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ALLAN HOLDSWORTH

Jazz Rock/Fusion • United Kingdom


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Allan Holdsworth biography
August 6, 1946, Bradford, West Yorkshire, England - 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, IAN CARR, 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...
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The Sixteen Men of TainThe Sixteen Men of Tain
Manifesto Records 2018
$11.84
$11.83 (used)
EidolonEidolon
Manifesto Records 2017
$14.69
$17.13 (used)
AtavachronAtavachron
Manifesto Records 2018
$11.15
$13.44 (used)
Metal FatigueMetal Fatigue
Manifesto Records 2018
$11.15
$13.45 (used)
Hard Hat AreaHard Hat Area
Manifesto Records 2018
$11.84
$11.83 (used)
Wardenclyffe TowerWardenclyffe Tower
Manifesto Records 2018
$12.87
$12.87 (used)
Against The Clock: The Best Of Allan HoldsworthAgainst The Clock: The Best Of Allan Holdsworth
Remastered
Alternity Records 2005
$19.97
$5.98 (used)
The Man Who Changed Guitar ForeverThe Man Who Changed Guitar Forever
Box set · Extra tracks
Manifesto Records 2017
$123.49
$88.32 (used)
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ALLAN HOLDSWORTH discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

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

3.06 | 40 ratings
Velvet Darkness
1976
3.65 | 19 ratings
Allan Holdsworth & Gordon Beck: The Things You See
1980
4.04 | 94 ratings
I.O.U.
1982
3.76 | 63 ratings
Road Games
1983
4.10 | 149 ratings
Metal Fatigue
1985
3.11 | 55 ratings
Atavachron
1986
3.28 | 56 ratings
Sand
1987
3.32 | 14 ratings
Allan Holdsworth & Gordon Beck: With A Heart In My Song
1988
3.62 | 59 ratings
Secrets
1989
3.32 | 34 ratings
Wardenclyffe Tower
1992
3.82 | 41 ratings
Hard Hat Area
1993
3.98 | 42 ratings
None Too Soon
1996
3.71 | 43 ratings
The Sixteen Men Of Tain
1999
2.82 | 23 ratings
Flat Tire
2001

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

3.56 | 16 ratings
I.O.U. Live (1985)
1997
4.16 | 32 ratings
All Night Wrong
2002
3.93 | 19 ratings
Live - Then!
2003
3.65 | 18 ratings
Blues For Tony (with Alan Pasqua/Jimmy Haslip/Chad Wackerman)
2009

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

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

4.26 | 11 ratings
Against The Clock: The Best Of Allan Holdsworth
2005

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

4.00 | 1 ratings
Non Brewed Condiment
1986
3.22 | 8 ratings
Propensity
2009

ALLAN HOLDSWORTH Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Sand by HOLDSWORTH, ALLAN album cover Studio Album, 1987
3.28 | 56 ratings

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Sand
Allan Holdsworth Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Tapfret
Special Collaborator Eclectic & C/JRF Prog 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
3.11 | 55 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
3.71 | 43 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.

 Flat Tire by HOLDSWORTH, ALLAN album cover Studio Album, 2001
2.82 | 23 ratings

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Flat Tire
Allan Holdsworth Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Windhawk
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars UK artist Allan HOLDSWORTH is among the living legends in the world of music. A musician especially renowned by fellow musicians and music insiders, his output has been a source of inspiration for a vast multitude of artists and admired by even more. He's been a member of many notable bands over the years, but it is as a solo artist he is best known. "FlatTire" is a studio album first released in 2001. In 2013 it was reissued by the US label Moonjune Records.

"FlatTire" comes across as a slightly flawed production, or at least one where the qualities have faded with time. Mainly due to the synthesizer sounds, which are much more sterile and cold than the sounds produced by contemporary synthesizer setups. Instrumentalists will still have a field day in listening to this material, considering how the music is performed on a guitar synthesizer, but others should approach this album with a bit of caution. As far as the material is concerned it's fairly equally divided between what I'd describe as film score music and jazz rock, both styles explored with the expertise you'd expect from an artist of Holdsworth's stature, but with the sterile sounding instrument sounds at least for me a detrimental feature.

 Flat Tire by HOLDSWORTH, ALLAN album cover Studio Album, 2001
2.82 | 23 ratings

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Flat Tire
Allan Holdsworth Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars After suffering a difficult divorce, Allan had sold most of his gear and had no access to a studio. In addition, the house he was now renting wasn't suitable for recording live guitar or drums, so he decided to take the opportunity to make a record using only the SynthAxe. Of course, he had also sold most of his synthesisers so only had access to certain sounds. The subtitle of this album is 'Music for a non-existent movie', as Allan decided to record music that would fit the scenes that he could imagine in his head. The result is something that is certainly unusual, although it would take a braver man than me to say that it was 100% successful. The problem in many ways is due to the instrumentation being deployed, as it comes across as a synth album yet without the depth that one would normally expect. It is a very stripped sound, yet this approach clashes with the sounds being heard so it doesn't really work as a synth album, nor as a guitar album (which in fairness it isn't ' although it was recorded by Allan playing a guitar- type instrument, if that makes any sense). Most of the reviews I have read come to the same conclusion as me, in that Allan is one of the most incredible and versatile musicians you will ever come across, but that this is most definitely not the place to start. It's great that MoonJune have made it available again, especially with Barry Cleveland's insightful (as always) comments, but this is an album that I played repeatedly as I felt I needed to so that I could write a fair review as opposed to playing it because I loved it. For more details visit www.moonjune.com
 Secrets by HOLDSWORTH, ALLAN album cover Studio Album, 1989
3.62 | 59 ratings

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Secrets
Allan Holdsworth Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by b_olariu
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Secrets released in 1989 is one of Holdsworth good albums, but somehow fail to impress me big time like Metal fatigue. Some good pieces here, who offers his tradmark on guitar like the opener City nights, Joshus or Peril Premonition are fairly ok jazz fusion pieces with solid musicianship, the rest even are ok are nothing really excellent. The line up is solid as always on any Holdsworth albums with Colaiuta on drums, Jimmy Johnson on bass and Steve Hunt on Keyboards amonh others. I like his style in every band he was involved, from UK, Gong, Bruford or Soft Machine little more then his solo offers. 3 stars, nothing more nothing less.
 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 kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars The Tony Williams Lifetime was founded in 1969 by drummer Tony Williams as a power trio with John McLaughlin on electric guitar, and Larry Young (aka Khalid Yasin) on organ. Their debut album 'Emergency!' is a classic and everyone interested in jazz or fusion should have a copy in their collection. The line-up changed over time (Jack Bruce was there for the second album) and in 1975 Tony formed a quartet he called The New Tony Williams Lifetime featuring bassist Tony Newton, pianist Alan Pasqua, and guitarist Allan Holdsworth. Some thirty odd years later Allan and Alan decided that the time was right to go on tour with a band to pay homage to those days, and recruited drummer Chad Wackerman (Zappa, Holdsworth) and bassist Jimmy Haslip (Yellowjackets) for the occasion.

This double CD set brings together the best versions from the whole tour, edited together so that the listener has a complete evening's entertainment with no overdubs whatsoever (the DVD that is available is just from one night). The concept may have started as a tribute, but by the time that these songs were recorded it was morphing into a fusion band with a life of its' own. This is jazz combined with prog as the guys bounce off each other and the note density and complexity of what is being performed is quite staggering. Allan has a fluidity that is rarely matched ? just listen to the runs in "It Must Be Jazz" to see what I mean, but Alan does his best with some incredible electric piano/organ. The photo on the rear cover shows four guys with scores in front of them with simple lighting and no fancy gimmicks at all. This is all about the music, and the music is stunning. If you want music to be complex, played by guys at the very top of their game, then this is something to be savoured. www.moonjune.com

 None Too Soon by HOLDSWORTH, ALLAN album cover Studio Album, 1996
3.98 | 42 ratings

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None Too Soon
Allan Holdsworth Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Prior to the recording of 'Hard Hat Area' Allan had been working with pianist Gordon Beck, and together with bassist Gary Willis and drummer Kirk Covington they had recorded a version of "Michelle" for a tribute album. After 'Hard Hat Area', Gordon was again with Allan and he suggested that they do something quite different ? namely record an album of interpretations of jazz standards by the likes of John Coltrane, Django Reinhardt etc. Allan was taken by the idea, and Gordon suggested which songs they should undertake and they were mostly unfamiliar to Allan who became an avid pupil. They brought back the same rhythm section, and Allan provided all of the guitar and synthesizer sounds on the SynthAxe. The basic tracks were recorded as a group, with the guitar overdubbed afterwards, but to these ears it sounds as if everyone was cooking in the studio at the same time.

This is a jazz album with no room to hide and all four musicians are obviously on the very top of their game, bouncing the ideas and melodies. Gary and Kirk obviously have a great understanding between each other and provide an extremely complex bedrock while Gordon's impact on this recording is immense. Gordon was house pianist at Ronnie Scott's and his knowledge of the genre was extremely wide and varied and it is no surprise that there are times when Allan defers such as on Joe Henderson's "Isotope" where Gordon leads the way (followed by some stunning bass it has to be said).

While the vast majority of songs are indeed jazz standards, one that isn't is "Norwegian Wood" which is given a very different arrangement and again Gordon has a huge impact on this, whether it is providing a melodic lead or simply repeating a chord sequence that allows Allan to spread his wings. I doubt if Lennon and McCartney ever imagined that the song could be treated in this way, but it has taken what is for me one of their lesser numbers and has moved it into a totally new direction. It is interesting to note that Gordon had originally recorded the song himself back in 1968 on his 'Experiments with Pops' album, but Allan provides a fluidity and note density that makes this his own.

All in all a very different album from the one that proceeded it, yet I would be hard pressed to pick between the two as they are both stunning pieces of work. This has been reissued by MoonJune in a digipak, the recordings have been remastered, and there are great sleevenotes from Barry Cleveland. www.moonjune.com

 Hard Hat Area by HOLDSWORTH, ALLAN album cover Studio Album, 1993
3.82 | 41 ratings

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Hard Hat Area
Allan Holdsworth Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

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. www.moonjune.com

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

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