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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Allan Holdsworth

Allan Holdsworth, I.O.U. - Live In Japan 1984

Review by Gary Hill

I am reviewing several live sets from Allan Holdsworth in this issue of Music Street Journal. Here is a bold statement I'd like to make. Holdsworth might be the most talented guitarist to ever pick up the instrument. Put in this DVD of the concert that comes with this set and watch him play. You are likely to think the same thing. It doesn't mean he's my favorite artist to listen to. His style of fusion isn't the type of music that resonates with me personally as much as some other types of music, but I do like it a lot. Any time I watch him play, I'm captivated and in awe. He was just so talented. This concert sounds good, and the video looks good. A couple years after this show Holdsworth dropped vocals from his band and went to strictly instrumental. Personally, I think that was the better choice as I prefer the instrumental stuff. The thing is, every recording of this guy is magic. Do yourself a favor and check some (or perhaps all) of them out. We may never hear a guitarist as gifted as Holdsworth again.

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Track by Track Review
Tokyo Dreams
The fusion sounds that bring this into being are chord based and classy. The cut grows out from there with some intriguing timing changes, twists and turns. The number gets pretty crazed in terms of the soloing further down the road.
Road Games
A frantic riff brings this into being. The cut has some killer fusion built into it. There are vocals to this one. There is also a bridge that makes me think of Frank Zappa to some degree.
White Line
More of a mainstream jazz approach is on display here. This reminds me quite a bit of the kind of stuff Holdsworth did with the band UK. The number has a good balance between the mellower and more powered up sections. Holdsworth's solo on this track is so expressive and powerful. It also gets screaming hot. This number really explores a lot of interesting territory.
Panic Station
I like the vocals on this cut quite a bit. The tune has another pretty classy fusion arrangement. The guitar solo is screaming hot. I really love the bass work on this.
Letters of Marque
Here we get a fusion instrumental. I love how the track sort of twists and winds with the guitar and bass painting lines around one another. This is just such a powerhouse.
A mellower and more melodic fusion arrangement brings this cut into being. It seems even more sedate in contrast to the killer track that preceded it. The cut gets more intense and passionate as it grows out, but it's restrained compared to the last one. It has some more melodic moments that again make me think of UK to some degree.
Devil Take the Hindmost
This might have some of the most impressive and incredible guitar soloing of the whole show. Given the competition, that says a lot. Listen the interplay between that guitar and bass, too. This is a smoking hot fusion instrumental that really soars and astonishes.
Material Real
The atmospherics that start this and hold the number again make me think of some of the ambient elements of the first UK album. Mid-track the song shifts to more of a mainstream fusion jam, and the vocals enter. We are off in style. It has an effective balance between the mellower textures and more powered up ones. There are more comparisons to be made to UK in some of the vocal sections here, too.
Metal Fatigue
The opening on this is so crazed and cool. It is in line with the kind of thing the Belew-era of King Crimson did. The number shifts to more of a mainstream fusion concept for the entrance of the vocals. There are definitely some Crimsonian twists and turns on this song. This works out to killer jamming on the instrumental break later.
Where is One
A mellower movement starts this, but a burst of powered up jamming serves to punctuate it. Then it shifts back to that melodic thing.  A longer and more intense powered up blast is heard as the tune continues; The track eventually works out to some seriously inspired instrumental fusion. This thing is a real powerhouse and has some killer guitar work, but everyone is playing like crazy.
The Things You See (When You Haven't Got Your Gun)
This one is another with vocals. It also calls to mind UK to some degree. The fusion angles work well on this number. This is classy stuff, but so is everything else here.
Was There?
While the CD lists this as "Was There?," which is why I have, it's introduced as "Was There Something?" It comes up gradually, but then blasts out into driving, rocking fusion. I have to admit that I'm not crazy about the vocals on this tune. The number has some great changes, though. And, some of the instrumental sections are purely on fire.
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