Reviews -- Allan Holdsworth
Then! (Live in Tokyo, 1990)

Released October, 2003 -- An audiophile archival live recording, featuring alternate arrangements of Holdsworth studio classics, and three previously unreleased "Zone" improvisations with baritone electric guitar.

(click on album cover to order)

Track Listing, 1. Zone I, 2.Proto-Cosmos 3. White Line (instrumental version) 4. Atavachron
5. Zone II 6. Pud Wud 7. House of Mirrors 8. Non-Brewed Condiment 9. Zone III
Musicians Featured: Jimmy Johnson, bass, Steve Hunt, keyboards, Gary Husband, drums

Reviews Excerpts / Links

Recorded twelve years before his latest release, the similarly-live All Night Wrong , and at the same location in Tokyo, guitarist Allan Holdsworth demonstrates that while he's come a long way in the ensuing years, there's absolutely no reason not to look back at archival material such as this and stand in awe of a stylist who has singularly redefined the potential of his instrument. Then! captures Holdsworth and his band, keyboardist Steve Hunt, bassist Jimmy Johnson and drummer Gary Husband, during a three-night club date in 1990 when sparks were flying.

Holdsworth's reputation as a perfectionist has kept this performance out of the public eye for all too long, and so kudos is due to Chris Hoard and Derek Wilson of Alternity Records for ultimately convincing him to release it. One wonders just how many other recordings are sitting in the can, and how much coaxing it will take to get Holdsworth to release them. Shows like this would go a long way in satisfying Holdsworth fans, and keeping their interest in the long space between studio releases. One of the immediate pluses about Then! in comparison to All Night Wrong , which is a trio disk, is the presence of Hunt. Using many of Holdsworth's original synthesizer patches, the group is able to pull off tunes from Holdsworth's Synthaxe period, including “Atavachron” and ”Non-Brewed Condiment,” with no loss of orchestral richness. Holdsworth has always had a personal sound on synths, and while Hunt clearly has his own playing style, having the Synthaxe patches available help keep the proceedings well within Holdsworth's sonic universe.

Any misgivings Holdsworth may have had about his performances on this date are purely his own; there's nary a misstep during the entire performance, and Holdsworth executes his signature blinding legato runs with the apparent ease and personality that make him an often emulated but never copied guitar hero. With compositions that date as far back as the mid-'70s Alan Pasqua tune, ”Proto-Cosmos,” from his time with the New Tony Williams Lifetime, and an instrumental version of ”White Line” from his I.O.U. days, Holdsworth is in stellar form.
Holdsworth's THEN! on the Alternity label is playing now and I must say this is definite must-have!! Just to hear Zones I, II and III is worth the buy as these compositions are totally live improv and boy do these cats let it rip. The other 6 tracks smoke too -- sheesh, and they sound this superb live!! -- oh how this makes me want to nail my guitar case shut and pack it away for another decade!
What's unique about this record are alternate arrangements, its audiophile recording quality, and particularly the three improv pieces or "Zones" featuring Holdsworth blistering and growling on a huge baritone electric guitar. This album captures a 1990 performance when Holdsworth toured with one of the world's most talented electric jazz quartets, including master drummer Gary Husband, bassist Jimmy Johnson, and keyboardist Steve Hunt (Stanley Clarke/Mahavishnu Project). Some of Holdsworth's solos on this record are unforgettable... the interplay between the band members is at once loose and locked in. This is instrumental rock, jazz, fusion--call it what you will, but Holdsworth has an approach to the guitar and sound that is one of the most revolutionary of all time.

About Alternity's first Holdsworth release, Then!:

Since 'fusion' became a bad word somewhere along the way, I won't use it to describe the music on this release. Instead, I'll say that this is electric jazz of the highest caliber....this quartet vibrates with an intensity and near-telepathic interplay that needs to be heard to be believed. Jazzheads, progrock lovers, and jamband fans will all find much to enjoy in this sonic gem from Allan's archives....let's hope it's the first of many.

--Syd Schwartz, Vice President
Virgin Music Internationa

A customer review from

A second live release from Allan Holdsworth in one year. This one, however was recorded in 1990, 12 years (to the day) before All Night Wrong. I'd hate to compare the two, because the bands were quite different (Then! is a quartet and All Night Wrong features a trio) and each features a completely different set list.

Steve Hunt (keyboards; Stanley Clarke, Mahavishnu Project) uses many of Allan's synth patches and plays many of the Synthaxe parts that Allan originally played on the studio versions of some of these tunes. Steve does a commendable job filling Allan shoes keeping the chording consistent with the originals. Thus, he allows the master to experiment with his Bill Delap Baritone guitars, a breath-taking event! Jimmy Johnson (bass; Flim and the BB's, James Taylor and a host of others) holds down the bottom in his own unique fashion. He gets a few chances to jump into the spotlight and shine. Gary Husband' drums sound huge. He plays with such intensity and control. Any student drummer would be well advised to check this out.

The tunes, nine in all, cover a large spectrum of Allan's career. Proto Cosmos, a Tony Williams Lifetime favorite, is given a rousing performance. Atavachron is simply elevated to another level, which I feel blows away the original. White Line, sans Paul Williams vocals, is wonderfully reconstructed with Allan playing the vocal lines with much more emotion than any vocalist ever could, beautiful. Pud Wud features a brilliant bass solo from Jimmy Johnson, playful and intricate. My favorite moment on the track. Steve Hunt's synth work really comes alive on this tune, as well. House of Mirrors, slowly builds with a gorgeous melody and soft suspended notes cascading and drifting. This is one of Allan's most emotive solos I've heard. Non-Brewed Condiment rocks and pushes the band with muscular drumming and wild soloing.

The improvs, Zone's I, II and III, are phenominal examples of exploration. Each piece is interspersed throughout the CD, beginning, middle and end. They take the listener to uncharted territory, on the spot creations of what only highly skilled musicians can achieve. These tracks are not for the weak of heart nor short attention spans. The push and pull of each instrument creates tension, not to fight for the spotlight, but to add splashes of color onto a spectacular work of art. Curious and inspirational.

This is not a starting place for Allan's work. This one requires some previous exposure to Allan's music. It is a facsinating look at what can be done, on stage, by one of music's most enigmatic guitarists, as well as a snapshot of musical history.

PS: Be sure to have a pint of your favorite ale whilst listening, to salute the master. -- Dan Bobrowski

Questions? Comments? Drop us a line at:

©2005 Alternity Records Inc.