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The Soft Machine - Seven CD (album) cover


The Soft Machine


Canterbury Scene

3.64 | 303 ratings

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Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam

Have you noticed how the SOFT MACHINE releases can be grouped by pair; First you have the first album and VOLUME 2 exploring both the world of funny jazz/psychedelia, then FOURTH and FIFTH digging deep into free-form experimental jazz?. Now we have SIX and SEVEN entering the groovy fusion music scene. Even the next 2 albums BUNDLES and SOFTS can be associated as they are both guitar driven!

SOFT MACHINE wouldn't be SOFT MACHINE if a new album came out without a new change of personel. Now it's time for long time standing bassist HUGH HOPPER to leave the ship for a prolific solo carreer. His successor is logically ROY BABBINGTON who already has guested on several SOFT MACHINE releases in the past and, of course played with NUCLEUS as well like J. MARSHALL and KARL JENKINS.Contrary to them, BABBINGTON hasn't required on his contract to have a solo bass tune on each record with the band or the right to compose half of the music!!!

MIKE RATLEDGE is the lone survivor from the original band, but cannot even be considered the man in charge either anymore. The new direction taken on SIX can be attributed to KARL JENKINS, a classically trained musician who likes structured music better and is not fond of never-ending free form improvisations like SOFT MACHINE did in the past . He goes for shorter pieces with a very efficient rythm section. The bassist provides usually a groovy riff, definitely rock, helped by a solid drummer who doesn't spend his time having fun with his cymbals: a very solid foundation for the 2 soloists to show off their skills.

Not only KARL JENKINS changed the band sound, he is also now the main composer.He wrote seven out of the 12, RATLEDGE only 4, including 2 which don't reach the 2 mns mark. Of course, you have guessed the last tune DIS is the unavoidable drum solo from JENKINS which rather sounds like a very psychedelic experiment this time.

This is not a great album, not an album that is an essential addition to a prog selection, but still a pleasant one. The music follows the same pattern that we heard on SIX with those groovy bass lines, starting with the very speedy NEDDLE BED a very energetic rock sounding track with RATLEDGE synthetisizing all over the song .SOFT MACHINE with anphetamines indeed!. Could have been a good ELP or RETURN TO FOREVER track, i think.

The beautiful CAROL ANN follows as a wonderful intimate ballad with reflective keyboard playing, only helped by a few touches from BABBINGTON. Then the adrenaline goes up again with the 3 RATLEDGE compositions like DAY'S EYE reminding me the athmosphere of the great CHLOE AND THE PIRATES from SIX. TARABOS is once again built on a heavy bass riff letting RATLEDGE soloing with his organ.

Ex-Side 2 is almost exclusively penned by KARL JENKINS, except for the minimalist RILEY-esque 1mn 50'' THE GERMAN LESSON composed by the organist. All the tracks are pleasant but very, very reminiscent from SIX such as for example PENNY HITCH which has STRONG affinities to THE SOFT WEED FACTOR, but that's a good track anyway with this haunting sax sound. Talking about sax, it's worth noticing that the use of horns is dwindling as KARL JENKINS spends more time behind the keyboards, mostly the piano. A trend that will be confirmed firmly with the next 2 albums!

SEVEN is a good album but you know by listening to SIX and this one that this new formula already has reached the end of its course. It would not possible for SOFT MACHINE to come back with ''EIGHT'' and the same kind of music found on these 2 albums. A necessary change of direction was needed and indeed, there won't be a ''EIGHT''. Will be BUNDLES instead and -again- a new SOFT MACHINE with a new sound, but that's another story!


febus | 3/5 |


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