bummer for me, because the prime reason I bought this album in May or June of 1999 was to get "Dialogue Part I." Be that as it may, I ended up enjoying quite a few of the other tunes, some of which I already knew and some of which I didn't. My favorites were "Old Days," "Take Me Back to Chicago" (#63), "Gone Long Gone" (#73), and "Alive Again."
1172. Greatest Hits 1982-1989 - Chicago
Released in November 1989, Chicago's third greatest hits album was far more successful than their second. In fact, it sold as many as their first (five million), but the years it covered had been quite good to Chicago. Greatest Hits 1982-1989 featured two #1 hits ("Hard to Say I'm Sorry/Get Away" and "Look Away"), four #3 hits ("Hard Habit to Break," "You're the Inspiration," "Will You Still Love Me?," and "I Don't Wanna Live Without Your Love"), and one #5 hit ("What Kind of Man Would I Be?"). Four other tracks hit the Top 25: "Along Comes a Woman" (#14), "Stay the Night" (#16), "If She Would Have Been Faithful" (#17), and "Love Me Tomorrow" (#22). Unfortunately, it didn't include their other big hit from those years, "You're Not Alone" (#10). Still, it was a great collection. I bought my copy in May or June of '99, right after I got Greatest Hits, Volume II. At the time, ApologetiX had never spoofed Chicago, but we have since released parodies of six of their songs, although all of them came from their first greatest hits album, Chicago IX.
1173. 14:59 - Sugar Ray
Sugar Ray's third LP, 14:59, came out on January 12, 1999. I bought my cassette copy a little over five months later, on Father's Day, June 20. I picked it up at the drug store as an impulse buy while getting photos developed from the first ApologetiX trip to Wisconsin — the same photos that would appear throughout the CD booklet of our fourth LP later that year. Like Sugar Ray's previous album, 14:59 had a monster pop single to drive sales — "Every Morning" (#3 pop, #38 mainstream, #1 alternative for six weeks, #1 adult Top 40 for 10 weeks). But this time around, there was an additional Top 10 hit that would appeal to the same crowd — "Someday" (#7 pop, #7 alternative, #3 adult Top 40) — and other similar songs like "Ode to the Lonely Hearted" and "Even Though." Moreover, 14:59 yielded a third single that rocked a lot more but not so much that it couldn't make the Top 40 — "Falls Apart (Run Away)" (#29 pop, #5 alternative, #16 adult Top 40). I liked that one a whole bunch and was pleasantly surprised when they released it to radio. The ironically-titled opening track, "New Direction (Intro)," was as metal as their previous album, Floored, but the words were all playfully positive, such as "Be nice to your sister, talk to your grandmother, paint pretty pictures, don't play ball in the house, don't run with scissors, be nice to cops ..." The similarly titled closing track, "New Direction (Outro)" isn't metal at all; it's an interesting instrumental interpretation of "Every Morning" with a focus on keyboards. I also like "Personal Space Invader" (and not just for the title, although that was great), "Glory," and "Live & Direct." There was even a revved up cover of Steve Miller's 1982 #1 hit "Abracadabra." Sugar Ray lead singer Mark McGrath did a nice job capturing the Steve Miller vibe, and the rest of the band competently conjured the sound of the original while still modernizing it in a fun fashion. I wrote a parody of "Every Morning" in '99, although ApologetiX didn't record it until 2019. Sugar Ray's self-titled fourth LP, released in June 2001, would produce only two pop hits, but I like them both: "When It's Over" (#13 pop, #2 adult Top 40 for five weeks) and "Answer the Phone" (#112 pop, #33 adult Top 40). Neither of those songs hit the mainstream or alternative rock charts. I'm stunned that "Answer the Phone" wasn't more successful ... musically speaking, it's pop-rock perfection.
1174. Hysteria - Def Leppard
I thought for sure I'd already done an entry for this one when I was covering 1987, but apparently I never did. How could I forget to list an album that topped the Billboard 200 for six weeks while selling 12 million copies in the United States and over 20 million worldwide? I remember reading about the first single, "Women" (#80 pop, #7 mainstream rock), in USA Today but not hearing it much (if at all) on local radio. Things weren't looking particularly promising for Def Leppard's post-Pyromania prospects. Then I heard the second single, "Animal" (#19 pop, #5 mainstream), and bought the 45 immediately. I knew (and still know) that tune was juvenile and silly, but it was also irresistible. My bandmate Tom, who shared an apartment with me at the time, purchased the third single, "Hysteria" (#10 pop, #9 mainstream), which I loved just as much. But I still had no clue how huge the Hysteria LP was going to be. The next three singles would all hit the Top Three: "Pour Some Sugar on Me" (#2 pop, #25 mainstream), "Love Bites" (#1 pop, #3 mainstream), and "Armageddon It" (#3 pop, #3 mainstream). A seventh single, "Rocket" (#12 pop, #5 mainstream), completed the singles cycle. "Women" is a strong album cut and works well for mainstream rock stations, but I'm still not sure why the record company thought it was the best candidate to be the first single released to U.S. pop radio. Maybe this is just 20/20 hindsight, but I think the other six singles were all much better-suited for the Top 40. ApologetiX spoofed "Pour Some Sugar on Me" in 2000 and released subsequent versions in 2004 and 2020. I wrote a parody of "Hysteria" back in the early '90s, but we never recorded it, and if we ever decided to attempt it in the future, I'd want to give the lyrics a complete overhaul. I always wanted to do "Armageddon It," too, and toyed with that a little bit in the early '90s as well.
