ALLAN HOLDSWORTH — Road Games (review)

ALLAN HOLDSWORTH — Road Games album cover EP · 1983 · Fusion Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
Atavachron
Road Games is comprised of what could be thought of as a "supergroup", with veteran bassist Jeff Berlin providing his unshakable foundation to Allan Holdsworth's confounding music, Jack Bruce and Paul Williams on various vocals, and the great Chad Wackerman drumming. This is also one of Holdsworth's gentler offerings with lots of bright light generally not found on his other albums and though rhythmically intricate, it isn't as eager to impress or exhibit. Consequently, the impact is understated, making 'Road Games' one of this extraordinary player's most unique sets. And hats off to Eddie Van Halen for his pull with Warner in getting this released, a project that likely would not have had support from a major label. The full album appears to remain unfinished though the original EP was Grammy nominated for Best Rock Instrumental Performance. Holdsworth's tactile influence on Mr. Van Halen has always been evident (especially when hearing this record), and it was a fitting toast to a Grand Master.

He had not begun recording with a synthaxe yet, and the feathery quality of these cuts is contrasted by Allan's sharp-edged lead guitar with very few layers, extras or unnecessary effects, just clean and pure expressions of his special gift. As a young man, he had been a saxophonist enthralled by Coltrane and others, and that deep connection to the sax comes through in a way that must be heard to fully appreciate. The contemplative 'Three Sheets to the Wind' with its chordal swells reaches a fat solo packed with this player's fluid and furious pattern-making.

Former Tempest colleague Paul Williams handles the singing on the title track which features Holdsworth's own closed-voice chords and a squealing lead. 'Water On the Brain Pt. ll' just rocks, another little structural wonder of rhythmics with a nearly-perfect bass solo from Jeff Berlin and 'Tokyo Dream', though a bit frivolous, is pleasant enough and is rescued by another cutting guitar performance. Finally, Jack Bruce is up on voice for the halcyon 'Was There?' and two blistering but brief noodles from Allan, as well as the dreamy 'Material Real'. Looking back, if not a definitive example of his work, this was one of A.H.'s more interesting and revealing sessions
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