Written By Braddon S. Williams

AC/DC: Let There Be Rock

AC/DC were touring in support of Let There Be Rock (1977) when I saw them open for Kiss in December of that year.

To be completely honest, I hadn’t heard a note of AC/DC’s music at that point in time, but I had heard of the band. Little did I know that they quite nearly stole the show from Kiss (who were my undisputed favorite band at that time). Oh yes, and I was in the front row, so I witnessed AC/DC with Bon Scott at the peak of their formidable powers!

Anyway, Let There Be Rock has been claimed by Angus and Malcolm Young to be the first fully formed AC/DC album.

They were in danger of being dropped by their label at the time (crazy, right?) and they were pissed off about it. The result? Guitars…LOUD guitars…and a legend was born.

Bon Scott’s whisky drenched howling banshee of a voice rode atop the Young brothers’ wall of sound, and Mark Evans (bass) and Phil Rudd (drums) provided the granite foundation.

The songs would go on to be concert staples in the live show for decades to come…Problem Child, Whole Lotta Rosie, Bad Boy Boogie, Hell Ain’t A Bad Place To Be, and the crushing onslaught of the title track, Let There Be Rock.

Even the songs that didn’t become live classics (Go Down, Overdose, Dog Eat Dog) are completely badass.

Let There Be Rock is basically a perfect album…all killer, no filler…crank it up and bang your head!


Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

Written By Braddon S. Williams

St. Vincent: Actor

Of any new musical artists I have grown attached to in the past 5 years, St. Vincent is near the top of the list.

St. Vincent (Annie Clark) released Actor in 2009, and it is a work of genius. I love her quirkiness, her courage, her individuality, her brilliant song arrangements, her subtle and subversive guitar work, her voice (both vocal and spiritual), but mostly I love St. Vincent because she sounds original…and in this day and age that is a remarkable achievement.

Actor contains quite possibly the best song she has ever written, Black Rainbows, a work of absolutely mesmerizing beauty.

Marrow is another slice of perfection, juxtaposing jarring rhythms with lush keyboard swirls and a melody that worms itself into your psyche and sticks around for eons.

Actor Out Of Work, Laughing With A Mouth Of Blood, The Strangers, The Party, The Sequel, Save Me From What I Want, and Just The Same But Brand New are all delicious tracks, too. If you haven’t discovered St. Vincent yet, why are you still reading this? Go find some of her music and prepare to fall in love!

Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

Written By Braddon S. Williams

Tool: Undertow

Tool released their debut studio album, the outstanding Undertow, in 1993. This set in motion a career of enigmatic mystery, profound lyrical and artistic content, and just staggering musical accomplishment.

Tool put out music at their own pace (currently it has been 13 years since their last album), rarely do press, never appear in videos, and in the case of lead singer Maynard James Keenan, are even absent from the stage for some live performances. Yet somehow they increase in popularity despite obviously not playing the celebrity game.

Perhaps it is the combination of the unknown and the deliberate nonconformity mixed with the intensity of the music that sets Tool apart.

When Undertow came out, I immediately identified with the progressive elements of the music and with Keenan’s cryptic lyrics. Songs like Sober and Prison Sex were amazing with or without those creepily effective videos, Bottom benefited from the intense spoken word passage from Henry Rollins, and Flood, Swamp Song, Intolerance, and Crawl Away were all winners, too. The final track, Disgustipated, was a tripped out sonic experience (with or without the aid of mind altering substances).

I salute Tool and their overall creativity. They have never played it safe and I doubt they ever will.


Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

Written By Braddon S. Williams

Led Zeppelin: IV

Shadows and Light…the monolithic grandeur of Led Zeppelin IV looms large over the landscape of ’70’s (indeed, everything to the present) popular music. Combining the best hard rock, heavy metal, blues, folk, and classic rock, Led Zeppelin IV set a standard of excellence in rock that imitators have yet to replicate.

Jimmy Page’s production, vision, writing, and guitar magic were at their peak, as was the presence of the Golden God himself, Mr. Robert Plant.

Plant composed some of his best lyrics and sang like a man possessed.

John Paul Jones, always the unsung hero of the band, played bass, mandolin, electric piano, synthesizers, and recorders. Jones has always been one of the most underrated musicians among elite bands, but true fans know Zeppelin would not have been the same without him.

John Henry Bonham laid down the thunderous drums and kept the rhythms flowing in unexpected ways. His drum intro to When The Levee Breaks is the absolute blueprint for how rock drums should sound (and was sampled in about a million rap and hip-hop tracks back in the day).

Stairway To Heaven was the big masterpiece that became the most-played song in FM radio history, but Black Dog, Rock And Roll, Going To California, Four Sticks, and Misty Mountain Hop were all absolutely brilliant and perfectly executed.

I think Battle Of Evermore may be my favorite Zeppelin tune of all, just something so astonishing going on between Plant and Sandy Denny’s vocal duet; the acoustic guitars and mandolins, Lord Of The Rings inspirations…like a Renaissance fair comes to life every time I hear that song!

Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

Written By Braddon S. Williams

Dimmu Borgir: Death Cult Armageddon

Norwegian Symphonic Black Metal…sounds intimidating, doesn’t it? Norway’s Dimmu Borgir unleashed Death Cult Armageddon to terrorize the earth (in the best possible way!) in 2003.

Dimmu Borgir means “dark cities” or “dark castles/fortresses” in Icelandic, Faroese, and Old Norse. The band’s lineup has changed frequently from its inception in 1993, but singer Shagrath and rhythm guitarist Silenoz have been along for the entire ride.

Shagrath’s singing style is reminiscent of what Satan himself may possibly sound like fronting a metal band.

Progenies Of The Great Apocalypse is my favorite song from this release, and it has a video if you are curious as to what these guys look like.

Other choice cuts include, Vredesbyrd (Burden Of Wrath), Allegiance, Unorthodox Manifesto, For The World To Dictate Our Death, Heavenly Perverse, and Lepers Among Us.

If you like your metal on a grand scale, with majestic, epic, and diabolical impact, Dimmu Borgir just might be the one you’ve been looking for.


Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

Written By Braddon S. Williams

Mothers Of Invention: Freak Out

Frank Zappa hailed from the “Go big or stay at home” perspective. His debut album, 1966’s ambitious Freak Out!, was one of the first double albums in rock (indeed the first double debut album), and quite probably the first concept album from anyone.

Zappa hit the ground running and never looked back, taking over a cover band named the Soul Giants, convincing them to start playing his original music, and subsequently renaming them The Mothers Of Invention.

Freak Out! was Zappa’s impressionistic view on popular culture, particularly L.A. culture of the swinging ’60’s. Every song served the story, and the cynical humor and inventive songwriting became hallmarks of the Zappa blueprint.

The titles provide some insight into just how different The Mothers were from any other bands of that era; Who Are The Brain Police?, Hungry Freaks, Daddy, Wowie Zowie, Trouble Every Day, Help, I’m A Rock, and The Return Of The Son Of Monster Magnet are some prime examples.

Another hallmark of Zappa’s sound was a love for ’50’s vocal groups and early r & b, displayed in I Ain’t Got No Heart, How Could I Be Such A Fool?, You Didn’t Try To Call Me, and Any Way The Wind Blows. Freak Out! was influential to some of the more progressive English bands, including The Beatles and Pink Floyd.

Frank Zappa had arrived, and the world of music would never be the same!


Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

Written By Braddon S. Williams

Hole: Celebrity Skin

Hole released what I feel was their best album in 1998, Celebrity Skin. I really liked their previous work, Live Through This, but Celebrity Skin just had better production and better songs in my opinion.

Courtney Love has her fair share of haters, and I can understand where a lot of that sentiment comes from, but I’m here to talk about music that influenced me and made my ears happy, and Celebrity Skin is just full of great stuff.

I like the unbridled emotions that Love conjures up with her voice. She never phones it in; whether it’s rage, passion, vulnerability, or any number of other human qualities, she brings it full force.

Eric Erlandson deserves a lot of credit, too. His guitar work shines in much the same way that Mike Campbell always did with Tom Petty…never showing off, but always making the material better by providing all the right nuances and textures in just the right places.

Some of the highlights for me included the amazing title track that kicked off the album, the single Malibu (which gets stuck in my head every time I hear it), Hit So Hard, Awful, Heaven Tonight, Reasons To Be Beautiful, Petals, and the absolutely incredible Northern Star (my personal all-time favorite Hole song).


Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

Written By Braddon S. Williams

Nora Jones: Come Away With Me

By definition, I am a rocker; but even rockers need to chill sometimes, and Come Away With Me (2002) by Norah Jones is a sublimely executed chill seminar.

Jones managed to combine pop, jazz, blues, and folk influences into a seamless whole…and went on to score a Grammy for Album Of The Year (and another for Best Pop Vocal Album) for this Diamond selling debut.

I don’t have a lot of technical reasons for loving this album, but I know her voice is as easy on the ears as the cover photo is on the eyes; in a word, beautiful.

Jones wrote the title song, had a gigantic hit with Don’t Know Why (which won 3 Grammy Awards of its own), and provided great covers of Cold Cold Heart by Hank Williams and The Nearness Of You by Hoagy Carmichael.

Making all this even more impressive was the fact that Jones was only 22 when Come Away With Me was recorded.


Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

Written By Braddon S. Williams

Meatloaf: Bat Out Of Hell

Bat Out Of Hell by Meat Loaf came out in 1977, when I was a sophomore in high school. Its tales of teen angst and high drama became a worldwide hit, selling astronomical numbers, eventually spawning 2 sequels and a musical. Not to shabby for an album that nearly didn’t get a record deal.

Meat Loaf, composer Jim Steinman, and producer Todd Rundgren (along with a stellar supporting cast of musicians and singers) brought this Wagnerian opus to life, channeling Phil Spector’s Wall Of Sound production style, and Bruce Springsteen’s over the top delivery as well.

I recall the songs Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad and Paradise By The Dashboard Light being nearly inescapable on the radio, but they were so fun to sing along with that it was hard to grow tired of them.

The title song was like a mini-opera by itself, and For Crying Out Loud, Heaven Can Wait, All Revved Up With No Place To Go, and You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night) were all glorious pieces of majestic theatrical rock.

Of course, Meat Loaf has a superhuman set of vocal chords, and a signature tone that sets him in a class of one…a big man with a bigger than life talent.

Bat Out Of Hell is its own universe; there is literally nothing else like it in the world of rock music.


Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

Written By Braddon S. Williams

Gram Parsons: Grievous Angel

Gram Parsons was many things in his short life, but what lives on his his music, and Grievous Angel (1974) was his last recorded work before his untimely death at just 26 years of age. Parsons was a champion of the hybrid mix of country and rock in a format he dubbed “Cosmic American Music.”

Grievous Angel was his second solo album, and featured his supernatural vocal blend with Emmylou Harris.

I freely admit this music didn’t reach my ears until many years after his death, but Parsons was hanging out with Keith Richards and the Rolling Stones during the recording of Exile On Main Street and was instrumental in the country influence that permeated those sessions.

Basically, Parsons was reaching me before I knew who he was, and now I am fully finding myself being tremendously influenced by the Americana of the man’s music. In particular, I grew up on Nazareth’s version of Love Hurts, to the point I ignorantly thought it was an original of theirs.

A few years back I saw a live performance video of Keith Richards and Norah Jones doing this achingly beautiful rendition of it, and started doing a little research (which pointed me to the version with Parsons and Harris on Grievous Angel). Now that I know the depth of the song I don’t love the Nazareth version any less, but to my ears, there is simply no topping Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris.

Some voices are just on another level when they interact, and I’m so glad I have always had a curious and open mind when it comes to music. Grievous Angel is golden, and I am far from finished exploring its riches.


Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind