This is more like it! This is the Sting we all know and love!
Sunday, April 15, 2018
Sunday, April 15, 2018, marks one year since the world lost pioneering fusion guitar legend Allan Holdsworth. He was 70 years old. In honor of the late great musician, I share my personal playlists culled from his immense works and arranged by theme.
Endomorph (Songs Featuring Various Singers)
The Things You See * White Line * Was There? * Material Real * Metal Fatigue * Panic Station * In the Mystery * Secrets * Endomorph * Against the Clock
Mr. Berwell in the Mystery (Best Overall Including Instrumentals and Vocal Songs)
Three Sheets to the Wind * Metal Fatigue * Panic Station * In the Mystery * The Dominant Plague * Atavachron * Looking Glass * Mr. Berwell * Endomorph * Prelude
No Zones (Then! Live Album without “Zones” Improvisations)
Proto-Cosmos * White Line * Atavachron * Pud Wud * House of Mirrors * Non-Brewed Condiment * Funnels
The Un-Merry Go Round (New Age)
The Un-Merry Go Round * Distance vs. Desire * The Un-Merry Go Round (Part 4) * The Un-Merry Go Round (Part 5) * Prelude * Above and Below * Above and Below (Reprise) * Material Unreal * Curves * Don’t You Know
Tokyo Dream I (Hard Fusion)
Three Sheets to the Wind * Tokyo Dream * Non-Brewed Condiment * The Dominant Plague * Atavachron * Looking Glass * Mr. Berwell * City Nights * Peril Premonition * Hard Hat Area
Tokyo Dream II (Soft Fusion)
Home * Funnels * Joshua * Sphere of Innocence * Zarabeth * Questions * Tokyo Dream * The Un-Merry Go Round (Part 4) * The Un-Merry Go Round (Part 5) * Prelude
While this is not an official Allan Holdsworth “solo” album and Holdsworth receives third billing on the cover, this is simply and absolutely one of Holdsworth’s best records, period.
The primary producers and composers are drummer Anders Johansson and keyboardist Jens Johansson, but Holdsworth features throughout in all his pure, unadulterated electric guitar glory.
The Johanssons lay down some hip grooves and rhythms, setting Holdsworth up to do his thing as only he can, with the Johanssons keeping pace with him every step of the way.
Holdsworth is especially inspired, working with two of the best musicians he has ever worked with. The result is an exciting thrill ride for the ears.
Saturday, March 31, 2018
This playlist features my favorite collaborations between Andy Summers and various singers, including Najma Akhtar, Sting, Deborah Harry, Q-Tip, Fernanda Takai, and Rob Giles. The tracks are taken from the following albums: The Golden Wire (1989), Green Chimneys (1999), Peggy’s Blue Skylight (2000), Fundamental (2012), and Circus Hero by Circa Zero (2014).
Piya Tose * Round Midnight * Weird Nightmare * Goodbye Pork Pie Hat/Where Can a Man Find Peace? * No Mesmo Lugar (Here I Am Again) * You Light My Dark * Smile and Blue Sky Me * Underground * Gamma Ray * Whenever You Hear the Rain
This playlist combines my top five picks from each of Andy Summers’ last two albums, Metal Dog (2015) and Triboluminescence (2017), for an intriguing exploration of dark, eclectic fusion.
Metal Dog * Animal Chatter * Ishango Bone * Vortex Street * Harmonograph * If Anything * Elephant Bird * Gigantopithecus * Ricochet * Help from Jupiter
Wednesday, March 28, 2018
The last album released during Allan Holdsworth’s lifetime with his name on the cover documents the fusion guitar master and his frequent collaborator, keyboardist Alan Pasqua, in a live 2007 tribute to their 1970s bandleader, the late, legendary jazz drummer Tony Williams.
Unlike their luminescent and timeless sequel eight years later, Allan Holdsworth and Gordon Beck’s first collaborative album finds them more down to earth and at odds with each other.
They say good things come to those who wait. In this case, with the album produced in 1978, mixed in 1997, and made commercially available in 2009, the total wait was 31 years from recording to release.
Thursday, March 15, 2018
Black Panther is one of the absolute best Marvel Cinematic Universe movies and certainly the most unique, and its corresponding soundtrack is definitely the best of the bunch.
Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Allan Holdsworth’s synthaxe and guitar + Gordon Beck’s keyboards and synthesizers = Pure, joyous, electronic bliss, full of rhythm, new age, and all that jazz.
Brilliant, beautiful, and bewitching, it is one of the best albums of all time.
Originally released under the group name ‘Igginbottom, this rarity was reissued under the name Allan Holdsworth and Friends after Holdsworth rose to prominence as a fusion guitarist in the ensuing decades.
While it may not be of interest to most, the album is noteworthy for two main reasons – it is the recording debut of Holdsworth, and it is the only release to feature Holdsworth singing, certainly at least for the entire length of the LP.
Beyond that, the music sounds like what you would expect from an English jazz/pop/rock quartet from the period – groovy rhythms, lofty lyrics, hypnotic vocals, and transcendental musicianship.
However, while Holdsworth’s songwriting is nowhere near as complex as the songs he wrote and recorded in the 1980s and sung by others, the intensity of his playing is there from the beginning, even in his early 20s.
Holdsworth’s demonically speedy jazz chops definitely set him and his superbly talented Friends (guitarist and vocalist Steven Robinson, bassist Mick Skelly, and drummer Dave Freeman) apart from others of their ilk and time.
A highlight of the album is “Golden Lakes,” which is basically a template for the title track of Holdsworth’s unofficial solo debut seven years later, Velvet Darkness – but with vocals!
This is definitely a must-have for die-hard Allan Holdsworth purists, as well as those with a fondness for avant-garde music of the era.
Of Allan Holdsworth’s two live albums, this one for some reason didn’t make it into the 2017 12-CD Allan Holdsworth box set, but that doesn’t make this entry any less worthy (Holdsworthy?) of the attention of Holdsworth and jazz/rock fusion guitar fans.
Although this is Holdsworth’s first live album, the performance on it actually comes 12 years after the 1990 gig documented on the 2003 release, Then! So, taken together, both albums provide a good comparison of two Holdsworth shows in Tokyo, Japan, over a decade apart – first when Holdsworth was 44 and then when he was 56.
In contrast to the fiery, energetic, and hard-rocking 1990 concert, the 2002 set is laid back, relaxed, and softer sounding. However, the more mellow nature by no means means that Holdsworth is resting on his laurels. While the music is more jazz-oriented, Holdsworth’s hands and fingers (and highly advanced intellect, no doubt) are as busy as ever, working those frets frenetically and frantically like nobody’s business but nevertheless making it seem effortless and easy breezy.
Ably assisting the maestro onstage are bassist Jimmy Johnson and drummer Chad Wackerman (Frank Zappa, Andy Summers), each of whom holds his own while at the same time laying down dope rhythms and beats and giving Holdsworth a solid foundation over which to thread his six-string savvy. There is one bandleader and three stars here.
This recording deserves as much of a spot in one’s collection as any of the other discs in the box set and the two-CD retrospective, and Holdsworth fans and fusion guitar enthusiasts will be sweetly rewarded for making it so.
Monday, January 22, 2018
Allan Holdsworth’s unofficial first solo album is far, far better than the legendary master guitarist ever gave it credit for being, proving that the artist certainly was his own worst critic.
Recorded in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, in 1976 when Holdsworth was 29 going on 30 (and I was a 3-year-old toddler driving my parents insane across the river in Washington Heights, Manhattan), this historically important rarity provides a window into the past for a unique look at a genius in the making (at least in terms of being a solo artist).
Even at this early, nascent stage, Holdsworth delivers dazzling displays of virtuosity on electric and acoustic guitars and violin, backed by a spry musical ensemble including Alan Pasqua on keyboards, Alphonso Johnson on bass, and Narada Michael Walden on drums.
While the album doesn’t have the glossy, high-tech sheen of Holdsworth’s forward-looking work from the 1980s and beyond, it stands as a masterpiece of punk funk fusion (assuming anything else at the time qualifies as such).
Tuesday, January 16, 2018
The veteran Texan guitarist's first solo electric guitar studio album since 2010's fiery Up Close marks a fine return to form and the classic Eric Johnson sound.
This is a more laid back and relaxed affair, with a nice mix of instrumentals and vocals and covers and originals, blending jazz and rock with hints of new age.
But don't let the mellow atmosphere fool you – Johnson's playing is as nimble and seamless as ever, with clean, crisp tones and lightning-fast lead lines.
And Johnson's eternally youthful vocals are still so smooth and silky even at 63 years of age.
Standout tracks include Stevie Wonder's "Up Tight (Everything's Alright)," The Beatles' "We Can Work It Out," and The Ventures' "Pipeline," and Johnson's "Morning Sun," "The Fade," and "To Whom It May Concern."
Collage is proof positive that after forty-plus years in the music business, Eric Johnson's still got it.