Written By Braddon S. Williams

Pink Floyd: Dark Side Of The Moon

Shortly after I began this marathon project last year it occurred to me that my start date was 4/21, meaning my final review would fall on 4/20. From that point it became clear that there was only one possible outcome for the last album in the series…Ladies and Gentlemen, I give to you Dark Side Of The Moon (1973) by Pink Floyd! Everything about this album is classic, iconic, and larger than life.

It spent an unfathomable amount of time in the charts (over 900 to date), sold a staggering 45 million units (and counting!), has one of the most recognizable covers in all of rock music (with no title or band name listed), and continues to be a staple of rock radio all these many years later.

Dark Side Of The Moon explores timeless topics like death, greed, mental illness, and time itself.

The music was impeccably recorded and engineered, appealing to audiophiles and casual listeners alike. Dark Side was also a more collaborative effort from the band, recorded in a time before Roger Waters became the primary songwriter.

Of course, the songs themselves have become beloved to generations of Floyd fans; Money, Us And Them, Brain Damage, Time, Breathe, Eclipse, and The Great Gig In The Sky.

David Gilmour, Roger Waters, Rick Wright, and Nick Mason created something epic and cosmic and ultimately relatable to countless people across the globe and across a significant span of time.

Music is indeed the universal language, and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon speaks to the universe.

https://youtu.be/JwYX52BP2Sk

Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

Written By Braddon S. Williams

The Beatles: Abbey Road

“And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make” – Paul McCartney

As I near the end of this most satisfying journey into my musical inspirations and taste, I think it is appropriate to discuss Abbey Road (1969), the final time The Beatles were all in a recording studio together.

Abbey Road featured all the things that made The Beatles so wonderful: the melodies, the harmonies, the creativity, the usage of the studio as a component of their compositions…and the one-of-a-kind chemistry the Fab Four generated.

Lennon & McCartney were now challenged by George Harrison as a writer equal to their immense talents. Harrison contributed Here Comes The Sun, and the incomparable Something, proving he had established his own voice as a composer.

John and Paul had their own triumphs, adding to their own legacy, with Come Together, Golden Slumbers, I Want You (She’s So Heavy), and Carry That Weight.

Ringo Starr even got a fun entry with the whimsical Octopus’s Garden.

The suite of song fragments on Side Two of the original vinyl release was a brilliant display of The Beatles acting as their own editors; making something timeless and thrilling out of songs that might never have been completed otherwise. On The End, the boys had some fun flexing their musical muscles, with the roundabout of lead guitar trade offs from Paul, George, and John, and even a quick drum solo from Ringo.

The album cover generated a lot of speculation, conspiracy theories, and controversy on its own…and though it didn’t include the name of the record or even the band’s name…it wasn’t necessary, because everyone in the world knew The Beatles. They were a phenomenon, and Abbey Road is a phenomenal album.

https://youtu.be/hL0tnrl2L_U

Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

Written By Braddon S. Williams

Jimi Hendrix: Electric Ladyland

Jimi Hendrix was so much more than just a gifted guitarist. With his final studio album, 1968’s double disc opus Electric Ladyland, Hendrix exploded the boundaries of what was possible in a recording studio.

Assisted by ace engineer Eddie Kramer, Hendrix was able to utilize every aspect of the limited (though state of the art for the time) amount of tracks available, seemingly inventing sounds out of thin air and panning them left to right and surrounding the listener with a dense array of sonic textures.

Jimi had influences just like any other artist, but what set him apart was the fact that there was really no precedent for much of what he did in his short career. He had such a vivid musical imagination, and he found ways to make his visions come to life. Guitar effects pedals were invented from ideas he had and was able to communicate to the manufacturers.

In addition to all this innovative playing, the Experience also gathered some top notch guest stars, like Steve Winwood, Jack Casady, Chris Wood, Al Kooper, and Buddy Miles.

Jimi’s writing and singing always lived in the shadow of his playing, but he both wrote and sang some great stuff on Electric Ladyland. Voodoo Chile, Voodoo Child (Slight Return), Gypsy Eyes, House Burning Down, Crosstown Traffic, 1983 (A Merman I Should Turn To Be), Burning Of The Midnight Lamp, and Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland) were all great pieces of work, but of course his iconic cover of Bob Dylan’s All Along The Watchtower was the song that drew the most attention. It was so good that Dylan himself started performing Hendrix’s arrangement of it in his own concerts.

Electric Ladyland stands as a monumental achievement of the psychedelic ’60’s, and a testament to Jimi Hendrix’s lasting status as one of the greatest guitarists (and musicians) in history.

Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

Written By Braddon S. Williams

David Bowie: Hunky Dory

I have come to realize that David Bowie has one of the richest catalogues in all of music. I previously reviewed 3 of my favorites by the legend, and discovered that choosing just one more was not going to be easy, considering just how many monumental disks were remaining that deserve to be on this list. Hunky Dory (1971) made the cut because it contains my all-time favorite Bowie song (Life On Mars?), as well as Changes, Eight Line Poem, Andy Warhol, Quicksand, Song For Bob Dylan, and the utterly amazing Oh! You Pretty Things.

