Allan Holdsworth – The Man Who Changed Guitar Forever (2017) [Qobuz FLAC 24bit/96kHz]

Allan Holdsworth – The Man Who Changed Guitar Forever (2017) 
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 08:40:26 minutes | 10 GB | Genre: Jazz Fusion, Rock
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download – Source: Qobuz | Front cover | © Allan Holdsworth

Twelve CD box set collection featuring all of Allan Holdsworth’s solo albums from 1982-2003. That title is no hyperbole-it was a proclamation that ran on the cover of Guitar Player Magazine in 2008, and is a feeling shared by fans and guitarists all around the world. Still, though, Holdsworth remains largely under-rated; many who admire his most famous work have overlooked dozens of fascinating finds to be made on his decades of recordings. This collection is a treasure trove of such discoveries, as it brings you all 11 of his albums as a solo artist, producer and group leader since 1980 plus the live-in-Tokyo album Then! And a 40-page booklet full of liner notes and archival photos. You also get previously unreleased bonus tracks, and all these albums have been newly remastered from the original tapes: I.O.U. (1982), Road Games (1983), Metal Fatigue (1985), Atavachron (1986), Sand (1987), Secrets (1989), Wardenclyffe Tower (1992), Hard Hat Area (1993), None Too Soon (1996), The Sixteen Men Of Tain (2000), Flat Tire (2001) and Then! (2003). These albums, many of which have been out of print and very hard to find for years, include one intriguing composition, ethereal track, dazzling fusion rocker and daredevil guitar passages.

Allan Holdsworth – I.O.U. (1982/2017)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/96 kHz | Time – 39:51 minutes | 874 MB
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Artwork: Front cover

After the train-wreck disaster of Holdsworth’s first solo release, the infamous Velvet Darkness, it wasn’t until three years later that he reconsidered doing a real solo release versus the earlier ripoff of an authorized studio mishmash product he suffered. So in 1979 he recorded I.O.U. on a wing and a prayer and loans (ergo, an IOU recording project). With his very successful stints with other groups in the intervening time period, such as UK and Bruford, Holdsworth’s guitar prowess and name were clearly on the map. Holdsworth now needed to be the leader he clearly was and thus release an official solo record. The real Allan Holdsworth unleashed is at last revealed on I.O.U. in his original compositions and well-crafted soloing, versus being merely part of a group and forced to stay within certain boundaries of other bandmates’ design. I.O.U., as a solo release, is high-quality jazz fusion interplay, offering emotive compositions, ethereal guitar atmospherics, complex chordal progressions, and intense legato explosions of guitar that set the standard for many guitarists to come. There is no acoustic guitar this time, but a wee bit of Holdsworth on violin appears in one song.

Tracklist:
01 – The Things You See
02 – Where Is One
03 – Checking Out
04 – Letters of Marquee
05 – Out from Under
06 – Temporary Fault
07 – Shallow Sea
08 – White Line

Allan Holdsworth – Road Games (1983/2017)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/96 kHz | Time – 24:11 minutes | 515 MB
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Artwork: Front cover

Short but sweet: this 24-plus-minute re-release of an ’80s-era solo effort originally appeared as a vinyl EP, and has never before been issued on CD. It is a unique mix of great vocals with a more rocking, bluesy, and jazzy quasi-mainstream song-themed balladic thrust. This release showcases Allan Holdsworth playing less “out there.” Don’t misunderstand – the guitar is amazing: multi-voiced, fusion-fired, ethereally chorded, delightfully crystalline clear, note-flourished, and swooningly embellished. Add in the vocals of Jack Bruce for that Cream flashback or the I.O.U. band feel of Paul Williams’ crooning, back to back with killer bass by Jeff Berlin and tastefully poised drums by Chad Wackerman, and you have fusion-rock bliss.Holdsworth addicts have waited a very long time for this to appear in the CD format. So go for it. It sounds great all over again. The original album cover graphics and notes are included.

