The first posthumously released album by the artist, it documents Holdsworth’s last performance with his I.O.U. band, featuring Jimmy Johnson on bass, Chad Wackerman on drums, and Paul Williams on vocals.
While Holdsworth’s musical genius and ambidextrous virtuosity are on full display here, this is a curious recording in that the sound is uneven from song to song, with some tunes moderately loud and others quiet as a whisper.
Holdsworth unleashes short bursts of rapid-fire fluidity here and there, and short those bursts are. He seems to be more content with chord textures and colors rather than flashy lead lines. That is all fine and dandy, however, because no matter how little or a lot Holdsworth used his guitars, he was a certified, undisputed master.
Of Holdsworth’s three official live recordings to date, my favorite is 2002’s Then!, documenting a Tokyo show in 1990. That is Holdsworth at his best as the compositions are kinetic and he and his band are on fire.
However, that does not take away from the brilliance of Live in Japan 1984, which is the first of a projected series of live archival recordings from various points in Holdsworth’s solo career. I hope that the albums highlight featured performances from each of the following three decades, especially since Holdsworth continued to play live up until 2017.