‘Against The Clock'

Allan Holdsworth – ‘Against The Clock’

It was fall of 1975. I awoke early one Saturday morning and was about to head toward the bathroom. The radio was on; and although I was semi-conscious the tune that was playing grabbed my attention. And it was kickin’!! An electric piano was soloing, and the drummer sounded familiar; but I knew I hadn’t heard the tune before. Then the guitar player took a solo: and that cat started playin’ some un-godly shit. Just smokin’!! At that time, I was deep in the throes of John McLaughlinism; so anyone manhandling a guitar like this guy was going to get my attention.
‘Against The Clock'

‘Against The Clock’

I had to “go��?; but no way was I leaving that radio. I HAD to know who was playing. The odds were 50-50 that the disc jockey would announce the name of the group or the song. I waited through two more songs (which felt like sitting through Beethoven’s “Ninth��? given the state of my bladder) but Fate was kind. The band was The New Tony Williams Lifetime. The album was “Believe It��?. The song was ‘Fred’. And after I returned from buying the record that afternoon, I learned that the guitar player’s name was Allan Holdsworth. And I’ve been a fan ever since that Saturday morning.

Holdsworth’s guitar playing can by characterized as a demonic hammer-on/pull off legato style that uses wide intervals of note clusters for his single-line soloing and arppegiated chord voicings that mere mortals cannot play. The phrasing and sonorities of his playing resemble a saxophone or violin being played at the speed of light by someone not of this world. And I’m not exaggerating.

“Against The Clock��? is a compilation or material from 1985 to 2001. According to the liner notes, Allan feels this time frame represents a period “where he exercised full control of the productions��?. The personnel for each track, and recordings they were originally released on, are also listed in the liner notes. The two CD set is also divided into categories: Vol.1 features Allan’s dazzling work on guitar, while Vol.2 features Allan’s playing on the Synthaxe. The Synthaxe was a MIDI controller/synthesizer interface that allowed Allan to create lush orchestrations and offered a wider sonic palette for his soloing. It was an odd-looking piece of equipment, but you could play it in a guitar-like fashion. Though Allan’s work with the Synthaxe could be regarded as pioneering, the instrument itself never caught on and the company went out of business.

While all of the tracks showcase Allan’s artistry, the collection is light in the “ballz-out and ferocious dept.��? Sure, there will always be the “my favorite song ain’t there factor��? when it comes to “Best Of’s��?. But there aren’t many tracks that make me want to gnaw on a dinosaur bone and plunder a village; a common reaction that Allan’s playing has been known to have on listeners. Given the delicate and melodic themes of the Synthaxe disc, more grit on the Guitar disc would have offered a more balanced program.

Allan Holdsworth is an artist with a distinct and unique voice on guitar. To say that his playing is innovative and influential would be pure understatement. Musicians (not just guitar players) and non-musicians alike owe it to themselves to become aware of Holdsworth, his playing, and his music. This collection offers a starting point for the uninitiated, and a way for hardcore fan’s to stop carrying around nine Holdsworth CD’s.

Allan Holdsworth: Guitar, Synthaxe
Gary Husband, Chad Wackerman, Vinnie Colaiuta, Gary Novak, Kirk Covington, Tony Williams: Drums
Alan Pasqua, Steve Hunt, Gordon Beck, Billy Childs: Keyboards
Jimmy Johnson, Skuli Sverrisson, Gary Willis, Bob Wackerman: Electric Bass
Dave Carpenter: Acoustic Bass
Naomi Star: Vocals

Disc 1 – Guitar
1. Tokyo Dream (Japan Version)
2. Sphere Of Innocence
3. Ruhukhan
4. Low Levels High Stakes
5. How Deep Is The Ocean
6. Nuages
7. Devil Take The Hindmost
8. Home
9. Peril Premonition
10. The Sixteen Men Of Tain
11. Mr. Berwell
12. Looking Glass
13. Pud Wud

Disc 2 – Synthaxe
1. Spokes
2. Distance vs. Desire
3. MacMan
4. Against The Clock
5. Eeny Meeny
6. Secrets
7. Bo Peep
8. Postlude
9. All Our Yesterdays
10. Eidolon
11. Sundays
12. Let’s Throw Shrimp (bonus track)
13. Shenandoah (bonus track)

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