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The Soft Machine - Volume Two CD (album) cover

VOLUME TWO

The Soft Machine

 

Canterbury Scene

4.01 | 332 ratings

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febus
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam
5 stars A 33 MINUTES SWEET MAYHEM OF HAPPINESS!

VOLUME 2 is the logical follow-up to their groundbreaking first album. The same kind of atmosphere prevails once again with a psychedelic jazzy feel, silly and funny lyrics, wild musical experiments but there are also a few noticeable changes showing some hints about the musIcal direction SOFT MACHINE would take in the future. This album came out in 1969 at the end of the psychedelia era at the time when prog music would become more ''serious'' and more elaborated with structured ''suites'' and ''concertos''. VOLUME 2 can be seen as the testament of this wild era, but what a powerful way to end it.

One of the change with the first album is a human one that somehow will change slightly the sound of the band.Long time friend and roadie HUGH HOPPER took over bass duties when KEVIN AYERS decided to leave the band after a grueling USA tour opening for JIMI HENDRIX! KEVIN has never been known as a hard worker, acknowledged he was a lazy guy preferring the mediterranean beaches drinking wine and cheese surrounded by pretty woman than spending hours and hours in a studio trying to make new songs sound better or doing long ''exhausting'' tours. KEVIN AYERS was a unique artist, one of a kind, who will produce several- one of a kind- albums in the future without much great succes due mainly to the fact he never tried hard enough, but that's another story.

When KEVIN AYERS was a regular bassist just playing groovy rythmic lines on the first album, HUGH HOPPER brought to the table more solid technical skills, but more importantly, more originality and creativity as basically, he is playing his bass...lead! HUGH is using a lot of distortion and fuzz box and sounds more as a guitarist than a rythmic bassist on this album. HUGH HOPPER was a very inventive bassist and one of the first to go beyond the definition of a bass player people were used to by then. The bass became as important to the sound than the rest of the lead instruments such as guitar and keyboards and enabled bands to experiment further.

Also, if some parts of this album still contains ingredients from the free-spirited wild experimental jams from the first album, the musicianship is tighter and the sound more ''organized'' and disciplined than before. The brother of HUGH HOPPER, BRIAN guests on VOLUME 2 playing soprano and tenor saxophone on some tracks that would be the musical base for the future SOFT MACHINE sound staring with their next album THIRD which marked a big change of direction after their first 2 albums.

However, VOLUME 2 is still in the same mould than their first as ROBERT WYATT influence is still strong with his silly lyrics and beautiful (or weird depending if you like it or not) vocal acrobatics.HOPPER has a good share of the songwriting, but curiously knowing his ''serious'' compositions of the future, he is responsilble for a lot of those short funny tracks giving room to WYATT to have some fun. Who could have guessed this is the same man who composed here the delirious A CONCISE BRITISH ALPHABET or the haunting beautiful DEDICATED TO YOU BUT YOU WEREN'T LISTENING and a few months later came out with the -very,very- challenging avant guardist suite FACELIFT which opens THIRD?

On the other hand, MIKE RATLEDGE is the serious guy in the band (HOPPER will become too) and is responsible for the 2 longest tracks on this album, the mostly instrumental HIBOU ANEMONE AND BEAR and 10:30 RETURNS TO THE BEDROOM where you can already see some signs of their future musical jazz direction with piano or fuzz bass intro and sax soloing all along with minimun vocal input.

There are....17 tracks on volume 2 for a duration of 33 mns. However, this album can be listened as a whole piece, at least in 2 parts as each side of the LP has its own title, RIVMIC MELODIES for ex-side 1 and the famous ESTHER'S NOSE JOB for side 2. And like on the first album, there are no breaks between the songs as every piece is bridged together ,thus allowing VOLUME 2 to be appreciated as a 2 ''suites'' album instead of a 17 songs LP/CD.

There are no weak parts on this album; the silliness of some songs mix well with the more experimental parts as the musicianship is top notch and very creative all along. This is a ''happy'' album where everyone is having fun as you can imagine when you take a look at the titles of the song.You know the lyrics are not about death, depression or solitude with songs such as HAVE YOU EVER BEAN GREEN, THANK YOU PIERROT LUNAIRE or FIRE ENGINE PASSING WITH BELLS CLANGING.

Like with the first album, there is nothing else that sounds close to VOLUME 2; this is another adventure in the SOFT MACHINE saga which makes this band absolutely unique. They had their own sound, you know when it is RATLEDGE who plays organ as he is the only one with that particular sound and the same goes for HOPPER bass and WYATT drums (and alot of cymbals!); and of course, we all know about the particularity and uniqueness of the drummer's voice!

VOLUME 2 is a memorable musical voyage you cannot compare with anything else, a wonderful uninterupted joyful trip- albeit short- that makes the world of prog so unique and ultimately satisfying. VOLUME 2 is one of those gems which will never get forgotten as it is one of its main creative pillar, the prog world will buid upon.

At the beginning SOFT MACHINE was a bunch of fun silly young musicians who wanted to experience the good side of life and not take themselves seriously . They laughed , deride everything, experiment wildly with no rules attached. But , one by one , the funny guys left the ship, DAEVID ALLEN first, then KEVIN AYERS. The last one ROBERT WYATT will have his role within the band greatly reduced with the next album as the lone ''serious'' man of the band MIKE RATLEDGE is taking charge of the band and adding more ''serious '' musicians such as HUGH HOPPER and ELTON DEAN. Of course, looking at their faces, you knew they were not thinking of drinking wine with a beautiful woman on an IBIZA beach like dear handsome KEVIN AYERS. Another world!

There is no ''serious'' prog collection which would not include VOLUME 2; the same goes for the first album and the next one THIRD. This is CANTERBURY as its best.A wonderful journey! Only........

5 STARS

febus | 5/5 |

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