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(52:23, Moonjune Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. The Duplicate Man Intro 2. The Duplicate Man 3. Eeny Meeny 4. Please Hold On 5. Snow Moon 6. Curves 7. So Long 8. Bo Peep 9. Don't You Know LINEUP: Allan Holdsworth – guitars, synthaxe Dave Carpenter – bass
Prolusion. UK artist Allan HOLDSWORTH is among the living legends in the world of music. A musician especially renowned by fellow musicians and music insiders, his output has been a source of inspiration for a vast multitude of artists and admired by even more. He's been a member of many notable bands over the years, but it is as a solo artist he is best known. "FlatTire" is a studio album first released in 2001. In 2013 it was reissued by the US label Moonjune Records.
Analysis. In my personal journey as a fairly die hard metal fan slowly getting more and more involved in progressive rock as a listener and then later as a reviewer, Holdsworth is a name I've encountered fairly often, but for some reason or other I've never gotten around to check him out until I had this CD on my desk. And the material on this CD makes me suspect that this isn't at all a good place to start if you want to investigate what this heralded musician is all about. I understand that this production was created at a low ebb in Holdsworth's personal life, with limited amounts of resources available to record it. The limited resources including money, a suitable studio and instruments available. Which is at least part of the reason for why it ended up like it did I guess, as at least to my ears the limited resources make a bit too much of an impression. I understand why a so-called SynthAxe was the main instrument used, which in short and simplistic description is a guitar set up to sound like a keyboard. Which obviously comes with some advantages, as it gives the performer possibilities to play material in a manner that wouldn't be possible on a keyboard. But while instrumentalists probably have had a field day with the technicalities of this ever since this production first appeared in 2001, I'm much more interested in what it sounds like than how it was recorded and performed. And to my ears this album isn't all that impressive. The compositions are well developed and performed, and Holdsworth's skills as a musician are unquestionable. The synthesizer guitar doesn't sound all that great though, there are instruments emulated those sounds, to put it mildly, less than convincing, and many of the various synth constructions sound sterile and clinical. The drums are possibly the worst of the lot, I've heard quite a few drum machines that have more life and warmth than the ones used on this occasion. As far as the compositions themselves are concerned, there's basically two types of them at hand. Songs such as Eeny Meeny, Curves and Bo Beep come across as fairly recognizable examples of more or less typical jazz-rock. Good movement, clever soloing and engaging arrangements, in the case of Curves are so well assembled and performed that this is one of the pieces that really stands out and is enticing despite of the aforementioned synthetic instrumental details. On the other hand we have material like Snow Moon and Don't You Know, and to a certain extent The Duplicate Man as well. To a lesser or greater degree these all sound closer to what artists like Vangelis or Tomita would create, atmospheric laden creations with plenty of slow moving synthesizer surges, and at least to my ears, all of them would be well suited and perhaps better suited for a performance by a symphony orchestra than by a guitar based synthesizer. The under-title of this production is "Music for a Non-Existent Movie", and this trio of compositions all appear to come with an automatic movie score association included, at least as I experience them.
Conclusion. "FlatTire" comes across as a slightly flawed production, or at least one where the qualities have faded with time. Mainly due to the synthesizer sounds, which are much more sterile and cold than the sounds produced by contemporary synthesizer setups. Instrumentalists will still have a field day in listening to this material, considering how the music is performed on a guitar synthesizer, but others should approach this album with a bit of caution. As far as the material is concerned it's fairly equally divided between what I'd describe as film score music and jazz rock, both styles explored with the expertise you'd expect from an artist of Holdsworth's stature, but with the sterile sounding instrument sounds at least for me a detrimental feature.
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