Tracklist:
01 – Three Sheets to the Wind
02 – Road Games
03 – Water on the Brain, Pt II
04 – Tokyo Dream
05 – Was There
06 – Material Real

Allan Holdsworth – Metal Fatigue (1985/2017)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/96 kHz | Time – 37:40 minutes | 740 MB
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Artwork: Front cover

Criminally unknown and underappreciated, Allan Holdsworth is one of the greatest musicians ever to pick up the electric guitar. Here, on 1985’s Metal Fatigue, everything finally comes together for him. For the majority of this record, Holdsworth is joined by bassist Jimmy Johnson and drummer Chad Wackerman, and these two musicians, virtuosos in their own right, complement Holdsworth beautifully (check out Johnson’s wonderful part in “Home” and lovely solo on “Panic Station”). The leader is known for his extremely legato phrasing and rich harmonic vocabulary, both of which are on display in the solo and frantic fills of “Metal Fatigue.” Anchored by Paul Williams’ vocals, the song is marvelously constructed, with a strong verse melody supported by Holdsworth’s upper-register guitar chords. The guitarist’s much-vaunted whammy bar work is also on full display here. Certain fills in “Metal Fatigue” are almost queasy sounding, as Holdsworth bends and slurs in impossible ways. His use of the tremolo bar comes out not only during his melodic playing, but also during his rhythm playing, where he allows his chords just a trace of shimmer, enough to lend body to his playing but not enough to blur the harmonies. The influence of Holdsworth’s unique style is evident in the work of such rock guitarists as Eddie Van Halen and Alex Lifeson (listen to VH’s “Drop Dead Legs” or Rush’s “YYZ” for a taste of this connection), but the watered-down and otherwise assimilated adaptations of his style pale compared to the unadulterated stuff. One of the most important fusion records of the ’80s is also Holdsworth’s best work. Absolutely essential for those who like their rock with a healthy dose of jazz.

Tracklist:
01 – Metal Fatigue
02 – Home
03 – Devil Take the Hindmost (Remastred)
04 – Panic Station
05 – The Un-Merry Go Round (In Loving Memory of My Father)
06 – In the Mystery

Allan Holdsworth – Atavachron (1986/2017)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/96 kHz | Time – 36:49 minutes | 734 MB
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Artwork: Front cover

For a little background, back in the ’80s the SynthAxe was invented. It looked like something that fell out of a UFO. It was guitar-like with sets of strings and other onboard controls that allowed the triggering (playing) of synthesizers. What was unique was that guitarists could therefore play a synthesizer without needing a great amount of keyboard expertise. The SynthAxe was the interface that very uniquely interpreted a guitarist’s skill into synth sounds. For guitarist Allan Holdsworth, it was yet a whole new way to achieve the sounds unvoiced in his soul in ways he just couldn’t do with a standard guitar. Holdsworth has always sought a horn-like voicing with the ability to manipulate a note in a myriad of ways. He is known for being one of the most unique stylists on guitar, but it is the SynthAxe that allows him to go places a guitar can’t reach. This release was special in that it marks Holdsworth’s first use of the SynthAxe alongside electric guitar. The SynthAxe sounds more like a keyboard than a guitar. It has a wider sound spectrum than keyboards and in this release you will hear a myriad of synthscapes and effects. This release offered a semi-progressive symphonic element and served to ever stretch the boundaries of jazz fusion. Beautiful female vocals in one song framed by surrealistic visual musicks of the SynthAxe and keyboardy leads by Holdsworth may have turned guitar fans off, but this effort is clear evidence of the genius Holdsworth was demonstrating release after release. And as expected, Holdsworth continued to strive for that reed voicing and phrasing on his guitar solos, which merely pushed him to his best.

Tracklist:
01 – Non-Brewed Condiment
02 – Funnels
03 – The Dominant Plague
04 – Atavachron
05 – Looking Glass
06 – Mr. Berwell
07 – All Our Yesterdays

Allan Holdsworth – Sand (1987/2017)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/96 kHz | Time – 35:09 minutes | 701 MB
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Artwork: Front cover

