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Friday, October 27, 2017

30: Blues For Tony, HoBoLeMa, Crossroads, Tales From The Vault

Holdsworth, Pasqua, Haslip, Wackerman: Blues For Tony (2006-2009)
     After 2001's solo SynthAxe-dominated Flat Tire, Allan Holdsworth had hoped to release a couple new electric band albums in the immediately following years. Unfortunately, things got bogged down and these have so far not seen the light of day (for the most part). Instead, his next release ended up being a tribute to the past, when he reunited with Tony Williams Lifetime band mate Alan Pasqua for a string of shows, backed by the Yellowjackets' founding bassist Jimmy Haslip and veteran Holdsworth drummer Chad Wackerman.
     Alan (Pasqua) was on the road in Europe and a promoter suggested the idea (to him). He said “Why don’t you get back together with Allan?” That planted a seed and we spoke to each other to see if it could work. I used to call Alan once in awhile, usually because I was listening to one of his albums - I really love his playing. So, we thought “Let’s do a little tribute to Tony.” We tried it as an experiment and we’ll see what happens. It’s actually some old stuff and new stuff. We're doing it very similar to the way we did it in 'Lifetime' - we’re coming in with not-quite-finished pieces and experimenting with them as we go. I haven’t done it that way in a long time and it’s great - it’s challenging, getting my butt kicked. (63, 65)
     Live dates for the Holdsworth/Pasqua quartet started around the beginning of 2006, and these early shows also included the Believe It tune "Wildlife" (or, "The Spirit"), John Coltrane's "Resolution" (from A Love Supreme), "Nothing Personal" (a Don Grolnick tune featured on Michael Brecker's 1987 debut album), and "Leave Them On" (a Holdsworth original eventually released on Gary Husband's Dirty and Beautiful Vol.1, in 2010). A September 29th date at Yoshi's Jazz & Sushi Club in California was released on DVD (also on YouTube) and featured the below set:
  • "The Fifth" (later released on Chad Wackerman's Dreams, Nightmares and Improvisations
  • "Looking Glass" (from Atavachron)
  • "Fred" (from Tony Williams Lifetime Believe It)
  • "It Must Be Jazz" (an original funk/ballad piece)
  • "Blues For Tony" (a Pasqua-penned funk-blues)
  • "To Jaki, George and Thad" (Pasqua solo piano)
  • "San Michele" (adapted from Pasqua's 1995 Dedications)
  • "Guitar Intro/Pud Wud" (Sand)
  • "Proto Cosmos" (Believe It)
  • "Red Alert" (Believe It)
     European dates from May of 2007 with the Holdsworth/Pasqua/Haslip/Wackerman quartet ultimately resulted in a complementary double CD of new live recordings. The same setlist from the 2006 performance was reordered and assembled from various sets from different nights, and finally released in 2009.

Blues For Tony

Allan Holdsworth: Guitar
Alan Pasqua: Keyboards
Jimmy Haslip: Bass
Chad Wackerman: Drums
Trk Title Dur Song Breakdown
1 Blues
for Tony
11:12 (Pasqua)

Solos: AP / AH / CW

     It's always interesting to hear how Allan navigates the blues, especially considering that he tries to avoid "blues licks" at all costs.

0:07: Funky, sharply-accented electric piano-led blues vamp.
0:43: Electric piano solo (guitar comps).
3:24: Guitar solo, beginning with soft clean tones, then moving into a heavy lead tone on the 2nd chorus.
6:29: Drum solo.
10:03: Head reprise, ending. 
2 The Fifth 8:58 (Wackerman)

Solos: JH / AH / AP

     Lively drums underpin a kind of pastoral chord melody accompaniment. Allan plays over a different set of changes than the other soloists.

0:00: Drum fill into a pedal bass harmony with pastoral chordal guitar and ornamental jazz organ keys.
1:08: Bridge: modulating with guitar arpeggios and piano ornaments.
1:40: Pedal/pastoral groove theme resumes (more jazz organ ornaments).
2:48: Bass solo as guitar comps with soft modulating chords.
4:24: Guitar solo over modulating bridge harmony.
6:30: Accented cadence, short piano solo over main theme groove.
7:30: Main theme reprise with final development and piano ornaments.
3 It Must
Be Jazz
8:38 (Group)

Solos: JH / AH / AP / AH

     This funky vamp features Allan intermittently throwing on the pitch harmonizer during his solo. Pasqua chooses a fuzz-tone for his solo and commentary. It then calms down for an ending ballad featuring another solo from Allan.

0:00: Mid-tempo groove lead off by a bass solo, turning into a funky vamp with fuzz-organ synth.
0:52: Guitar solo (sometimes with a harmonizer effect) over a modulating pedal.
2:37: Keyboard solo (fuzz and delay). About halfway through Alan gets very funky, almost Jan Hammer-ish.
4:34: Rhythmic cadence, leading to a textural ballad groove with clean chordal guitar figures.
5:33: Guitar solo over modal ballad groove.
7:12: Electric piano briefly featured as guitar returns to clean comping, ending with a final reprise of the earlier rhythmic cadence.
4 Fred 9:55 (Holdsworth)

Solos: AP / AH

0:00: Opening drum accents lead to galloping refrain groove with clean chords, briefly modulating, and ending in fuzzier cadence accents.
0:46: Refrain reprise, ending in cadence variation featuring drum and keyboard ornaments.
1:40: Pasqua's keyboard solo over refrain chords (1st few chords more open).
5:30: Guitar solo.
6:37: 2nd chorus.
7:33: 3rd chorus. Solo ends in a fast ensemble rhythmic figure.
8:31: Opening refrain reprise, ending in crunchy cadence and rave up.
5 Guitar
3:34 (Holdsworth)

0:00: Gentle chord melody.
0:31: Swelled chord-melody textures with delays.
6 Pud Wud 9:59 (Holdsworth)

Solos: JH / AP / AH

     This version starts with the B section. The main theme intro statement is skipped, but appears in the final recapitulation.

0:00: "Determined" B theme over a broad groove.
0:15: Bass solo over main theme and B theme (3 choruses).
2:35: Keys solo, with some nice rhythmic interplay in the 4th and final chorus.
5:40: Guitar solo.
6:26: 2nd guitar solo chorus.
7:12: 3rd guitar solo chorus.
7:58: 4th guitar solo chorus.
8:43: Gentle main theme with keys ornaments, final B theme reprise. 
1 Looking
10:06 (Holdsworth)

Solos: AP / AH

0:00: Drum fill, accented head chords driven by lively drum fills.
0:31: Accented head (reprise variation).
0:58: Chorus with broader groove.
1:18: Accented head, now transposed to a lower key.
1:45: Piano solo over modulating chorus/head variations.
5:24: Guitar solo.
8:36: Chorus, accented head (twice, as in the opening).
2 To Jaki,
and Thad
4:50 (Pasqua)

0:00: Alan Pasqua plays a gentle, ornamented jazz ballad (solo piano).
3 San Michele 11:30 (Pasqua)

Solos: AH / AP / CW

     Allan's solo over this hypnotic waltz groove is quite appealing.

0:00: Electric piano-based theme over a triplet groove.
0:38: Guitar plays theme melody line, repeat.
2:08: Guitar solo over theme changes. The groove develops during the solo.
4:45: Keys solo with fuzz/delay effects.
7:20: Opening theme sequence reprise.
8:21: Drum solo.
10:32: Opening theme groove reprise (no melody line).
4 Proto
5:45 (Pasqua)

Solos: AH / AP

0:00: 3-accent descending fanfare motif bracketed by solo drum licks, leading to rhythmic ensemble figure.
0:25: Allan's guitar solo over an uptempo, loping groove, accented by reappearances of the fanfare motif.
2:30: Fanfare with drum licks, followed by Pasqua's keyboard solo (with pitch bend effects).
4:33: Opening fanfare sequence reprise, ending in a ritardando coda variation/rave-up.
5 Red
5:49 (Tony Newton)

Solos: AH / AP

     Gary Haslip's version of the bass line is different than on Newton's original recording for the first part of this rendition, but eventually gravitates towards the main riff.

0:00: Bouncy bass vamp with keyboard accents (developed).
1:03: Descending keyboard chords lead to a guitar solo over a modulating pedal (original "Red Alert" bass line surfaces).
3:08: Keyboard solo with fuzzy tones.
4:45: Main riff (original), cadence figure, final rave-up.

