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Allan Holdsworth

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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Allan Holdsworth Velvet Darkness album cover
3.08 | 51 ratings | 14 reviews | 16% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1976

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Good Clean Filth (5:20)
2. Floppy Hat (2:46)
3. Wish (4:20)
4. Kinder (3:07)
5. Velvet Darkness (4:42)
6. Karzie Key (3:11)
7. Las May (1:38)
8. Gattox (4:51)

Total Time: 29:55

Bonus tracks on 1990 remaster:
9. Good Clean Filth (Alternate take) (5:38)
10. Kinder (Alternate take) (3:07)
11. Velvet Darkness (Alternate take) (4:44)
12. Karzie Key (Alternate take) (2:15)
13. Gattox (Alternate take) (6:47)

Total time 52:26

Line-up / Musicians

- Allan Holdsworth / acoustic (2,4,7) & electric guitars, violin (6)

- Alan Pasqua / electric piano
- Alphonso Johnson / bass
- Narada Michael Walden / drums

Releases information

Recordings done during a rehearsal session, Holdsworth therefore considers the album an unauthorised release

Artwork: Rene Schumacher

LP CTI Records ‎- SUPER CTI 6068 (1976, UK)

CD Epic Associated ‎- ZK 45482 (1990, US) Remixed & Remastered by Mark Wilder with 5 bonus tracks, alternate takes previously unreleased

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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ALLAN HOLDSWORTH Velvet Darkness ratings distribution

(51 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(16%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(29%)
Good, but non-essential (43%)
Collectors/fans only (8%)
Poor. Only for completionists (4%)

ALLAN HOLDSWORTH Velvet Darkness reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Dan Bobrowski
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Allan would be p*****d to see this album here. He's tried to stop the production, because it's a recording of a practice session, not an "official release. HOWEVER, the three acoustic tracks; Floppy Hat, Kinder and Last May are incredible. Other than those, the disc is poorly recorded and plods along in a uninspired "jamming to get the kinks-out" kind of feel. Only for true Holdsworth fans who want to complete their collection.
Review by The Owl
2 stars Some Holdsworth fans might consider this album a "Holy Grail" of sorts owing to its difficulty to find. But in Allan's mind, it's unavailabilty could only be a good thing. In the early 90's, Sony reissued it on CD, and Allan promptly sued them successfully to have it withdrawn from circulation altogether

Allan himself asserted in many interviews that it was put together under less than ideal circumstances, and that what was recorded were merely run-throughs.

Is it a complete disaster? Not really.

The acoustic tracks are quite beautiful and worth hearing as you get to hear Allan's developing melodic, harmonic and textural sense in its next step of evolution.

The title track is the best developed of the electric tracks, but fared far better when it was reworked on Gong's "Gazeuse" album as "Shadows Of Pt I & II".

I definitely agree with Danbo about the recording quality (quite harsh and rough around the edges) and the other electric tracks seemed very undedeveloped compostionally (although showing potential if reworked and fleshed out properly). One thing I did like though is Allan's guitar tone (very simply a Gibson SG custom straight into a Marshall half-stack, nothing fancy but boy does it have some personality!) .

Definitely what Allan would consider a "kiss-of-death" album (sort of like why some people leave certain jobs off of their resume's) but yet it gave some hints of what Allan would do next.

Review by Dick Heath
3 stars I was fortunate and found the vinyl in a sale in the early 80's, but I had to take it back thinking I had a faulty pressing, because of inferior aural quality. Then armed with a new copy I discovered it was not the pressing, it was the recording! (This has subsequently been reinforced by the less than prefect aural quality of remastered CD - but for roughness of a studio recording, check the remastered Lifetime "Emergency" CD). This album has it moments but it was clearly done in a rush, for instance "Kinder" (the acoustic version of an electric track now available on the reissued Lifetime "Believe It") and also the best track on Gary Husband's 2001 Holdsworth piano tribute album "Thing You See" - by the way Husband pronounces"Kinder" as the Germans do the word meaning child). There are some good compositions and considering the lack of real preparation, some pretty good playing - Alphonso Johnson's bass playing on a couple of tracks is amongst the best he's done. However, we have to get back to the fact that Holdsworth was unhappy because of record company pressures to cash in on him, which were to haunt him again with his next solo outing putting "Road Games" together (i.e the dilemma of costs v artistic merit/control). Not surprisingly you have a man most cynically about signing to major record labels over the next 20 years. ["All Night Wrong" was his first release in that period with a major label - but when the record was listed in Amazon's top 400 records for a couple of weeks, then some benefits can be seen by utilising a big label's marketing machine].

After this Holdsworth played with UK and then Bruford, before spending time with Gordon Beck (check out "Things You see") and John Stevens (three German albums under Steves' name with Holdsworth on most tracks - playing some free jazz). BTW John Stevens plays some amazing drums on John Martyn's "Live At Leeds" album.

Review by hdfisch
3 stars After listening to this album I was quite surprised to read on Allan's website that he'd wished he had never recorded it, because the tracks are just from a "practise session". I like it quite a lot, I've to say, and during listening I did not have the impression to listen just to a jam session. Certainly it's not quite on par with his later releases, the recording quality is not that great and it has some jamming character in a way. Still a quite nice and enjoyable album, not an essential one, but GOOD anyway, moreover if keeping in mind, that it's more an "accidental" and rushy output. I'd wish some albums of other bands/ artists with years of preparation time would be as good as this one!
Review by Atavachron
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
1 stars A disappointing solo debut from an artist that would eventually become the finest fusion instrumentalist of our time, Velvet Darkness is a painfully typical 70s jazz-rock record. The material is bland, undistinguished and not memorable, and I see why Allan cites this as one of his "things I wish I hadn't recorded" along with 'Igginbottom's Wrench' and various other projects. Not until his proper first release - i.o.u., an extraordinary set with old cohort Paul Williams from his Tempest days - did he start to form the unique music he would become known for. Further, his work two years later with Bruford or U.K. is far superior in every way and you should avoid this unless you are a Holdsworth completist.
Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars Despite some obvious sound quality problems, I actually like this recording quite a bit. It sounds not so much like an Allan Holdsworth album, but more like a band brought together to sound like the Mahvishnu Orchestra. And they do a pretty good job of it. The opening track, Good Clean Filth is the most Mahavishnu-like on the album, and it helps that sound to have Narada Michael Walden on drums. Elsewhere, Holdsworth's violin also adds to the MO type sound. A few excellent acoustic pieces also showcase Holdsworth's skills. And while his distinctive compositional style is not yet developed here, the songs are interesting enough.

BTW, the Epic CD I have from 1990 has five bonus tracks, alternate takes of some of the songs on the album, totalling over twenty minutes.

I know it doesn't sound like classic Holdsworth, but I like it more than most of his Synthaxe works.

Review by snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Allan Holdsworth's debut album is well known by it's bad recording mix/quality, bulk content and Holdsworth very critical opinion about this album as well. But I think, it is not so bad.

Yes, sound is at the level of the demo tape, but the album was recorded during rehearsals in studio. All recorded material in fact is jam in studio, recorded without plans to be released. It was label decision, never approved by Holdswordth himself. And the music there sounds as recorded demo session.

But, even if there are no structure on this album, and many compositions sound as accidental pieces of music, everyone can hear great Holdsworth guitar, both in heavy electric solos and rare acoustic ones. It is collection of good songs and bad songs, placed on one record, so it's difficult to think about this album as independent product.

But if you know Holdsworth guitar work and like it, you will easy to find there plenty of excellent moments to listen. In other words, this album is absolutely product for great guitarist fans, but should be avoided by newcomers.

I have 1990 re-release with 5 additional tracks (from the same session), which really completed this short original LP till normal size album. I believe every Holdsworth fan should listen this work, possibly just for better understanding about who this great guitarist was in the beginning of his solo career.

