Allan Holdsworth: Three Sheets to the Wind


Three Sheets to the Wind


Allan Holdsworth (guitar)


Road Games (Globe Music GMMA 2100-2)

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Allan Holdsworth (guitar),

Jeff Berlin (bass), Chad Wackerman (drums)


Composed by Allan Holdsworth


Recorded: Los Angeles, early 1983


Rating: 92/100 (learn more)

It is quite possible that, of all the remaining '70s fusion players who were doing anything in the genre during the vapid '80s, Allan Holdsworth was producing some of the most interesting material.

Holdsworth is one strange cookie. He is among the world's greatest guitarists but has claimed to have never really liked guitar. As a kid, he wanted to be a saxophonist, but a saxophone was too expensive. He ended up playing guitar because there was one kicking around the house. But he longed for the long sustained notes you could get from a horn. This desire was pushed even farther by his affinity for John Coltrane. The result was a guitar style almost devoid of percussive elements. He didn't like that sound, the sound of a finger or pick hitting a string. Holdsworth instead plays long flowing notes and slurs his fingering to create what in essence is a sound not unlike a horn player. Some listeners may even hear Coltrane in his guitar. Eventually, later in the decade, Holdsworth would grasp onto synthesizer technology, which gave him an even better tool to get the sound he so desperately wanted.

Road Games is another of those Holdsworth projects that for some reason was never completed. There were apparent artist and label "issues." That is a shame because rock guitar star Eddie Van Halen, who had clout back then and believed Holdsworth deserved a wider audience, pushed Warner Bros. to give Holdsworth a shot at the big time. The album has only 6 short cuts. The famous Jack Bruce appears on a couple of forgettable vocal tracks. But the power trio of Holdsworth, bassist Jeff Berlin and drummer Chad Wackerman make the album worth having.

"Three Sheets to the Wind," a state Holdsworth may have occasionally found himself in, starts off as a nice electric jazz ballad. Holdsworth plays some jangly spacey chords as Berlin lays down a melodic bassline. Then Holdsworth goes all squirrelly. Only the string bending hints that the man is playing a guitar. The long sustained notes morph from one to the next. The phrasing is not normal. The direction is not usual. You are hearing something different. There wasn't much good fusion music in the 1980s, but a lot of what there was, was being played by Holdsworth.

Reviewer: Walter Kolosky

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