Sunday, November 12, 2017

Then! Live in Tokyo (2003, 2017), by Allan Holdsworth

One of my regrets in life is that I never got around to seeing master guitarist Allan Holdsworth work his fretboard magic in person. For me and others who share my predicament, this album is the next best thing, and it is a wonder.

Although this was originally released in 2003, the set was actually recorded in 1990, and it shows a musical visionary and genius in the improvisational brilliance of the moment.

Aside from the interesting but otherwise nonessential explorations of the composed-on-the-spot "Zones," the collection features a choice selection of artist and fan favorites, which generally hew to the overall structure of the studio originals but allow plenty of leeway for Holdsworth to take off on ecstatically dizzying flights of frenzy.

And take off he does, especially on “White Line” and “Non-Brewed Condiment,” which are the best versions of those tunes and, dare I say, among the most amazing and awesome displays of lead electric guitar playing ever recorded.

For diehard Allan Holdsworth fans, this is a great closer to the incredible, must-have, 12-CD box set, The Man Who Changed Guitar Forever! The Allan Holdsworth Album Collection.
For those who don’t want to do a deep dive into the box set or the 2-CD artist-curated retrospective, Eidolon: The Allan Holdsworth Collection, but want to hear great guitar by an exceptional guitarist, Then! is as close to an excellent, compact “greatest hits” collection as you can get, as well as a fantastic record of Holdsworth’s prowess live.

--Raj Manoharan

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