The Best of Allan Holdsworth: Against The Clock (2005)

Kronomyth 20.0: AHMOK TIME. You are about to enter another dimension; a dimension not only of guitars, bass, drums and keyboards, but of some weird device called the SynthAxe. The “A” in Synthaxe may or may not be capitalized; it’s not really important right now. You’re going on a journey into a wondrous land of imagination and twelve-fingered proficiency. Next stop, the AHZONE. If you’re not familiar with the solo music of Allan Holdsworth, you’re about to have two hours of it crammed into your cranium over two discs, with the caveat that some possibly essential pink stuff may start leaking out of one ear about halfway into the first disc. The truth is, Against The Clock is more Holdsworth than some people can process. Those people, by the way, are to be pitied, smiled at and perhaps politely curtsied to, but under no circumstances are they to be engaged in serious musical conversation. For the rest of us, Against The Clock makes manifest the many sides of Allan Holdsworth’s musical genius. Well, the two sides actually: the fiery electric prog/fusion of his first fruits, and the mathematical, sometimes surprisingly lyrical fusion of his ripeness. The songs I hadn’t heard before (“Spokes,” “Tokyo Dream,” “Eeny Meeny,” “Sphere of Innocence”), floored me. The songs that floored me when I first heard them (“Rukukha,” “Low Level High Stakes,” “Postlude,” “Devil Take The Hindmost”), impressed me even more. Divided into two volumes (Guitar and Synthaxe), I expected to enjoy Volume One more because I was never 100% on board with the whole Synthaxe thing. At least with the guitar, I could understand the instrument that was making all of that incomprehensible music. The Synthaxe seemed like an unnecessary, extra layer of incomprehensibility to me. Yet listening to the volumes side by side, it’s clear that Holdsworth could do things with the Synthaxe that he couldn’t with the electric guitar: fluttering notes, softer soundscapes, a horn-like voice that let you isolate and examine it in a way that you couldn’t with the guitar. The Synthaxe also allowed the superlative players who Holdsworth surrounded himself with to rise to the surface. Fans had waited a long time for a compilation of Allan Holdsworth’s solo recordings. Against The Clock proves worth the weight.

The Songs
Volume One/Guitar
1. Tokyo Dream (Japan Version) 5:03
2. Sphere of Innocence 5:56
3. Rukukha 5:31
4. Low Levels High Stakes 9:02
5. How Deep Is The Ocean (Irving Berlin) 5:28
6. Nuages (Django Reinhardt) 5:37
7. Devil Take The Hindmost 5:34
8. Home 5:26
9. Peril Premonition (Chad Wackerman) 4:42
10. The Sixteen Men of Tain 6:23
11. Mr. Berwell 6:08
12. Looking Glass 4:25
13. Pud Wud 6:40

Volume Two/Synthaxe
1. Spokes 3:29
2. Distance vs. Desire 5:14
3. MacMan 3:59
4. Against the Clock (Allan Holdsworth/Naomi Star) 4:54
5. Eeny Meeny 4:37
6. Secrets (Allan Holdsworth/Rowanne Mark) 4:20
7. Bo Peep 3:41
8. Postlude (Allan Holdsworth/Gary Husband/Steve Hunt/Skuli Sverrisson) 5:32
9. All Our Yesterdays (Allan Holdsworth/Rowanne Mark) 5:24
10. Eidolon 4:30
11. Sundays 3:55
12. Let’s Throw Shrimp (Allan Holdsworth/Jimmy Johnson/Chad Wackerman) 3:26
13. Shenandoah (Traditional) 3:15

All selections composed by Allan Holdsworth unless noted.

The Players
All tracks have been previously released except for tracks 12 and 13 on Volume Two, so I won’t bore you with the whole roll call. On the two aforementioned tracks, the players are as follows: Allan Holdsworth (guitars, Synthaxe), Jimmy Johnson (bass on track 12), Chad Wackerman (drums on track 12). All selections produced by Allan Holdsworth except “Let’s Throw Shrimp” produced by Chad Wackerman. Executive producers: Chris Hoard and Derek Wilson. Engineered by Robert Feist, Dan Human, Allan Holdsworth, Rajean de Grand Maison, Gordon Davis, Duncan Aldrich, Guy Dickerson and Biff Vincent.

The Plastic
Compilation released on 2CD in March (May 24?) 2005 in France (JMS/Cream, JMS 18736-2) and the US and Japan (Alternity). Art direction and design by Mark Gleed; art production by Shawn A. Smith. Compilation editing & photo curation by Chris Hoard. Photography by Eddie Coralnick, Chris Hoard, Gary Husband, Glen LeFerman, Lissa Wales. Additional photographs courtesy of the Sam Holdsworth Family and the Gary Husband Archive.

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