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ALLAN HOLDSWORTH

Jazz Rock/Fusion • United Kingdom


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Allan Holdsworth picture
Allan Holdsworth biography
August 6, 1946 (Bradford, West Yorkshire, UK) - April 16, 2017 (Vista, California, USA)

Allan HOLDSWORTH is one of the most revered, often imitated and enigmatic electric guitarists in modern rock/jazz history. In addition he is an avid fan of the guitar synthesiser. On rare occasions you will also find him on record playing violin and acoustic guitar (both 12 and 6 string) - the challenge is to find him singing lead! He is also a keen cyclist and brewer.

With a professional career starting in the late 60's, Allan's early bandwork and recordings included stints with 'IGGINBOTTOM, NUCLEUS, TEMPEST, SOFT MACHINE, GONG (both a band member and later as guest - a revamped version the jazz rock GONG was formed in the USA in the 90's with the name GONGZILLA: HOLDSWORTH appeared on their first album "Suffer"), U.K. and BRUFORD in the UK, as well as jazz rock fusion favourites, the NEW TONY WILLIAMS LIFETIME and Jean-Luc PONTY in the USA. Whilst in the States, HOLDSWORTH recorded his first solo album "Velvet Darkness" at CTI's studios, which with outtakes took less than 26 hours to make. The album has been long disowned by HOLDSWORTH as being really a 'demo' not fit for release: even on the remastered CD, the recording quality is relatively poor (most unusual for an album issuing from the acclaimed CTI label), although some of the music/tunes are excellent (and in deed, of note is Alphonso JOHNSON's session playing, which is amongst the best basswork he has done). Through the 70's Allan's developed a smooth legato (fluid) style (in parallel to guitar effects appearing on the marketplace), lightning speed runs, and often combined with playing solos which were tangential to the main theme of tunes. This unique combinations of innovative skills attracted the attention of both rock and young jazz music lovers, and found Allan being sought as a lead guitarist by other bands. nevertheless, because of the originally of his style - effectively a guitarist who wants to play solos like a saxophonist - there has always been significant confusion as to whether he is a rock play...
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ALLAN HOLDSWORTH discography


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ALLAN HOLDSWORTH top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.07 | 43 ratings
Velvet Darkness
1976
3.61 | 21 ratings
Allan Holdsworth & Gordon Beck: The Things You See
1980
0.00 | 0 ratings
Gordon Beck / Alan Holdsworth / Jeff Clyne / John Stevens - Conversation Piece
1980
4.06 | 104 ratings
I.O.U.
1982
4.09 | 164 ratings
Metal Fatigue
1985
3.12 | 59 ratings
Atavachron
1986
3.28 | 65 ratings
Sand
1987
3.31 | 15 ratings
Allan Holdsworth & Gordon Beck: With A Heart In My Song
1988
3.62 | 66 ratings
Secrets
1989
3.37 | 40 ratings
Wardenclyffe Tower
1992
3.80 | 46 ratings
Hard Hat Area
1993
3.97 | 47 ratings
None Too Soon
1996
4.00 | 1 ratings
Anders Johansson, Jens Johansson & Allan Holdsworth - Heavy Machinery
1996
3.70 | 47 ratings
The Sixteen Men Of Tain
1999
2.81 | 25 ratings
Flat Tire
2001

ALLAN HOLDSWORTH Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.58 | 17 ratings
I.O.U. Live (1985)
1997
4.16 | 32 ratings
All Night Wrong
2002
4.08 | 19 ratings
Live - Then!
2003
3.65 | 18 ratings
Blues For Tony (with Alan Pasqua/Jimmy Haslip/Chad Wackerman)
2009
0.00 | 0 ratings
Warsaw Summer Jazz Days '98
2019

ALLAN HOLDSWORTH Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

ALLAN HOLDSWORTH Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
Best Works Collection
1992
4.25 | 12 ratings
Against The Clock: The Best Of Allan Holdsworth
2005
5.00 | 1 ratings
The Man Who Changed Guitar Forever!
2017
0.00 | 0 ratings
Eidolon (The Allan Holdsworth Collection)
2017

ALLAN HOLDSWORTH Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.77 | 71 ratings
Road Games
1983
4.00 | 1 ratings
Non Brewed Condiment
1986
3.22 | 8 ratings
Propensity
2009

ALLAN HOLDSWORTH Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Live - Then! by HOLDSWORTH, ALLAN album cover Live, 2003
4.08 | 19 ratings

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Live - Then!
Allan Holdsworth Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Squire Jaco

5 stars Well, this is a special cd. Released in 2004, the recording took place in May of 1990 in Japan. There's an unbelievably strong chemistry among the band members of this touring quartet, none of whom played together as a group on any of the studio albums from which the music for this concert was culled.

Gary Husband's drumming is phenomenal - interesting, jazzy, driving, and right up front in the recording mix. Jimmy Johnson's bass is like an additional guitar soloist on many of the songs, just all over the place. Keyboardist Steve Hunt helps to keep some rhythmic sanity in those moments when Husband is soloing and improvising, and he also provides the band a nice full sound with additional soloing - he even uses some synthaxe (or synthaxe sounds on the keyboard) to augment the fullness of the band and stay true to the original feel of some of the compositions.

Then there's Allan Holdsworth. He's at the top of his game here on this recording. If you're reading this review on a relatively obscure album of his, then you don't need me to tell you how great his sound and technique is. He just kills on this cd.

Song selections include Proto-Cosmos, White Line, Atavachron, Pud Wud, House of Mirrors, Non-Brewed Condiment and three improvised selections spread throughout the album called Zones (which all feature a baritone electric guitar). The playing and execution is tight and true, but different enough from the original studio versions to make this a very worthwhile purchase. (The "Zones" are O.K., not great. But they ARE new and unique! They're growing on me.)

Finally, rest assured that the recording and production quality is great. If you've seen other reviews by me, you know that's important to me. The original source tapes were "extremely high quality, digital 24-track" tapes (according to the liner notes), and Holdsworth himself was involved in the mixing and mastering of all tracks.

AH is one of my very favorite guitarists, from his playing with Tony Williams, Soft Machine, Gong, Ponty, Bruford and U.K., right on through to his own great solo stuff. Here, he inspires his whole band to shine on one great piece after another.

Superlatives fail to define his greatness. I highly recommend this cd.

 Wardenclyffe Tower by HOLDSWORTH, ALLAN album cover Studio Album, 1992
3.37 | 40 ratings

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Wardenclyffe Tower
Allan Holdsworth Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by kurtrongey

4 stars To my mind, Wardenclyffe Tower ushers in a trio of late style albums, along with the stylistically congruent Hard Hat Area and The Sixteen Men of Tain. The Wardenclyffe album is mostly Holdsworth-penned. The exceptions are Steve Hunt's very enjoyable "Dodgy Boat" and Chad Wackerman's less developed "Questions." You get to sample three drum giants - Wackerman plays four of the tunes, Gary Husband gets two tunes, and an unleashed Vinnie Colaiuta even gets a solo spot on "Against the Clock." Jimmy Johnson is the bassist for the whole album, which is great - Holdsworth's chords seem more corporeal when Johnson is helping to define them. Sadly, he very rarely played anything off of this album live and maybe that's why this amazing set of tunes seems to fly under the radar.
 I.O.U. by HOLDSWORTH, ALLAN album cover Studio Album, 1982
4.06 | 104 ratings

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I.O.U.
Allan Holdsworth Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Zoltanxvamos

5 stars 𝗔 𝗧𝗮𝗱 𝗠𝗼𝗿𝗲 𝗧𝗿𝗮𝗱𝗶𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻𝗮𝗹

This Allan Holdsworth record has it's signature sound for sure, and it borrows a bit more from the classic jazz sound but its all Holdsworth so... we can count on this album being atonal and extremely unique in its own sense. Allan Holdsworth was the master of Atonal Jazz Fusion, a musical genius unlike many other. This album doesn't yet feature the Synthaxe, so we are here listening to Allan play his electric with his signature tone. This album also features Paul Williams on vocals, Gary Husband on drums, and Paul Carmichael on bass, all are respective masters of their instruments. As a drummer, I praise Gary Husband for his intricate drumming style in Jazz Fusion and his keyboard playing as well. Paul Williams is a very good singer and I've always appreciated his tone, his ability is also top notch as he can keep up with Allan's rapid chord changes. Paul Carmichael is a very respectable bassist who can clearly keep up with Allan as well, he is also very technical and has his moments where his bass playing really shines.

As for the tracks on the album, 'The Things You See' was borrowed from the album titled 'The Things You See' by Him and Gordon Beck. This track might actually be the strongest on the album, it's got the most ear grabbing chord progressions, and it's very well sung. The writing on this entire album is very good, it's not a totally developed sound but this album has its own sound in Allan's discography. The production is what I expect from an Allan Holdsworth album, the right mix, the right tones on all instruments, and everything sounds pretty clean.

I find that listening to this album is very comfortable and more accessible than his upcoming records. The vocals really help bring the accessibility factor into play, Paul Williams manages to make all the songs he sings catchy.

My conclusion is, even though this album is accessible and more classic, I think that it's still a very well written album overall. Allan knew what he was doing during the writing process of the album, he polished the sound and came out with this work of genius. Could this album be a tad better? Perhaps, but in all honesty I don't think it needed to be improved, it had it's style and it had it's great pieces, but still... better was yet to come.

 Sand by HOLDSWORTH, ALLAN album cover Studio Album, 1987
3.28 | 65 ratings

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Sand
Allan Holdsworth Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Zoltanxvamos

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 strong as other times, and unfortunately this is one of those times. Yes, a very long first sentence but its warranted. The writing on this album isn't as unique as his other albums. For all the albums Holdsworth ever recorded, this one was his most typical. 'Sand' for me is Holdsworth's first attempt at trying the sound formula of his final studio album, 'Flat Tire'. I find that both have their ups and downs, 'Distance vs Desire' is a great song, very atmospheric and calming.

I can't say much about this album, it does still have some very good moments but its definitely not great overall. Thankfully this is the only decent album in his discography, all the rest of his albums are fantastic. This is the one negative blip in his discography.

 Road Games by HOLDSWORTH, ALLAN album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1983
3.77 | 71 ratings

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Road Games
Allan Holdsworth Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Zoltanxvamos

4 stars 𝗚𝘂𝗶𝘁𝗮𝗿 𝗚𝗲𝗻𝗶𝘂𝘀 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗜𝗻𝘁𝗿𝗶𝗰𝗮𝘁𝗲 𝗖𝗵𝗼𝗿𝗱𝘀

Yes yes I know, the title for this review can literally be put on every Holdsworth release. However, this is an EP so I have to give a bit more to explain my case. Anyways, the music is nothing completely different from what we heard on I.O.U, but it's got it's own flavor. The feel and emotion of this release would later be continued on the next release entitled 'Metal Fatigue'. I.O.U and Metal Fatigue might be great releases, but they are definitely different in terms of a song writing style, sound, production, and choice of elements used on each album. I.O.U had more of a traditional jazz writing style, where Metal Fatigue had an 80s Jazz Fusion style mixed with that Holdsworth genius we all know and love. This was just a taste of what Metal Fatigue would offer, so this has its style. In all honesty, Metal Fatigue could've been a longer album, or a double discer with the tracks found on here, and it would've been amazing still. Overall, the playing is immaculate, the chord structure and design is absolute genius, and the vocals are actually really good here.

Conclusion: This EP was the beginning of a new sound for Holdsworth. The more modern Jazz Fusion approach would end up improving his sound, and improving him as a writer and guitarist. Overall, this EP is great and I think that you can guess how similar my review of Metal Fatigue will be to this one.

 The Man Who Changed Guitar Forever! by HOLDSWORTH, ALLAN album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2017
5.00 | 1 ratings

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The Man Who Changed Guitar Forever!
Allan Holdsworth Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Zoltanxvamos

— First review of this album —
5 stars For everything Allan Holdsworth did for prog, jazz fusion, and guitar in general, this collection of beautiful remasters is an essential piece in anyone's Holdsworth collection. All the remasters of all the albums in this boxset are amazing, nice and clean sounding, not muddy, and very well restored to fit today's standard. Unfortunately, I cannot review the albums in the boxset here, I will be reviewing each and every album here on ProgArchives. For what this was meant to be (a boxset full of remasters of studio and live cds), this is amazing. This is just as good as the Genesis 2007 remaster boxsets. Except that this boxset has all of Holdsworth's glory, exceptional guitar playing, unbelievable emotion, and a hard hitting listen from each piece found in here. Allan was an inspiration to guitar and prog, and this is the best gift we got from him. Thanks Allan, you inspired me to make beautiful music like you did.
 Sand by HOLDSWORTH, ALLAN album cover Studio Album, 1987
3.28 | 65 ratings

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Sand
Allan Holdsworth Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Tapfret
Forum & Site Admin Group Eclectic / PSIKE Team

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.

 Atavachron by HOLDSWORTH, ALLAN album cover Studio Album, 1986
3.12 | 59 ratings

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Atavachron
Allan Holdsworth Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Kingsnake

4 stars This is very good, but not an essential progrock album.

The main focus of this album (just look at the albumcover) is the synthaxe. The Synthaxe is an extemely ingenious instrument and apart from Holdsworth, all I know is that Ian Crichton of Saga played it.

For me it is really simple: if all Holdsworth records would sound the same, why record multiple records? I love the fact that an artist tries something new and explores areas that are unexplored.

If you want electric guitar muscle music buy Steve Vai or Stevie Ray Vaughan, if you want something completely different and are curious to what a Synthaxe sounds like, buy some 80's Holdsworth.

That being said: the compositions are really nice, soft 80's fusion with excellent drumming by some of the best drummers around (Husband, Williams and Wackerman). Also some great keyboard-work by Childs and Pasqua. So there's nothing wrong on the musician-side. A nice extra is the singing of Rowenna Mark on All Our Yesterdays.

The production is digital but works excellent for this kind of music. If this kind of music had a grittier production, it would end up sounding too chaotic. This album marks the first of a string of (succesful) Synthaxe-albums by Holdsworth. I am a great enthousiast of both Holdsworth as the Synthaxe, so this is a great album for me. If you don't like, don't bother.

 The Sixteen Men Of Tain by HOLDSWORTH, ALLAN album cover Studio Album, 1999
3.70 | 47 ratings

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The Sixteen Men Of Tain
Allan Holdsworth Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Atavachron
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars It can't be easy being Allan Holdsworth. Not-so-arguably the finest technician to ever pick up a guitar, perhaps only equaled in prowess by Ulrich Roth and maybe Ron Jarzombek, the tours, appearances & demonstrations, guest spots, and a healthy recording schedule must be just a bit less attractive for this soft-spoken grandmaster than it once was. Sure fate smiled upon him, providing a career most players would die for. But as with any genuine music-maker later in his career, fresh, exciting new ideas became less abundant.

Yet on his tenth full-length release Mr. Holdsworth, dipping a bit into his jazz roots, does not take things lying down. The Sixteen Men of Tain is no barn-burner (All About Jazz called it "A very comfortable listen", awkward praise to say the least) but it is a carefully considered set that if offered up by a new guitarist would probably be hailed as brilliant. So goes the conundrum of deep artistry and well-earned success: If you don't outdo yourself sooner or later, listeners may not come back. In a way, SMoT is more for hardcore Holdsworth fans than anyone, serving up little of the immediate flash & bang of i.o.u., Secrets, or Wardenclyff Tower, but rather taking as much time as is needed to bloom the material and coax some lightning from the nebulous clouds. I imagine it being what A.H. devotees listen to when something like Hardhat Area sounds too Pop. Volume-swollen chords unfold the drowsy beginning of '0274' but it develops well for the rest of the nearly eight minutes, setting the tone for the largely cerebral album, Walt Fowler's trumpet a fitting surprise.

Risks are still taken-- it is, after all, jazz. The title cut swings to the West Coast while Allan sweeps and hammer/pulls at his strings on top, building up, generating heat. Dreamy 'Above and Below'; Boggling 'The Drums Were Yellow' where our host switches to a classic hollow-body sound eventually ripping a mean hole in space, soloing like a madman; Lively and tuneful 'Texas' is all over the place with Dave Carpenter holding it together like a pro on the upright bass, Allan rocking, and another respite from brassman Fowler. A great little number.

