Friday, December 28, 2018

Against the Clock: The Best of Allan Holdsworth (2005), by Allan Holdsworth

So why get this 2-CD artist-curated compilation from 12 years earlier when the 2-CD retrospective, Eidolon: The Allan Holdsworth Collection, just came out in 2017 and features late guitar great Allan Holdsworth’s most recent selection of favorite tracks?

Well, for starters, even though Against the Clock has two fewer tunes than the 28 compositions on Eidolon, Against the Clock has two exclusive bonus recordings unique only to this release, “Let’s Throw Shrimp” and “Shenandoah” (one of Holdsworth's most beautiful, majestic, and epic pieces, right up there with "Endomorph").

In addition, each of the album’s two CDs is devoted to a specific, distinct instrument that Holdsworth plays. The first disc is “Volume One: Guitar” and focuses primarily on the standard six-string. The second, “Volume Two: Synthaxe,” features the guitar-synthesizer hybrid, plus the aforementioned bonus tracks, which are performed on regular guitar.

What this neat delineation means is that Against the Clock has nearly four times as many synthaxe numbers as Eidolon, which concentrates for the most part on Holdsworth’s electric guitar highlights. As a result, there is 50 percent overlap and contrast between the albums. Most of the songs on “Volume One: Guitar” are available on Eidolon; most of the songs on “Volume Two: Synthaxe” are not.

The main appeal of Against the Clock is having all of Holdsworth’s favorite synthaxe performances in one place, which is a real draw for those like myself who enjoy Holdsworth’s eclectic musical musings.

Holdsworth had often gotten grief for his infatuation with the synthaxe. However, those who open their minds and ears to his explorations on this instrument will find a testament not only to his compositional brilliance, but to his masterful guitar virtuosity as well.

--Raj Manoharan

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