Category Archives: Gary Husband

Allan Holdsworth: I.O.U. (1982)

“No one—absolutely no one—was interested in anything that I did. We couldn’t get any gigs, which is why we called the band I.O.U. The few gigs that we did do there always ended up costing us more money than we’d get.” – Allan Holdsworth, in a 1982 interview with Guitar Player.

Over the years, Allan Holdsworth’s I.O.U. has accumulated a lot of interest. I had thought Velvet Darkness was impressive but, no, it’s a half-baked mess compared to the hyper-articulate I.O.U. Mixing songs and instrumentals, this will remind you of King Crimson (post-Discipline), Bill Bruford, U.K., Frank Zappa and Steve Hackett, even as it challenges much of what you thought you knew about the electric guitar. The sounds that Holdsworth gets out of his Stratocaster are not to be believed. There are soft, silken stretches of sound that emulate electronic keyboards and long legatos of incredible skill and grace, all of it delivered with a mathematical precision that transcends ready comprehension. At first, you won’t believe that what you’re really hearing is a guitar. Then, you won’t believe that anyone could play that fast without massive overdubs (most of these songs were done as a live take with no guitar overdubs). And, finally, you won’t believe that Allan Holdsworth isn’t a household name. While none of Holdsworth’s albums could be called commercial in the usual sense, I.O.U. is more accessible than most, with actual vocals (Paul Williams, who would fit somewhere between Jack Bruce and Jeff Berlin) and a crackerjack rhythm section of Paul Carmichael (bass) and Gary Husband (drums). Holdsworth spotted Carmichael and Husband playing at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London, and the young pair made the most of the opportunity with superlative playing that belies their tender years. (Husband wasn’t even 21 when this album was recorded—which is shocking to think about, except that you’ll probably be too shocked by Holdsworth’s guitar most of the time to notice.) Fripp, Zappa, Hackett… they all make fine guitar heroes. But you really owe it to yourself to listen to this album, at which point you’ll quickly add Allan’s name to the list of great guitar gods.

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Allan Holdsworth with I.O.U.: Metal Fatigue (1985)

Kronomyth 3.0: I.O.U.K. Following his short-lived and doomed dalliance with the majors, Allan Holdsworth returned to the realm of independent records and released the highly listenable Metal Fatigue. The album credited I.O.U. (which now consisted of Chad Wackerman, Jimmy Johnson and Paul Williams) as the backing band, and featured a mix of instrumental and vocal songs that invited comparison to Holdsworth’s earlier stint in the supergroup format, U.K. Holdsworth’s guitars, however, take center stage from the beginning. He manages to get at least a dozen distinct sounds out of his guitar, ranging from soft and jazzy keyboard tones to squonky prog guitar solos. Flim & The BB’s Jimmy Johnson is an excellent choice on bass, and ex-Zappa alum Chad Wackerman provides typically challenging rhythms, but you won’t be able to take your ears off of Holdsworth for more than a few seconds as you alternate between asking yourself “Is that actually a guitar?” and “Can a human being really play the guitar that fast?” Although he never played with Frank Zappa, it’s amazing to me how much Holdsworth sounds like Adrian Belew, Mike Keneally and Steve Vai (although I’m guessing it’s really the other way around). The opening “Metal Fatigue,” for example, sounds a lot like something Mike Keneally would have concocted, with its rock-music-turned-on-its-head approach. And about a minute into “Devil Take The Hindmost,” there’s that familiar Adrian Belew animal wail making an appearance. The second side of music is dominated by the fourteen-minute “The Un-Merry-Go-Round,” which offers slightly classical variations on a theme and provides the album’s most challenging listening. Although never destined for wide commercial acceptance, Metal Fatigue will appeal to those prog rock aficionados who would gladly burn a candle to the greatest living guitarist at any particular moment, which would be Allan Holdsworth for a good twenty minutes of these moments. As the last of AH’s albums before he fell under the spell of the SynthAxe, Metal Fatigue is one of the more amazing guitar-centered prog records you’re likely to encounter. If you dug U.K., you owe it to yourself to check this one out.