Holdsworth's unmistakable horn phrasing in 'Downside Up' would be perfect as a somnambulant for any jazzrocker having trouble sleeping... in the best way of course, and lightly rendered 'Eidolon' reprises Allan's interest in myth & fantasy and features the dreaded but tastefully used synthaxe. Good but nonessential? Yes, I'd say that's quite right.

 Blues For Tony (with Alan Pasqua/Jimmy Haslip/Chad Wackerman) by HOLDSWORTH, ALLAN album cover Live, 2009
3.65 | 18 ratings

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Blues For Tony (with Alan Pasqua/Jimmy Haslip/Chad Wackerman)
Allan Holdsworth Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by nosuchzone

5 stars Allan Holdsworth is probably the greatest rock guitarist there ever ever was and is. On the other hand, he has made some pretty duff albums over the years. His seventies solos were astonishing slalom runs, lark ascensions, and bat-on-fire breakouts, snaking all over the chords, but chances are the band behind him were doing something pretty noodly and dull. He joined Soft Machine after the decent guys had left. He joined Tony Williams' Lifetime after the thing had cracked. He did some solo stuff, but got terrible croaky old rockers to sing on them. Then he got into the synthaxe and started making sounds that sounded like trippy keyboards, fashioning dripping wet chords out of knotted runs and ultrafast tapping patterns that melted into the very best sort of psychedelic mush. Fortunately, by this stage of his stellar, but very introverted, evolution, he was emboldened to ditch the vocals (thanks be), and make some gnarly tunes with just a cool funk bass and a thudding zappa-ish drummer to spar with, maybe a bit of keys here and there, but not too much. And he finally produced one of his masterpieces, the album Sand.

Sand is a guitar album, but not as we know it. Somehow, even when the drummer's really banging, and the bass is popping, it still sounds like it's coming up from under the sea with mouthful of, well, sand. It has dynamic variety, of course - sometimes soft, sometimes hard and loud - but these have somehow become sublimated into the obliquity of a deep dream state. And that's where the man is best, playing loud music in slunk kid gloves, merging chords and complex harmonic head[%*!#] into a funny tasting, funny coloured, curiously inexhaustible brew.

Holdsworth's next unalloyed masterpiece was The Sixteen Men of Tain. Same formula, but more guitarry. This Blues for Tony album under review, if you took out the Alan Pasqua compositions (fine though they are, mostly), and the audience clapping, would definitely be a third Allan Holdsworth masterpiece. As it is, it's more collaborative than that, but still the cat's nighty in it's own immaculate way.

Wackerman has played with Holdsworth a lot, so he knows how to modulate tumbled clatters, snicketty cymbalism and basement thuds into a crisp but glassily hypnotic understructure. Haslip too has been a comrade for a while, and he has a wonderfully fat pluckish bass tone that prods away in the right corners. He's playing the thing entirely upside down, all six strings in the wrong place, and, it's true, he does sound more like a cool dude muso than the others, but it works fine in a sometimes powdery, sometimes greasy way. Pasqua is on a Nord Stage keyboard, gussied up with loads of valvey tone-generator minge and backwards hum patches, which he alternates with broken-bell rhodes sounds. Holdsworth slips in and out like pure bottled genie. Soundwise, the band is completely perfect. Many fans of this sort of rockjazz stuff don't like this particular sort of busy but flattened dynamics, the sheer head-down selflessness of it, the equalised, almost static, landscape quality of it, but I think that's because they're after something that isn't on offer. These guys don't do bragadoccio ? at least not on Holdsworth's watch. Balance like this doesn't come off a mixing desk, it's a state of perfectly instrumented communion.

Play it loud (I do mean loud) and it completely blows your mind. Play it softly off your iTunes ten times in a row and you start to memorise the ziggurats and degringolades in the solos. Play it every day and maybe you'll figure out what Allan Holdsworth is doing. He's always been way ahead, a sort of Coltrane of the fretboard, so it's a great privilege to have these odd, rare recordings of his where everyone in the room is on equal par. That good at what they do. Concentrating that hard. And grooving, in a spacey kind of way.

Thanks to ProgLucky/ Dick Heath (Oct 2009) for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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