2006, By Harkstone - Flickr, CC BY 2.0,
Allan Holdsworth Trio (2006-08)
     In between dates with the Holdsworth/Pasqua quartet (and continuing into 2008), Allan also toured with classic I.O.U. players Jimmy Johnson and Chad Wackerman as a trio. During this period, the band brought back Chad's "Tell Me" (from Forty Reasons) and tried out a couple new songs (so far unreleased). One of these, titled "The Insomniac", bears some similarities with the "Let's Throw Shrimp" from Against the Clock, opening with some up-stroke arpeggios (high to low strings), followed by a cadence section and a modal pedal groove under the solo section. Another new song, "Every 10th Man" (its title derived from the Greek army practice), uses heavily-accented power-chord riffing in combination with a somewhat Middle-Eastern scalar figure on harmonized guitar, followed by a gently-modulating solo harmony.

HoBoLeMa (2008, 2010)
     In the last tours of the '00s, Allan's trio generally featured combinations of both veteran and newly-conscripted Holdsworth players like Gary Husband, Jimmy Johnson, and Ernest Tibbs. However, this period was also marked by another "super group": HoBoLeMa (title derived from the initial letters of each member's surname). At a Japan date in November of 2008, Allan found himself joining a rhythmic "power trio" made up of drummer Terry Bozzio (Frank Zappa, Missing Persons), bassist/Chapman stick player Tony Levin (King Crimson, etc..) and drummer Pat Mastellotto (King Crimson). This group played exclusively freely-improvised song structures ("Zones"), which ranged from rhythmic modal workouts to abstract soundscape fantasias. After their initial 2008 "first meeting" in Japan, it wasn't until 2010 that two additional HoBoLeMa tours came together. Tony Levin documented these tours here and here. Sadly, no professionally-recorded documentation of this quartet has seen any kind of circulation. However various audience-shot videos can be found on YouTube fairly easily.

Virgil Donati Projects (2011-2017)
     After HoBoLeMa, Allan tried out various band combinations for a number of months, including several dates with players such as bassist Bunny Brunel and Suicidal Tendencies/Stanley Clarke drummer Ronald Bruner Jr. However, in November 2011, Planet X drummer Virgil Donati assembled a quartet with Allan, bassist Anthony Crawford and late keyboard prodigy Austin Peralta to play a high-profile gig in India (a Chris Hoard FaceBook post also notes that Peralta recorded some unreleased tracks with Allan, Donati and Jimmy Johnson). At a later January 2012 NAMM show, Allan, Virgil, bassist Jimmy Haslip and Dennis Hamm (keys) played through the two Planet X songs Allan was familiar with ("Desert Girl" and "The Thinking Stone"). After this, Allan continued touring as a trio with Virgil Donati and either Jimmy Haslip or Anthony Crawford on bass. One notable addition to Holdsworth's by-now-standard set list was "Mr. Spock/Letsby", another long-lost Tony Williams Lifetime tune (which actually wasn't played on the 2006/2007 Pasqua quartet dates). Stylistically, around this time Allan also started using longer delay times and harmonizer in his solos to create overlapping polyphonic structures. Sadly, this interesting new direction was never captured on record. Tracks with this trio were recorded, but so far have not been released yet.
Allan: "I wanted to do something a bit different for my new record, and I haven’t done a new studio record in over ten years. The way the music was going, it was just a bit different, that’s all. So I asked Virgil to play on the record, and he plays amazingly on it. So it seemed like a natural thing to do. Even though the album is not quite finished yet, it’s a good way along, and I just decided to do it with Virgil and Jimmy Haslip." 
Q: Virgil is mostly known for playing very heavy progressive rock. Are you planning on taking your music in a more rock-oriented direction with this new lineup? 
Allan: "It’s a little bit more that way than my last studio record (The Sixteen Men of Tain), which was a little bit softer. But that’s good. I just wanted to let it go where it goes. I wanted to do something different, and then all this time went by. I had a lot of music that was already recorded (probably referring to Snakes and Ladders - ed.), but I decided that I didn’t want to use it because it was kind of 'time-locked' into that same period, and I didn’t want to do that. So I just decided to write all-new material, and I made a decision to try to do something with Virgil because I’m a big fan of his. Like I said, he plays really amazingly on it, and I think it’s a good combo." (91)
     Around late 2009 Canton guitars started building custom models for Allan (with signature models available in 2011). Due to some feedback issues, these guitars were mostly used in the studio (for example, on Chad Wackerman's 2012 release, Dreams, Nightmares and Improvisations. Apparently around 2013, Allan also tried out some .strandberg* guitars for size and was pleased with them. However once Carvin started producing their own headless guitars Allan often used those models (HH2).

