Sunday, September 17, 2017

None Too Soon (1996, 2017), by Allan Holdsworth

Allan Holdsworth proves himself to be quite the hep cat on this atypical and uncharacteristic album of mostly jazz standards.

Obviously, due to the nature of the material, this outing finds Holdsworth at his most subdued. But, Allan Holdsworth being Allan Holdsworth, the guitar great still manages to take off with delightfully dizzying displays of razzle-dazzle and come back in for a perfect landing at just the right place and the right time.

The music for the most part covers the iconic works of jazz icons such as guitarist Django Reinhardt and Holdsworth's idol, saxophonist John Coltrane. Also featured are a couple of original tunes by Holdsworth's keyboardist and frequent collaborator Gordon Beck, as well as a unique take on The Beatles' "Norwegian Wood," which Holdsworth masterfully turns into a jazz standard all his own.

Whether covers or originals, Allan Holdsworth gives it all his all, creating an all-around pleasant album that should please jazz aficionados as well as fans of elegant, tasteful, and highly advanced electric guitar.

--Raj Manoharan

Hard Hat Area (1994, 2017), by Allan Holdsworth

This is the very first Allan Holdsworth album I bought, back when it was originally released in 1994. I even remember the Greenwich Village CD store where I purchased it (incidentally, the same one where I got Sting's Ten Summoner's Tales a year earlier).

After having recently listened to Holdsworth's previous six releases, looking back in hindsight, Hard Hat Area is definitely his best work up to that point in his career. As to whether it's his best overall, I won't be able to say until I listen to his remaining five albums.

I can best assess this CD by responding to three customer reviews that drew my attention.

One listener states that Holdsworth's compositions are not very strong. If this were actually the case, Holdsworth's highly advanced guitar playing would merely be a pointless exercise in running up and down scales, which it absolutely is not.

The reviewer might be referring to the fact that the music is not primarily riff- or hook-based, like, say, the tunes of fellow guitarist Andy Summers. Holdsworth's songs are looser, but by no means less compelling, freeing him up to take off on extravagant flights of fretboard fancy. This is very much in keeping with the spirit of jazz improvisation that Holdsworth ascribed to, especially being an ardent fan and admirer as he was of saxophone legend John Coltrane.

Another commenter rightly points out that, unlike certain showboating shredders who do lightning-speed leads irrespective of the context in which they're playing, Holdsworth's fiery solos are always anchored to and serve the chord progressions and structure of the overall composition.

Finally, one fan writes that if you like lots of electric guitar, this album is worth it.

I wholeheartedly agree.

--Raj Manoharan

Saturday, September 9, 2017

40th Anniversary Police Playlists

In honor of the 40th anniversary of the formation of The Police, I have come up with the following two 10-track playlists.

Too Much Information (Fast-Paced Rockers)

Next to You * Peanuts * It's Alright for You * No Time This Time * Bombs Away * Man in a Suitcase * Too Much Information * Rehumanize Yourself * Synchronicity * Synchronicity II

Voices Inside My Head (Moody Ruminations)

So Lonely * Hole in My Life * Bring on the Night * Contact * Driven to Tears * Voices Inside My Head * Secret Journey * Darkness * Walking in Your Footsteps * Tea in the Sahara

A good bonus playlist would be all the non-album tracks from the 1993 set Message in a Box.

--Raj Manoharan

Wardenclyffe Tower (1992, 2017), by Allan Holdsworth

While Allan Holdsworth's solo recording career took a couple of albums to get off the ground, there is no such thing as a bad Allan Holdsworth album, and Wardenclyffe Tower continues the guitar great's streak of top-flight, progressive jazz/rock/new age fusion releases.

Named after the experimental wi-fi station built by science genius Nikola Tesla on Long Island in the first decade of the 20th century, the disc lives up to that storied facility's spirit of technological innovation and enterprise.

The music is, as usual, slick and high-tech, with Holdsworth's guitar and SynthAxe and his band's bass, drums, and keyboards coalescing into a dynamic blend of scintillating sonic radiance and brilliance. Holdsworth's trademark sense of humor is on display as well, with the first tune punctuated by a hilarious, self-deprecating skit.

You could never go wrong with an Allan Holdsworth album, especially one with a bit of a history lesson, to boot.

--Raj Manoharan

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Here Comes the Son

After spending the last few years as a member of thenewno2 and Fistful of Mercy, as well as a film and television composer, the Quiet Beatle's progeny, Dhani Harrison, is finally stepping out on his own with the release of his first solo album, In Parallel, due October 6.

The 39-year-old son of George apparently is quite the talent on synthesizers and especially guitar, which should come as no surprise given who his teacher was.

According to Rolling Stone magazine, the songs on the album are very cinematic in terms of sound and scope.

Bring it on, Dhani. We are all awaiting on you.

--Raj Manoharan

Ringo Starr and Stewart Copeland Back on the Beat

Speaking of The Beatles, Dhani's “uncle” and one-time drumming instructor Ringo Starr is still pounding and belting away at the sprightly young age of 77, with his 19th solo album, Give More Love, scheduled for release on September 15.

And not speaking of The Beatles but still speaking of drumming, Police stick man and new senior citizen Stewart Copeland once again takes a seat behind the skins in his first band project since Oysterhead (and the Police reunion tour).

The eponymously titled Gizmodrome, which also features guitarist Adrian Belew of King Crimson, bassist Mark King of Level 42, and keyboardist Vittorio Cosma, is also out on September 15.

--Raj Manoharan

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Secrets (1989, 2017), by Allan Holdsworth

CD Fan Review

This is another terrific album in Allan Holdsworth's masterful repertoire, and one that strikes a nice balance between guitar- and Synthaxe-based compositions.

The Synthaxe tunes are elegant, both in terms of tone and structure, and the guitar tracks feature Holdsworth's typically virtuosic and otherworldly solos.

In addition to the excellent instrumentals, the album includes two vocal songs, the best of which is easily "Endomorph," sung by Craig Copeland and exhibiting one of Holdsworth's most searing, searching, and incisive guitar performances. It is among Holdsworth's finest material.

It's no secret that Allan Holdsworth stands apart in terms of his artistic vision and technical execution, and Secrets is a prime example of his creative greatness.

--Raj Manoharan