Allan Holdsworth (1946-2017): Endless Melody

It took me a while to get my hands on a copy of the late Allan Holdsworth’s new compilation, Eidolon.  It was well worth the wait.

What strikes me on the second listen to Eidolon is the seemingly endless flow of melody Holdsworth tapped.  Despite his stunning contributions to the first U.K. album, it’s clear in retrospect that the man wasn’t comfortable in a highly structured musical environment.  Like his hero John Coltrane, Holdsworth was much happier stating the tune at the start, in bebop head style, then seeing where he could travel with it.

Taking on the basic materials of scales and arpeggios from oblique directions, chaining them together into lightning fast, super-dense sheets of sound, slowing or stopping dead on a sustained note or an unexpected harmonic twist at just the right moment, all somehow connected to the chord changes he floated above — this is what Holdsworth brought to the Tony Williams Lifetime and Soft Machine, what he developed further in Bill Bruford’s band (before and after U.K.), and what he spent the rest of his life exploring.  From the evidence here, he never ran out of new territory to pioneer; minds were duly blown, and hearts were duly moved.

Despite the admiration and support of more famous shredders like Eddie Van Halen and Joe Satriani, Allan Holdsworth never broke through to wide acclaim. But Eidolon leads me to believe that the gift of music — especially of melody — always brought him joy. Kudos to Manifesto Records for their re-release of all of Holdsworth’s albums (compiled as The Man Who Changed Guitar Forever) and this excellent compilation — which you can check out below.

Rick Krueger

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