Zappa Plays Zappa (2012)
Allan duets with "Zappa Plays Zappa" band saxophonist Scheila Gonzalez (YouTube).
     One interesting invitation had Allan sitting in with Dweezil Zappa's "Zappa Plays Zappa" tribute band in February of 2012. During these sets he played on the songs "Any Kind Of Pain", "Eat That Question" and "Treacherous Cretins". Some clips of these sessions can be found on YouTube as well. Dweezil wrote about his experiences with Allan in his recent tribute:
     "(Allan) was a major influence on my musical outlook. His approach to guitar was so unique and quite honestly baffling, especially to the 13 year old me who spent a summer trying to learn licks from his "Metal Fatigue" album. My dad was an admirer of Allan's playing as well.  He talked about him in high regard in several interviews.
     "One day Allan came to our house to visit my dad... I remember that I was 13 and I couldn't understand the scales Allan was using or the chords he was playing over. I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions that day and he was very patient with me as I attempted to show him some of the things I had tried to learn. He showed me a few easier licks and some two hand tapping ideas.
     "Allan even played with my band on stage a few times. He was so humble and was allergic to compliments. If I mentioned something about his playing on a record or even in the moment while playing together he would say with a smile, 'I'm sorry you had to hear that.'"

Crossroads Festival with Kurt Rosenwinkel (2013)
Allan with Kurt Rosenwinkel
     In 2013, another "guest spotlight" opportunity had Allan playing to a full house in Madison Square Garden during Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival (sitting in with jazz guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel's band). Rosenwinkel's keyboardist Aaron Parks describes the event:
     "Allan Holdsworth joined us for the second tune, and after a small delay due to some technical difficulties, he launched into a mind-expanding solo guitar intro, which led into an epic version of 'Gamma Band'. Yes, epic. The word is overused, but in this case it seems appropriate. Kurt and Allan together was mayhem, in the best way."
     Some fairly "ragged" audience video of this episode eventually appeared on YouTube, and some recordings of the full set can also be found on SoundCloud. In any case, it's been reported that Allan enjoyed the experience.

Tales From The Vault (2016)
     2014 featured additional Holdsworth Trio tour dates with bassist Jimmy Haslip and either Virgil Donati or Gary Husband on drums. Album-wise, long-gestating studio tracks were still immobilized by inertia of one kind or another, but a Pledgemusic crowdfunding project managed to produce an internet-only potpourri release of unreleased demos, lost tracks, remixes and some short solo pieces. One track, "Earth" (written by Virgil Donati), was a newly-recorded composition, however, and featured a fresh Holdsworth guitar lead. The saga of "Tales From the Vault" has some rough edges to it (well beyond the scope of this blog), but in the end, an album of mostly never-before-heard tracks saw the light of day. The take of "Water On the Brain" alone rewarded long-time fans with a priceless, early '80s Holdsworth studio solo. His solo on "Abingdon Chasp" with Ray Warleigh and Bill Bruford was an equally nice surprise for the "old-school" fans.

Tales From The Vault
Year Title Dur Notes
Abingdon Chasp

5:12 (Allan Holdsworth)

Allan Holdsworth: Guitar
Ray Warleigh: Alto sax
Bill Bruford: Drums
Jeff Young: Keyboards
Francis Moze: Electric bass

     This unreleased track was described at length in this chapter. In any case, it's a demo originally recorded for the Virgin label. The demo was later rearranged for the Bruford album One Of A Kind.

