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Allan Holdsworth

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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Allan Holdsworth Sand album cover
3.37 | 77 ratings | 11 reviews | 21% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1987

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Sand (5:25)
2. Distance Vs. Desire (5:17)
3. Pud Wud (6:43)
4. Clown (5:14)
5. The 4.15 Bradford Executive (8:28)
6. Mac Man (4:02)

Total Time: 35:06

Line-up / Musicians

- Allan Holdsworth / SynthAxe, guitar (3), producer

- Alan Pasqua / keyboards (3)
- John England / Mac computer programming (6)
- Jimmy Johnson / bass
- Biff Vincent / Octopad bass (6)
- Gary Husband / drums (1,3)
- Chad Wackerman / drums (4,5), percussion (6)

Releases information

LP Relativity ‎- 88561-8152-1 (1987, US)

CD Relativity ‎- 88561-8152-2 (1987, US)
CD CREAM Records ‎- CR2902 (2009, UK) Remastered by Tohru Ohara

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

(77 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(21%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(32%)
Good, but non-essential (38%)
Collectors/fans only (8%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)


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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by The Owl
3 stars On the one hand, you have to give Allan a lot of credit for being technologically bold, , trying newly available technologies like the Synth-Axe and midi-modules, but at the same instance, I find this disc a rather daunting listen because it's SOOOOOOOOOOO ridiculously synth-heavy that it actually fatigues my ears after a certain period of time.

While certainly not lacking musical substance or great musicianship (the powerhouse team of drummer Gary Husband and ubermelodic bassist Jimmy Johnson, plus Chad Wackerman on some tracks drumming) it still suffers from a sonic sameness and cold, synthetic digital aura that unfortunately is typical of nearly ANY 80's recordings.

It takes some effort to listen past this but if one perseveres there are some gems for certain, '4:15 Bradford Executive" is the clear highpoint of this disc with its relentless train-like propulsive rhythms pulling you along. Allan's solo on here is a marvel to behold! The first 4 tracks are musically very rivh too but again, the synth overkill detracts from their beauty and depth to a noticeable degree as the listeners ears start crying out for organic sounds like REAL guitar for instance.

The only real lowpoint is the rather pointless mechanical "MAC MAN" that seems more like a cheesy demo for an early version of Macintosh computer msuc software than it does an actual song as such. Skip that one altogether.

This Owl wonders though, if these songs were reworked in more organic ways sonically of they could reveal their true depth and color. It might be a worthwhile undertaking methinks.

Review by Dan Bobrowski
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This was the FIRST CD I ever bought. Really. At the time I owned Metal Fatigue, IOU, Road Games and Atavachron (Which I used to torture my ex-wife, she hated Holdsworth's music). That said, I appreciate Allan in many ways besides the obvious.

Sand is a journey of the mind. Of course, I feel this way about most of Allan's catelogue. I approached this album without "guitar god" in my mind. I went with composer, musician, martian as my base to listen from. I was and still am astounded by this album. "Why only three stars, Danbo?" some would ask. Well, for me, Allan's music is personal and I understand that not everyone can grasp the tones, notes and images Allan creates. For me it's great, essential. For others, I only hope they try it and, even more, I hope they "get it." Allan's music is not for the masses, at least in today's narrow minded music view. It's music that is an acquired taste and demands unusual concentration.

There are many highlights among this collection. Distance vs. Desire is wonderful and aptly fits it's title. Purely Synthaxe, with washes, sweeping chordal lines and flute-like soloing. It's among my favorite and most heart-felt Holdsworth tunes.

Clown is among the favorites of Allan's fans, as is Pud Wud. Strong statements of a new instrument struggling for a voice and acceptance of music fans. Allan wanted to be recognized for his compositions, not guitar greatness. The notes spark, flash and fire like a summer lightning storm, then swell, ebb and flow like an ocean tide. Each note is like a drop of rain on hot flesh, soothing and refreshing.

Try out All Night Wrong (bare and unadorned) or Metal Fatigue (guitar essential) then slip into the warm Sand. You may find some mental medication.

