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Allan Holdsworth

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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Allan Holdsworth Hard Hat Area album cover
3.80 | 51 ratings | 4 reviews | 33% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1993

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Prelude (1:35)
2. Ruhkukah (5:34)
3. Low Levels, High Stakes (9:05)
4. Hard Hat Area (6:06)
5. Tullio (6:02)
6. House Of Mirrors (7:47)
7. Postlude (5:28)

Total Time: 41:37

Line-up / Musicians

- Allan Holdsworth / guitar, SynthAxe, producer

- Steve Hunt / keyboards
- Skuli Sverrisson / bass
- Gary Husband / drums

Releases information

Artwork: Ruri Fujita @ Isaka Co.

CD CREAM Records ‎- CR 330-2 (1993, France)
CD Belle Antique ‎- BELLE 081398 (2008, Japan) Remastered by Tohru Ohara
CD Moonjune Records ‎- MJR044 (2012, US) Remastered by Chris Bellman

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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ALLAN HOLDSWORTH Hard Hat Area ratings distribution

(51 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(33%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(35%)
Good, but non-essential (24%)
Collectors/fans only (2%)
Poor. Only for completionists (6%)

ALLAN HOLDSWORTH Hard Hat Area reviews

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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by 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.

Review by Atavachron
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars We all know that sometimes it takes an album awhile to speak to you, time to allow that strange process of digesting art, letting it sit with you, and then giving yourself the opportunity to invite inside what you once kept out. This is, along with a good shelf life, what makes progressive music so special and, at its best, what keeps us coming back for more.

Allan Holdsworth's ninth studio session is that kind of record. Most of Mr. Holdsworth's solo work is not easy, far from it, and though this one took a little longer to appreciate, it was well worth it. The set has a quality that he is best at achieving: the perfect blend of tech-jazz landscapes with a melodic rock sensibility, and in many ways this is one of his boldest albums. Not distracted much by a whiney synth-axe or wowing the shredder fan boys, he conjures up a varied but entirely unified collection of cuts that are more expansive than previous sessions and that utilize his jazz roots through improvisation within structure. His phenomenal band doesn't hurt things either; Steve Hunt on keys, the ridiculous skills of drummer Gary Husband, and Skuli Sverrisson keeping it all together with a first-rate bass performance. Each piece is equally engaging as the band ebbs and flows between delerious jazz-rock of the highest order and softer reflections between the players, Hunt washing over Husband and Sverrisson's backdrops while Allan contemplates gently.

This may not be one of Allan Holdsworth's most beloved offerings but, ironically, it is one of his best.

Review by Ivan_Melgar_M
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Symphonic Prog Specialist
4 stars I wasn't a Jazz man until Leonardo Pavkovic from Moonjune Records started sending me albums from his label, after listening such musicians as TOHPATI, SLIVOVITZ and SIMAK DIALOG, began to get the taste for their music, since then, every time I receive a package is like an adventure, this week Santa (The mailman) came and started to check the albums as a kid on Christmas morning not knowing with which toy play first, so after some minutes enjoying the art covers, decided to start with ALLAN HOLDSWORTH's Hard Hat Area, and wasn't disappointed at all.

The album begins with Prelude and the mystical sound of Alan's guitar enhanced by Steve Hunt and his atmospheric keyboards as relaxing the listener for all the frenzy about to start with the fantastic Ruhkuhkah, a joint effort of all the band that reminds me a bit of MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA, simply mind blowing, please pay special attention to the solid drumming of Gary Husband and the impressive bass by Skuli Sverrisson, it's an amazing display of sounds and different flavors.

Low Levels, High Stakes is a nice change, after the frenetic and vibrant Ruhkuhkah, it's the turn for a smooth and reposeful track. Leaded by Hunt's piano, Allan is allowed to explore all the possibilities that his skill with the acoustic guitar concedes, always supported by a consistent rhythm section. I believe that the secret of a great album is the balance and Holdsworth proves this. Nine minutes of great music.

Hard Hat Area is clearly divided in two parts, the first one percussive and the second one melodic with some classical influences and an outstanding guitar solo by Allan who demonstrates his abilities.

Tullio is more melodic with again a breathtaking guitar section enhanced by the keys and rhythm section. It's interesting to notice that the track flows gently from start to end despite the sudden sonic explosions and complex solos. But it's more interesting to notice how well it connects with the mellow and incredibly beautiful House Of Mirrors, where even the solos are an expression of aesthetics rather than a vacuous display of abilities, simply delightful.

Hard Hat Area is brilliantly closed by the elaborate Postlude , the perfect combination of virtuosity and elegance, a grand finale for an excellent album that deserves no less than 4 solid stars

Review by kev rowland
4 stars Here we have Allan's 1993 album 'Hard Hat Area' lovingly reissued by MoonJune who remastered it, placed it in a digipak, and provided some wonderful sleevenotes by Barry Cleveland who puts everything into context. Allan has long been one of my favourite guitarists, and like John McLaughlin I can happily listen to him all day long, and when the guitar lines are as fluid as this that is especially true. Unlike many of Allan's solo albums this has very much a band feel about it and it is no surprise to discover that much of this was recorded by the guys playing together in the studio. Long-time collaborators Gary Husband (drums) and Steve Hunt (keys) were joined on bass by Skuli Sverrisson when Jimmy Johnson was unavailable due to touring commitments with James Taylor.

As well as regular guitar Allan also provides some SynthAxe and baritone guitar, not as much as on some of his other albums, but still enough to provide additional facets to the sound. There are times when Allan just lets the others fill the spaces and he sits back nary playing a note, allowing them the freedom to demonstrate their musicianship and feel, then he comes back in and provides some blistering runs that are breathtaking in their audacity. This is fusion in its' truest form as he mixes and melds jazz with prog, letting the music take him and us on an incredible journey. The title cut in itself is a masterclass demonstration of how a guitarist can be centre stage while allowing complex fills and lines from the rest of the band to complete the soundscape. Skuli's fretless bass is wonderfully expressive and warm, providing a contrast to the cleaner and more clinical guitar.

If you ever wondered what fusion can sound like in the hands of an expert, then look no further as this is sheer class.

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