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Canterbury Scene • United Kingdom

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The Soft Machine picture
The Soft Machine biography
Formed in 1966 - From 1984 on SM members would reconvene under several monikers - The band's name is again reused since 2015

The band started playing as such in 1966 but their first record, a single, came out in 1967.
The very last concert was in 1984 at Ronnie Scott's on July 30/31 and August 1-4.
Band members at that concert were Paul Carmichael (bass), John Etheridge, Karl Jenkins, Dave McRae (once upon a time keyboard player with Matching Mole), Ray Warleigh and John Marshall.

The name of the band is similar to the book with the same title written by William Burroughs: "The Soft Machine".
Besides this, different formations/groups tour under names as "Soft Machine Legacy", "Soft Works", "Soft Bounds", "Soft Mountain", "Soft Heap" and "Polysoft"

The probably most important and influential band to grow out the Canterbury Scene was SOFT MACHINE. The band emerged as the quartet of Robert WYATT (drums, vocals), Mike RATLEDGE (keyboards), Kevin AYERS (bass, vocals) and Daevid ALLEN (guitar, vocals). Through a persistence of personnel changes (totalling ~30), their sound was to changed continually over the years of their existence. This band along with CARAVAN (both to come out of the formative WILDE FLOWERS), would influence the emergence of the Canterbury Sound (MATCHING MOLE, EGG, HATFIELD & THE NORTH, and many more). Many careers began with SOFT MACHINE: Robert WYATT (MATCHING MOLE band and solo artist), Kevin AYERS (later his own WHOLE WORLD band and solo artist), and Daevid ALLEN (later GONG and solo artist). Virtuosic instrumentalists such as Hugh HOPPER, Mike RATLEDGE, Elton DEAN, Allan HOLDSWORTH, (briefly) Andy SUMMERS, Roy BABBINGTON, John MARSHALL and Karl JENKINS were attracted to MACHINE's ranks through out its history, leaving us a series of ground-breaking albums.

Now, briefly - what is the music like? The SOFT MACHINE were, for many listeners, the standard against which all jazz-rock fusion, including many of the big American names, had to be measured. (Alas SOFT MACHINE,...
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5cd Original Album Classics (Third/F Ourth/Fifth/Six/Seven)5cd Original Album Classics (Third/F Ourth/Fifth/Six/Seven)
Sony Music Canada Inc. 2011
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BBC Radio: 1967-1971BBC Radio: 1967-1971
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THE SOFT MACHINE discography

Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help to complete the discography and add albums

THE SOFT MACHINE top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.03 | 490 ratings
The Soft Machine
4.06 | 435 ratings
Volume Two
4.22 | 875 ratings
3.48 | 299 ratings
3.36 | 233 ratings
Fifth [Aka: 5]
3.47 | 207 ratings
3.61 | 238 ratings
4.01 | 305 ratings
3.79 | 199 ratings
1.95 | 58 ratings
Karl Jenkins: Rubber Riff
3.00 | 123 ratings
Land Of Cockayne

THE SOFT MACHINE Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.80 | 65 ratings
Alive & Well - Recorded in Paris
3.24 | 28 ratings
Live at the Proms (1970)
4.04 | 32 ratings
The Peel Sessions
4.28 | 19 ratings
BBC Live In Concert 1971
3.68 | 16 ratings
BBC Radio 1 Live In Concert 1972
3.91 | 34 ratings
Live At The Paradiso
3.31 | 22 ratings
Live In France (Paris)
3.70 | 37 ratings
2.77 | 17 ratings
Live 1970
4.07 | 54 ratings
3.42 | 30 ratings
1.21 | 9 ratings
4.07 | 38 ratings
BBC - Radio 1967 - 1971
4.09 | 30 ratings
BBC Radio 1971 - 1974
3.00 | 7 ratings
Somewhere In Soho
3.58 | 12 ratings
Soft Stage BBC In Concert 1972
2.00 | 1 ratings
Orange Skin Food
3.33 | 12 ratings
Breda Reactor
3.35 | 15 ratings
Soft Machine & Heavy Friends BBC In Concert 1971
3.81 | 28 ratings
British Tour '75
3.80 | 39 ratings
Floating World Live (Bremen 1975)
4.41 | 58 ratings
2.58 | 20 ratings
Middle Earth Masters
3.05 | 23 ratings
4.19 | 25 ratings
Live At Henie Onstad Art Centre
4.38 | 26 ratings
NDR Jazz Workshop, Germany, May 17, 1973
0.00 | 0 ratings
Daevid Allen & Gilli Smyth With The Soft Machine Family: Live At The Roundhouse 1971
3.96 | 8 ratings
Switzerland 1974