Hunky Dory has been acclaimed as one of David Bowie’s best works, and has made many lists of greatest albums of all time.

I could have just as easily chosen Young Americans, Diamond Dogs, Station To Station, Heroes, Let’s Dance, or even one of the later ones like Heathen or his final album, Blackstar. Honestly, it came down to Life On Mars? That is just such a perfect song.

Rick Wakeman’s piano, coupled with those randomly poetic images that are totally open to interpretation, and that absolutely glorious voice!

David Bowie was eloquent, stylish, fearless, elegant, and an innovator in many styles of music right up until the end. There will never be another like him.

Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

Written By Braddon S. Williams

Nine Inch Nails: Pretty Hate Machine

Trent Reznor’s Nine Inch Nails made a fan of me with the arrival of 1989’s Pretty Hate Machine. Industrial music with heart and raw human emotion was Reznor’s particular form of genius, and Pretty Hate Machine functioned on multiple levels due to the strength of the songwriting.

Head Like A Hole was the breakout single, and it was full of rage, angst, and rebellion. The video gained NIN an instant cult of fanatical followers, and Reznor’s touring version of the band started building a legacy of revolutionary live performances. Other memorable songs included Terrible Lie, Sin, Sanctified, Down In It, That’s What I Get, Ringfinger, and the monumental Something I Can Never Have (my favorite Nails song).

Reznor was critical of the album’s production, and it is certainly nowhere near the level of sound that listeners would become accustomed to with subsequent NIN albums.

I always hoped Reznor would take the time to re-record Pretty Hate Machine with state of the art sound…the songs are good enough that it would have been a project worthy of salivating over!

As it is, Pretty Hate Machine established Reznor as a force to be reckoned with, and as a sort of antidote to much of the grunge explosion that would rule the music world in the following years. For myself personally, PanterA and NIN were a welcome respite from the Seattle sound (and I loved a lot of that stuff, too) in the ’90’s, so I will take a flawed production with the quality of songwriting that was present on Pretty Hate Machine.

https://youtu.be/ao-Sahfy7Hg

Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

Written By Braddon S. Williams

The Rolling Stones: Some Girls

Some Girls (1978) by The Rolling Stones was arguably the last truly great album the venerable British rock royalty ever released, but it was certainly an amazing piece of work. Some Girls was the first album featuring Ron Wood as a full member of the band, and although he doesn’t get all the credit for its success, his style certainly meshed perfectly with Keith Richards’ guitar work.

Mick Jagger actually contributed guitar to several songs and generally took charge of the recording and writing of much of the material.

New York City was a big influence for Jagger and appears in the lyrics of many songs as a virtual character in the music.

The musical climate in 1978 was full of both disco and punk, and both of these clashing styles found their way into the Stones vocabulary.

Miss You, in particular, had one of the most recognizable disco bass lines of all time and became the last number one hit for the band.

Shattered, When The Whip Comes Down, Respectable, Before They Make Me Run, and the wonderful Beast Of Burden were all standout tracks. For me personally, one of my favorites was the country song, Faraway Eyes, where Wood played some tasty pedal steel guitar and Jagger did his best impersonation of a Southern American country boy. Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me) proved that the Stones could pull off r & b, too…the old Temptations song was handled with class and passion by Mick and the lads.

All in all, at a time when they had been kind of written off by the rock press, The Rolling Stones stormed back and proved conclusively why they deserved the title of “The World’s Greatest Rock And Roll Band!”

https://youtu.be/hic-dnps6MU

Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

Written By Braddon S. Williams

Alice Cooper: Welcome To My Nightmare

Alice Cooper released his first solo album, Welcome To My Nightmare, in 1975. All his previous albums had been the Alice Cooper group. With Nightmare, the Coop had basically bought Lou Reed’s stellar backing band and enlisted the production wizardry of Bob Ezrin to create the fantastic concept of a boy/man named Steven and his nightmares.

Alice made a tv special based on the record and launched a massive tour in support of his new solo identity. I remember purchasing this album and spending considerable time investigating all the sonic possibilities within via a great set of headphones.

Horror movie legend Vincent Price performed a suitably creepy voice over for the song The Black Widow (that I have memorized still to this day).

Images abound in the songs, like the frozen lover in Cold Ethyl, the abused woman in Only Women Bleed, the spiders coming out to play in the bridge between Devil’s Food (with one of the heaviest riffs I had heard up to that time) and The Black Widow. Then, on side two, the cinematic trio of Years Ago, Steven, and The Awakening provided me with a mini-movie of the mind every time I listened to them.

The hard rocking Department Of Youth united all of us alienated teens, and the nearly punk energy of Escape brought the party to a satisfying close.

In 2011, Cooper even made a sequel, Welcome 2 My Nightmare (reminding me that I need to pick that up one of these days), another concept album that continues the story line, I believe. I have been an enormous fan of Alice Cooper since my very earliest days of being consumed by my lifelong obsession and love affair with rock music.

In July of this year I will be seeing him live for the 10th time. I am just as excited about this as I was the first time I saw him perform in 1978. Long live the Coop!

https://youtu.be/aOeP4p1fjMs

Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind