Hard Hat Area, originally released in 1993, is the latest Allan Holdsworth album to get the remaster treatment from Moonjune Records. Here the guitar legend and his band, which included keyboard player Steve Hunt, drummer Gary Husband, and bassist Skuli Sverrisson, created seven compositions that mixed tight jazz fusion with Holdsworth's ethereal SynthAxe flavors.
If you look at the history of Holdsworth's releases, Hard Hat Area somewhat signaled a turn away from his love of the SynthAxe, an instrument that dominated much of his late '80s and early '90s albums. Though it makes a few appearanes here, this is a much more guitar dominated album, as you can hear Allan's blazing legato lines on such killer cuts like "Low Levels, High Stakes", the futuristic title track, and the wonderfully melodic "Tulio". Hunt does a great job laying down a wealth of colors with his keyboard arsenal, which gives Holdsworth a solid framework to drop in his jaw dropping solos. The dark and chilling closing number "Postlude" sees keyboard and SynthAxe textures setting the tone, which allow Husband & Sverrisson to rip into some nimble grooves and really put on a show.
Though Hard Hat Area might not be considered one of Allan Holdsworth's greatest achievements, it's still one of his most solid releases from the '90s and contains plenty of inspiring musicianship. Once again, another nice job from Moonjune on the remaster, and a good call to give this one new cover artwork, as the original was quite unattractive.
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)