Sunday, July 16, 2017

Road Games (1983, 2017), by Allan Holdsworth

CD Fan Review

Allan Holdsworth's second album is where the fretboard wizard truly found his voice and really took off.

His dynamic compositions and quickfire electric guitar leads soar, taking his music to sonic heights where very few, if any, could reach.

The guitarist, bassist Jeff Berlin and drummer Chad Wackerman (Frank Zappa, Andy Summers) flex their musical muscles on an eclectic mix of instrumentals and vocal tracks featuring singers Paul Williams and Cream legend Jack Bruce.

Highlights include "Three Sheets to the Wind," "Tokyo Dream" (the original rock version; a later, jazzier version appears on Holdsworth's 1992 release Wardenclyffe Tower), and "Was There?" (with vocals by Bruce).

--Raj Manoharan

Saturday, July 8, 2017

I.O.U. (1982, 2017), by Allan Holdsworth

CD Fan Review

Although Allan Holdsworth's compositions, arrangements, and musicianship get even better on later albums (an amazing feat in and of itself), this is a strong official solo debut by the electric guitar extraordinaire.

This remastered edition features Holdsworth's signature atmospheric instrumentals, as well as unique vocal songs performed by frequent Holdsworth collaborator Paul Williams (Holdsworth's fellow Englishman, not to be confused with the American singer-songwriter of the same name).

In addition to Holdsworth on guitar and violin, the tight band includes Paul Carmichael on bass and Gary Husband on drums and piano.

Holdsworth's virtuosic artistry and distinct fusion of jazz, rock, and new age, and the stellar performances of his solid rhythm section, make this album an appetite-whetting harbinger of greater things to come.

--Raj Manoharan

Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Man Who Changed Guitar Forever! The Allan Holdsworth Album Collection (2017), by Allan Holdsworth

CD Fan Review

I had forgotten what an amazing and awesome guitarist and composer Allan Holdsworth was. Thanks to the two-disc Eidolon: The Allan Holdsworth Collection and the 12-disc box set, both released just a week before Holdsworth's untimely and unfortunate passing at the age of 70, I have realized the error of my ways and been set back upon the correct path.

In addition to most of the 28 tracks personally selected by Holdsworth for the Eidolon collection, my other favorite tunes from among his 97-song catalog include the following: "Atavachron," "Sand," "Clown," "Joshua," "Wardenclyffe Tower," "Zarabeth," "Questions," "The Un-Merry Go Round Part 5," "Prelude," and "Hard Hat Area."

That said, all of Holdsworth's solo work is outstanding, especially if you love electric guitar in the context of jazz, rock, new age, and fusion.

Holdsworth clearly had more inspiration left in him, as he was recently working on his first new studio album in well over a decade. Hopefully his family will see fit to finish and release it.

In any event, the double CD and the box set serve as lasting reminders of Holdsworth's artistic excellence and purity.

Holdsworth may no longer be with us in body, but his "eidolon" will remain forever through his brilliant, one-of-a-kind music.

--Raj Manoharan

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Adios (2017), by Glen Campbell

CD Fan Review

Glen Campbell, who is in the final stages of Alzheimer's Disease, recorded this, his final studio album, in 2012 just after his diagnosis, and it is among his finest efforts.

Although the photography features Campbell posing with one of his guitars, Campbell leaves the instrumentation to others, most notably his long-time banjo player Carl Jackson, who produced the album and plays guitar, and Campbell's daughter Ashley, who plays banjo and accompanies and backs up her father on vocals. The album also features Campbell's sons Cal and Shannon and guests Willie Nelson and Vince Gill.

This allows the elder Campbell to focus on singing, and he really gives it his all. It would be a cliche to say he has never sounded better, but at the very least, his voice is as wide-ranging, nuanced, and poignant as ever, especially in light of – and in spite of – his personal struggles.

The songs are all excellent, making the album a pleasure to listen to from beginning to end and over and over again. I have developed a particular fondness for "Everybody's Talkin'," "Postcards from Paris," and "A Thing Called Love."

Adios is so good that you wish this wasn't the end. But it's a fitting farewell, as well as a lasting reminder of how good of a musician, singer, and all-around entertainer Glen Campbell was.

--Raj Manoharan

Chuck (2017), by Chuck Berry

CD Fan Review

After gracing Earth with his presence for 90 years, the father of rock-and-roll has left us mere mortals behind, but not without bequeathing to us his final, posthumously-released gift.

And what a gift it is!

Chuck is Chuck's first new studio album since 1979's Rock It! (and obviously now his last one), and it shows an artist for whom age truly was a number, as he hadn't lost his creative and performing spark.

I don't know of any other musician who sounds or sounded as vibrant and energetic at 90 years of age as Chuck does on this record. His guitar playing and singing are as lively as ever, especially combined with the latest, state-of-the-art recording technology. Chuck is still rocking it!

The album is a family affair, with Chuck's daughter on harmonica and accompanying/backup vocals and three generations of Berry men on guitars. Chuck Sr.'s classic style is unmistakable, with Chuck Jr. displaying more of a jazzy side and Chuck III ripping fiery, screeching solos. I hope the latter two continue their patriarch's legacy, at least in terms of guitar playing.

Chuck has left the building, and he goes out at the top of his game.

--Raj Manoharan

The Definitive Collection (2006), by Chuck Berry

CD Fan Review

Thirty seminal rock-and-roll hits, all on one compact disc, and clocking in at just over an hour. That's a pretty concise and pretty comprehensive overview of the career heyday of the man who started it all – the one and only Chuck Berry.

"Roll Over Beethoven" (famously covered by The Beatles during their Hamburg shows), "Maybelline," "Johnny B. Goode" – they're all here, the important and historic ones, at least.

Although the majority of the recordings are from the 1950s, the clarity and fidelity of the sound shine brightly, especially Berry's articulate vocals and stinging, sparkling guitar riffs.

The result is an engaging and entertaining retrospective fitting for rock's first singer and six-stringer.

--Raj Manoharan

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Adam West (1928-2017)

Of all the actors who have portrayed Bruce Wayne and his crimefighting, caped crusading alter ego Batman on (and off) camera, the third one, Adam West, is probably the most memorable and the most beloved.

A big part of my 1980s childhood (from reruns of the 1960s television series and motion picture), West is one of those actors I wish I had the chance to interview when I was a newspaper and magazine entertainment writer in the 1990s and 2000s.

Short of that, I got the next best thing – a 1966 Batman credit card with West's personalized autograph (as both himself and Batman) that I bought from West through his Web site a couple of years ago.

After the Batmania craze ended in the late 1960s, West returned to the role several times in animated form along with his co-star Burt Ward as Dick Grayson/Robin. The two also reunited for a semi-autobiographical, live-action TV movie in the early 2000s and most recently voiced their characters for an animated film set during the original show's era and released last year for the 50th anniversary.

West also received late-career notoriety playing himself on an episode of The Simpsons and an even more outlandish version – Mayor Adam West – on Family Guy.

Of all the Batmen before and after West, the ones with the most historical distinction are the first actor to play Batman (Lewis Wilson in the 1943 movie serial Batman) and the first actor to play Batman since West (Michael Keaton in the 1989 movie Batman, 21 years after the end of the TV series).

But the one Batman to rule them all is Adam West, who truly will be Batman forever.

--Raj Manoharan