Saturday, July 29, 2017

Atavachron (1986, 2017), by Allan Holdsworth

CD Fan Review

Although Atavachron isn't as perfect an album as its predecessor, Metal Fatigue, it's nearly as perfect, with Allan Holdsworth sounding the slickest he ever has up to this point.

Already a pioneer in the use of guitar synthesizers, Holdsworth adds the Synthaxe to his sonic palette. The Synthaxe is a cross between a guitar and a synthesizer, with Holdsworth adding a breath controller, enabling him to achieve crystalline tones never before possible with six strings.

The result is an album and title track that live up to their namesake, a time machine from the original Star Trek series episode "All Our Yesterdays," which is also the name of the one vocal track here, sung by Rowanne Mark. The cover illustration features Holdsworth, apparently an ardent Trekkie, in the atavachron, dressed in a Starfleet engineering/security red shirt and holding his Synthaxe.

Exploring strange new sounds and seeking out new music and new compositions, Allan Holdsworth boldly goes where no guitarist has gone before.

--Raj Manoharan

Friday, July 21, 2017

Metal Fatigue (1985, 2017), by Allan Holdsworth

CD Fan Review

The guitar great finally catches up with the decade he was born for, with synthesizer sounds aplenty both played by keyboardist Alan Pasqua and triggered by Allan Holdsworth through his guitar controller.

The result is Holdsworth's first truly slick, high-tech, state-of-the-art album, providing a perfect sonic launch pad for his fretboard flights of fancy.

In addition to the instrumental tunes, the record also includes Holdsworth's best rock vocal tracks, with lead turns by singers Paul Williams and Paul Kordo. The songs would have been right at home on 1980s radio and MTV and still sound awesome today.

Together with bassists Jimmy Johnson and Gary Willis and drummers Chad Wackerman, Gary Husband, and Mac Hine, Holdsworth creates music unlike any other before or since.

--Raj Manoharan

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Road Games (1983, 2017), by Allan Holdsworth

CD Fan Review

Allan Holdsworth's second album is where the fretboard wizard truly found his voice and really took off.

His dynamic compositions and quickfire electric guitar leads soar, taking his music to sonic heights where very few, if any, could reach.

The guitarist, bassist Jeff Berlin and drummer Chad Wackerman (Frank Zappa, Andy Summers) flex their musical muscles on an eclectic mix of instrumentals and vocal tracks featuring singers Paul Williams and Cream legend Jack Bruce.

Highlights include "Three Sheets to the Wind," "Tokyo Dream" (the original rock version; a later, jazzier version appears on Holdsworth's 1992 release Wardenclyffe Tower), and "Was There?" (with vocals by Bruce).

--Raj Manoharan

Saturday, July 8, 2017

I.O.U. (1982, 2017), by Allan Holdsworth

CD Fan Review

Although Allan Holdsworth's compositions, arrangements, and musicianship get even better on later albums (an amazing feat in and of itself), this is a strong official solo debut by the electric guitar extraordinaire.

This remastered edition features Holdsworth's signature atmospheric instrumentals, as well as unique vocal songs performed by frequent Holdsworth collaborator Paul Williams (Holdsworth's fellow Englishman, not to be confused with the American singer-songwriter of the same name).

In addition to Holdsworth on guitar and violin, the tight band includes Paul Carmichael on bass and Gary Husband on drums and piano.

Holdsworth's virtuosic artistry and distinct fusion of jazz, rock, and new age, and the stellar performances of his solid rhythm section, make this album an appetite-whetting harbinger of greater things to come.

--Raj Manoharan