Review by Kazuhiro
3 stars As for the situation concerning time and the recording from which this album was produced, various respects might have been included. If it certainly borrowed the remark of Allan Holdsworth at that time, it will not have been necessarily a real intention for the person concerned. However, if zeal and the influence on music of the content and him of various albums that he announced are considered, this album might mean the start, the prototype, and the development of the style for Allan Holdswoth.

The part of special and the part of the approval or disapproval might be involved to this album when thinking about the part of the overall music character of Allan Holdsworth and the activity and the idea. It is possible to think about it especially as work of his Solo.

Some the points thought about for the content and the recording of this album exist. Point that details started as Solo consequentially gave impression of approval or disapproval to fan and listener by this album. The part related to the content and the situation of the album to say nothing of it might be also very large.

Problem of quality of recording concerning album. And, the friction with the expressionist concerning production and the situation of the disagreement. This album was an album most unwillingly produced for "Album produced completely illegal completely disregarding my intention" Allan Holdsworth. His style, the development of the idea, and establishment are included enough Music done with the album. It also has the part where the influence of each other was produced for other guitar players.

It is a well-known fact that the method of performing Allan Holdsworth is very original. There might have been influence, derivation, and enhanced flow most in the field of Jazz/Fusion at time when this album was announced as a result. And, some respects can be enumerated further if it thinks about the feature of this album.

Santana is made remarks that it was interested in SG of the Gibson Co. that Allan Holdsworth used at that time. The possibility concerning the introduction and the expression of the tremolo arm might have been suited enough. SG of the Gibson Co. that Santana used was actually done because of Allan Holdsworth. And, it makes remarks on Allan Holdsworth. 「It was interested in the method of the arming of Jimi Hendrix. However, I thought that I listened to the arming of Ollie halsall and was going to introduce it into my performance. 」 It is thought that it was time when an original route and establishment are exactly given including relationships to one another and the influence concerning the music character.

Perhaps, the part where this album was unwilling for Allan Holdsworth is guessed that there was a situation in which the opinion of an imperfect part and label concerning the recording is not suitable. Or, it is different of the directionality of music concerning the content of the album and Allan Holdsworth. SG of the Gibson Co. published in Album Art has sold not manager's at that time obtaining the permission of Allan Holdsworth. It is said that Allan Holdsworth stopped devotion to the guitar after the event.

Some the points where the interest is deep exist when this album is considered overall. Point that this album was announced from "CTI" as result. Or, the point that a so not familiar musician for CTI is participating in the recording. It might be a point to give the impression to which this album is very peculiar as a result. The appointment of Narada and Alphonse Johnson will belong to a little special position when thinking about the history of Allan Holdsworth and the history as Solo. The composition of the done idea and the tune was being completed with the album as an impression of Allan Holdsworth already. There are a lot of opinions made that the start of true Solo for Allan Holdsworth is "i.o.u", too. The album is considered from Music respect and the special album as one concrete shape that can be caught.

"Good Clean Filth" makes the tension with a complete construction of the melody with the rhythm section. And, the player shifts to the part of ensemble at once in union. Part of heavy melody to get on rhythm to emphasize Groove. Part of tension in close relation to there. The flow to which elements of a few Funk are taken unifies the atmosphere of the session. The sound of Alan Pasqua will recollect the sound of Lifetime. Each player's individuality appears.

As for "Floppy Hat", the idea cultivated in a music character of Allan Holdsworth and various bands is expressed. This tune might have the part of the connection for the album. His creation is blocked in an expression of feelings melody with an acoustic guitar.

Becoming familiar of the theme of "Wish" might be deep for the fan and the listener. The flow that unites the melody of "The Things You See" as a flow that develops from the prototype has already been established. Groove of the rhythm section that rushes into the theme back as a composition of this tune and Solo of the keyboard will recollect the element of Lifetime. The guitar takes charge of the part of the decoration as much as possible.

