Written By Braddon S. Williams

Jim Croce: You Don’t Mess Around With Jim

Just thinking about Jim Croce brings back tons of memories of my childhood and my formative years of learning to play guitar.

Jim Croce released You Don’t Mess Around With Jim in 1972, so I would have been 10 years old at the time. I remember being fascinated with the title track, hearing it constantly on AM radio and buying the single. The tale of the pool hall hustler and the revenge of the man named Slim who was wronged just painted this vivid picture in my adolescent mind; very cinematic.

This was a trait of country music, but Jim Croce’s stuff was a hybrid of rock, folk, blues, and country and it was simply “feel good” music.

When I was learning to play guitar I had a teacher who had me pick up a songbook of Croce’s stuff and taught me to finger pick. This gave me an inside look at how these songs were composed and performed, and it carries a lot of wistful nostalgia with the memory.

This album contained so many great songs, like Operator (That’s Not The Way It Feels), Rapid Roy (The Stock Car Boy), New York’s Not My Home, Photographs And Memories, Hard Time Losin’ Man, and the incredibly moving Time In A Bottle.

If you don’t like Jim Croce, I don’t know if we can even have a legitimate friendship!

Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

Written By Braddon S. Williams

Steely Dan: Aja

Music at its best can act as a time machine, transporting us to special moments and places in our past history. Music can link us to places, people and events with a vivid mix of nostalgia and reality.

Steely Dan’s Aja (1977) always delivers me to gatherings that one of my best friends in the world would have back in our high school years.

My friend (brother) would invariably choose music from “The Dan” (particularly Aja) as the soundtrack to his parties, and Aja was perfection for this purpose.

It is almost as if the music that Donald Fagan and Walter Becker created together simply demanded a civilized and elegant gathering of kindred spirits.

Class, elegance, beauty, and a pervasive cool permeated this entire album: every note was in the proper place, and every song was an instant classic.

All these years later, Aja, and indeed Steely Dan’s entire catalog, retains an aura of excellence. I’m not even going to single out any of the 7 glorious songs on this album.

It is a work that demands to be taken in as an entire unit, and whether on vinyl, cassette, compact disc, or streamed, Aja remains a modern masterpiece…a seamless blend of pop, rock, jazz, smooth soul, and dedication to a superior vision.

Aja is timeless, and it is a time machine that always takes me to lovely destinations.

Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

Written By Braddon S. Williams

Joe Cocker: Mad Dogs & Englishmen

Mad Dogs & Englishmen (1970) by Joe Cocker, is a loose congregation of musicians thrown together to fulfill a contract obligation to Cocker’s record label at the time.

The resulting live album still became a classic on the sheer strength of Cocker’s amazing vocals and performance, combined with the talent of the all star band put together by Leon Russell.

Some of the prime cuts include Feelin’ Alright, Cry Me A River, The Letter, Let’s Go Get Stoned, Honky Tonk Women, She Came In Through The Bathroom Window, and Blue Medley.

Joe Cocker became a star at Woodstock the previous year, and Mad Dogs & Englishmen guaranteed the Scottish blues singer would be sticking around for a long time to come.

Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

Written By Braddon S. Williams

Jeff Buckley: Grace

Jeff Buckley only made one album, Grace (1994), but what a record it was!

Initially it wasn’t a hit, but eventually Grace sold over 2 million copies.

Apparently I wasn’t the only one late to the party.

While the songs and the music are admittedly superb, the thing about Grace that is truly magical is Buckley’s voice.

He definitely had superhuman pipes, a voice for the ages. Perhaps his untimely death has enhanced that perception, but one only has to listen to songs like Hallelujah, Mojo Pin, Corpus Christi Carol, Lilac Wine, Last Goodbye, Grace, and Lover You Should’ve Come Over to experience that unearthly tone and wistful mystery that Buckley conjured throughout the album. Artists like Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Robert Plant, and Jimmy Page all held him in high regard, and that sounds like some pretty reliable praise.


Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

Written By Braddon S. Williams

B.B. King: Live at The Regal

Live At The Regal (1965) by B.B. King, is regarded as one of the greatest blues albums ever recorded.

Preserved in the Library Of Congress in the National Recording Registry, Live At The Regal captures B.B. King in his absolute prime, singing in his unmistakable voice and playing his trusty Lucille with that golden touch that was his trademark.

B.B. could say more with one note than most guitarists could in an entire show.

His vibrato and phrasing were on another level of beauty, and he knew just where to place each note for maximum effect.

Live At The Regal features such King classics as How Blue Can You Get, Every Day I Have The Blues, Woke Up This Mornin’, Please Love Me, Sweet Little Angel, and It’s My Own Fault.

The band is exceptional, too…horn section included! B.B. King earned his title of “King Of The Blues” and if you have any doubts, just check out this legendary recording.


Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

Written By Braddon S. Williams

Muddy Waters: Hard Again

Muddy Waters gets my personal vote for the best male vocals ever in blues music.

His “comeback” album Hard Again (1977) leads off with a version of Mannish Boy that sounds like it was recorded live in the studio, complete with producer Johnny Winter contributing guitar and his unmistakable roared “Yeah” as perfect punctuation for Muddy’s authoritative proclamations of his undisputed manliness.

Occasionally one will hear music that translates the joy and love that went into its creation directly to the listener’s soul.

Hard Again is such an album.

The pure enthusiasm that radiates from every syllable uttered by the blues legend is beyond dispute, and it is contagious to all the participating musicians.

Hard Again pops and sizzles in its fathomless and timeless grooves.

Indeed, as one perfectly named song states,

The Blues Had A Baby And They Named It Rock And Roll, Pt. 2…kind of says it all. Other classics include I Can’t Be Satisfied, Deep Down In Florida, Jealous Hearted Man, Cross Eyed Cat, and I Just Want To Be Loved, but it is the towering Mannish Boy that never fades in its glorious power, a testimony to the gigantic legacy of Muddy Waters.


Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

What can I say about Janis Joplin that hasn’t already been said? I love a lot of female vocalists across many diverse musical genres, but Janis is at the top of the mountain for me. Pinpointing why is kind of tricky, because it was a special combination of attributes. She had a voice that she was still learning to harness the full power of while recording Pearl, which was released after her death. There was certainly technique in her singing, but there was also character, fearlessness, vulnerability, reckless abandon, and a fragility that was tragic. You wanted to see her succeed, because she wasn’t supposed to. The odds were against her from the beginning, but she was special, and she found her voice and her people (even though it wasn’t enough to ultimately save her). I know I’m not alone in wondering what else she would have achieved, but I’m also so very thankful for what she left us. Pearl is a beauty of an album, filled with a woman who had triumphed on her own terms. Janis never got to fully realize all the love that people had for her. I wonder if it would have saved her if she had…

Written By Braddon S. Williams

Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind