month marks what would have been Allan Holdsworth's 72nd
late, great guitar master was born on August 6, 1946, in England and
passed away at the age of 70 on April 15, 2017, in Southern
California, where he had lived for over three decades.
first heard of Holdsworth in the early 1990s when I read some reviews
that described the instrumental albums of my favorite musician,
Police guitarist Andy Summers, as partly Holdsworthian.
began to read more about the legendary Holdsworth, finally buying my
first album of his, Hard Hat Area, upon its release in 1994. I
still remember eagerly and excitedly purchasing the CD at a record
store in Greenwich Village.
continued to buy Holdsworth's albums throughout the 1990s,
culminating with the 2000 release of The Sixteen Men of Tain.
Holdsworth put out one more solo album, Flat Tire: Music for a
Non-Existent Movie, in 2001, which I never got around to getting
back then for one reason or another, and then Holdsworth went silent,
save for the occasional guest appearance on other musicians' albums,
as well as live performances and collaborative recordings.
also lost touch with Holdsworth's happenings for nearly two decades,
until April 15, 2017, when I read on Yahoo! News to my shock,
disbelief, and dismay that Holdsworth had passed at 70 years of age.
Remiss at both his loss and my obliviousness to his life for the
previous 16 years, I immediately purchased his 12-CD box set, The
Man Who Changed Guitar Forever!, and his 2-CD compilation,
Eidolon, both released a week prior to his passing, and spent
much of the next year immersed in the guitar and synthaxe brilliance
of Allan Holdsworth.
honor and remembrance of this amazing and unparalleled musical icon,
I highly recommend the following albums as my top four picks, reviews of
which can be found both on this site and on Amazon: With a Heart
in My Song (with pianist Gordon Beck, 1988), Hard Hat Area
(1994), The Sixteen Men of Tain (2000), and Then!
On Friday, August 17, 2018, one of my favorite guitarists, Eric Johnson, turned 64 years old.
I was first introduced to the music of Johnson in 1990 by an employee at a local cable television station I was interning at during my senior year of high school. That was the year Johnson, then 35/36 years old, released his breakthrough second album, Ah Via Musicom, which achieved the distinction of having three instrumental songs reach the American Top Ten.
Every one of Johnson's albums showcases his incredible electric guitar wizardry and his soft-spoken heartfelt vocals. His latest album is Collage, areview of which follows below. --Raj Manoharan
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.
at the Troubadour is Michael Nesmith's third live album in the
last 26 years, and it is every bit as lively and engaging as its
three concert recordings are equally excellent without being
redundant, especially considering the fact that each one focuses on a
different aspect of Nesmith's career: Live at the Britt Festival
(1992) concentrates primarily on the albums And the Hits Just Keep
on Comin' (1972) and Tropical Campfires (1992);
Movies of the Mind (2013) is a wide-ranging retrospective; and
Live at the Troubadour revisits Nesmith's First National Band
trilogy from the early 1970s.
some of the original First National Band members are no longer with
us, The First National Band Redux consists of a whole new group of
backup musicians, including Nesmith's sons Jonathan and Christian on
guitars and backing vocals.
some qualitative comparative analysis, here's a breakdown of which of
the three albums features the best live versions of common,
– “Papa Gene's Blues”
– “Propinquity,” “Tomorrow and Me,” “Different Drum”
– “Joanne,” “Some of Shelly's Blues,” “Silver Moon”
at the Troubadour showcases Nesmith in top musical form. It's
both a joy and a thrill to hear the legendary 75-year-old icon still
plucking away at his 12-string acoustic guitar with sprightly aplomb
and giving it his all as a singer.
This is more like it! This is the Sting we all know and love!
The 2016 back-to-basics guitar rocker 57th & 9th was a decent comeback for the veteran pop star, but where that album is merely good, the new release is great! 57th & 9th is fine, but 44/876 is fantastic!
In an unlikely but very agreeable collaboration that turns out to be his most enjoyable to date, the Englishman in New York (among other places) teams up with Jamaican superstar singer Shaggy for a collection of reggae-infused pop gems that are infectious, invigorating, and irresistible.
44/876 has been likened to Sting's experiments with reggae in The Police (“One World (Not Three)” comes to my mind), but overall the album is more similar to Sting's solo reggae excursions, most notably classic songs like “Love Is the Seventh Wave” and “History Will Teach Us Nothing.”
The album has also been described as a party record. Yes, the tone is definitely upbeat. But make no mistake – in many cases, the buoyant nature of the music belies the brooding ruminations of the lyrics. Sting is the King of Pain, after all – especially of wrapping pain up in sweet little pop packages.
Standout songs such as “Just One Lifetime,” “Dreaming of the U.S.A.,” and “If You Can't Find Love” prove that, at 66 years of age, Sting is back in top form and at his classic best.
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.
(Songs Featuring Various Singers)
Things You See * White Line * Was There? * Material Real * Metal
Fatigue * Panic Station * In the Mystery * Secrets * Endomorph *
Against the Clock
Berwell in the Mystery (Best Overall Including Instrumentals and
Sheets to the Wind * Metal Fatigue * Panic Station * In the Mystery *
The Dominant Plague * Atavachron * Looking Glass * Mr. Berwell *
Endomorph * Prelude
Zones (Then! Live Album without “Zones”
* White Line * Atavachron * Pud Wud * House of Mirrors * Non-Brewed
Condiment * Funnels
Un-Merry Go Round (New Age)
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
Dream I (Hard Fusion)
Sheets to the Wind * Tokyo Dream * Non-Brewed Condiment * The
Dominant Plague * Atavachron * Looking Glass * Mr. Berwell * City
Nights * Peril Premonition * Hard Hat Area
Dream II (Soft Fusion)
* Funnels * Joshua * Sphere of Innocence * Zarabeth * Questions *
Tokyo Dream * The Un-Merry Go Round (Part 4) * The Un-Merry Go Round
(Part 5) * Prelude
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).
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
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
dueling tones of Holdsworth’s six strings and Pasqua’s 88 keys
are sometimes nearly indistinguishable as they take alternately fiery
and facile turns, with Yellow Jackets bass player Jimmy Haslip and
drummer Chad Wackerman keeping the rhythms and beats grooving along
while also showing off their musical might.
last three tracks of the two-CD set – “San Michele,”
“Protocosmos,” and “Red Alert” – propel the album towards a
powerful, impactful conclusion.
so, with the final official recording of his life, Holdsworth ends on
a high note.
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.
in his pre-synthaxe period, sticks to acoustic and electric guitars,
violin, and, for the first time since his ‘Igginbottom days, vocals
(on one track), and Beck handles the keys on acoustic and electric
on the follow-up the duo is very much in harmonious sync, this debut
outing has them trading off passages in counterpoint to each other,
almost like a cat-and-mouse game of musical oneupmanship, an
artistic conversation of which we are mere observers rather than
that intellectual vantage point, this album provides fascinating
insight into each musician’s mastery of his instrument, but the
real harvest of their creative partnership would come into full bloom
nearly a decade later.
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.
the wait worth it? Even if you’re an Allan Holdsworth fan, it’s a
the performances and recording quality are top-notch and superb. The
musicians (Danny Thompson on bass, Allan Holdsworth on acoustic
12-string guitar and electric guitar, and John Stevens on drums) are
at the top of their game, and the album sounds like it was recorded
it’s a challenging listen. This is really out-there, pure
improvisational jazz, almost like stream of consciousness on the part
of the players. There are no concise compositions or structures or
hooks or riffs, but rather quite a bit of dissonance and atonality.
sonic art, it soars. The work required to engage with it is its own
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.
Goransson has created music that is every bit as remarkable as the
movie it underscores, especially in its visceral, life-affirming
revelry of African sounds and rhythms.
Based on his personal, firsthand research into and study of African musical traditions, Goransson structured his compositions around indigenous vocals, tribal chants, and exotic ethnic
instruments, especially drums and percussion (Police drummer Stewart Copeland
employed a similar process for his
groundbreaking 1985 Afro-pop/rock album The Rhythmatist).
result is an incredible, epic work of Afrocentric world music fused
with hip techno and electronica and rousing, soaring symphony
"Wakanda," "Warrior Falls," and the
last four tracks of the album are excellent, perfectly capturing the film’s interwoven themes of family, honor,
Black Panther score is not only the cream of the crop of
Marvel and superhero movie soundtracks, but it also ranks among the most memorable
film music of all time.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Johnson's eternally youthful vocals are still so smooth and silky
even at 63 years of age.
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."
is proof positive that after forty-plus years in the music business,
Eric Johnson's still got it.