THE SOFT MACHINE Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

4.51 | 24 ratings
Alive in Paris-1970

THE SOFT MACHINE Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
The Soft Machine (Compilation)
3.18 | 18 ratings
Face And Place Vol. 7 (also called Jet Propelled Photographs and At The Beginning)
4.37 | 45 ratings
The Soft Machine Collection [also released as: Volumes One and Two]
3.94 | 16 ratings
Triple Echo
4.00 | 1 ratings
Rock Storia E Musica: Soft Machine
3.08 | 23 ratings
Jet Propelled Photographs
3.23 | 7 ratings
The Untouchable Collection (1975-78)
4.38 | 4 ratings
As If...
3.10 | 2 ratings
Soft Machine (Live & Demos)
3.57 | 5 ratings
The Best Of Soft Machine...The Harvest Years
3.40 | 29 ratings
Spaced (1969)
3.59 | 23 ratings
Fourth / Fifth
3.50 | 2 ratings
soft machine
1.97 | 12 ratings
Man in a Deaf Corner: Anthology 1963-1970
3.33 | 6 ratings
Turns On Vol. 1
2.20 | 6 ratings
Turns On Vol. 2
1.67 | 7 ratings
Kings Of Canterbury
3.39 | 8 ratings
4.03 | 8 ratings
Out Bloody Rageous (Anthology 67-73)
1.00 | 2 ratings
The Story of Soft Machine
3.48 | 12 ratings
Original Album Classics
0.00 | 0 ratings
Tanglewood Tails

THE SOFT MACHINE Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.04 | 7 ratings
Love Makes Sweet Music
4.00 | 3 ratings
Why Are We Sleeping?
3.40 | 5 ratings
Soft Space
2.00 | 1 ratings
Bundles (Promo Single)


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Orange Skin Food by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Live, 2005
2.00 | 1 ratings

Orange Skin Food
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by Walkscore

— First review of this album —
2 stars This is a collection of bootleg recordings that in 2005 received official release on a German label. There are actually 4 different live performances on this recording, each with a different sound quality. Frustratingly there is NO information about the dates or band membership or anything included with the CD. However, I can tell by listening that all of these involve the classic fourth-era quartet of Wyatt (drums, voice), Ratledge (organ, e-piano), Hopper (basses), and Dean (sax, saxello), and so these recordings must date from 1970-1971. The four separate performances span across the two CDs, and not necessarily in order (whey they did this? well there is no information). While the sound quality is mostly poor, clearly all recorded on household cassette machines, but not as bad as other boots I own. Also, the label did a decent job applying modern software technology to cleaning up the tape hiss, and some of the performances are quite notable, so this is definitely not a one-star set. The main frustration is that a number of songs fade in or out (in three of the four shows), so you don't always get the whole song. Here is what I have come up with, based on the differences in sound quality, and what I think about each:

Performance 1: CD1, Track1: Slightly All the Time CD1, Track 2: Out-Bloody-Rageous CD1, Track 4: Mousetrap CD1, Track 5: Noisette CD1, Track 6: Backwards CD1, Track 7: Mousetrap (rep) CD1, Track 8: Hibou, Anemome and Bear CD2, Track 9: Eamon Andrews

This is all in mono, with only OK sound quality. Some very good playing, and an interesting transition between Slightly all the Time and Out-Bloody-Rageous which is worth hearing by mega-fans. Also, the long version of Eamon Andrews is worth it (unfortunately, they fade out Hibou just when a solo is beginning, though).

Performance 2: CD1, Track 10: Esther's Nose Job CD1, Track 11: Pigling Bland CD2, Track 1: Facelift CD2, Track 2: Moon in June

These are very good performances, but annoying fade in and out. Facelift is missing both its beginning (so, no organ solo:( and its end, and Moon in June fades out just after the main loud solo. I would have loved to have the whole peformances here, as it seems the band was really 'on' that night. But sound quality if poorer than P1, and in mono.

