Holdsworth, Allan - Against The Clock

Year of Release: 2005
Label: n/a
Catalog Number: n/a
Format: CD
Total Time: 122:49:00

In my realm of understanding, I know a lot about lesser known artists and not enough about the ones that reach legendary status. Isn't it ironic, don't you think? I guess I draw a distinction between talent and fame. I tend to go primarily with aptitude and skill over name recognition. You could say I'm not up on commercial radio, hype, the popular brands, or American idols. With that said, there is no better reason for me to find out more about this super-talented and yes, legendary, guitarist named Allan Holdsworth.

My attention was first grasped when I started hearing about this artist from the progressive rock community. He's a member of so many accomplished groups such as UK, Gong, Soft Machine, Soft Works, Tempest, and to my surprise the commercial hit machine called Level 42. He also has a string of successful live albums, the most recent being Then! When he began to surface as a guest in numerous progressive rock projects (he's featured on Atlantis' Pray For Rain, Derek Sherinian's Mythology, and now K2's Book Of The Dead), I felt a musical lesson was in order.

To begin my studies, I decided there was no better place to start than his most recent "best of" collection called Against The Clock.

The liner notes to the lecture include a dozen fascinating quotes, which include the high praise of Bill Bruford to the humble commentary of Eddie Van Halen. With referrals from such renowned specialists, I had to delve deeper into the syllabus. Trust me, these artists are not giving out misleading sponsorship. After hearing this album, I'm sure you'll agree with their comments.

I really like the artwork on the disc, which is the face of an antique clock. It's clever as it is a cross of the old and the new. By the old, I mean the clock, not Allan. By the new, I'm referring to the media, the art, and the modern mix.

The coursework is divided into two sessions. The first volume goes over guitar while the second deals with what Allan refers to as a Synthaxe. The course outline represents nine albums from 1985's Metal Fatigue to 2001's Flat Tire. 1984's Grammy-nominated Road Games is represented by an alternate Japanese version of "Tokyo Dreams." This particular subject is covered in the opening of the first lesson. After an abundance of charming compositions, the class lets out after two short, but sweet, bonus tracks.

My favorite tracks include?

"Rukukha" is upbeat and flashy. It shows off the swiftness of Allan's nimble fingers. The speed doesn't take away from its allure, which is why it's one of my favorite tracks.

The track to follow, "Low Levels High Stakes," is a combination of classical and jazz with a light touch of progressive influences. It also proves the technical prowess of his piano player and bassist.

"Devil Take The Hindmost" is relaxing and melodic. "Home" is sweet and pretty. The bass on "Peril Premonition" struts with a little stagger while the guitar whizzes through the atmosphere like an atomic rocket. "Mr. Bewell" is the liveliest, jazziest, and craziest piece on the album and it's also the most unique. "Looking Glass" takes us down the rabbit hole into a weird and whimsical world. "Pud Wud" goes practically nuts at times.

The listener will finish this first disc with one eyebrow raised and a head filled with melodic equations and musical theory to commit to memory. When we get to the other side, we encounter sounds that are a little more synthetic. As a result, the second session interests me most for all its eccentricities.

"MacMan" is a very strange one indeed. The Synthaxe here sounds more like a keyboard than a guitar. The title track "Against The Clock" is much different than the others, not so much in the instrumental sense, but rather due to the fact it is the first track with vocals. On this song, Rowanne Mark guides us with her saintly-sounding passages. She also returns much later in "All Our Yesterdays" where she sings like a high-pitched pixie. She starts us in the greenest of forests before tom toms and congos take us to the mean streets of Spain. After the ruckus created in the previous sections by these devilish and dreary drums, Rowanne takes us back to her fantasy world for a fairy-tale ending.

Gary Husband from the Muffins is featured on "Postlude." It's another wacky track that also tops my favorites. "Eidolon" is very similar in nature and it just happens to be the last of the lively bunch.