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Allan Holdsworth: Hard Hat Area (1993)

Kronomyth 12.0: CONSTRUKCION ARIA. This is the ninth solo album by Allan Holdsworth, which is about the only piece of useful contextual information I can give you, not having heard the first eight. I have a copy of Metal Fatigue around here somewhere which I’ll get around to listening to eventually, but for now my knowledge of the man comes from his short stints with Soft Machine, UK and Bill Bruford. On those albums, Allan Holdsworth struck me as a low-key guitarist who could light it up at will. His guitar solos were impossibly fast and fluid, and then he would recede into the background again until the next flash of lightning. Somewhere in the 80s, Holdsworth became enamored of a device called the SynthAxe that combined a synthesizer and a guitar. Now I know what you’re thinking: Why not just run a guitar through an effects processor? And the answer, of course, is because then you wouldn’t be able to whip out your SynthAxe and feed your inner level 6 Dwarven Myrmidon or whatever it is that compels someone to play a hybrid synthesizer/guitar in the first place. Before listening to Hard Hat Area, I expected it would sound like your typically stellar electric guitar fusion album, and it doesn’t for a couple of reasons: 1) the music is the kind of spikey complex stuff that Robert Fripp was making in the 90s rather than friendly fusion, and 2) Holdsworth plays the SynthAxe as much as the electric guitar, so that it often sounds like a quartet with two keyboardists (Steve Hunt being the other). The opening “Prelude” sets the stage for a standoffish selection of mathematical fusion: it’s dark, mysterious, dread-filled. There’s no denying that Holdsworth has mastered complexity and technique, but he’s a soloist more than a songwriter. “Low Levels, High Stakes” and “Tullio” are the album’s most approachable tracks; the rest of the material is alien, aggressive, dissonant. Lots of people buy latter-day King Crimson albums and seem to enjoy them, or at least enjoy telling other people they enjoy them, so there must be an audience for Hard Hat Area as well. It’s a difficult record, which means you’ll need a notepad to keep track of all the tonal shifts and intervallic leaps, but then you’ll have the pleasure of pointing out the tonal shifts and intervallic leaps to other people later (which, unless you’re wearing a Ring of Infinite Charisma, will be a short conversation). Adventurous listeners in the mood for complicated synthesizer/guitar fusion are encouraged to venture into Hard Hat Area (insofar as one wishes to encourage these people), but I wouldn’t start the journey here.

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Gary Husband: Dirty & Beautiful Volume 1 (2010)

Maybe you’ve never heard of Gary Husband before, so the cover wisely advertises an impressive guest list: John McLaughlin, Steve Hackett, Allan Holdsworth, Jan Hammer, Jerry Goldman. You’ve heard of these guys, maybe even carried a torch for a couple of them (in which case, you may already have met Mr. H on sundry Holdsworth or Level 42 albums). So Husband gets in on their graces, this despite the lackluster title and low-key packaging, and before you know it your fusion buttons are getting pushed in all the right places. Gary Husband, it turns out, is no mere jazz drummer but a double threat (drums/keyboards) and a solid composer to boot. Now, in this world there is no shortage of unremarkable jazz players making remarkable music, which is where I expected to file this album. But Dirty & Beautiful Volume 1 is so much better than that, better than a lot of the fusion that still slips out into the 21st century fringes. I probably don’t need to tell you that the tracks with Holdsworth (actually a holdover from his recent live shows), McLaughlin and Hackett deliver the goods. And we can all agree that a one-minute track with Robin Trower in a Hendrix-styled power trio setting is a cruel tease. What surprised me is that those names on the righthand side that drew me in here aren’t the real draw; it’s Husband himself. Tracks like “Ternberg Jam” (dalek acid chatter, I wrote in my original notes), “Swell” and “Afterglow” are winners, despite featuring only Husband and (on Ternberg) bassist Jimmy Johnson. The remaining tracks are equally interesting, from the weirdly wound groove of Steve Topping’s “The Maverick” to an old Hammer song (“Between The Sheets of Music”) featuring Jerry Goodman on electric violin. Given the different players involved, Dirty & Beautiful is an eclectic offering, which reveals Husband to be not only multi-talented but multi-faceted. Honestly, I enjoyed this disc more than a lot of latter-day efforts from the masters, since at this stage you pretty much know what to expect from a Holdsworth, McLaughlin, Corea, Cobham, etc. With all the different pairings, this disc smartly samples Husband’s journey through jazz fusion and is richer for the fact that Husband has never been a one band man.

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