Performance 3: CD2, Track 3: Out-Bloody-Rageous CD2, Track 4: Facelift CD2, Track 5: Fire Engine Passing CD2, Track 6: Pig CD2, Track 7: Orange Skin Food CD2, Track 8: A Door Opens and Closes CD2, Track 9: 10:30 Returns to the Bedroom CD2, Track 10: Pigling Bland CD2, Track 11: 10:30 Returns to the Bedroom (rep)

This is the performance with the best sound quality - very good (for a bootleg), and in stereo, comparable to a number of the other official releases. Thankfully, there are no fade-outs so you get the entire performance here. The Esthers Nose Job set is great. The band is tight, although the soloing is generally short (only a very short fuzz-organ solo at the beginning of Facelift, unfortunately). The final track in the set (the reprise of "Returns to the Bedroom") is a notable for short Wyatt echo-voice and echo-drum solos and a few other crazy sounds. Those who don't like bootleg-quality sound will probably only want to listen to this set.

Performance 4: CD1, Track 3: Moon in June CD2, Track 12: I should have Known

This is the recording/performance with worst sound quality, mono, with still-audible tape hiss, and obviously from a tape that had seen better days. The performance of "I should have Known", nonetheless, is notable. It fades in, so you might not even recognize the song. Wyatt sings it very slowly, without all the usual rhythm or chord changes, and there is a drum solo through an echo unit, much longer than the one in the third performance.

The performances here are good, and the sound quality is decent on performance 3, so this does not deserve only 1 star. Saying this, it is likely to appeal only to those (like me) who can't get enough of live Third/Fourth-era Soft Machine recordings. So two PA stars.

 The Peel Sessions by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Live, 1990
4.04 | 32 ratings

The Peel Sessions
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by Walkscore

5 stars Essential Soft Machine recording.

This is the BBC recording with Wyatt singing new lyrics to "Moon in June", which many feel is the penultimate version, and definitely a (if not THE) top example of the Canterbury sound. This set also includes the version of "Mousetrap" with with the three-piece brass section and the excellent trombone solo by Nick Evans on "Backwards" (which Caravan subsequently also covered in the middle of their "Hunting We Shall Go" suite on 'For Girls who Grow Plump in the Night'). Following this, there is the classic 1970-71 quartet of Wyatt, Ratledge, Hopper and Dean playing pieces from Third. All together, these are the same exact recordings that make up the second lp in the three-record best-of collection 'Triple Echo'. The second disc contains more quartet recordings of "Facelift", "Virtually", and "Neo Caliban Grides", and closing the side Wyatt's improv of "Dedicated to You but...". Rounding out the second disc are two songs recorded after Wyatt left and Phil Howard had joined: "Drop" and a real gem "As If". Both were recorded on Fifth, with "As if" recorded with John Marshall on drums, and that version is very clean and dry, not at all alive. This version with Howard on drums is about as close as one will get to having the song with Wyatt. It is fresh, dynamic, alive, and although I think Wyatt would have done an even better job, this is about as close as one can get to that alternate reality. It is really SO much better than the John Marshall version. The sound quality is excellent too. It all adds up to an essential album. Indeed, while these are BBC recordings not meant to be released as an official album, I consider this to be the second-best ever Soft Machine 'album', after Third, which I consider their masterpiece. I give this 9.4 out of 10 on my 10-point scale. Absolutely essential.

 Six by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.47 | 207 ratings

The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by Walkscore

2 stars The first truly boring Soft Machine album.

There are actually two albums here, a live album and a studio album. Karl Jenkins had taken on the lead role, and Mike Ratledge, while still an official member and playing great solos, starting to recede from view. The live album is actually relatively decent, although much of the music is now being written by Jenkins and is not nearly on the same level as the earlier Softs albums (even Fifth). However, the studio album here lacks any sort of energy, even of the experimental, avant-garde or free-jazz kind. I really like long drawn-out avant-garde jazz experiments, including a lot of Hugh Hopper's drones (I even like the experimental sides of the Centipede Septober Energy album), but the studio album here is simply boring. It does not help that John Marshall's drumming is so straight. He sounds completely bored himself! (but for some reason unwilling to liven things up). On balance, I give this album 4.6 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which translates to 2 PA stars. Really, only the live album is worth a listen.

