MENU
Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
The Soft Machine - Third CD (album) cover

THIRD

The Soft Machine

 

Canterbury Scene

4.21 | 852 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Walkscore
5 stars This album is particularly special. Indeed, for me it ranks up there in the top 10-12 albums of all time. Thinking about it, its greatness should have been unlikely. The members were starting to get along less well. While Ratledge and Hopper wanted to move toward more mathematically-precise jazz-rock fusion, Wyatt remained passionate and untroubled by imperfections. They didn't like his singing, and so wrote complex instrumentals and brought in additional members temporarily to play the main lines, although they allowed him one side for his now-iconic Moon in June. The album was actually quite transitional, in between their psycheadelic first two albums and their later jazz/jazz-fusion albums. This is the only one to feature so many horn players, and they fairly quickly changed their sound on subsequent albums. The sound quality is pretty terrible, particularly for a studio album but the live side recording is equally muddy (Facelift). The music is mostly obtuse and should have been completely innacessible to most listeners, with one long (20 minute) piece on each side, creating a double album of only four songs. It begins with roughly four minutes of the most (to mainstream listeners) off-putting screeching distorted organ solo (but not recognizable as an organ, it is so crazy). It is a wonder that any record label put this out. It was likely mistakenly overlooked by CBC-Columbia's marketing department, or it is because it snuck in during that wonderful short period in the late 60s when record company execs had no clue what would sell and what wouldn't.

Thankfully it was released. The music is unlike virtually anything that would come before or after. It is not typical jazz fusion, although it shares *some* similarities with the free jazz being played by Miles and Weather Report around this time. Even though, like those bands, Third has a lot of improvisation, it also has a lot of complex tight brass lines in strange time signatures/phrasing, but which are very musical, with very difficult-to-play drumming (while Miles and others had great drummers mostly just jamming). The complex lines are particularly exemplary of Mike Ratledge's two pieces, which are very odd in that they are so difficult and angular, yet they are so strong they remain in one's head (I find myself humming them to myself, like my grandmother used to do with her 1940s-era radio clips). While Soft Machine would pursue a similar composition style on Fourth, only Teeth on that album comes close to the magic of this one. Perhaps the best known song on this album is Robert Wyatt's amazing Moon in June. While many others prefer the BBC Top Gear Peel Sessions version with the different lyrics, I prefer this one, for two reason: the amazing extended organ and bass soloing that goes well beyond any of the live versions (including the TG Peel version), and the section at the end of the song, in which Wyatt extends the piece with tape loops, odd violin lines and music concrete. A wonderful piece, and probably the most iconic Canterbury-style song ever. However, while I love Moon in June to death, perhaps my favourite few minutes on this album are the first ones with Ratledge's highly distorted feeding-back organ solo. It is paradigm-destroying. While others before and since have recorded highly dissonant sections of music, often to make a statement, they are usually there because they are NOT musical. But this one is SO musical, and feeds perfectly into the rest of the song (Facelift). It immediately marks the album as something new, out-there, wild, politically challenging. This is not normal jazz, not rock. Indeed, it has both a punk feel (like an in-your-face protest against mainstream music, or something) AND a jazz feel (like a great Coltrane solo). It works very well as music, while being somehow soul-enriching (sometimes when I am feeling down or had a bad day, I put this on and crank it, and always feel better). Then, right when it is craziest, the organ calms down to some beautiful but tense and tentative chords, signalling Hopper to come in with his fuzz-bass line which then leads to the main themes of the song. It works wonderfully.

This is one of the albums that has made up my life soundtrack. I still listen to it (even after >1000 listens), and still can't seem to get enough of live material from this era of SM. Speaking of progressive or experimental music in general, some music seems kindof weird the first time you listen to it, and never attains the status of 'music'. Some music only improves a bit with subsequent listens. Some music that you really like at first (or third) listen, but it gets boring by the 10th, or 100th listen. This album SHOULD have been one of those kinds of albums - I am sure some find it long and tedious. Some other SM albums fit that category. But this one sounds so musical each time I hear it. It is unique, soul-enriching. I give it 9.7 out of 10 on my 10-piont scale (not quite 10, due to poor sound quality, and the bass is mixed way too loud on Slightly All the Time).

Walkscore | 5/5 |

MEMBERS LOGIN ZONE

As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Share this THE SOFT MACHINE review

Social review comments () BETA







Review related links

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: JazzMusicArchives.com — jazz music reviews and archives | MetalMusicArchives.com — metal music reviews and archives