"Sundays" sputters around the bases, "Let's Throw Shrimp" limps through third, and "Shenandoah" slides into home base. With the bases loaded, the album finishes with some last minute scores to take the ballgame. I especially like the panache of the very last song. It's like a player who tips his cap and waves to the crowd for that final freeze frame. You could say the album finishes like the closing credits to an inspirational movie.

The supporting cast is tremendous. While the keyboards and bass are well above average, the drumming on this album is absolutely extraordinary. Couple this with the fact Allan Holdsworth is leading the crew and you wind up with some incredibly sublime pieces plastered throughout the albums inner walls. Even though I prefer song-oriented and melody-driven music, I can safely say that any fan of fusion will surely rejoice in this release.

From the onset, even the most inexperienced audiophile can ascertain that this is high-quality instruction from an experienced professor. The compositions on the whole are incredibly deep and introspective. As the album progresses, we get varying pieces that take us in many different directions. Allan's style has a breadth that reminds me of Petrucci's more classical and jazzy pieces. All the tunes are great and the only true description of this album is "best of" artist, "best of" class. He definitely earns the distinction of magna cum laude among his musical peers.

If Allan's trying to meet a deadline, he's really in no hurry to do so as this collection takes a little more than two hours to traverse. It happens over the course of 26 separate topics, most around the four or five minute range. Not sure why this is against the clock. The pieces sound fresh, youthful, and refined. They don't appear to be rushed and I didn't check the time once while it was playing.

A lot has been crammed into this advanced course. I'll need to review the material many times over before I could possibly appreciate every detail. I might be ready for a quiz, but I still have a lot to learn before the finals. From this point on, I'll be on the lookout for this legendary artist. Many more study sessions will be scheduled to review the rest of Allan's impressive handiwork.

Disc One: Tokyo Dream (Japan version) (5:03) / Sphere Of Innocence (5:56) / Ruhkuhan (5:31) / Low Levels High Stakes (9:02) / How Deep Is The Ocean (5:28) / Nuages (5:38) / Devil Take The Hindmost (5:34) / Home (5:26) / Peril Premonition (4:42) / The Sixteen Men Of Tain (6:23) / Mr. Berwell (6:08) / Looking Glass (4:25) / Pud Wud (6:40)

Disc Two: Spokes (3:29) / Distance vs. Desire (5:14) / Macman (3:59) / Against The Clock (4:54) / Eeny Meeny (4:37) / Secrets (4:20) / Bo Peep (3:41) / Postlude (5:32) / All Our Yesterdays (5:24) / Eidolon (4:30) / Sundays* (3:55) / Let's Throw Shrimp* (3:26) / Shenandoah* (3:15)

* new tracks

Allan Holdsworth ? guitar, synthaxe
Gordon Beck ? keyboards
Dave Carpenter ? acoustic bass
Billy Childs ? keyboards
Vinnie Colaiuta ? drums
Kirk Covington ? drums
Steve Hunt ? keyboards
Gary Husband ? drums
Jimmy Johnson ? electric bass
Gary Novak ? drums
Alan Pasqua ? keyboards
Skuli Sverrisson ? electric bass
Bob Wackerman ? electric bass
Chad Wackerman ? drums
Tony Williams ? drums
Gary Willis ? electric bass

Velvet Darkness (1976)
I.O.U. (1982)
Road Games (1983)
Metal Fatigue (1985)
Atavachron (1986)
Sand Secrets (1989)
Wardenclyffe Tower (1992)
Hard Hat Area (1994)
None Too Soon (1996)
I.O.U. Live (1985) (1997)
The Sixteen Men Of Tain (1999)
Flat Tire (2001)
All Night Wrong (2002)
Live ? Then! (2003)
Against The Clock: The Best Of Allan Holdsworth (2005)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin UK

Added: April 19th 2005
Reviewer: Joshua "Prawg Dawg" Turner
Artist website: www.therealallanholdsworth.com
Hits: 2455
Language: english


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