 Fifth [Aka: 5] by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.36 | 233 ratings

Fifth [Aka: 5]
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by Walkscore

3 stars A flawed gem

Although it continues with much the same types of compositions as on Fourth, this is the first album without Robert Wyatt on drums and this is its Achilles heel. I actually really like the album, and have played it a ton of times over many years. I disagree with those who say it is boring noodling, as I think it is quite inventive - the first I know of that created a new sound by doubling the electric piano using a delay pedal. The compositions are great, and there are great distorted organ, fuzz bass, and sax/saxello solos. However, unfortunately, the drumming does not pull its weight. The first side, which features Phil Howard on drums is the (much) better of the two. Howard plays in a similar style as Wyatt on Fourth, albeit even more free (and thus less tied to any tempo). So, while not nearly as good as it would have been with Wyatt, side 1 is generally listenable. However, side 2 is painful. John Marshall is on drums here (Howard was fired before he could record on side 2), and he plays these songs very straight, very little improvisation, completely precise and very sparse. The contrast with Howard is stark. While Marshall would come into his own on later Soft Machine albums where they went full Mahavishnu-style Jazz Fusion and do very well (e.g. Bundles), on this album he simply does not fit the music. You can hear the problem right away if you compare the version of "As If" (the long song that opens side 2) here to the version on the Peel Sessions which features Phil Howard. The Peel Sessions version is vital, organic, full of life, pulling you along, albeit a bit temporally-challenged, while the version with Marshall is drab, dull, dead. It is really too bad Wyatt didn't drum on this album - it would have (likely) brought this up to or above the level of Fourth and given these recordings the vitality they deserve. I still love the rest of the playing, and the compositions - to my mind these pieces are better than most of what the Softs would produce afterward (particularly Sixth, but even the jazz fusion albums after that). This is innovative music. However, issues within the band meant they couldn't see how to make best use of these compositional gems, and ended up with some sub-par drumming/recordings. Saying this, "All White" is much better here than on the live album on Sixth, "Drop" is a classic Softs composition, up there with their best, and "As If" is also a fantastic composition (but the Peel Sessions album has the best version of that). On balance, I give this 6.1 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which translates to 3 PA stars.

 Third by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1970
4.22 | 875 ratings

The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by 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).

 Volume Two by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1969
4.06 | 435 ratings

Volume Two
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by Walkscore

5 stars Archetypical.

With each album, the Softs changed their sound considerably. Here they develop two long suites, Rhyvmic Melodies on the first side, and (mostly) Esther's Nose Job on the second side, with each formed by fusing otherwise disparate songs together. These (especially Esther's Nose Job) made up key parts of their live set in the early 70s. The more pop-based influences that Kevin Ayers brought to the band are receding here after Ayers departure, although Wyatt sings throughout the album (so it is still a vocal-based rock album), and Hugh Hopper on bass brings a more experimental and jazzy focus to the music (Brian Hopper, brother of Hugh, adds multiple saxophones for additional effect). The result is an iconic album, highly original, really stamped by all three members but particularly by Wyatt's presence. This music is still a mile away from what they would put on their next album ('Third'), but it is also almost a mile away from their debut, containing the seeds of their simultaneously structured and highly improvised compositions and live sets to follow. The Softs would never return to this spot, and no other band would either. Yet, this album I think more than any other contains the musical seed for what might be called the Canterbury-scene sound (perhaps together with Caravan's second and third albums). While not as amazing (in my opinion) as "Third" (which I think is still unparalleled, but very different), this is a must-have album. Absolutely essential, both musically and in terms of its historical importance. I give it 9.4 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which translates to 5 PA stars.

 The Soft Machine by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1968
4.03 | 490 ratings

The Soft Machine
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by Walkscore

5 stars The beginning of so much...

