David Fricke on 2017's Best Prog Reissues

Can's complete singles, a massive King Crimson box and more

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Allan Holdsworth, 'The Man Who Changed Guitar Forever!: The Allan Holdsworth Album Collection'; 'Eidolon: The Allan Holdsworth Collection'
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Allan Holdsworth, 'The Man Who Changed Guitar Forever!: The Allan Holdsworth Album Collection'; 'Eidolon: The Allan Holdsworth Collection'

Holdsworth, the English fusion-guitar hero who died this past April at 70, right as these reissues appeared, was too self-effacing to make the claim plastered on the first of the two: a box of 12 full-length solo albums on as many CDs from 1983's Road Games to Then!, a 2003 live retrospective. Yet even those two decades are just a snapshot of a career that took off in the mid-Seventies crossfire of jazz and progressive rock as Holdsworth played with Soft Machine, the Tony Williams Lifetime, and the band U.K. with former Yes and King Crimson drummer Bill Bruford. There and on his own records, Holdsworth soloed like a saxophonist with strings, driving through complex chords and unusual scales with a fluid, almost vocal melodicism, becoming a name to drop – with awe – by guitarists such as Eddie Van Halen, Rush's Alex Lifeson and Dean DeLeo of Stone Temple Pilots. The box reflects Holdsworth's bumpy ride through record-label politics and the production ideals of the time; the playing is never less than charged and certain. It is admittedly a lot for new students; Eidolon, a two-CD contraction of that material, is the wiser first step. Both are now memorials.

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