Tempest

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Tempest was formed by drummer Jon Hiseman. The initial lineup additionally consisted of Mark Clarke on bass and keyboards, and Paul Williams on vocals. This lineup recorded their eponymous debut album, which featured Allan on guitar, violin and backing vocals. Allan also contributed to a few songs. When Allan gave his notice, he was replaced by Ollie Halsall. Tempest recorded a BBC session with both guitarists, which is available on the compilation Under The Blossom: The Anthology (album). When Allan left, Paul Williams also left, and the band continued as a three piece.

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The Silent Man In Tempest (disc 1973)

Alan Holdsworth comes from Keighley in Yorkshire, and after leaving school worked as an apprentice basket-maker for three years. Much of what took place before, during and after those historic milestones is a mystery to virtually all his newfound London friends, and that includes Jon Hiseman, whose new group, Tempest, Holdsworth has recently joined.

Allan Holdsworth (Guitar magazine 1974)

What were you doing immediately before that?

Nothing really. Just the odd jazz gig here and there. Before that I was with Tempest, Jon Hiseman’s band.

Sad scene say Softs (Melody Maker 1974)

But new boy Allan Holdsworth is more of a rocker - even though some would detect strong jazz influences in Jon Hiseman’s Tempest, with which Allan played before joining the Softs.

Terry Theise’s electric guitar top ten (Guitar magazine 1976)

He first appeared on Tempest’s debut album, playing six short solos of uniform excellence of thought as well as execution. The phrasing was even, clear and occasionally very clever. On Strangeher, for instance, none of the fast passages occur when the listener expects them. The solos were well proportioned, as musical as they could be in the context of what was basically a hard rock band. The final track, though, was more subtle in its harmonies, and Holdsworth played a sublimely lyrical solo, perfectly modelled, every query and cadence where it belonged.

Any Key In The U.K. (Unknown publication 1978)

I was lucky really because I hadn’t been down very long and somebody told Jon Hiseman about me and he called and asked me to play and that brought about Tempest. That was my first pro band. I left Tempest in about 1972 and a couple of months later, joined Soft Machine. That was an accident, it was through a Musicians’ Union clinic. They wanted Soft Machine to do a clinic but they also wanted a guitarist so they called me separately and told me we could rehearse a few things before the clinic. I just learnt a couple of their simpler numbers and we did them. Afterwards, they asked me to play a few gigs with them, as a guest. That’s how that started and I just gradually sort of... stayed.

Player Of The Month (Beat Instrumental 1978)

To aid him in this search for his own musical identity Allan had already bought himself a Strat, which became his first proper guitar. After that he bought an SG Standard, and kept it until he moved down to London at the invitation of sax-player Ray Warleigh, who had come across Allan in a Mecca band working in Sunderland. "About six months passed, still doing the Mecca gig, until I couldn’t stand it any more, and I called him and asked if his offer still stood. And he said yes. So that’s when I moved to London, and just a few months after that I joined Tempest."

The Big Time had arrived very suddenly. It only lasted nine months, however. Holdsworth, according to everyone who knows him, learns at a frightening rate, and soon got a little bored with the traditional rock format of Tempest. It was also very much Hiseman’s band. There wasn’t a great deal of room for the new ideas that kept bubbling up in Holdsworth’s mind, so he quit, along with singer Paul Williams, and Ollie Halsall took over, Tempest continuing as a three-piece for a while before plummeting into oblivion.

"They get the musicians to play somewhere in the afternoon, and the audience are allowed to ask questions about all the different instruments. At the end of that they have a tea-break, and then the band plays a short set. They called me and asked me if I wanted to do this clinic with the Soft Machine. So I said yeah, and I went to do it, and enjoyed myself, and they asked me if I wanted to do some gigs as a guest. And then they asked me if I wanted to join the band." Not unnaturally, he did. It proved to be a freer environment than Tempest, although only two members were writing material at that time. The result: an album for Harvest.

Allan Holdsworth (Guitar Player 1980)

Holdsworth quickly tired of playing other guitarists’ solos, and early in his musical development, he began to concentrate on defining a style of his own. In 1971 he moved to London and met up with drummer Jon Hiseman who was putting together a heavy-metal rock quartet called Tempest. After recording one album with that band called Tempest (out of print) for Bronze Records in 1972, he left the group because of a dispute with Hiseman over their musical direction. "I had envisioned it as something that would progress," Allan recalls, adding, "I believed that there was room for the music to grow, but Jon wanted it to go the other way."