Brit guitar hero Allan Holdsworth, ex of the Soft Machine, Gong, U.K., and Bill Bruford and Annette Peacock’s solo projects, has been wildly inconsistent when it comes to his solo projects. Completely bonkers for technology, he’s employed every gadget he can get his hands on own records, and has gotten results that range from the near sublime to the kind of dross one usually associates with prog excess. But Sand is a different animal, a respite from the relentless kitchen sink approach Holdsworth was mired in through much of the late ’70s and early ’80s. Utilizing a new contraption, the “Synthaxe,” a guitar that has the tonal and sonic possibilities of the synthesizer but can be played straight as well, it seems to satisfy the artist’s technology jones, and allows him to compose sensitively for the instrument while not forgetting he’s a guitarist first. Guitar fans might be a little put off by the sounds and textures of the synthaxe, which allows for a guitarist to subvert its limited range of tones and colors for rounded off keyboard sounds and warm textural aspects. In other words, the traditional sound of the electric guitar – and, in particular, Holdsworth’s trademark sound – is nearly absent. In place is a near keyboard sound played in the same way he plays guitar. The six compositions here range from the knotty, mixed tempo, arpeggio-rich title track to the reflective, near pastoral grace of “Distance Vs. Desire” to the electronically astute, fast and furious jazz-rock fusion of “Mac Man.” The only time a keyboard actually appears is Alan Pasqua’s solo in “Pud Wud,” where the guitarist wields his traditional instrument and rips free of the constraints of his own composition for some truly fiery pyrotechnics. The rhythm section of bassist Jimmy Johnson (a killer electric jazz bassist who has also played with Percy Jones and Brand X) and drummer Gary Husband are more than equal to the task of accompaniment, and, in fact, are creative foils for Holdsworth, who allows his sidemen plenty of room to shine – also unlike many of his earlier projects. Is Sand the mark of a new contentment and refined aesthetic for Holdsworth? Only time will, but it is safe to say that this is one of his most innovative and texturally beautiful to date.

Tracklist:
01 – Sand
02 – Distance vs Desire
03 – Pud Wud
04 – Clown
05 – The 4.15 Bradford Executive
06 – Mac Man

Allan Holdsworth – Secrets (1989/2017)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/96 kHz | Time – 37:23 minutes | 723 MB
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Artwork: Front cover

A true masterpiece, Secrets is the massive culmination of Allan Holdsworth’s years-long legato technique and SynthAxe development. Conceptually inspired by but significantly different from the electric guitar, the SynthAxe is not a guitar-controlled synthesizer; it’s a completely unique instrument of its own, making the guitarist’s gripping performances all the more impressive. Holdsworth actually plays both instruments at a world-class level, setting an almost unreachable technical standard for aspiring rock, jazz, and fusion players. In addition to Secrets’ technical accomplishments, Holdsworth contributes some of the most inspired songwriting of his career. The instrumental choruses are subtle and fluid, and the vocal lines on “Secrets” (performed by Rowanne Mark) and “Endomorph” (Craig Copeland) surpass earlier Holdsworth-penned efforts with their touching lyrics and melodies. Simply put, this 1989 Enigma release is a triumph, the final contribution to the artist’s seminal ’80s collection that includes Metal Fatigue and Atavachron. Fans of progressive music (no matter the genre) are recommended to search out the furtive Secrets, and unearth the sadly hidden knowledge of a musician’s sublime transcendence of form, through passion and genius.

Tracklist:
01 – City Nights
02 – Secrets
03 – 54 Duncan Terrace (Dedicated to Pat Smythe)
04 – Joshua
05 – Spokes
06 – Maid Marion
07 – Peril Premonition
08 – Endomorph (Dedicated to My Parents)

Allan Holdsworth – Wardenclyffe Tower (1992/2017)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/96 kHz | Time – 53:21 minutes | 1,04 GB
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Artwork: Front cover

This 1992 release features Holdsworth in conversation with usual compatriots Jimmy Johnson, Chad Wackerman, and Gary Husband. Keyboards are provided not only by Steve Hunt, but also by both Wackerman and Husband. Husband in particular demonstrates that his facility on the keyboards is equal to his skill on the drums. Despite the all-star cast of characters, there are certain peculiarities to Wardenclyffe Tower that prevent it from being numbered among Holdsworth’s best work. One very obvious oddity is the strange and ill-advised ending to the opener, “5 to 10,” which concludes with a toilet flushing and an annoying voice-over. Mistakes in judgment aside, there is something formless about this album, something that blurs the tracks together in a meaningless way. Holdsworth has always been more of a distinctive than a strong composer, and the batch of tunes that he contributes here is not very compelling. The title track, with its power-chord verse, and his collaboration with singer Naomi Star, “Against the Clock,” are his strongest moments. The presence of Hunt’s “Dodgy Boat” helps but it is not enough to elevate this album to the level of Holdsworth’s past successes. This is not to say that there is not meaningful music on Wardenclyffe Tower, because there is. “Against the Clock,” which features not only Star’s voice but also the drums of Vinnie Colaiuta, is one such success. Holdsworth makes use of the SynthAxe guitar synthesizer on several tracks on Wardenclyffe Tower, the most effective use of which is here, where his solo emerges from empty space in a constantly accelerating fashion, like a boulder rolling down a hill (although Holdsworth’s ascending line sets forth the impossible scenario of falling upwards). All in all, however, there is a lack of dynamic movement in the soloists and the compositions in general. Of value to Holdsworth completists, but not of much interest to casual fans.

Tracklist:
01 – 5 to 10
02 – Sphere of Innocence
03 – Wardenclyffe Tower
04 – Dodgy Boat
05 – Zarabeth
06 – Against the Clock
07 – Questions
08 – Oneiric Moor
09 – Tokyo Dream (Bonus Track)
10 – The Un-Merry Go Round (Part 4)
11 – The Un-Merry Go Round (Part 5)

Allan Holdsworth – Hard Hat Area (1993/2017)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/96 kHz | Time – 41:38 minutes | 799 MB
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Artwork: Front cover

Allan Holdsworth is arguably one of the most important post-Hendrix electric guitarists to grace either the fusion or rock scenes, while Hard Hat Area, signifies one of the artist’s better solo excursions. With this 1994 effort, the guitarist receives excellent support from Icelandic electric bass phenom Skuli Sverrissson, whereas keyboardist Steve Hunt renders melodically tinged synth lines and ethereal backwashes throughout. Essentially, the group produces a series of climactic overtures, accelerated by a distinct sense of uninhibited force. On pieces such as “Ruhkukah” and “Low Levels, High Stakes,” the musicians surge forward with a deterministic flair via a few tricky time signatures and lyrically charged themes atop Holdsworth’s climactically driven solos. Consequently, the group conveys an underlying sense of tension and release, as Holdsworth’s scathing legato-based lines might spur notions of a hawk zooming in on its prey. Thus, a must-have for the ardent Holdsworth aficionado.

Tracklist:
01 – Prelude
02 – Ruhkukah
03 – Low Levels, High Stakes
04 – Hard Hat Area
05 – Tullio
06 – House of Mirrors
07 – Postlude

Allan Holdsworth – None Too Soon (1996/2017)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/96 kHz | Time – 51:00 minutes | 977 MB
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Artwork: Front cover

While electric guitarist Holdsworth retains his signature ultra-legato, speed demon sound, he has added a couple of new wrinkles to this date. He’s attempting to play some legitimate jazz standards, a couple of Joe Henderson tunes, and other sidebar items. He’s also working with the synthaxe, a synthesizer controller, on three cuts. The most revelatory moments of the date come from the acoustic sounding digital piano of Gordon Beck, a true master whose be-bop chops and inventive solo work cements the legitimate jazz aesthetic into the fiber of this music. Electric bass guitarist Gary Willis (of Tribal Tech) and drummer Kirk Covington work pretty well together, and swing, albeit in a more rock/R&B orientation. Holdsworth has a predilection for stating melodies very briefly before immediately going into a solo. This is most evident during John Coltrane’s “Countdown,” where he tosses out the theme with nice chords, then rips into his distinctive flowing single 16th and 32nd note lines. Holdsworth is not all flash – he comps frequently and tastefully, as on the well-played Henderson piece “Isotope,” getting out of Beck’s path as the pianist digs into an aggressive, melody drenched solo. A 6/8 take of “Norwegian Wood” is quite interesting, with Beck’s modal piano chords and Holdsworth’s guitar melody working in opposing keys, adopting a sound closer to John Abercrombie. The leader skates around the melody of “How Deep Is the Ocean,” with Beck proving himself a superior, cliche-free improviser reharmonizing the changes. Synth dominates the trumped up, phony take of Django Reinhardt’s “Nuages,” while a saving bass-led “Very Early” (Bill Evans piece) in waltz tempo has Beck shining on his sped-up improv from a slower introductory pace. Time and time again on this date he proves to be the true star. The remaining tracks are Beck’s piano-driven, rather Pat Metheny-esque contemporary Southwest landscape hard swinger “San Marcos,” and the synthaxe-oriented, three-note vamp of the title cut, with a more patiently constructed guitar solo at the beginning. Holdsworth is a speed freak, once and always, who cannot be tamed – nor would his fans want him to. His multilayered, frenetic style is what fascinates his audience, but he is showing a need to calm down at times, and adopt different sounds aside from the single crystalline entity for which he is known.

