I had been a Tony Williams disciple even before hearing Believe It, because of his incredible work with Miles Davis. But nothing hit me quite like hearing this album for the first time, as it introduced Allan Holdsworth to me. Released in 1975, Believe It unleashed Holdsworth as a new and powerful musical voice, sounding as if Jeff Beck, John McLaughlin, and Eddie Van Halen were put into a blender.
During his long career, Holdsworth could shred to the point of no return, yet his Believe It solos sound like incredible nursery rhymes played through a Marshall amp. You can actually sing along to many of his phrases, which gives you something to hang onto in-between the otherworldly flourishes of his legato prowess. On “Proto-Cosmos,” for example, Holdsworth plays what I consider the perfect solo—combining melody, flawless technique, and a subtle use of the vibrato bar. For “Red-Alert,” he rips over the changes, employing wide interval jumps while using the vibrato bar to produce vocal-like moans and cries. It’s fantastic stuff that’s reminiscent of Hendrix’s “Machine Gun.”
As parts of Holdsworth’s technique was out of my grasp, I latched on to his melodicism, which taught me to always have a melodic idea when soloing that I could return to in-between the ripping parts. I also employed legato technique, and by not picking every note, I could play chromatic flourishes that sounded more like a saxophone than a jackhammer. This helped my playing swing more. To this day, I’m fascinated by Holdsworth’s effortless weaving of major arpeggios that implied altered scales with augmented, whole-tone, and diminished lines to create a harmonic voice that was all his own.