Guitar virtuoso Allan Holdsworth has had a long and storied career dating as far back as 1969 when he recorded his first album with the group Igginbottom. Eventually he joined the improv group Sunship with future King Crimson percussionist Jamie Muir and legendary keyboardist Alan Gowen who later went on to form the Canterbury groups Gilgamesh, National Health, and Hatfield And The North. From those seeds his reputation would blossom, becoming one of the most respected guitarist in the field of rock, prog, and fusion. Winning accolades from fans and peers alike for his fluid electric guitar-work and innovative introduction of the SynthAxe into his arsenal. Joining Allan Holdsworh and Gordon Beck are Gary Willis (bass guitar) and Kirk Covington (drums).
Besides his many solo studio releases, which include: "Velvet Darkness" (1967), "I.O.U." (1982), "Road Games" (EP) (1983), "Metal Fatigue" (1985), "Atavachron" (1986), "Sand" (1987), "Secrets" (1989), "Wardenclyffe Tower" (1992), "Hard Hat Area" (1993), "None Too Soon" (1996), "The Sixteen Men Of Tain" (2000), and "Flat Tire: Music For A Non-Existent Movie" (2001); Holdsworth is probably best remember in the prog community for his contributions to the progressive super-group UK, and the brilliant self-titled 1978 debut album which also featured Eddie Jobson (keyboards, violin), John Wetton (bass, vocals), and Bill Bruford (drums, percussion).
MoonJune Records is in the process of digitally re-mastering many of Hold
MoonJune Records is in the process of digitally re-mastering many of Holdsworth's recordings, two of which I'll be reviewing for Prognaut, beginning with "None Too Soon".
Suggesting the 1996 album "None Too Soon" is a Holdsworth solo album seems a bit deceiving since it comes across as a collaborative effort between Holdsworth and keyboard/pianist Gordon Beck. And Allan himself suggests Beck was the driving force and primary arranger for the project. So in all honesty this could just have easily been marketed as a Gordon Beck solo project with Holdsworh listed as the principle guitarist. The soloing and instrumental highlights are pretty well divided 50/50 between both Holdsworth's guitar/SynthAxe and and Beck's piano. Unfortunately for Beck he didn't have the marquee name to supplant Allan Holdsworh from top billing status - nor did he have the built-in broad spectrum fan-base of Holdsworth. And so "None Too Soon" markets best as an Allan Holdsworth solo project.
Yet unlike most of Holdsworth's solo records which were original compositions, the majority of material on "None Too Soon" is a collection of jazz and rock standards from such artists as John Coltrane, Django Reinhardt, Irving Berlin, Bill Evans, Lenon and McCartney, and a few compositions for Gordon Beck.
And because of the the extensive improvisational jazz piano, coupled with the fact that the material on the album is interpretations of jazz standards, the music comes across as a 3-piece lounge band performing in an intimate smoke-filled night club - neither rock ... nor prog ... or fusion. A bit bland for my taste.
Which isn't quite what I expect from the guitarist who flat-out rocked on the albums "Velvet Darkness", "Road Games" and "I.O.U." ... nor is it the ambient spacey new age musings of "Atavachron" or "Sand". "None Too Soon" would appeal to the adult contemporary jazz fans more so than adventurous fusion fanatics.
That said, the musicianship is extraordinary - as we've come to expect from Holdsworth - and the outstanding piano work from Gordon Beck makes "None Too Soon" a fitting tribute to this exceptional jazz pianist who past away on November 6, 2011.
Reviewed by Joseph Shingler on May 16th, 2012