Believe It (album)
"Believe It" is an album by The New Tony Williams Lifetime.
A classic jazzrock album, featuring “Proto-Cosmos” (by Alan Pasqua) and “Fred”, both Holdsworth live perennials. Tony’s energetic, passionate drumming elevates the music, and is a perfect foil for Allan.
He is currently working in The New Tony Williams Lifetime, and is in spectacular form on their "Believe It". The solo on Wildlife is his most cautiously deliberate, and it is interesting to study his phrasing in a less busy context. But his amazing lead on Red Alert is one of those performances where you laugh out loud at the furious virtuosity of it all. So few people seem to be aware of his talent will concede that a Holdsworth solo has less to say to the lay listener than a Santana solo. He may just be one of those musician’s musicians, a consensus which at least is more indicative of quality than either the critic’s or the public’s. And if you were neither a connoisseur nor an aspiring connoisseur you wouldn’t be reading this series. So check him out.
It was in Lifetime that he finally discovered what he wanted out of music. They recorded two albums for CBS, the first of which ("Believe It") he regards as some of his best work to date. "I felt freer in there than I’d felt before - not just free to play, I mean free to suggest things. It was a collective thing. But there were all sorts of problems with that band financially, so that in the end, through one thing and another, it petered out. Then I came back, and just got the gig with Gong. I’m not quite sure how it happened."
Along with Williams, bassist Tony Newton and keyboardist Alan Pasqua, he recorded two albums - Believe It and Million Dollar Legs - and toured in 1975 and ‘76. After bad management drove him away from that ensemble (at one point during a tour he ended up stranded in San Francisco with neither money nor a place to stay and had to pawn his guitar to get back to England), Allan recorded his first solo album, Velvet Darkness.
Allan remains happier with the first of his two Lifetime LPs, Believe It, which was freer and less genre-tied than the subsequent Million Dollar Legs.
Johnson, remembering the despair in Allan’s face when he told the guitarist that he’d listened to a tape of Believe It on the drive down from L.A., obliges: "We’ll change that!"
GW: When Jimmy Johnson remarked that he was listening to Believe It on the way down to yesterday’s session, you winced. That album is really something of a landmark, and your playing is a great part of what distinguishes it.
HOLDSWORTH:: Well, it was a great period for me in terms of being introduced to some really unbelievable musicians; that’s when I met Tony [Williams] and Alan Pasqua and Tony Newton, and hanging out and just being given a chance to play with them was really amazing. Alan is a truly astounding musician and I’ve always loved the way he plays. It’s also only in the last five years that I realized what kind of a genius the guy is. Same with Gary Husband. But getting back to that particular period, I hated what I did on that record. I can’t listen to it, but I thought everybody else sounded great. But I did the best I could at the time, so, that’s all you can do, unfortunately I wish I could go back and do ‘em all again [laughs].
Q: Let’s go back a little bit. After hearing Clapton and being a fan, did you then pursue getting equipment like that, and buy a Les Paul?
Allan: I never liked Les Pauls. After I had the semi-hollow guitar, my dad bought me a Strat, and I played that for about 6 months. Then I made the mistake of going into this music store in Leeds, and I saw a SG custom in the window, a white one with 3 pick-ups. I played that thing, and that was it. So a friend of mine took over the payments on the Strat, and I started a new payment plan on the SG. And I basically used that SG pretty much right the way through until Tony Williams. I love those guitars. That one was lost mysteriously. The tour manager of Tony’s band was owed some money and he had my guitar, and what he did is, he took my guitar down to the pawn shop and sold it. So when I came back to carry on working with Tony, my guitar was in the window of Sam Ash’s or something. And I couldn’t get it back, because I couldn’t prove that it was mine. It was there for sale, but they wanted so much money for it that I had to go buy another SG somewhere else. This was right around that time of the first albu m, Believe It. And then I got this other SG Custom, a really nice one, but it was black, and that was a beautiful guitar. Then the band got stranded in San Francisco and I had to sell that one to get home.
I started to get an understanding of how to record a guitar when I was with Tony Williams in the Believe It days. By that time, most engineers had come around to recording a loud amplifier. We were working with an incredible engineer named Bruce Botnick, and he was great at understanding exactly what I was looking for. That’s where I learned what kind of mic I wanted to use, and where it goes on the speaker. And that recipe hasn’t changed from that day on: a Neumann U87 placed between the center and the edge of the cone.
Williams and Holdsworth went together to check out Newton on a big-band gig at Carnegie Hall. The pianist in the group happened to be Alan Pasqua, who made a favorable impression on both of them. Williams called a rehearsal at S.I.R. Studios in Manhattan, and a band was born. “We started rehearsing new tunes and then a few weeks later we were playing at the Bottom Line,” says Holdsworth. “Shortly after, we did Believe It, then did a couple of tours and followed up with Million Dollar Legs.”