"Kinder" might construct Solo with an acoustic guitar and good Chord. It is known as a theme of "Fred" of Lifetime to the fan and the listener the result. The flow of the melody of a beautiful guitar expands the expression of this album further. Technical respect of Solo is overwhelming.

The sense of relief of the theme of "Velvet Darkness" maintains a good flow and the tension. As for this theme, the part of "Shadows Of" collected to Gazeuse of Gong as relationships to one another and an idea has been introduced. Part of dash feeling of rhythm expressed as part of composition. The technology of Solo of Bass listens to overwhelming respect. And, the flow that shifts to the part of Solo that Alan Pasqua does continues the impression of the tune. It has the composition that Solo of the guitar in close relation to the repetition of the theme is good. It has the composition in which Solo that each player does can be satisfied enough.

"Karzie Key" starts with a complete technology and the dash feeling. However, the tune shifts to the part of Groove at once. And, original Solo by Violin known as another respect of Allan Holdsworth has been introduced by this album.

There might be a part of the connection as a flow of the album as for "Last May". Expression of feelings melody that flows quietly. Construction with an acoustic guitar expresses the originality of the arpeggio.

As for "Gattox", an original melody gets on complete Groove that the rhythm section does. Part of original Chord in close relation to fast rhythm that is reminiscent of elements of a few Funk. And, Solo of the guitar in close relation to the rhythm of the shuffle is overwhelming. The overall impression of the tune might have the part of Fusion.

This album might have been unwilling for Allan Holdsworth. However, if the impression of his career and the overall music character is considered, this album is not a bad content at all. However, it is also certain to give a special impression.

Review by Slartibartfast
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam
4 stars So Allan disowns this album as I've heard.

Still it's one of my favorite Allan Holdsworth albums. If you like what he was doing in other bands during the '70's: Gong, Soft Machine, UK, Bruford, there are some excellent pieces even if this was just a rehearsal set.

I suspect he's just cheesed off at how the deal went down rather than the quality of the music, because this doesn't sound like a rehearsal. I actually enjoy this music more than some of later self titled albums. He's more of an electric guitar performer but his solo acoustic pieces on here show a side of Holdsworth that you don't get in his other endeavors. I can hear some rough edges in the material.

This lies in the twilight zone between bootleg and polished album.

Latest members reviews

3 stars This debut solo release by Allan Holdsworth has an "in the raw," coarsely presented, jam-session quality complete with warts and all, as well as real gems of jazz fusion shining through. A first hearing of this release in its vinyl version might provoke laughter at how really bad it sounds compared ... (read more)

Report this review (#2581941) | Posted by JazzFusionGuy | Wednesday, July 28, 2021 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Velvet Darkness is certainly a flawed album, in it's recording quality, its production value (and its length). It is one of my very favorite Holdsworth recordings, though, because of two things: its heavy rock sound and the enchanting acoustic guitar pieces. I am generally a great fan of good ... (read more)

Report this review (#200827) | Posted by Ron Murvihill | Tuesday, January 27, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This record is realy a for star album, but i had to give a five star in this one because of the poorly cotation that he had... As it was sayd, the quality of the recording is realy poor, but for the 70's i dont think that is so bad after all... And we have to remind that Holdsworth was not so f ... (read more)

Report this review (#148477) | Posted by Henrock | Thursday, November 1, 2007 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Certainly not as bad as mr Holdsworths claims it to be, sure it's rather rough around the edges, but the quality of his guitar play make up for the lousy production, and underdeveloped tunes. But Alan is known for his insecurity ( hence a title like All Night Wrong for his 2002 live album, whi ... (read more)

Report this review (#99735) | Posted by tuxon | Monday, November 20, 2006 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Perhaps not "essential" for the general listener, but definitely essential for the Holdsworth fan, and a fan of this particular sound. Sure, it sounds a bit rough but so did many exciting fusion albums from the '70's. Some listeners actually appreciate the feel of a jam session. While Mr. Hold ... (read more)

Report this review (#73297) | Posted by wurlybird9 | Tuesday, March 28, 2006 | Review Permanlink

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