A truly original, iconic album. Far better than the first Caravan album, this one really set the stage for the Canterbury scene that was to come (well, they both came from the Wilde Flowers, but that band hadn't released any album). The Softs were true innovators. I picked this up at a teenager without having heard any of the music or knowing what it sounded like, just on the basis of hearing that they played with Floyd at the UFO club. Of course, it doesn't sound anything like Floyd, but I really loved it, and then began searching out other Soft Machine albums. Every new album (and I picked them up almost in perfect sequence) was so different from the previous one. Although you can easily date this to the late 60s, and the sound quality is less than stellar, the music is so full of life, energy, and soul. Wyatt's vocals, even when out of tune, are so emotive, and very unique. Ditto for Kevin Ayers ultra-low vocals, and Ratledge's distorted rapid organ solos filled up the sound. "Hope for Happiness", the opener, is a classic summer-of-love anthem (so much so that Frank Zappa includes a reference to it in his own brilliant album 'We're Only In It for the Money'). The song "A Certain Kind", originally a Wilde Flowers tune, is very soulful, and "Why am I so Short?" is an iconic political statement. "Why are we Sleeping" helped Kevin Ayers forge a music career after he left the band, and he has a number of versions of this recorded (often under different names) on his own solo albums. Each of the songs here seagues into the other via impromptu improvisations, since they recorded this very quickly and so basically just played their set list in the studio. It flows seamlessly. The result is an album that is highly authentic and original, brimming with counter-culture energy, and containing the seeds of a world of great music to come. A fantastic document up there with the other great albums of the era (like Sgt. Pepper's, Are You Experienced, etc). I give this 9.3 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which translates to 5 PA stars.

 Softs by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.79 | 199 ratings

The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by Greta007

4 stars Just forty years late in making this review and rediscovering this album after having owned the vinyl disc back in the Paleozoic Era, which I wasn't wild on at the time TBH. In retirement I've been catching up with old music that I'd missed. Unlike most, I find much of Soft Machine's much lauded, and more progressive, albums almost unlistenable and their Harvest period much more approachable without ever selling out.

Track by track:

1. Aubade (1:51) - a gentle pastoral guitar / alto sax duet - enjoyable background without being naff

2. The Tale of Taliesin (7:17) - Jenkins's atmospheric and hypnotic keyboard ostinato leads to an exotically tuneful head. This sails along gorgeously for a while before being abruptly interrupted by a brutally-shredded odd time guitar solo section.

Once the listener is beaten into submission the band slows back to the head, leading to a grandiose outro. (At the time of writing there is an outstanding YouTube live clip of this tune with a young Alan Holdsworth playing superbly, as John Etheridge does on this version). At this point they are sounding like an instrumental prog band with fusion influences). My favourite track on the album.

3. Ban-Ban Caliban (9:22) - the other epic-y piece, starting with a stereo-toggled electro synth sequence. This early early part of the the track reminds me of Passport's Ataraxia album - if Jazz Krautrock fusion isn't a category, it probably should be. New saxophonist, Alan Wakeman, soon enters and has his first chance to stretch out on the album, with some fine soprano work.

As the tune progresses the album for the first time sounds like the old Soft Machine of old before a bizarre, jarring change heralds in John Etheridge for another fast, old-time shred-fest duel with the similarly hyperactive Marshall.

Bassist Roy Babbington continues to play selflessly, holding the mayhem together akin to Rick Laird's anchor role on MO's Birds of Fire. Then a return to the "Krautrock fusion" Passport feel leading to the end with added drive and marimba. Excellent.

4. Song of Aeolus (4:31) - slow, atmospheric 6/8 tune in the vein of Jeff Beck's Goodbye Pork Pie Hat cover or John McLaughlin's The Unknown Dissident (which almost certainly took the same inspiration) but with more of a Floydish spaceyness. Luscious, soulful music. Excellent.

5. Out of Season (5:32) - Karl Jenkins loved beautiful, stately, hypnotic piano ostinatos, seemingly inspired by Philip Glass's minimalism. Etheridge joins with a melodic and sophisticated head and the rest of the band work around the ostinato. Nice.

6. Second Bundle (2:37) - starts with more of Karl Jenkins's psychedelic new-agey keys (move over Miquette Garaudy) - enjoyable background music without being naff

7. Kayoo (3:27) - drum solo piece by John Marshall. Musical use of bells and space early gave way to cacophonous shredding. At this length, it would probably work well live but is wasted in the studio IMO (maybe should have been a coda consisting of just the first minute)

8. The Camden Tandem (2:01) - drum duet between the two Johns - Etheridge on guitar and Marshall on drums. I guess it wouldn't be Soft Machine album without at least some fierce harshness. This tune is seemingly inspired by Mahavishnu Orchestra's Noonward Race and, especially so, by King Crimson's Groon (which I much prefer to either).