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I always still amazed whenever I spin this album especially on the sound that if I do not read the sleeve I would say that is produced by keyboard' It is not because Allan mentioned that there was no keyboard and the like used in most of his albums and he called his keyboard sound-like guitar with synthaxe. Whatever - but the sound is truly like a keyboard sound. For example, track "sand" is opened with an ambient sound that sounds like a keyboard exploration. It leads then to a full music venture with the entrance oh Gary's drums. The music is characterized by synthaxe as soloist in medium tempo with jazzy style. "The 4.15 Bradford Executive" also starts with a combination of synthaxe and drums (this time is by Chad Wackerman). Even though this track is opened with relatively long repeated chords that sound bit boring but when the music changes its style with "conventional" Holdsworth guitar-playing it's become an interesting composition. Drum work is quite dynamics with many improvisational styles that make this track is a good one to enjoy even though the overall song sounds like disjointed segments.

As the name implies, "Mac Man" is a track about Mac Computer as Holdsworth brought in a musician John Endland to look after Mac Computer as part of the instruments used here. It starts with a combination of drum (Chad) and Mac Computer work through pre- programmed sounds / loop combined with Holdsworth's synthaxe. The overall music sounds like an industrial style with some electric drum sounds. "Pud Wody" is a good track with guest appearance by Allan Pasqua performing keyboard solo.

It's a good album from the guitar master that prog lover who can appreciate jazz rock fusion music should own a copy of it. Keep on proggin' .!

Review by Atavachron
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This is a weird one. Sand was Allan Holdsworth's embrace of the new possibilities in artificial music and it spotlighted his use of the dreaded Synthaxe; foe to all good-thinking guitarists. The record is a terribly antiseptic, cold-sounding affair with much of the 'guitar' work played and processed through the aforementioned device from Hell. But it allowed Holdsworth to phrase more fluidly, much like a horn player does. This had been his goal, after all, to do on the guitar what Coltrane had done on the saxophone. And perhaps the material suffers for it. But it is also a really interesting take on modern fusion and contains some fascinating music. It's not all void of real instruments, either; Bassist Jimmy Johnson is the anchor of this session and keeps an otherwise gravity-defying set grounded, and Gary Husband and Chad Wackerman have some fun on actual drumsets. And considering *no* keyboards are used (except a single solo), it was quite a breakthrough and probably deserves a more prominent spot in modern progressive jazz history.

A tone vignette introduces the title, a dissonant and off-putting number that lurches and irritates. 'Distance vs. Desire' wanders off into a cybernetic haze and is painfully long, but some neat noises and bizarre chords brighten 'Pud Wud', Husband drumming up a storm in the face of this synthetic takeover and featuring a nimble lead from Allan. 'Clown' crunches open and bops to a queasy beat before putting us out of our misery with a delightful synth phrase in 'The 4.15 Bradford Executive' with its nutty drum sounds and vibrating guitar part, and a Mac computer is used on the silicone 'Mac Man', quite a novel proposition in 1987.

The record failed to thrill and didn't show this alien technology in the best light, and at 35 minutes is short and sweet. But the world had become a new place, and Sand was among the first of a few brave ventures into that unknown territory.

Review by snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This album is quite unusual for Holdsworth guitar sound fans, but it doesn't mean it's bad one. Main difference is there are only one full size classic Holdsworth's guitar composition ( "Pud Wud", with Alan Pasqua's great keyboards on it). All others are very experimental, and the listener will be surprised because many of them don't sound as guitar- based jazz-fusion at all.

The reason is Holdsworth uses Synthaxe guitar on this album. It is device combining usual electric guitar with breath controller and synthesizer. So, beside playing as with usual electric guitar, musician has the possibility to use it for getting unusual sounds as from sax or keyboards. So, in many compositions you can hear keyboards-like sound which in reality is a sound of Holdsworth guitar.

As a result, this album contains very different music, only part of which is fusion. Many other sounds and rhythm structures gave to the music more experimental character. Main problem for listener possibly is that being a highly experimental in sense of using new instrument technologies, too often music itself is placed on the second plan. And sometimes you will feel as you are listening a demonstration of new device abilities.

The musicians team are great, and Holsdsworth talent is used in his full , so album still became a nice work. Possibly, more attractive for new sound searchers, than for Holdsworth's guitar sound fans.

Not less than 3,5.

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
2 stars No oasis in sight

Following after the experimental Atavachron album, Sand is perhaps even more experimental. Like the previous album, Sand too is dominated by Holdsworth himself on guitar and SynthAxe (an instrument that is a mix between a guitar and a synthesiser) but unlike previous albums, Sand is entirely instrumental. It is thus a little bit less varied, but at the same time more coherent than the last album and also compared to the album that came after it, Secrets. Holdsworth is a great guitar player but he is not a very strong composer and most of his solo music comes off as mostly endless "noodling" and unfocused sonic experimentations with most songs being nothing but long guitar solos backed by drums, bass and some keyboards. There are, however, on Atavachron, Sand and Secrets some memorable passages that make these albums worthwhile for fans of Allan Holdsworth's unique and distinctive guitar sound. I find these albums listenable even if not particularly remarkable.

It is very difficult to single out particular tracks as they sound mostly the same, but Distance vs. Desire stands out as the least interesting of the bunch as it is totally inoffensive and quite boring. As I have said in previous reviews I have always enjoyed Holdsworth's playing best in a band environment, particularly when he was a member of UK in the late 70's with John Wetton, Eddie Jobson and Bill Bruford. Anyone looking for anything even remotely similar to the music he did with UK or more recently with K2, Allan Holdsworth's solo discography is not the place to look!

I can only recommend this album to fans and collectors of Holdsworth

Review by Tapfret
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars At the time of this review I was in the midst of a binge of ultra-technical, thick with complexity, RIO/Avat-garde/Metal listening. Needing a little contrast for awhile I decided it would be good to revisit one of my favorite chill-out albums, Allan Holdsworth's Synthaxe spectacular, Sand. This is one of those albums that I have to wonder if my appreciation for it is because it is truly wonderful music, or strictly a matter of nostalgic attachment. For this album was in my collection when it was one of about 40 CD's, and it was a frequent bedtime selection. It is hard not to have an affinity far beyond its tangible qualities to something that has led you off to dream land so many times.

This album is very...synth...heavy. That aspect is what I suspect has lead to its vast lack of appreciation. If there is anything that one expects from an Allan Holdsworth album, even an Allan Holdsworth guest appearance, its guitar. Specifically jazz electric guitar. More specifically Holdsworth's trademark warm toned mid-range heavy organic soloing. There are only two incidents of that on Sand, on the third and fifth songs, Pud Wud and 4.15 Bradford Executive respectively. As much as I share that Holdsworth solo expectation most of the time, it is used just enough on this album. As far as the synth patches that are used with Mr. Holdsworth's Synthaxe, the occasional piano patch, a saw wave here and there, but tends to lean heavily on string pad sounds. It is generally a very peaceful sound. I am someone who does not do well with the Neo-prog sub-genre, or 80's popular music at all. This is largely because of the stabby synth sounds best epitomized by the synths on the theme for "Beverly Hills Cop". That is not the type of synth you hear on Sand.

Additional musicians include the equally subtle precision of Chad Wackerman and Gary Husband splitting duties on drums which they have for much of Holdsworth's solo discography. The adept and groovy Jimmy Johnson on bass. And additional keyboard sounds, because there weren't enough already, by Alan Pasqua. And some guy credited for playing a "Mac Computer". It probably seemed cute at the time.

There are the kind of albums that put you to sleep because they can't hold your interest, and the kind that put you to sleep on purpose. I don't think Allan Holdsworth had it in mind when he wrote the album, but for me it is the latter. Its not that there is a complexity void to the writing, but it really is easy listening. After this re-visitation of Sand I really do understand the detractors. I would say it remains an essential part of my collection, leaning toward the reasoning of nostalgia. Had I just heard it for the first time last week I would likely have an opinion similar to previous reviewers. Good, but not essential. 3 Stars.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars While former band-mate/collaborator Bill Bruford spins the MIDI technology now available through his Simmons drums, Allan is busy exploring the same through his new SynthAxe. The results are incredibly similar with both confusing ears and eyes by producing unheard of sounds (both "acoustic" and synthetic) from their favored instruments, respectively. On this album Allan demonstrates that he's finally figuring out how best to use his new favorite toy.