Tracklist:
01 – Countdown
02 – Nuages
03 – How Deep Is the Ocean
04 – Isotop
05 – None Too Soon, Interlude, None Too Soon (Part II)
06 – Norwegian Wood
07 – Very Early
08 – San Marcos
09 – Inner Urge

Allan Holdsworth – The Sixteen Men Of Tain (2000/2017)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/96 kHz | Time – 52:56 minutes | 1,03 GB
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Artwork: Front cover

Coming on the heels of some rather mediocre efforts, The Sixteen Men of Tain is startlingly superb. Holdsworth has stripped away the distracting banks of keyboards and allowed his soaring, gliding guitar to shine through in a way it hasn’t since the 1980s. Even the Synthaxe, Holdsworth’s signature guitar synthesizer, sounds organic and immediate, not to mention far less prevalent than on previous albums. Dave Carpenter’s acoustic bass is a radical departure (check out his solo on the title track), as are Walt Fowler’s two guest appearances on trumpet. “The Drums Were Yellow,” a burning guitar/drum duet tribute to the late Tony Williams, is also a first. Gary Novak’s drumming is appropriately complex and riveting on this and six other tracks. (Holdsworth’s old compatriot Chad Wackerman sits in for “Downside Up.”) In short, this album is full of fresh ideas and unadulterated improvisational brilliance – just when it was beginning to seem that Holdsworth’s best work was behind him.

Tracklist:
01 – Son Onofre
02 – 0274
03 – The Sixteen Men of Tain
04 – Above and Below
05 – The Drums Were Yellow
06 – Texas
07 – Downside Up
08 – Eidolon
09 – Above and Below (Reprise)
10 – Material Unreal

Allan Holdsworth – Flat Tire: Music for a Non-Existent Movie (2001/2017)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/96 kHz | Time – 47:31 minutes | 854 MB
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Artwork: Front cover

Flat Tire is a departure in that it is Allan Holdsworth’s first unaccompanied record, executed with the Synthaxe guitar synthesizer. Holdsworth uses the instrument not only to play basslines, string- and choir-like chord swells, and quicksilver single-note lines, but also to trigger drum patches. The result is more of a one-man band effect than a solo guitar performance. Some of the synth sounds are quite reminiscent of his 1987 album Sand. The music is a bit static and repetitive overall, particularly on tracks like “Please Hold On,” “So Long,” and “Don’t You Know,” during which single lines flutter over subtly shifting rubato harmonies. The brassy chords that surface during “The Duplicate Man” are perhaps the best example of Holdsworth’s sonic creativity. More varied and rewarding are the tempo-based tracks, particularly “Eeny Meeny” and “Bo Peep,” both of which feature bassist Dave Carpenter, who played on 2000’s excellent The Sixteen Men of Tain. Other highlights include the quasi-African percussion collage of “Snow Moon” and the steady groove and syncopations of “Curves.” Certainly not the best introduction to Holdsworth’s music, but his die-hard fans will want to pay it close attention.

Tracklist:
01 – The Duplicate Man (Intro)
02 – The Duplicate Man
03 – Eeny Meeny
04 – Please Hold On
05 – Snow Moon
06 – Curves
07 – So Long
08 – Bo Peep
09 – Don’t You Know

Allan Holdsworth – Then! Live in Tokyo (2003/2017)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/96 kHz | Time – 62:55 minutes | 1,25 GB
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Artwork: Front cover

The willingness of Allan Holdsworth to allow this archival live recording to crawl forth from the vault required 12 years of mental fermentation and no small amount of coaxing. Many fans remember the strong chemistry of this quartet in live shows, which featured original IOU drummer Gary Husband with bassist Jimmy Johnson and keyboardist Steve Hunt. Then! captures one of Holdsworth’s most celebrated ensembles live in a Tokyo jazz club in 1990 with an audiophile, digital 24-track recording. It’s a long awaited document of a master improviser, the man who many musicians regard in the same way for guitar what ultimate respect and wonder Coltrane commands on saxophone. Like Coltrane, Holdsworth is a master whose extended solo guitar improvisations hold listeners spellbound.

Tracklist:
01 – Zone I
02 – Proto-Cosmos
03 – White Line
04 – Atavachron
05 – Zone II
06 – Pud Wud
07 – House of Mirrors
08 – Non-Brewed Condiment
09 – Zone III
10 – Funnels

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