Friday, 16 October 2020

Allan Holdsworth - ...and on guitar (1978)

The premise of this series is to showcase famous guitarist's guest appearances on other people's records, but Allan Holdsworth had such an individual career that for this post it will be slightly different. Holdsworth is a unique musician, who is held in high regard by both his fans and his peers, and yet his career is quite fragmented, in that he tended to join a band, record one album with them, and then leave to move on, in effect becoming the guest musician in his own life.
Allan Holdsworth was born in Bradford on 6th August 1946, where he was raised by his maternal grandparents. His grandfather Sam Holdsworth was a jazz pianist who had previously moved to London to pursue a career in music, but he eventually returned to Bradford. Holdsworth was given his first guitar at the age of 17, receiving his initial music tuition from his grandfather, and his professional career began when he joined the Glen South Band, which performed on the Mecca club circuit across Northern England. His first recordings were in 1969 with the band 'Igginbottom on their lone release, ''Igginbottom's Wrench', on which he also sang and wrote most of the music. In 1971 he joined Sunship, an improvisational band featuring keyboardist Alan Gowen, future King Crimson percussionist Jamie Muir and bassist Laurie Baker, but although they played live, they never released any recorded material. The following year he teamed up with Nucleus leader Ian Carr, and played on Carr's solo album 'Belladonna', before moving on to join progressive rock band Tempest, and recording their self-titled debut studio album in 1973. Leaving Tempest, he then joined Soft Machine, playing on their 'Bundles' album, then leaving them to join The New Tony Williams Lifetime and playing on their 'Believe It' album. Another move in 1976 found him in Gong, and recording their progressive jazz/fusion album 'Gazeuse!', before joining Jean-Luc Ponty to play on his 'Enigmatic Ocean', and in 1978 he was off again to team up with Bill Bruford for his 'Feels Good To Me' record, before Bruford formed the progressive rock supergroup U.K. with John Wetton and Eddie Jobson, and invited Holdsworth to join them, where he played on their first album before leaving them. Whilst U.K. continued with different musicians, Bruford returned to the core line-up of his solo band now simply named Bruford, with Holdsworth retained as guitarist, and their second album 'One Of A Kind' was released in 1979. At this point Holdsworth was ready to pursue his own musical aspirations and soon left the group, teaming up first with Gordon Beck, and then Gary Husband, and by 1982 he'd released his first album as bandleader, with I.O.U.'s self-titled record. After eleven solo albums, and constant touring to promote them, he passed away on 15th April 2017, with his death attributed to high blood pressure. Holdsworth's mercurial career has covered many bands, sometimes going back to play with them again years later, but the one thing they all have in common is that their music was enhanced by his inventive guitar playing.
Holdsworth was known for his highly advanced knowledge of music theory, through which he incorporated a vast array of complex chord progressions, often using unusual chord shapes in an abstract way based on his understanding of 'chord scales', and intricate improvised solos, frequently across shifting tonal centres. He used a myriad of scale forms often derived from those such as the lydian, diminished, harmonic major, augmented, whole tone, chromatic and altered scales, among others, often resulting in an unpredictable and dissonant 'outside' sound. His unique legato soloing technique stemmed from his original desire to play the saxophone, but unable to afford one, he strove to use the guitar to create similarly smooth lines of notes. His guitar style really was unique, and he continues to be cited as an influence by other musicians to this day. 

Track listing

01 Golden Lakes (from ''Igginbottom's Wrench' by 'Igginbottom 1969)
02 Hector's House (from 'Belladonna' by Ian Carr 1972)
03 Up And On (from 'Tempest' by Tempest 1973)
04 Land Of The Bag Snake (from 'Bundles' by Soft Machine 1975)
05 Proto Cosmas (from 'Believe It' by The New Tony Williams Lifetime 1975)
06 Expresso (from 'Gazeuse!' by Gong 1976)
07 Enigmatic Ocean Part III (from 'Enigmatic Ocean' by Jean-Luc Ponty 1977)
08 If You Can't Stand The Heat...' (from 'Feels Good To Me' by Bruford 1978)
09 Nevermore (from 'U.K.' by U.K. 1978)

Enjoy / Enjoy


  1. pj, Thanks so much for this latest installment of ...And On Guitar. Great series. I didn't realize Holdsworth was so busy before he started doing his own albums. Thanks also for all the album links in the tracks list. Great music, much appreciated. Burt

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