1. "Sand" (5:25) solo SynthAxe used to generate the intro (now, this is the way I always felt the SynthAxe should be used!) Chord play continues after Jimmy Johnson and Gary Husband have joined in. Hey! This is working! At the three-minute mark Allan uses his Axe to generate a pleasant solo over his rhythmists. (Too bad the sound mix is so odd: it's as if Chad and Gary and the Axe chord progression are coming out of the boom box while Allan is playing his lead solo in the room by himself.) Still, this is a much better/more successful blending of the "gifts" of the SynthAxe with the contributions of a more traditional rock support crew. (8.5/10)

2. "Distance Vs. Desire" (5:17) Now this is more like the ideal format for experimentation (and delivery of such to a remote listening audience) of the SynthAxe. Quite similar to the guitar-and-keyboard sound and textural experimentations done by Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays (only I think this is all Allan). (9/10)

3. "Pud Wud" (6:43) Allan piddling around on his SynthAxe for three minutes while generously letting his posse have some free-play time (nice work both Jimmy Johnson and Gary Husband), but then he steps into the front with his "old Allan" guitar to steal the show. He yields to Alan Pasqua for one fine keyboard performance (at least, it feels like a real keyboard, not the SynthAxe) before weird-noising it to the end.(8.75/10)

4. "Clown" (5:14) more weird noises conveyed through the SynthAxe. At least Allan's getting a bead on what works with a support band cuz this definitely works with Chad Wakcerman's drums and Jimmy Johnson's fretless bass. In fact, this might be the best SynthAxe-led song I've heard yet from Allan (or anyone, for that matter, including Chuck Hammer, Lee Ritenour, and Roy Wooten). (9/10)

5. "The 4.15 Bradford Executive" (8:28) A synth-pop take on Peter Gabriel's "We Do What We''re Told"? The SynthAxe chordplay is actually quite cool--even pretty, but Chad Wackerman's accompaniment over the first 2"40 is totally unnecessary. (The song would have been much better if Allan were left alone for that opening section). But then "old Allan" shows up and Chad's reactive interplay become's quite appropriate--even perfectly complementary to Allan's work. (17.25/20)

6. "Mac Man" (4:02) Allan's welcome and to computer-generated/programmed sound and song construction/production. If there's one thing we should applaud Allan for it's his openness to new technologies and ideas. (At least at this point in his life/career.) Very cool song! Definitely one of my top three. I find it amazing how similar the parallel tracks of Mssrs. Holdsworth and Bruford were at this point in their lives/careers. (9.25/10)

Total Time: 35:06

After the fiasco that was his previous album, Atavachron, I think Allan was figuring that out how and where the SynthAxe should be used (as well as who and what it should/could be used with). Thank heavens. All we have to do, then, is wait for his next album to see him really get back into the full realization of his genius and potential.

B+/four stars; an excellent addition to any prog lover's music collection.

Latest members reviews

3 stars 𝗔𝗹𝗹𝗮𝗻 𝗛𝗼𝗹𝗱𝘀𝘄𝗼𝗿𝘁𝗵'𝘀 𝗪𝗼𝗿𝘀𝘁 Unfortunately as much as I love and praise Holdsworth, he has his moments where his material isn't as ... (read more)

Report this review (#2409899) | Posted by Zoltanxvamos | Friday, June 5, 2020 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Anyone who aspires to play the guitar, or believe they can, should hear this disc. One of the best and most inspired by Allan Holdsworth. There are two masterpieces, here. Clown, with mockery and sneer sad and comic buffoon of Fellini circus designed sinthaxe the mouth of the tip of notes play ... (read more)

Report this review (#290411) | Posted by CorSard58 | Thursday, July 15, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This release is often overlooked and overshadowed by the more popular and well known METAL FATIQUE and VELVET DARKNESS lps.But to my taste,this is my favorite ALAN HOLDSWORTH release.All of the music is instrumental fusion jams with a slight trace of pyschedelica thrown in for good measure!Eas ... (read more)

Report this review (#40411) | Posted by bob x | Tuesday, July 26, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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