Before Joe Satriani and Steve Vai there was Allan Holdsworth. Guitar heroes of the common variety may be easy to pigeonhole, but Holdsworth . . . ., can be hard to define. Which is why Manifesto has chosen to release a 12 CD set, The Man Who Changed Guitar Forever. The releases here span from 1982 until 2003. For those not as inclined to be inclusive purists, there is the two CD best of, Eidolon.
28 tracks of overblown histrionics, and high wire variety drama. The musicianship is by turns lyrical and fluid, artful and angular, with phrasing coming through the speakers from unexpected places. And sometimes this will occur in the space of just one song.
Perhaps what is fascinating in light of the scores of gifted over-the-top musicians he has inspired, is Holdsworth use of space. There will be moments where a rest will almost seem uncertain or hesitant before Holdsworth throws himself headlong into the next movement. “Letters of Marque”is a wild ride of spacey jazz. His take on Django Reinhardt’s “Nuages” is verdant and his synth axe often implies an accordian as the melody is teased to new places. “Road Games” which features Jack Bruce, has manic changes, and effortless mood swings.
We need artists like Allan Holdsworth to show us what’s possible. To show us the how the humble guitar, instrument of choice for pop stars and would be headbanging demi gods can transcend expectations and slip past all you thought was possible.