He was the John Coltrane of the Electric Guitar

Eidolon – The Allan Holdsworth Collection (Manifesto) review

For older music fans, there seems to be only two choices now – subpar new music that is good, but not great, or listen to the same old tired material of the past. Well, now is as good a time as ever to discover someone you may have missed the first time around – guitar virtuoso Allan Holdsworth.

An innovative pioneer in the truest sense, Holdsworth’s playing sounds like nothing else. He even helped champion the use of the SynthAxe, a guitar/keyboard/wind instrument hybrid that opened up a seemingly endless array of possibilities. For those who like guitar shredding, without the screaming that usually accompanies it, Holdsworth is a welcome change of pace.

The guitarist honed his skills in the 1970’s, playing on albums by the Soft Machine, Miles Davis’ alum Tony Williams, and alongside Bill Bruford and the late John Wetton in the prog rock band U.K.

This two-disc anthology of his solo work was curated by the artist himself and covers roughly two decades of material. In keeping with his devil-may-care attitude, the collection starts with his most recent work and works its way backwards.

Holdsworth’s style has often been compared to that of John Coltrane’s, as both achieved the ability to play their respective instruments at seemingly blinding speeds. While most of this collection is instrumental in nature, there are plenty of surprises along the way.

Take, for example, the jazz standards “How Deep is the Ocean” and “Nuages” from None Too Soon, or a surprise guest vocal from Cream’s Jack Bruce on “Road Games,” or Naomi Star on “Against the Clock.”

The Metal Fatigue album is where everything comes together. Not only is it his most-inspired work, it also seems to be his best collection of songs. “Home” features Holdsworth on acoustic guitar, and “Metal Fatigue” features Paul Williams on vocals, really he seems like the best fit as vocalist and comes off not as a guest, but an honest fit in the band.

Chris Hoard provides a detailed track by track analysis of Holdsworth career and collection.

For those looking for something off the beaten path, this may do the trick. —Tony Peters