Tuesday, February 20, 2018

With a Heart in My Song (1988), by Allan Holdsworth and Gordon Beck

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.


--Raj Manoharan

‘Igginbottom’s Wrench (1969, 2000), by Allan Holdsworth and Friends

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.

--Raj Manoharan

All Night Wrong (2002), by Allan Holdsworth

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.

--Raj Manoharan