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Allan Holdsworth - Hard Hat Area CD (album) cover


Allan Holdsworth


Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.83 | 42 ratings

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Dan Bobrowski
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Allan Holdsworth is from Mars. It's been said in many forums and reviews, coffee or ale houses; the man music is "not of this earth." Hard Hat Area paints vivid pictures with broad strokes of tones and notes. Each musician here is an "artist," not just a session guy paid to play a part. There is a feeling, an emotion in each note. As with any Holdsworth album, repeated listening brings out the nuances and gives you some incite to one of music's true innovators. Don't drive, wash the car or go for a run with this music. You must sit in a comfy chair, light a candle, shut the drapes and close your eyes. This is music for the mind.

Prelude, an aptly named piece with Allan's guitar notes swirling in looping circles and bringing to mind a flower adrift in the undulating surf of Steve Hunt's synth wash.

Ruhkukah wakes the dreamer with a quickly ascending pattern and sweep Gary Husband's unique drum technique into the mix. Allan sets up Steve Hunt's first solo with his unusual chording. Hunt tortures his modulator with abandon. Allan's swings in with his typical finesse. Dropping notes like sparks while he cuts through the heaving foundation of Skuli Sverrisson's rock solid bass work.

Low Levels, High Stakes shows the softer side, tickling piano and quiet chordal work form the base for Skuli's wonderfully slinky solo. Sweet, yet solid. Incredibly smooth and clean, each note sparkles. Allan takes a long, slowly building solo that grows more intense as Husband begins to accent the tune with toms and cymbals. I'm reminded of the flow of the ocean, calm and serene one moment, restless and seething the next.

Hard Hat Area begins with an industrial Synthaxe excursion, strange effects, noises of a futristic assembly plant (note the cover)? A synth wash takes us to another area of the plant, guitar and drums build a cacophony of machines creating a spaceship for an earthly invasion. This is a purely science fiction piece. The synthaxe work on this tune fits perfectly and doubles Skuli's tag line.

Back to reality, Tullio starts off with Allan's cosmic guitar work, star-gazing on a clear summer's evening. The slurring legato notes flow and swell like breezes around and through the mind. Steve Hunt takes his turn with a synth solo, twisting and bending notes as a perfect foil to Allan's sound, as he break back in to complete the song.

House of Mirrors begins with Synthaxe chording, mixed tones and textures. This tune never really gets airborn. It stays a bit too mellow. Steve and Allan play some beautiful solos, but don't push any barriers here. I have to admit that this song can be sleep inducing. Too bad. It's so close to perfect.

Postlude. This contains one of my favorite Synthaxe solos, strange, but it makes me think of popcorn. Husband plays some intricate drum improvising and Skuli gets another bass solo, again tasteful and clean. Unfortunately, here again the tune doesn't get powerful enough to make up one drop his jaw. Too low key. Synopsis: A weak ending to an imaginary journey. The first 2/3 are strong and exciting, but the final tracks, though displaying great musicianship, don't spark the synapses. It's here that the "elevator music" tag gets placed. A bit more power to the ending would have led me to add a star.

Allan's music has always inspired and engaged my imagination.... still does!!! Few artists have reached for something truly unique and stayed true to their course throughout their career in the manner that Allan has. This is a good Allan Holdsworth album. Give your mind an adventure.

Dan Bobrowski | 3/5 |


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