9. Nexus (0:49) - a lovely grandiose introduction to the next tune. Why did they make it a separate tune? No one knows.

10. One Over the Eight (5:25) - let's get down, baby, it's Funkytime! Well, it started out funky and again reminded me of Ataraxia's edgy moments with a stylish and intelligently-built sax lead. The jam gradually loosens and intensifies until a new bass riff is introduced and, with Wakeman's tenor by now honking, wailing and squawking we're sounding more like the old Soft Machine again before the entire thing falls into a horrid cacophony that thankfully, bot not too soon, shifts into a 6/8 outro. As a drummer, I find that cacophony is far more fun to play than to listen to. Otherwise excellent.

11. Etika (2:21) - during this era it was fashionable to let the guitarist have an acoustic tune for variation. This is that track, arguably better than most, and enough edge to be more than background.

 Alive in Paris-1970 by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover DVD/Video, 2008
4.51 | 24 ratings

Alive in Paris-1970
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by ALotOfBottle
Prog Reviewer

5 stars The amount of live Soft Machine material released since the 90's may seem overwhelming to many listeners. However, so far, only a few concerts have been officially released on DVD. In 2008, the English record label Voiceprint, released the French POP 2 TV recordings of the band performing at Théâtre De La Musique in Paris on 2 March 1970.

Since the very early days of Soft Machine's existence, France has been showing big enthusiasm for their music. Way back in 1967, the band spent the whole summer gigging local venues in Saint-Tropez, one of the major towns of the French Riviera. Although in those three years the band's musical direction has changed drastically, the French audience proved equally welcoming and interested in 1970.

The line-up of Soft Machine at the time included the studio personnel that recorded Third with the extraordinarily talented wind player Lyn Dobson, who appears on the live-cut "Facelift" on the album. The atmosphere of the concert looks and sounds unrepeatable and after all these years, one can still feel the incredible chemistry between the musicians that was at work at that very point in time. The band not only presents incredible amounts of energy and vigor, but also technical and musical know-how, together with a rare ability to build powerful tensions, hypnotizing the audience. The set lasts just over an hour and during that hour, Soft Machine perfectly capture the spirit of their style around this period, which so many live releases have tried to document. The visual aspect undoubtedly adds to the experience, enabling us to witness, among many elements, Mike Ratledge's Keith Jarrett-like trance movements at the keyboards, the power and dedication Robert Wyatt puts into his drumming, the interaction and sax duels between Lyn Dobson and Elton Dean, Hugh Hopper's agile fingers pulling off difficult grooves and melodies on bass guitar, and young French audience, completely astonished by the music. As to the filming, the camera work is decent, except for a few unneeded shots and sudden cuts from one track to another. We get to view the band clearly from numerous different perspectives and have a close inside look at their stage set-up.

The opening of "Facelift," kept in an unsettling experimental psychedelic manner, may remind one of a slightly more technical and rock-oriented version of the way Miles Davis redefined jazz on the revolutionary Bitches Brew, which, interestingly, was released three weeks after this concert took place. The main theme of the piece, played by the whole band simultaneously, is followed by lengthy improvisation, which starts out on a steady rhythm, but fades into a mellower, remote and illusory territory after a few repeats. Lyn Dobson gets to really display his multiinstrumentalist abilities. He switches between soprano sax, flute, harmonica on his solo, and even uses his voice as an instrument briefly. When the tempo picks up once again, Elton Dean first appears with a saxello - a small variant of a soprano saxophone, different in build and, obviously, the sound. Seemingly out of nowhere appears what is credited as "Robert Wyatt Vocal Improv." Here, Robert Wyatt uses tape echo and spring reverb devices in conjunction with his voice for a very odd, yet immensely expressive effect. This transforms into "Esther's Nose Job" (what was it about those plastic surgeries?), a classic Soft Machine piece, which, originally appeared on 1969's Volume Two, however these two versions bear little similarity. The track alternates between a simple laidback progression in 7/8 and a rapid passage with notably interesting work by Robert Wyatt on drums and Hugh Hopper on bass guitar. If "Facelift" was, for a good part, a demonstration of Lyn Dobson's abilities, Elton Dean showcases his own approach to improvisation on "Esther's Nose Job." The track is closed by a few more blurred sentences from Wyatt and a reprise of the theme at a break-neck speed.