AH: We had a sort of heavy metal quartet with Mark Clarke on bass and a singer called Paul Williams (no relation to the American vocalist). We recorded an album called Tempest [out of print] for Bronze Records which came out in 72. And we toured a bit, which was great. I got really fed up with the music, though, because I had envisioned it as something that would progress. The album was a heavy rock thing, and I believed that there was room for the music to grow. But Jon wanted it to go the other way; he thought that it was already over the top, and that we should go in reverse.

Q: Were you able to reconcile your differences?

AH: No. I just left after about eight months, and returned to live with Ray again. I was never used to having much money, and didn't worry about what I was doing to my financial prospects.

Allan Holdsworth (International Musician 1981)

Can you give me a career résumé so far?

ALAN: 1971 I was still in Bradford; 1972 I had an invite from Ray Warleigh to come to London and a place to stay. Later that year I played with, Jon Hiseman in Tempest but I left in ‘73. He thought I played too many notes, I don’t like being told what to do, I’d rather find out for myself. Anyway I was on the dole for six months and in ‘74 I made some guest appearances with Soft Machine. In ‘75 I did two albums with Tony Williams in New York City. I like that place.

The Reluctant Virtuoso (Guitar World 1981)

Putting this rather dispiriting state of events aside for the moment, we make a desultory stab at the past. Was his first professional band, Tempest (Warner Brothers, now deleted from catalog), an attempt by British drummer Jon Hiseman to recreate his own version of Cream?

No Record Contract, No Big Hoopla, But The Fans Have Kept The Faith For Allan Holdsworth (Guitar World 1982)

Allan Holdsworth wasn’t Stateside for long. But he had a new band this tour, his own. The vocalist, Paul Williams, first appeared with Allan ten years ago in a heavy metal band, Tempest, on the same bill as the old Fleetwood Mac at the Fillmore East. Tempest didn’t make it big, and the next time Holdsworth appeared in the U.S. he was filling the chair formerly occupied by another British guitarist, John McLaughlin, in drummer Tony Williams’ Lifetime. Holdsworth was already a guitar legend, having recorded in Europe with Soft Machine, the prototypical jazz-rock fusion outfit. Guitar fans strained to hear Allan’s outrageous lines, which were buried in a muddy stage mix. After all, it was the drummer’s gig!

The Innocent Abroad (Musician 1984)

In search of a rhythm section to call his own, Holdsworth "met this really amazing drummer, Gary Husband, and I more or less saw it as a musical partnership with him. We tried to find a bass player - with great difficulty - and eventually found Paul Carmichael. We tried to get someone interested in the band, but we couldn’t, so we borrowed the money and made the album on our own and tried to sell it. We couldn’t even give it away." It was around this time that the redoubtable Paul Williams re-entered our story. Williams’ long career as a rock singer/bassist included four years in the trenches with Andy Summers in Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band and stints with Alan Price, John Mayall, Aynsley Dunbar, Juicy Lucy and, of course, Tempest, where his work sounded noticeably like Cream-era Jack Bruce ("Well, maybe he sounds like me...," rebuts Paul).

Mike Pachelli Show (video transcript 1991)

MP: And I guess your first recording contract was with a group Tempest, which originally contained Paul Williams, right?

AH: Yeah well, it wasn’t MY record, the recording contract, but that was the first band I like to think I did anything with...

MP: How do you feel about that first recording?

AH: I think it was alright, you have to take them for what they were, some albums, if they were OK when they were done that’s the best you could do, but if something happens where you do an album under great duress where everything is completely wrong, like I did an album for CTI and the whole band was completely ripped off, like the whole thing – that is never valid to me, because it wasn’t even valid at the time, so it most certainly isn’t now. But the Tempest album, I’d probably cringe if I heard it, but that was what it was…

No Secrets (Facelift 1994)

"And then just after that I hooked up with lan Carr, probably through the same thing - there were similar musicians working with lan Carr. The Jon Hiseman/Tempest thing came about in the same way, because someone, maybe Derek Wadsworth, had told him that they’d seen this guitar player and he wanted to know if I’d go along to his house for a play."

Allan would record an album with Tempest, whose music at that time has been compared with earlier work by Cream. One sonic document is a phenomenal live tape which sees him duetting with Ollie Halsall for a BBC in Concert recording. (“That was the last time I ever saw him"). First, though, was Nucleus, through whom passed any number of fine jazz musicians throughout the Seventies. Holdsworth left his mark on this line-up’s album ‘Belladonna’ with a blistering solo on the track ‘Hectors House’; in truth there is rarely a dud moment on this fine record. With musicians such as Dave McRae, Roy Babbington, Gordon Beck and Trevor Tomkins on board, that’s hardly a surprise: