There’s no doubt that Rich Williams’ intricate guitar picking on the Kansas smash hit “Dust in the Wind” influenced a generation of up-and-coming guitar players.
More than 30 years and about two dozen albums later, Williams is still wowing crowds with the beautiful and complex guitar work that has earned him the nickname “meatwall” from fans. (If you want to hear the wonder of Rich Williams in person, be sure to catch Kansas on the road this summer and fall, often performing along with Styx and Foreigner; see www.kansasband.com for dates and venues.)
So, which albums changed Rich Williams’ life?
Chubby Checker: The Twist
I was 10 years old, and paid little attention to music, when this song hit the radio. I don’t know if it was my time, the song, the nasty saxophone, or the twist mania that swept the nation but this song/sound spoke to me. My first record purchase.
The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
When I first heard this album I was shocked. I hated it. What happened to my Beatles? Well, they grew up, matured, and made a record so progressive it went right over my head. I just didn’t get it. Then I did.
Jethro Tull: Thick as a Brick
I was a Tull fan, but this was different. Very progressive. Not a compilation of songs as in albums of the past, but one complete piece.
Spooky Tooth: Spooky Two
Great songs with some of the earliest examples of huge British balls. Eye-opening guitar sounds.
Genesis: Selling England By The Pound
Not being very familiar with Genesis, I went to a show in Kansas City. It was the “Selling England by the Pound” tour. Still to this day one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. This record was my official immersion into the band. Everything earlier soon followed.
Gentle Giant: Three Friends
Gentle Giant: In a Glass House
Gentle Giant: Interview
Gentle Giant: Free Hand
Yet another show in Kansas City. I went to see King Crimson for the “Larks’ Tongues in Aspic” tour, and a band called Gentle Giant was one of the openers. I was absolutely blown away, and this started my non-stop listening to all things “Giant.”
I remember being in the car and hearing this for the 1st time and saying “What is that?” It was the most different sounding thing I had ever heard up to that time; so much bass, too loud, so ballsy and aggressive. I loved it!
Yes: Close to the Edge
I can still listen to this and hear new things.
Jeff Beck: Truth
Jeff Beck is it ... Period!
John Mayall’s Blues Breakers: John Mayall’s Blues Breakers With Eric Clapton
This was my official introduction to guitar. Until then, it was a twangy accompaniment instrument. This was different. It had a voice, an up front, thick, nasty, ballsy lead voice that changed everything.
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