Allan Holdsworth “Hard Hat Area” | MoonJune Records
Allan Holdsworth is a guitar players guitarist. Born in England, Holdsworth has been on records since the late 60′s and has been putting together some of the most unique and creative configurations of sounds from the guitar and many other instruments. Holdsworth is the kind of maverick on an axe that can drop jaws instantly and inspire even the most of technical and proficient players. His resume speaks volumes, including vital work with the Tony Williams Lifetime, Soft Machine, Terry Bozio, Gordon Beck, Nucleus, Gong, Jean Luc-Ponty, Tempest and many others. Eddie Van Halen championed him and with over a dozen solo records under his belt, he has become one of the most respected guitar players of the post 60′s explosion of instrumentalist that entered the scene after Hendrix. With Holdsworth releasing his first solo LP in the early 80′s in I.O.U., he has pushed the boundaries of music with some of the best around. In an age of full of reissues ranging in the most obscure to some of the most well known artists around, the world is now catching up to some of Holdsworth’s solo LP in his discography.
The latest album to come back into the light is the 1993 release Hard Hat Area. First released through Polydor in Japan and Fred Bloggs in the UK, the 1993 release was a more natural and needed departure from the modified guitar heavy records he was getting into the years before Hard Hat Area was recorded. Holdsworths band at the time Hard Hat Area was recorded consisted of keyboardist and Berklee School of Music alumni Steve Hunt, Icelandic composer and bassist Skúli Sverrisson and British percussionist Gary Husband. Seven songs of provocative and complex guitar, synthetically complex keys, vast arrays of percussive identities into acoustics and electronics and bass work of the most technical nature, Hard Hat Area is one of the most authentic fusion records of the 90′s. It is one of the few records in his catalog that brings the culture Holdsworth became highly respected for since the 70′s under one roof. The straight ahead jazz feeling lives in this record through out and the brightly lit torch of all these musicians surfaces with every song from the sophisticated structures created in this idiom of sound.
As one of the few albums in Holdsworths catalog to be road tested before recordings were captured in the digital 32 track realm, this album has been cited by Holdsworth as one of his personal favorites from his entire discography. With a synthetic consistency in tone and wildly progressive melodic solo’ing from Holdsworth and his band at the time, Hard Hat Area pulls from the vast world of electronic characteristics the 80′s were so well known for and adds the masterful composition and instrument knowledge Holdsworth kept as a standard regardless of the tools he utilized. With a song like “Ruhkukah”, each musician shines of excellence in proficiency and creative will. Locked into a tightly placed groove, Holdsworth weaves in and out of the framework with what seems like the most ease. It’s like seeing a sports player do something incredible that you know you could never pull off but it looks so smooth and easy all at the same time.
The self titled track, “Hard Hat Area, builds on a digitized construction of percussive chaos and beauty. Keys rise up in the most lofty way, allowing the odd sounding synthetic percussion to dance in joyous procession. Over six minutes in length, there is a translucent and classical sequence that makes the song breath in the most surreal way and separates it from many fusion sounding albums of the 90′s. Holdsworth rises notes up and just lets them hang in suspense as the song gathers momentum into what is finally a heavy jazz fusion excursion. The bass is exploratory but never leaves the pocket in too much length, leaving all of the room in the world for Holdsworth to go off on the guitar and do things to his fretboard guitar players dream they wish of and dream about. In an age of evolving modes of sound, Holdsworth and company gave the 90′s something very new yet very classic in the way they all masterfully own their instruments. You can’t help but think of all the ground he had covered leading up to the 90′s when listening to this album in full.
MoonJune Records out of New York City is responsible for the reissue of the 7th solo album from one of the most prolific guitar players ever. Pressed in a digipack CD along with new liner notes, the album is capped off with the inclusion of the UK cover that was pressed on conjunction with the Japanese version that has a different cover. If you are looking for electronic jazz fusion records made after Mahavishnu Orchestra, Weather Report, Return to Forever and others had blasted out the scene, Hard Hat Area is the perfect record for you.
- Recorded by Biff Vincent at Front Page Recorders, Costa Mesa, California.
- Recorded and mixed by Allan Holdsworth.
- Originally mastered in 1993 by Bernie Grundman.
- Remastered in 2011 by Chris Bellman, at Bernie Grundman Mastering.
- Reissue Project Supervisor and Executive Producer: Leonardo Pavkovic
- Repackaged and presented in digipak format, with new liner notes written by Barry Cleveland.