Monday, October 12, 2015

Allan Holdsworth - 1982 [1985] "i.o.u."

I.O.U. is the second studio album by guitarist Allan Holdsworth, released in 1982 through Luna Crack Records/I.O.U. Records originally on vinyl; a CD edition was reissued in 1985 through Enigma Records[3] and a remaster in 2008 through Belle Antique. A previous album, Velvet Darkness, was released in 1976 without Holdsworth's consent, therefore making this (in his view) his first official solo release. Furthermore, many tracks from Velvet Darkness were remade and retitled for I.O.U..

After the train-wreck disaster of Holdsworth's first solo release, the infamous Velvet Darkness, it wasn't until three years later that he reconsidered doing a real solo release versus the earlier ripoff of an authorized studio mishmash product he suffered. So in 1979 he recorded I.O.U. on a wing and a prayer and loans (ergo, an IOU recording project). With his very successful stints with other groups in the intervening time period, such as UK and Bruford, Holdsworth's guitar prowess and name were clearly on the map. Holdsworth now needed to be the leader he clearly was and thus release an official solo record. The real Allan Holdsworth unleashed is at last revealed on I.O.U. in his original compositions and well-crafted soloing, versus being merely part of a group and forced to stay within certain boundaries of other bandmates' design. I.O.U., as a solo release, is high-quality jazz fusion interplay, offering emotive compositions, ethereal guitar atmospherics, complex chordal progressions, and intense legato explosions of guitar that set the standard for many guitarists to come. There is no acoustic guitar this time, but a wee bit of Holdsworth on violin appears in one song. 

Allan Holdsworth makes modern fusion albums: this record has very dedicated electric guitar sounds. I think he uses a volume effect to sometimes produce very ethereal, echoed, urban & refined floating guitar sounds, like on the "Shallow sea" or "Letters of Marquee" tracks: it sounds a bit like the guitar volume effect of the King Crimson's "Matte Kudasai" track, on the "Discipline" album. When Holdsworth plays a more conventional sound here, he quite sounds like the Pat Metheny's electric guitar on the "American garage" album. There are no keyboards on the record, maybe just an excellent piano part on "Temporary fault". The lead vocals sound a bit like the voice of Gary Chandler (Jadis). Holdsworth's numerous guitar solos are very elaborated, although they are more technically impressive than they can be catchy. The bass and drums are quite complex, fast and refined. Gary Husband's drum solo on "Letters of Marquee" is ABSOLUTELY DELIGHTFUL! Just turn up the volume and enjoy the power of it! 

This is another great place to start for the uninitiated. But you may want to wait. Allan just secured the rights to his earlier recording and there is talk of re-releasing/re-mastering this album with some added tracks which were "lost" during the first pressing. If you can get a copy of this, grab it. This is Allan's first "REAL" attempt to bring his music to the world and he does so in a stunning fashion. This album consists of 50% instrumental and 50% vocal tracks. Don't be put off by Paul Williams voice. He's not great, but he is competent (stays on key). Holdsworth tears it up, on violin too. Some of the solos will cause you to rewind and play over and over to try and imagine what he's doing. Blistering, not just speed, but the fluidity of the notes (legato) and the passion he plays with. Gary Husband marks his debut with IOU and he sets a very flowing pulse anchored by Paul Carmichael. It's hard to point out any single track as a stand out because the flow of the album makes for one enjoyable listen. The Things You See and Letters of Marque are still fans favs today.

To call this groundbreaking would be an understatement. After years of playing "hired gun" and adding colorful embroidering to the works of others, Allan Holdsworth in no uncertain terms served notice he had something unique of his own to offer. Ghostly extruded chords, angular intervalic melody lines, anarchaic drumming and Coltrane-like flurries of notes dance collide twist and turn on themselves in ways never before thoght possible. Having seen this lineup live (circa 1982), It was amazing to see Allan do things on a guitar that just sounded impossible! Gary Husband's drumming is a great example of "controlled chaos", providing a great foil for Allan's unorthodox musical ideas as Paul Carmichael provides solid bass support.

Allan Holdsworth's proper debut after the disastrous 'Velvet Darkness' (and a joint venture with Gordon Beck) was a quiet but definite triumph, and the fact that few seemed to notice didn't diminish the musical ripples this LP sent out. It presented a music altogether new, led by a player who had arrived in a big way and took the notion of jazz-rock to a different place. 'The Things You See' has Paul Williams back in great form, Paul Carmichael's sensitive bass and the unstoppable Gary Husband on traps. Unassuming but fantastically complex is 'Where is One', dotted with many little tastes of Holdsworth's brilliance. Here was much more than just fusion. 'Checking Out' rocks with smart arrangements and fresh ideas, 'Letters of Marque' features rich atmospherics and a kick-ass drum solo from Husband. 'Out From Under' is heavy jazz with Holdsworth's signature atonalities, demonstrating Williams' vocal talents and musical understanding, and 'Shallow Sea' is an instrumental showcase. There is every chance you may hate this record, and that's okay. It's progressive, it rocks, and in 1982 was an astounding musical statement. Challenging, difficult and absolutely brilliant.

Tracks Listing

1. The things you see (when you haven't got your gun) (5:50)
2. Where is one (5:32)
3. Checking out (3:34)
4. Letters of Marquee (6:57)
5. Out from under (3:32)
6. Temporary fault (3:15)
7. Shallow sea (5:51)
8. White line (4:50)

Total Time: 39:21

Line-up / Musicians

- Paul Carmichael / bass
- Allan Holdsworth / guitar, violin
- Gary Husband / drums, piano
- Paul Williams / vocals



  2. Thanks a lot!

    Pablo (Argentina)