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Saturday, June 3, 2017

3: Tempest (1972-73)

Clockwise from top left: Jon Hiseman, Allan Holdsworth, Mark Clarke, Paul Williams
     In the summer of 1972, Jon Hiseman (Colosseum, John Mayall) decided to form a new "heavy rock" band. He had first heard of Allan Holdsworth through trombonist Derek Wadsworth, who had seen Allan play at the Newcastle Musicians Union clinic with Ray Warleigh. Hiseman then got a closer look at him when he produced Ian Carr's "Belladonna" in July of 1972.
     Hiseman: "I began thinking of forming a four-piece...the problem was finding someone who was pretty ridiculous but not too well known because, to be realistic, I couldn't see a biggie from a top-flight band dropping everything to join us. It was an almost insoluble problem, and then I began hearing rumors about this lunatic guitarist who was just unbelievable. I got word that he was in London and he came round to my place. After he'd played for ten minutes I knew he was right." - Disc, Jan 1973

     Filling out this quartet was Mark Clarke (from Hiseman's old band Colosseum) and singer Paul Williams (from Juicy Lucy, and later, vocalist for Allan's I.O.U. solo project). Allan recorded Tempest's self-titled debut in November using Gibson ES-335 and ES-175 semi-hollow body electrics (possibly after trying out Paul Williams' Gibson guitar), although one photo (from Jon Hiseman's book) also shows Allan holding a Les Paul. Allan contributed parts to most of the songs, but this was clearly Hiseman's project. As a side note, this record also marks Allan's first recorded violin solo, which actually had it's genesis during the previous year's Glen South Band gigs: 
     "I just went into a music store in Sunderland when I was playing with that Glen South band and I don't know why, I was just walking past a junk shop and went in and asked him if he had any old violins. I didn't see anything - and he went in the back and he came out with this thing - no strings. And it was like 10 shillings or something - no, it was 5 quid. So I fixed it up and got a new bridge made for it and strung it up...My violin style is derived from the guitar. I developed a four finger left hand technique anyway."  (40, 9) 
     After a final session with Ian Carr's Nucleus (for BBC radio), Allan joined Tempest on a European winter tour, with an American tour (supporting Fleetwood Mac) following in March of 1973. These were essentially Allan's first real tour experiences, and his first trip to the US (on tour at least).

Allan with Tempest 1973 (Sweden) - (photo Per Andreasson)

     By early summer however, change was again in the air: 
     "I had envisioned it as something that would progress... I believed that there was room for the music to grow, but Jon wanted it to go the other way...he thought of it as not being commercial enough. He wanted me to play more like somebody else, and I didn't want to do that. (7, 16) 
     After a brief transitional period as a quintet with new guitarist Ollie Halsall (Patto), Allan and Paul  Williams left Tempest (although with no hard feelings, as Hiseman would later be part of an embryonic I.O.U. demo). Musically, Allan's brief time with Halsall made an important impression: 
     "I got interested in the possibilities of using tremolo arm through listening to Hendrix, but he was doing it in a very uncontrolled way, and I wanted to do it with control. Then, when I was working with Ollie Halsall, he was playing about with the same sort of ideas as Hendrix, but was doing it with control, and that sort of fired me off." (5)

Tempest: Musical Analysis

     Tempest's self-titled debut is an interesting mix of  '70s hard rock and progressive psychedelia. Allan's guitar tone is uncharacteristically "dirty" on most of it (probably due to the ES-335/fuzz box combination), but it's interesting to hear some of his polychordal ideas adapted to a hard rock style. Some "Clapton-esque" guitar wailing shows up here (probably picked up during his Glen South Band days), but Allan's wah-wah guitar leads were mostly on their way out. Interestingly, the unique, opening punk riff of "Brothers" also seems to hint at an unconventional 'new-wave' sound, a sound later developed by U2 on their War album).

     Overall however, the compositions are pretty conservative compared to the complexity of the 'Igginbottom pieces from four years prior. One can easily imagine Hiseman's new project being an attractive idea (a sax-less guitar-band version of Colosseum), but it's clear that Hiseman pushed for a much more traditional (commercial) sound as the album progressed. On the other hand, the songs do tend to grow on you...

Title Dur Song Breakdown
1 Gorgon 5:41 (Hiseman/Clarke/Holdsworth, words Hiseman)

    This song is basically a '70s heavy metal power trio, complete with crunchy palm-muted riffs and bluesy guitar/vocal dialogues.

0:00: Intro: arpeggiated acoustic figure, modulating, with processed vocals/keys.
1:29: Main electric guitar thud-rock riff (double-tracked) with accented drums/bass, 1st verse (with power chords and 2nd guitar ornaments).
2:21: Main guitar riff, 2nd verse.
3:04: Main guitar riff, leading to bridge.
3:27: Muted arpeggio figure into guitar solo over a 2 chord vamp.
4:03: Bridge.
4:19: Muted arpeggio figure into main guitar riff, then 3rd verse.
5:12: Main riff into muted arpeggio figure and final gong accent and glissando effects (slide?).
2 Foyers of Fun 3:38 (Hiseman/Clarke/Holdsworth, words Hiseman)

    Hiseman's insistent, multi-layered drums are featured in this Cream-like tune.

0:00: 1st verse A (unison bass and guitar line with hyper-active drums).
0:36: 1st Verse B (modulated variation leading to accented cadence).
0:47: 2nd verse A, 2nd verse B.
1:27: Guitar solo over modulating pedal chords, ending in a B section without vocals.
2:07: 3rd verse A, 3rd verse B.
2:45: 4th verse A, 4th verse B (gradual ritard).
3 Dark House 5:00 (Hiseman/Clarke/Holdsworth, words Hiseman)

    This song switches back and forth between heavy thud rock and mellower verse sections. There's no guitar solo, but wah-wah guitar ornaments become more prominent as the song proceeds.

0:00: Lumbering power riff A.
0:17: 1st verse - somewhat pastoral with electric keys and electric guitars (clean toned and wah wah ornaments), held keyboard tones near the end lead to...
1:09: Bridge power chords, opening riff A.
1:53: 2nd verse.
2:45: Bridge with more developed wah guitar ornaments, riff A with vocal interjections from Allan and Mark.
3:29: 3rd verse.
4:20: Bridge with wah-wah guitar ornaments, final chord held.
4 Brothers 3:35 (Hiseman/Holdsworth, words Hiseman)

     This song features some more complex chords, probably from Allan's influence.  Rhythmically it still seems driven by Hiseman's direction.

0:00: Dissonant "new wave punk" guitar riff under 1st verse A, ending in rising chord accents.
0:32: Relaxed B section with clean guitar chords, chromatic descending harmony.
0:40: 2nd verse A, relaxed B section.
1:30: Bridge: rhythmic power chord riff, leading to soft guitar and harmony vocal interlude.
2:15: Guitar solo over pedal bass vamp.
2:42: 3rd verse A, relaxed B section, final dissonant layered chord.
5 Up and On 4:16 (John Edwards/Holdsworth, words Edwards)

    Aside from the opening wailing riff, there are some interesting ideas here, but the best part is the callback to the motoric riff from the Ian Carr song.

0:00: Intro: wailing lead guitar and power chords.
0:21: 1st verse riff (somewhat related to the riff Allan used in Carr's "Hector's House").
0:52: Bridge - more open chords, ending in staccato chopped chords.
1:18: 2nd verse, intro power chords reprise with vocals.
2:09: 3rd verse.
2:41: Guitar solo over bridge riffs.
3:06: Intro wailing/power chords reprise with vocals, wailing lead part develops, final accents.
6 Grey and Black 2:26 (Clarke/Suzy Bottomley, words Bottomley)

    Keyboards accompany Mark Clarke on lead vocals, joined by additional vocals from Paul and Allan - reminds me too much of Styx or Meatloaf (unfortunately).
7 Strangeher 4:07 (Clarke/Hiseman, words Hiseman)

    This is song is basically a heavy boogie. Allan gets to play a blues progression.

0:00: Opening wailing guitar motif alternates with blues boogie verse, with guitar interjections here and there.
1:37: Bridge with rising power chords, wailing riff leads to...
1:55: Guitar solo over boogie groove/wailing riff.
2:56: Vocal resumes over groove.
3:30: Bridge, wailing riff, rave up finale.
8 Upon Tomorrow 6:15 (Clem Clempson/Hiseman, words Hiseman)

    Originally a song meant for Colosseum (written by that band's guitarist), this tune's first half features Allan's violin soloing over a fusion groove. The bass in this song is pretty soloistic as well.

0:00: Violin solo over guitar-less fusion groove, featuring melodic bass and electric keys.
1:05: Violin tremolo texture over rising harmony, becoming more accented with busier drums.
2:08: Snarling electric guitar riff kicks off 1st verse (keys and clipped clean guitar rhythm).
2:39: 2nd verse with electric 2nd guitar interjections.
3:12: Bridge: variation of opening part of verse riff chords.
3:58: Guitar solo over relaxed groove version of bridge harmony.
4:39: 3rd verse, more lead guitar.
5:12: 4th verse, etc.
5:42: Bridge, developed, finale with feedback.
zcThis song features some interesting "new wave-ish" rhythm guitar elements.  
Again, a very unique detour in Allan's musical development.
Tempest: Under The Blossom
Ollie Halsall on the far left
     In 2005, a remastered edition of Tempest's 2-record discography was released with an additional June 1973 BBC radio recording of the full band with new guitarist Ollie Halsall (in the right channel). This is most likely Allan's last show with Tempest, as he says he never saw Ollie again after this show. The performance is literally over-flowing with guitar solos, as the two proto-shredders seem to be goading each other on. Halsall's unique tremolo bar technique (mentioned by Allan above) can be heard here as well at one point (Ollie's 2nd chorus solo in "Gorgon"). The song "Brothers" is expanded with a somewhat derivative (but still fun) 12-minute jam on a soul-blues groove in the middle (live quartet renditions prior to Ollie's arrival had an unaccompanied Holdsworth solo guitar spot in this position).

