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Allan Holdsworth

Leverkusen '97

Review by Gary Hill

I'm reviewing several sets from Allan Holdsworth in this issue of Music Street Journal. This one is brand new, although the concert captured here was in 1997. I have to share a little bit of personal background. I got to see Holdsworth perform live about ten years earlier. That show was amazing. I remember at the time thinking that every musician should see Holdsworth play live. I don't think I've ever heard better musicians than I saw that night. Well, his band here is not the same band as I saw, but these three guys, Holdsworth, bassist Dave Carpenter and drummer Chaz Wackerman are every bit as good as the band I saw. Holdsworth's brand of instrumental fusion is largely improvised, but you'd never know it when you see how tight these guys are. This set includes a CD of the concert along with a DVD. The DVD captures the show with multiple cameras in a recording that looks and sounds great. The DVD also includes an interview with Wackerman talking about the show. I can't recommend this enough. If you like Holdsworth, you should pick it up. If you haven't heard him, but are a fan of fusion, do yourself a favor and get it.

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Track by Track Review
The Sixteen Men Of Tain
After being introduced, the group launch out into a killer fusion styled jam. You expect Holdsworth's guitar work to be magical, and it is. Don't overlook the bass work of Dave Carpenter, though. That has some pretty amazing moments. This thing gets into some screaming hot zones as it drives forward. This is just exceptionally cool fusion. The band introductions are made in some stage banter at the end.
Looking Glass
I love the energy and tone as this cut gets underway. While Holdsworth's guitar playing is always so amazing, he really cuts loose on this thing. The tune is a smoking hot powerhouse of superstar musicianship.
Above And Below
The mellower, atmospheric concepts here make me think of some of the moodier stuff on the first UK album. The cut works out into more standard fusion zones, but remains on the mellow end of the spectrum as it does so.
Water On The Brain-Pt.II
A much more energized cut, this is has some pretty impressive bass playing. The tune fits well under the fusion heading.
This is another with some particularly amazing and soaring guitar work. The rhythm section drives it with style, too.
Material Real
A dramatic and melodic piece, this is another slab of purely classy sound. While the cut isn't a big change, it has its own flavor.
Letters Of Marque
At over 11-minutes of music, this is the epic of the show. I love the fairly fast-paced, driving movement that get it underway. Classy exploration ensues from there. Again, all three musicians manage to really show off their talents in this experimental fusion arrangement. Holdsworth's guitar playing on this one really stands out. There is a drum solo built into the tune.
Another killer fusion tune, this has some intriguing twists and turns. It's nothing extremely different, but we get plenty of magic built into it.
This has some intriguing melodic concepts and visions. Again, you just can't beat Holdsworth's playing. I really particularly love some of the bass work on this number, too. There are some crazy angular guitar lines on the number.
House Of Mirrors
All the musicianship throughout the show is exceptional, but I think that the mellower part of this cut later has some of the most effective bass work of the whole show. Given the competition, that says a lot.
This is a fiery number that is one of the most intense and energized pieces of the whole concert. It's got some cool twists and turns and everyone gets a chance to shine throughout.


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