Saturday, October 3, 2015

Allan Holdsworth - 1976 [1990] "Velvet Darkness"

Velvet Darkness is the first studio album by guitarist Allan Holdsworth, released in 1976 through producer Creed Taylor's CTI Records.
The tracks for the album were originally recorded by engineer Rudy Van Gelder at his Van Gelder Studio in New Jersey. According to Holdsworth, this was done during a rehearsal session, after which the tapes were released by CTI without his or the other band members' consent. None of the musicians involved ever received royalties for their work. Holdsworth therefore considers the album an unauthorised release and not part of his discography.

This debut solo release by Allan Holdsworth has an "in the raw," coarsely presented, jam-session quality complete with warts and all, as well as real gems of jazz fusion shining through. A first hearing of this release in its vinyl version might provoke laughter at how really bad it sounds compared to Holdsworth's other releases as well as his playing with other groups. As it turns out, Holdsworth himself abhors this release (considering it "a real terrible disaster"), and has taken legal action and had it removed from production for several reasons. The original label used rehearsal tapes to compile it, deeming it unnecessary to finance real sessions. During the recording session, Holdsworth had to hurry through each song and apparently never obtained the masters to go over before release. In essence, the original release was nothing more than a taped rehearsal, packaged by CTI as an album without Holdsworth's permission. This recording has been bootlegged by label after label, none of the musicians involved ever saw any royalties, and no legal paperwork exists. (The recording's known labels and release/re-release dates include CTI Records [1976], King Records [1976], Epic Associated Records [CD, 1990], King Records [Japanese-only CD, 1994], and CTI Records [Japanese-only CD, 1997]. Velvet Darkness was also released in 1997 on an unknown label in Japan as a bootleg CD; an original copy of the vinyl LP album had been transferred to the CD.) This 1990 release with alternate takes (just more pieces dredged up from the jam-session practice tapes) is indeed an interesting snapshot of young stellar musicians doing their thing in a laid-back but energetic fusion-funk-rock groove. It is for all the above reasons that this is indeed a completist/collectors item nowadays. Included are the now very rare recordings of Holdsworth playing acoustic guitar and violin, which he does very well. The alternate take of "Gattox" is a special treat, featuring Holdsworth soloing with an intensity and emotive power that echoes all the best dynamics jazz fusion could offer in the '70s. Obtaining this release second-hand is probably the only and most proper way to find it now.

I agree with the other reviewers that this is a FANTASTIC work from Holdsworth. Perhaps my favorite. (Hard to decide between this and his completely opposite and awesome jazz album, None Too Soon.) The acoustic numbers on Velvet Darkness are incredible and beautiful. I would love to hear a whole album of that. I wonder if there are other songs from this session.

This album is very raw. High energy. Crisp sound. Keyboards are cheesy sounding, but when were they not from that era? The drums are GREAT. Allan plays violin on this one also. I met him once during the I.O.U tour (25 years ago???), and he told me he hated this album intensely. In fact I asked him to sign mine, and he refused. He actually tried to BUY it from me!! He was not kidding. He said he wanted it out of circulation. I cannot imagine why.

I love it alot, and find myself still listening to it surprisingly often even after all these years. It has held up better than many of his others thru the years. There are GREAT riffs on this. If you like Holdsworth even a little get this.

Tracks Listing

1. Good clean filth (5:20)
2. Floppy hat (2:46)
3. Wish (4:20)
4. Kinder (3:07)
5. Velvet darkness (4:42)
6. Karzie key (3:11)
7. Las May (1:38)
8. Gattox (4:51)

Total Time: 29:55

1990 CD release bonus tracks:

9. Good Clean Filth 5:38
10. Kinder 3:07
11. Velvet Darkness 4:44
12. Karzie Key 2:15
13. Gattox 6:47

Line-up / Musicians

- Allan Holdsworth / electric guitar, acoustic guitar, violin
- Alphonse Johnson / bass
- Alan Pasqua / piano
- Narada Michael Walden / drums