Music reviews of a jazz-progressive retrospective, quirky new power-pop

Alan Holdsworth
Alan Holdsworth

Allan Holdsworth doesn’t have any “hits” on this side of the pond, and the CD reviewed below is a self-selected best-of collection. The Sweet Spirit album reviewed below was originally slated for last week’s column. A mention of new Bicentennial stamp subject Jimmy “Duck” Holmes closes things out.

‘Eidolon: The Allan Holdsworth Collection,’ Allan Holdsworth (Manifesto Records,1/2)

This April 7 double-CD collection is part of a much larger whole: a 12-CD collection called “The Man Who Changed Guitar Forever,” released the same day.

Your reviewer is familiar with Holdsworth only as the guitarist for a progressive-rock supergroup called U.K. in the late 1970s, with drummer/percussionist Bill Bruford, bassist/vocalist John Wetton and violin/keyboardist Edwin Jobson. None of those tunes appears here. This is a hard review to write, because these are mostly noodle-heavy “fusion” instrumentals.

Disc 1 favorite moments are easier to come up with than favorite tunes. I enjoyed Allan Pasqua’s nifty piano on “54 Duncan Terrace,” the late Jack Bruce singing on “Road Games,” the cinematic sweep of “The Sixteen Men Of Tain,” Gordon Beck’s piano on Irving Berlin’s “How Deep is The Ocean,” and Holdsworth’s guitar solo on “Low Levels, High Stakes.”

Disc 2 favorite moments were the SynthAxe sounding like restful keyboards on “Distance vs. Desire,” Jimmy Johnson’s nifty drums on “Non-Brewed Condiment” and the mellow, atmospheric “Home.”

This collection is filled with high-level musicianship by all players, but readers who aren’t fusion fans won’t enjoy much of it.

‘St. Mojo,’ Sweet Spirit (Nine Mile Records, 1/2)

This April 7 recording (available in multiple formats such as the one above) comes from an Austin-based eight-piece band called Sweet Spirit. Members are Andrew Cashen/lead guitar, lead and backing vocals; Sabrina Ellis/lead vocals; Joshua Merry/lead guitar and backing vocals; Jake Knight/piano, keys and cello; Jon Fichter/bass, backing vocals and acoustic guitar; Danny Blanchard/drums, percussion and backing vocals; Cara Tillman/backing vocals and synth; Leslie Matthews/backing vocals and alto sax and Samuel P. Rives/backing vocals and trumpet.

The high-octane opener, “The Power,” is a lascivious, definitive statement of purpose. Other favorites include “The Mighty,” a piano-driven stunner, the country-flavored “Far From Home,” the blazing “Pamela” and the dynamic “Salvation.”

This is a pleasingly quirky 2017 slab of power-pop.

Jimmy ‘Duck’ Holmes

Jimmy “Duck” Holmes is a north Mississippi bluesman whose singular-sounding album, “It Is What It Is” (Blue Front Records) was released (and reviewed) in 2016. His hands and acoustic guitar are featured on the new Mississippi Bicentennial stamp released March 31 by the United States Postal Service.

Ricky Flake, a former punk rocker and current music fan, lives in Biloxi. Reach him at flakericky@gmail.com