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The Soft Machine - Six CD (album) cover


The Soft Machine


Canterbury Scene

3.47 | 208 ratings

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Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam

FIFTH would mark the end of a cycle for SOFT MACHINE as ELTON DEAN left the band to pursue solo avant-guard/jazz new adventures. Even if FIFTH was somewhat a pleasant album, but only for connoisseurs, the band was really in need of an infusion of new fresh ideas, meaning usually new blood. And KARL JENKINS would prove to be the cure!

I don't know if the former NUCLEUS members had the same efficient lawyer, but they knew how to fill up a contract favorable to them. After KARL JENKINS who is allowed his drum solo on each new SOFT MACHINE recording, KARL JENKINS not only played the horns for taking over ELTON DEAN, he also plays a lot of keyboards and most remarkable thing, he is the writer of half the album as much as MIKE RATLEDGE. HUGH HOPPER only composed one track ''1983'' MARSHALL of course getting a credit for his drum solo.

SIX was released as a double LP back then in 1973. The first one is a ''live ''recording and the second is comprised of 4 studio tracks. If there was no mention on the cover that the first LP was live, you wouldn't guess it as you don't hear the crowd at all and the quality of the production is just excellent. So far SIX is the best sounding SOFT MACHINE album with a crystal sound.

The influence of KARL JENKINS can be heard right away when you hear the first notes. The sound is more lively, more energetic, definitely rid of any experimental/avant guard jazz tendencies from the last 3 albums. SOFT MACHINE in a way stops to experiment on their own and decide to join the Jazz/rock/fusion movement. Some consider SOFT MACHINE lost their own personality by renouncing to their experimental sound by being ''just another'' fusion band, but i think it's a harsh statement.

From SIX, they will still evolve to new territories as SOFTS for example cannot be compared to this album.This album SIX still has tracks that are well in the SOFT vein, going further into new sounds and experimentations on tunes such as the wonderful RATLEDGE penned CHLOE AND THE PIRATES or very futuristic ''1983'' from HOPPER; It doesn't sound like any other fusion band to me.

What's new especially on the live recording is the grooviness of the music!! Imagine that!! SOFT MACHINE, groovy!!!! Just listen to HUGH HOPPER's bass and MARSHALL'S drums: they rock!!! they don't play jazz like on FIFTH. They play a solid rythmic, efficient, i won't say funky, but groovy is definitely the right word. Just listen to RIFF or the great GESOLREUT, i am sure people in the attendance at this concet got up from their seats and got into the rythm.

No don't get me wrong, this is not dance music, we are still talking about SOFT MACHINE here, but they play tight in a very refreshened way full of vitality and energy. A contrast with the dark realities of FOURTH and FIFTH. KARL JENKINS bring a lot of fun with his sax playing bringing a definitely well needed bowl of fresh air within the band. There are introspective moments like the sweetE.P.V and still experimenting weird ones like on LEFTY which sound like an impro, but well done. This is also the only track where you will the old Fuzz bass of HUGH HOPPER. The great organ sound from THIRD also has disappeared in favor of the electric piano, but Ratledge playing sounds rejunevated anyway.

The studio album is more into the contemporary music realm with 12mns THE SOFT WEED FACTOR well in the TERRY RILEY genre, a very moody introspective piece, very spacey! STANLEY STAMPS GIBBON ALBUM is a very energetic (groovy again!!) RATLEDGE track where JENKINS shines with his sax, but is getting a little bit repetitive at the end. Ex-side 4 is where the 2 treasures are; the aforementioned CHLOE AND THE PIRATES a mesmerizing hypnotic piece with an almost ...latin south american rythm to give the beat.HUGH HOPPER has never sounded like that!

And then the album concluded with ''1983'' a sort of spacey voyage to the future track which would be the testament of HUGH HOPPER as he will leave the band after this album. Who knows! maybe HUGH was not into this 'groovy' thing .

SIX is just what the doctor ordered: a new fresh transfusion bringing some life back into the ''machine'' that was going nowhere. This is not a masterpiece, but as i am just listening to it while reviewing, i can tell you it sounds great! This is a new SOFT MACHINE maybe, but that's still SOFT MACHINE, and a good one at that! 3.5 stars, but closer to 4 than 3....will be


febus | 4/5 |


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