0:00: Descending accented fanfare A.
0:07: Melody line B in sax, modulating to fanfare variation A', then brief guitar solo over anthemic groove fragment B'.
0:34: Reprise of sax melody B (added bass ornaments), fanfare var. A', harmonized guitar figure over broad C groove, fanfare A (tweaked).
1:12: Ray's alto sax solo over syncopated groove figure D, modulating and broadening into C' groove variant, reprise D, C' and then dissipating in held E cadence.
2:37: Allan's guitar solo over C' groove, syncopated groove D, back to C' groove.
3:16: Sax solo returns in E cadence.
3:33: Anthemic groove B' (full statement) with sax solo continued.
3:57: Reprise of sax head melody B, fanfare var. A', harmonized guitar figure over broad C' groove (added low guitar accent figures), fanfare A'' ending variation (with final synth filtering).
Water on
the Brain

Lost Take
from the
2:06 (Allan Holdsworth)

Allan Holdsworth: Guitar
Paul Williams: Vocals
Paul Carmichael: Bass
Gary Husband: Drums

     This "I.O.U. Mark I" version of the Road Games track is the original take featuring Paul Williams' vocals and a guitar solo. The tape was apparently stolen from the studio at the time of the I.O.U. album's assembly, and so this song ended up being rerecorded with "I.O.U. Mark II" years later (replacing the vocals and guitar solo with a guitar lead line and bass solo). This is the lost track's first "official" appearance since the tape was recovered.

0:00: Syncopated/accented main vocal theme, accented groove, repeat for 2nd and 3rd verses.
0:58: Bridge cadence.
1:10: Guitar solo over verse groove.
1:32: 4th verse, drum cadenza.
Road Games:

Early Mixes with
Joe Turano
on Vocals

     Joe Turano was one of the first singers auditioned for the Road Games album to replace Paul Williams (who was rejected by producer Ted Templeman). Unfortunately, Templeman wasn't satisfied with Turano either. Ultimately, Jack Bruce sang on the most of the record instead, but Turano is still credited with background vocals on the album. More info is in the Road Games chapter.
  • Road Games (2:07)
  • Water on the Brain, Pt 2 (3:09)
  • Was There? (4:08)
  • Material Real (3:56)
Road Games:

Unreleased Mixes by
Mark Pinske

4:11      Allan was unhappy with the mixes obtained through Warner Bros' own facilities, so these tracks were remixed at Frank Zappa's studio by Zappa's engineer, Mark Pinske. Unfortunately, Templeman would only accept the WB mixes for the released album. Again, more info is in the Road Games chapter.
  • Three Sheets To The Wind (4:11)
  • Tokyo Dream (4:08)
  • Material Real (4:45)
2016 New Dawn  6:21 (Pat Smythe)

Allan Holdsworth: SynthAxe, Starr Zboard

     Allan used to perform this Pat Smythe tune while he was playing London jazz clubs with Smythe's combo in the '70s. The chords here were played on the SynthAxe and the solo was performed using the Starr Zboard (a Ztar was described in the Hard Hat Area chapter).

0:00: Opening chord melody theme, cadence, variation.
0:57: Starr Zboard solo over comped chords and walking bass (SynthAxe). The Ztar triggers a sound patch with a sharp attack and a harpsichord/Vulcan lute-like tone. The harmony alternates between gently-modulating cadences and a 3-4 beat falling/rising progression.
1:52: 2nd chorus.
2:47: 3rd chorus.
3:43: 4th chorus.
4:38: 5th chorus (partial).
4:59: Transition and glissando sound design effect, theme variation (coda).
5:59: Soundscape accents.
2016 Poochini 1:39 (Allan Holdsworth)

Allan Holdsworth: SynthAxe

     This solo SynthAxe tune uses an electric piano sound patch. It is essentially a chord-melody "impression", and was dedicated to Allan's daughter's pitbull/Dalmation mix Daisy. 
2016 Earth 10:10 (Virgil Donati)

Allan Holdsworth: Guitar, SynthAxe
Jimmy Johnson: Bass
Virgil Donati: Drims

     This Virgil Donati tune (slightly-reharmonized by Allan) features solos from both Allan and Jimmy Johnson (as well as plenty of virtuosic drumming from Virgil). It was released with an additional "solo-less" mix, as a kind of guitar/bass karaoke I guess.

0:00: Drum roll into accented bass vamp with "machine gun" drum textures, joined by glassy accent chords and string textures, cadence, accents reprise.
0:51: B theme with syncopated chord accents and swirling SynthAxe textures, bass lick cadence.
1:26: Reprise A and B themes.
2:30: Transition with poly-rhythmic drum rolls.
3:03: Accented/syncopated bridge.
3:33: Guitar solo over broad 5/4 (or 15/8) groove, modulating and with added SynthAxe string/choir textures.
4:06: 2nd chorus (from this point on the groove becomes more modulated), choir textures.
4:38: 3rd chorus (more rhythmic interpolation and SynthAxe swirly textures).
5:10: 4th chorus.
5:43: Bass lick cadence, reprise A and B themes.
6:50: Bass solo (with SynthAxe string textures, double-kick drums, etc).
8:26: Accented bridge.
9:42: Brief outro guitar lick over string texture.

The Man Who Changed Guitar Forever!/Eidolon (2017)
     By 2017, Allan had managed to recover the rights to his entire catalog, and the Manifesto label (with producer Dan Perloff) released both a CD box set and a new "best of" compilation: The Man Who Changed Guitar Forever! and Eidolon, respectively.

     Forever! collects Allan's 12 albums as leader, and includes bonus tracks from previous import editions and re-issues. Eidolon includes an exclusive new mix of "Road Games" with Jack Bruce on vocals (not found on the box set). Every album was freshly remastered by Dave Schultz and Bill Inglot at d2 Mastering (with the results approved by Allan himself), and each of these two packages also includes their own unique liner notes by Chris Hoard and many rare photos.

Eidolon (2017)
The Sixteen Men Of Tain
The Drums Were Yellow
How Deep Is The Ocean
Low Levels, High Stakes
Sphere Of Innocence
Dodgy Boat
Against The Clock
City Nights
54 Duncan Terrace
Bonus Track: Road Games (Alternative Jack Bruce Mix)
Peril Premonition
Distance Vs Desire
Pud Wud
Non-Brewed Condiment
Metal Fatigue
Devil Take The Hindmost
Tokyo Dream
Water On The Brain Pt II
Letters Of Marque
Temporary Fault
The 4.15 Bradford Executive

The Man Who Changed Guitar Forever (2017 12 CD Box Set)
Road Games
Metal Fatigue
Wardenclyffe Tower (with 3 import-only bonus tracks)
Hard Hat Area
None Too Soon
The Sixteen Men Of Tain (with 2 reissue bonus tracks)
Flat Tire: Music For A Non-Existent Movie
THEN! Live in Tokyo 1990 (with 1 import-only bonus track)

     Allan moved on to his next "sphere of existence" in April of 2017, but just prior to his unexpected passing he completed a West Coast mini-tour supporting the new Manifesto releases with a returning Steve Hunt on keys (after a two-decade absence!), Virgil Donati and bassist Evan Paul Marien (another exciting "new generation" player). By all accounts, these last few shows saw Allan playing in top form and reinvigorated.

     With much unreleased/unfinished material archived with the Holdsworth estate (and unreleased material stored in other bands' project archives), it's very likely that new posthumous releases will surface in the next few years, to be greeted by eagerly-awaiting fans.

Allan Holdsworth and Gary Husband, 2014 Jarasum Jazz Festival.

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The numbers in parentheses after Allan's quotes above refer to sources listed in the Bibliography


  1. This is an enlightening and well done series on Allan's genius. Thank you for this great work.

  2. Congratulations Ed! Excellent work. Now back to the start for a re-read!

  3. Thanks for doing this impressive body of work Ed! Such an incredible stuff in here!

  4. This is a fabulous piece of work! Thank you very much.

  5. Thank you again for an amazing musical guided tour of someone I have followed my entire life, mostly in the dark. You've made me revisit his work with a fresh outlook.

  6. Thank you for this very interesting writeup, and the whole project. One little thing - it's Marien, not Mariel.

  7. This is a terrific piece of work. Impressive from start to finish. AH frequently said that if only more people had the chance to listen to his music, he could have had the musical and financial success he deserved. And being that I'm not a musician, I may be the sort of music fan that AH wanted to reach. Metal Fatigue was the first work by him I heard and it totally threw me. I didn't understand what was going on, but I persevered. AH has been a terrific musical influence on me, and I'll always be grateful for that.

  8. Hello, How can I find the song "Earth"(with solo) 10:10 by Virgil Donati? Has he ever released it? It never made it on the Tales From The Vault release. You can contact me direct at eermusic AT nc DOT rr DOT com Thanks! RIP Allan...

  9. Thank you very much Ed for this wonderful website. Cheers from France, Alex