After a break, the band comes back on stage with "Eamonn Andrews," yet another classic piece, which never made it into any studio record. The pulse of this one is once again quite tricky with the main motif combining classic jazz-fusion methods with somewhat of a minimal influence on the rhythm. After fine solos from both of the wind players, "Eamonn Andrews" suddenly cuts into "Backwards," a really touching, beautiful, calm, romantic piece with a very interesting progression. The emotional, lyrical flute playing by Lyn Dobson is supported by Robert Wyatt's sublime drumming and light liquid organ touches from Mike Ratledge. "Backwards" slowly starts growing in power, with the theme of "Mousetrap" making a short appearance, to finally settle on "Out-Bloody-Rageous," arguably one of the better-known Soft Machine compositions. Of course, the live scenario cannot reproduce the Terry Riley-like intro heard on record, but this version is very good nonetheless, with great improvisation on Mike Ratledge's overdriven Lowrey organ, Elton Dean's alto and Lyn Dobson's soprano saxophones. After a loud and effective ending, the band walks off stage, only leaving an even louder standing ovation behind.

I daresay Alive in Paris 1970 is an essential watch and listen for every Soft Machine enthusiast and is recommended to those wanting to get an all-around taste of the incredible energy and passion the band presented live. The musical content is of the highest order, the recording quality is very high, and the image is more than satisfactory, which leads me to a conclusion that this DVD is one of the "ultimate" Soft Machine live documents. The Voiceprint label definitely deserve a big acknowledgement for allowing the listeners to get as close as possible to what the lucky audience got to experience on March 2 1970 at Théâtre De La Musique in Paris. Definitely worth your investigation. 4½ stars rounded up!

 Switzerland 1974 by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Live, 2015
3.96 | 8 ratings

Switzerland 1974
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Another archival SOFT MACHINE release that I just couldn't say no to, yes I have a problem. They are a top ten band for me though and in my opinion it's the DVD here that makes this a solid 4 star album. Not that I have any issues with the audio cd it's just that I already have "Floating World Live" with this same lineup but recorded a year later, and I just like the audio better from that one. Both of course feature guitarist extraordinaire Allan Holdsworth along with Babbington, Jenkins, Marshall and Ratledge. It is interesting that when Holdworth joined the band SOFT MACHINE decided that any live shows would feature new material with Holdsworth as they never had a guitarist before, let alone one of the best on the planet. Okay I just remembered that Gary Boyle played on the live archival release from the "Seven" tour called "NDR Jazz Workshop-Hamburg Germany 1973" my favourite live release by the band. Another excellent archival live album is "British Tour '75" with John Etheridge on guitar who was recommended by Holdsworth. The latter left when Tony Williams asked him to be part of his band, an offer Holdsworth says he couldn't say no to, just a great opportunity to play with the best drummers ever.

So this 1974 live recording is from Switzerland and more specifically the Montreux Jazz festival on July 4th. So people in the audience would be hearing material not yet released that would mostly appear on the "Bundles" album. I like when the boys finish playing and the announcer comes out and introduces each member of the band then before he walks off he says it was nice to see John Marshall again and he mentions seeing him at the same festival 4 or 5 years earlier with NUCLEUS who came away with first prize at the time. And yes everyone but Ratledge in this lineup played for NUCLEUS at some point.

The highlight for me is the almost 17 minute version of Jenkins "Hazard Profile". Just a classic tune where Holdsworth shows off his chops beginning just before 3 minutes and he does light it up. I like the fuzz after 10 minutes then the horn after 12 minutes as the rhythm section turns more intense. "The Floating World" has this mood that draws me right in. The atmosphere and keys especially. Some vocal melodies from Allan then the bass comes to the fore. "Ealing Comedy" has some massive fuzz in it, very growly and powerful stuff. "Bundles" is one of my highlights, especially the guitar and drums. "Land Of The Bag Snake" has Holdsworth just ripping it up.

"Joint" sounds like electronics and drums mostly, quite avant sounding like smoking a joint I suppose(not even close). "The Man who Waved At Trains" like "The Floating World" is simply an uplifting and laid back tune with keys and drums leading this time. The bass and horn that follows adds a lot. Trippy stuff(like smoking a joint). It will be reprised later on(the song). "Peff" is intense and horn led. "LBO" is all about Marshall and his drum set. "Riff II" is a pretty heavy tune man as Marshall continues to impress. "Lefty(Collective Improvisation)" is experimental with drums leading early as the horn comes in. It settles late. "Penny Hitch(Coda)" has a good groove to it as the horn plays over top. The guitar joins in before 2 minutes. It settles 4 minutes in as light drums, bass and keys lead the way to the end.

Another fine live recording and these guys have a lot of those.

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to E&O Team for the last updates

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