Title Dur Song Breakdown
3 Foyers of Fun 6:56 0:08: 1st verse A (very Cream-like unison bass and guitar lines), 1st Verse B (modulated variation leading to accented cadence).
0:55: 2nd verse A, 2nd verse B.
1:32: Ollie's guitar solo over modulating pedal chords, a B section without vocals, 2nd Ollie solo, B section.
2:46: Allan's solo, B section, Allan's 2nd solo, B section.
3:59: Ollie's 3rd solo, B section.
3:37: 3rd verse A, 3rd verse B.
5:13: 4th verse A, 4th verse B (gradual ritard with dueling guitars).
4 Gorgon 8:41 0:00: Main electric guitar riff with accented drums/bass, 1st verse (with power chords and Allan's guitar lead line).
0:52: Main guitar riff, 2nd verse.
1:36: Main guitar riff leading to 1st bridge.
2:01: Muted arpeggio figure into Ollie guitar solo.
2:52: Ollie's 2nd solo chorus with more obvious tremolo bar articulation.
3:43: Allan's solos (with extra fuzzy bass).
5:08: 2nd Bridge.
5:25: Muted arpeggio figure into main guitar riff, then 3rd verse, (Allan ornaments).
6:19: Main riff, 4th verse (Ollie ornaments) into main riff, muted arpeggio and final rave up.
5 Up and On 7:40 0:00: Intro: wailing lead guitar (Allan) and power chords intro.
0:21: 1st verse riff.
1:00: Bridge.
1:26: 2nd verse, Intro.
2:20: 3rd verse.
2:53: Ollie's guitar solo over bridge.
3:47: Allan's solo, added congas from Paul.
5:02: Ollie's 2nd solo.
5:56: Opening wailing/power chords reprise with vocals, final accents.
6 Grey and Black 3:38     Keyboards accompany Mark Clarke on lead vocals, joined by additional vocals from Paul and Allan.  
7 Brothers 15:25 0:00: Uptempo jam on 1 chord (Paul on congas), eventually changing into the dissonant verse A "punk" guitar riff.
1:40: Vocals enter on verse A, ending in rising chord accents.
2:04: Relaxed B section with chromatic descending harmony.
2:13: 2nd verse A, relaxed B section.
3:03: Bridge: rhythmic power chord riff, leading to soft guitar and harmony vocal interlude.
4:04: New interlude based on soft rock groove with clean guitar tones and congas (somewhat like Marvin Gaye?) .
5:50: Allan's solo (clean tone over a kind of Doobie Brothers/Santana groove).
6:35: Allan's lead tone solo (rhythm section channels a Steely Dan blues progression).
8:18: Ollie's lead guitar solo (same groove).
9:33: Allan solos again for a couple choruses.
11:00: Guitars return to clean chordal accents and ornaments as rhythm fades.
11:55: Guitars and cymbals slowly lead back towards the original song's verse A riff.
12:40: Allan returns to his lead tone and solos over the main verse A riff.
13:20: Hiseman does a drum cadenza over the A groove.
13:55: 3rd verse A, relaxed B section.
14:40: Final dissonant chord layers.
8 Drums Away 7:26 0:00: Drum solo.
0:58: Song head with guitars and bass.
1:58: Drum solo continued.
9 Strangeher 6:02 0:00: Opening wailing guitar motif alternates with blues boogie verse, with guitar interjections here and there.
1:17: Bridge with rising chords, wailing riff leads to...
1:34: Ollie's guitar solo over boogie groove/wailing riff.
2:32: Allan's guitar solo.
2:59: Ollie solos again.
3:27: Allan solos again, solo exchanges become looser in structure.
4:40: Vocal resumes over groove.
4:58: Bridge, wailing riff, rave up finale.

Tempest with Allan in the left channel and Ollie Halsall in the right. 
Ollie's tremolo bar technique on this song may have inspired Allan to explore similar areas. 

     With Tempest and fuzz-rock behind him, Allan resumed sessions with pianist Pat Smythe in London's jazz clubs. However, one chance meeting of some future importance did take place at this time - meeting and playing with bassist Alphonso Johnson from Chuck Mangione's visiting band. A suitably impressed Johnson would later report on the phenomenal Holdsworth to American drummer Tony Williams... However, before Allan's Big Apple adventures began, he reunited with some former Nucleus band mates for another important musical detour...

Next: Into the Soft Machine
Previous Chapter: London Jazz and Ian Carr

Go to the Table of Contents... 

The numbers in parentheses after Allan's quotes above refer to sources listed in the Bibliography
For more detailed information on this chapter, see the Annotated Chronology.

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