1175. Vault (Greatest Hits 1980-1995) - Def Leppard
Vault: Def Leppard Greatest Hits (1980–1995) hit the streets in October 1995, but I remember listening to it on the Pennsylvania Turnpike while driving my car to the Creation music festival in June '99, so I must have purchased it shortly before then. I was primarily looking for potential parodies — songs I already knew from Pyromania and Hysteria. There were nine of those on this collection, but the two songs that really struck me came from other albums — "Let's Get Rocked" (#15 pop, #1 mainstream rock) from Adrenalize ('92) and "Two Steps Behind" (#12 pop, #5 mainstream) from Retro Active ('93). I think those are two of Def Leppard's best tunes. The other selections culled for this collection from those albums were decent, too: "Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad" (#12 pop, #7 mainstream) and "Miss You in a Heartbeat" (#39 pop). Vault contained 15 tracks total but none from the band's first LP and only one from their second, "Bringin' on the Heartbreak" (#61 pop). It did include a new single, "When Love and Hate Collide" (#58 U.S. pop, #2 U.K.), although that one sounds a lot like "Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad" to me. The European version of Vault had a few different songs on it that would have sounded great on the U.S. version: "Make Love Like a Man" (#36 pop, #3 mainstream, #12 U.K.), "Heaven Is" (#13 U.K.), and "Action" (#14 U.K.), a cover of the old Sweet hit from the mid-'70s. However, they're on the two-disc 2018 compilation The Story So Far - The Best Of, which also has everything on Vault except "Miss You in a Heartbeat," plus 21 other tracks.
1176. Step Up to the Microphone - Newsboys
This album represents a huge turning point for me; it ushered in some of the worst and best times of my life. I bought the seventh Newsboys LP, Step Up to the Microphone, at the Creation '99 music festival (June 23-26), where those awesome Aussie artists were headlining the Saturday-night schedule. I think the on-site music store had a special where you got both the CD and the cassette together for one low price. I listened to it the whole way home on Sunday. Wow ... so many great songs ... leading off with the 1-2-3 punch of "WooHoo," "Step Up to the Microphone," and "Entertaining Angels." My other favorites were "Tuning In," "Truth Be Known - Everybody Gets a Shot," and "Deep End," but I enjoyed it all. Although I'd attended Creation '88 and Creation '92 as plain old me, I came to Creation '99 as plain old me acting as an ambassador for ApologetiX. We'd rented a space in the vendor area, set up displays with brochures, and installed CD players so people could listen to our parodies on headphones with the old "try before you buy" approach. It worked amazingly well. I drove there a day or two before the other ApX members and got the ball rolling. We'd played our first major festival a month earlier in Rockford IL, and it had gone so well that our longtime friend and occasional drummer Keith Harrold, who was also a very successful representative for Word Records, recommended we start looking into playing some of the big national festivals. At the time, Creation was the biggest (and the closest to us), plus Keith also managed the bookstore there every year. Thanks in part to the groundwork we laid at Creation '99, we ended up playing the main stage at Creation 2000. But getting back to 1999, just as doors were opening up for ApologetiX, the door to my first marriage was about to be slammed shut ... unbeknownst to me. I'd been married since July 17, 1993, and I went to Creation '99 with the full blessing of my wife at the time. Eight days after returning home from the festival, I discovered she'd been having an affair with a man from her past and wanted a divorce from me. I tried hard to get her to reconcile but all efforts proved fruitless. To make matters even more heartbreaking, we had a daughter who was only two and a half years old. In an effort to save the marriage, I said I'd put the band on immediate hiatus — either temporarily (as we'd done for five months in '97 when there was a similar situation that wasn't quite as dire) or permanently — but my soon-to-be-ex-wife said the affair had nothing to do with ApologetiX, and that she actually looked forward to the weekends when I was on the road. I agonized over the situation, prayed a lot, and sought counsel from friends, pastors, and lawyers, eventually coming up with a separation agreement that at least allowed me to have custody of our daughter from Monday mornings through Thursday nights. I moved out of the house on what was supposed to be our sixth anniversary. I remember having Step Up to the Microphone on while packing up and moving out. It was a sad day and a gut-wrenching time. But God would do such unexpected, wonderful things for me in the year (and years) to come that the music on this album does not bring back painful memories.
1177. Astro Lounge - Smash Mouth
Smash Mouth's second LP, Astro Lounge, came out in early June 1999. I bought it on cassette about a month later, because I already had a parody idea for the first single, "All Star" (#4 pop, #2 alternative for three weeks), which I'd loved as soon as I heard it on the radio. I remember listening to the album in my car in July ... it was stiflingly hot outside, and I was trying to take my mind off my first wife's desire for a divorce. I'd been praying a lot, but I needed something to distract me. Ironically, the parody I wrote had the hook line "Pray now — it's a lost art." When I listened to Astro Lounge in its entirety, I was astounded at how good it was. Smash Mouth's previous album showed promise; this one blew me away. "All Star" was the fifth track, but the first four tracks were top-notch, too: "Who's There," "Diggin' Your Scene," "I Just Wanna See," and "Waste" (#39 adult Top 40 airplay). So was the sixth, "Satellite." Two additional tracks hit multiple charts, and I loved 'em both — "Then the Morning Comes" (#11 pop, #26 alternative) and "Can't Get Enough of You Baby" (#27 pop airplay, #30 alternative), a cover of an old song by ? & The Mysterians that had hit #56 in the 1967. The Smash Mouth version had originally been released on the soundtrack for the movie Can't Hardly Wait in July '98. Among the remaining tracks, my favorite song was the amusing "Road Man." However, "Radio," "Defeat You," and "Come On, Come On" are all cool, too. As a matter of fact, all 15 tracks are solid. Astro Lounge made it to #6 on the Billboard 200 and sold three million copies.