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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Allan Holdsworth

Frankfurt '86

Review by Gary Hill

This is one of a batch of albums from Allan Holdsworth that I'm reviewing for this issue of Music Street Journal. I've said in the other reviews that I think he might be the greatest guitarist who has ever lived, and I believe that. This concert doesn't showcase it as well as some of the others do, though. While it's definitely fusion, it's more closely tied to traditional jazz. The addition of a keyboard player is a mixed blessing. It allows for more of that mainstream jazz sound, which might make it appeal more to a different audience. However, that instrument takes more of the spotlight, and Holdworth focuses on Synth-Axe rather than guitar a lot of the time. Those two things make it a little less of a guitar showcase. I have to say that it's an interesting alternate angle to his work, but I tend to prefer the other side of the equation. This concert is strong, though. This also comes with a DVD of the show (filmed professionally with great audio and video) to round out the package.

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Track by Track Review
Three Sheets To The Wind
This comes in with a rather mellow fusion concept, but it grows outward into more intense stuff further down the road. There are some really powerful passages and moments here. This is fairly dynamic cut and a great opener.
Letters Of Marque
This number is over 15-minutes long in this live telling. That makes it the longest piece here. They power out fast paced and potent. There is some killer bass work on this, but then again, everyone puts in a great performance. This piece has plenty of changes, but they are organic. It almost seems redundant to say that the guitar playing is amazing, but here we are - me playing Captain Obvious. There is some crazed piano around the half-way mark. There is a drum solo further down the road.
Tokyo Dream
I love the cool fusion textures on this piece. The song has a great melodic groove to it and feels a bit like something Holdworth might have done in his tenure in the band UK. I love the piano playing on this tune. The guitar soloing is so amazing. The whole tune has some great moments.
Looking Glass
This has some of the most powerhouse jamming of the whole performance. It's a classy cut that's one of the strongest here. The piano solo is on fire.
I love the smoking hot keyboard and synth-axe jamming on this thing. This number is more of a fusion type song and less mainstream jazz. It's a particularly potent tune and one of the highlights of the set.
Non-Brewed Condiment
Now this one also gets more into pure fusion zones. It's another that's considerably hot and powerful. It's another that stands tall amidst the rest, too.
White Line
Still more fusion-oriented, this is little less intense and driving. It still has plenty of cool instrumental work built into it, though. The jamming late really does intensify, too.
Shallow Sea

There is a cool groove to this piece. The jamming is on fire in a more traditional fusion way.

Devil Take The Hindmost
We are brought into this soundscape via a melodic fusion arrangement. The cut grows out from there with style and a lot of charm. This has some of the most inspired and potent jamming of the whole set. Then again, since it's the closing piece, that makes sense.
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