Allan Holdsworth is a great guitarist but I have always struggled to find his solo music accessible and enjoyable. I love the stuff he did with Gong, Jean Luc-Ponty, Tony Williams, and others but for some reason I just have a hard time getting into his solo stuff. I keep trying though because so many guitarists, such as Steve Vai, Eddie Van Halen, Alex Lifeson, Frank Zappa, Tom Morello and a whole slew of other guitarists have nothing but great things to say about him. I recently stumbled upon an album of his that I really like. Sand is Allan Holdsworth’s 5th studio album that he released in 1987. On this album he is supported by Alan Pasqua (keyboards), Jimmy Johnson (bass), and either Chad Wackerman or Gary Husband (drums) depending on the track.
What I really like about this album is Allan Holdsworth use of the SynthAxe. This gives the album more of a synth 80’s feel more so than a guitar shredding album. The album is clearly 80’s in its sound, which I enjoy and the 6 tracks on Sand are similar enough to make a coherent album but diverse enough to make it interesting. “Distance vs Desire” is a very synth-based ambient track that I think is relaxing and beautiful to listen to.
Other tracks such as “Mac Man” are more up-tempo and less easy listening. This track reminds me of some of the synclavier work that Frank Zappa did in its sound and complexity. The drumming really reminds me of Zappa in his later years, which makes sense since Chad Wackerman, who plays the drums on this track, also played with Zappa in his later years. Once Holdsworth starts to solo, though. it is distinctly his own work.
I highly recommend this album to people who want to get into Allan Holdsworth or to people who want some good 80’s jazz fusion.