Things we like: Al Green, Allan Holdsworth, furthur down the Dead rabbit hole
2) The big sleep claimed another estimable muso this week. The preternaturally fleet-fingered guitarist Allan Holdsworth, whom I saw in '76 with the New Tony Williams Lifetime and in '78 with UK, passed on Saturday at age 70. Holdsworth also performed with Soft Machine, Jon Hiseman's Tempest, Pierre Moerlin's Gong, Jean-Luc Ponty, and a great Bill Bruford band that also included Annette Peacock. He went on to lead his own bands for 30 years, often in the company of ex-Zappa drummer Chad Wackerman. The quicksilver fluidity of his lines was even more hornlike than John McLaughlin's and Sonny Sharrock's approaches. I always assumed he was hammering, but Thinking Plague guitarist and Holdsworth aficionado Bill Pohl maintains that Allan "picked way more notes than people realize." Worthwhile listening: Williams' Believe It, Bruford's Feels Good To Me and the Rock Goes To College DVD, Wackerman's Forty Reasons, and Holdsworth's own I.O.U., Metal Fatigue, and the live Then! A week before Holdsworth's passing, Manifesto had just released a pair of retrospectives of the guitarist's work: the comprehensive 12-disc The Man Who Changed Guitar Forever and the more concise 2-disc Eidolon.
3) Spurred on by Valderas' mid-jam "Other One" quote of a couple of weeks ago, I descended further down the Grateful Dead rabbit hole, reading bassist Phil Lesh's 2005 autobiography Searching for the Sound: My Life With the Grateful Dead and checking out a sampling of the treasure trove of Dead audio and video that's available online. After reading a Rolling Stone int with Lesh around the time of the last set of reunion shows, it occurred to me that being in the Dead was probably a lot different than anybody outside the band imagines, an impression borne out by Lesh's highly readable recollections. As much as the Dead's mystique came from their ability to create an improvisational gestalt -- proof positive that in music, the whole can be much more than the sum of its parts -- and the celebratory gathering of like-minded individuals, Lesh reveals that they could be a fractious lot. While they were still developing their experimental approach (as in the 2.14.1968 set, dedicated to the just-deceased Neal Cassidy, where they solidified the running order for their classic Anthem of the Sun LP), they were also talking about firing founder/early focal point Pigpen and Bob Weir, who'd go on to become an important contributor as they became more song-focused. Watching their 4.21.1972 performance for the German Beat Club TV show, I experienced transcendent moments during two different performances of "Playing in the Band" and one of "The Other One" that made me think my late friend Mike Woodhull was on target when he quipped, "The secret to being a Deadhead is knowing when to wake up."