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SOFTS

The Soft Machine

 

Canterbury Scene

3.69 | 145 ratings

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febus
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam
5 stars THE MARVEL OF THE JENKINS ERA!

I have a few selected recordings in my music collection that i considerlike my eternal treasures; i can listen to them on a regular basis, even after all those years and the pleasure, the excitement , the emotions i am having are as strong as ever. I never get tired to listening to them always discovering something new. This is like a journey to a wondeful world, another planet where everything is beautiful and nothing bad can happen to me. Just a few albums do the tricks like the self titled album from NOVALIS, WOLF CITY by AMON DUUL2, HAMBURGER CONCERTO from FOCUS or RED by KC and a few more. To this list, i can add this album SOFTS from SOFT MACHINE.Sometimes, it's difficult to explain.

I bought SOFTS back then in 1976 in the LP format of course and it has been a pillar of my collection and still is 31 years later! I saw SOFT MACHINE live in concert in Toulouse, France a few months before this release. The show was sold out (SOFT MACHINE was big in France!) and i witnessed SOFT history as it was one of the last concerts of MIKE RATLEDGE ever ,playing with the new guitarist JOHN ETHERIDGE.

Of course, SOFT MACHINE being SOFT MACHINE, personel changes occured once again with the departure of ALLAN HOLDSWORTH after just one album being replaced by JOHN ETHERIDGE.Also KARL JENKINS gave up the horns and concentratred to play the keyboards. ALAN WAKEMAN was hired to take over tenor and soprano saxes. Most importantly, as widely expected considering its shrinking role in the band, former leader MIKE RATLEDGE left discreetly. He is still present on SOFTS, but only on 2 tracks and the worst is that he is listed as a ......guest!!! MIKE RATLEDGE guesting! in his own band he created and led!!! the rise and fall of a great musician!.

With all these new changes, are we going to have another switch of the musical direction that we have been accustomed to with SOFT MACHINE? Not really as SOFTS bears a lot similarities with BUNDLES. First of all, the change of tha axeman doesn't affect the sound as ETHERIDGE plays-very-similar to ALLAN HODSWORTH. I am sure a lot of listeners wouldn't have noticed the difference if you don't mention the fact that this is not the same guitarist who plays on BUNDLES and SOFTS.

Hey! to keep the traditions intact, we are once again treated to another JENKINS percussion solo KAYOO, but the great part is when JOHN ETHERIDGE enters the fray with THE CAMDEN TANDEM for a furious, frenetic guitar/drums combo battle , kind of amazing for something labelled with the Soft Machine name on it; but that's a very exhilarating experience, especially when the short symphonic (yes , symphonic a la MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA)track NEXUS follows.

You will find every kind of music on this album, but everything blends together as a lot of pieces are bridged together.The album opens with the delicate ambient tune AUBADE played only with an acoustic guitar and a flute; what an enchanting intro it is. SOFT MACHINE playing beautiful romantic music, what happened to this world?

The meat of SOFTS comes next with some of my most beloved tracks ever: THE TALE OF TALIESIN and BAN BAN CALIBAN , 17 mns of joy and beauty. Great piano, fast furious guitar solos with a frenetic rythm section, then a symphonic soundscape to make it grandiose, a great theme and what to say about BAN BAN CALIBAN? maybe the most energetic track ever under a SOFT MACHINE name. Did i say funky? not really in the Detroit Motown style ,i mean but for them it's quite funky.The same goes for ONE OVER THE HEIGHT with this lively dynamic rythm section and a demential sax solo from ALAN WAKEMAN; that's really blowing the horn, believe me!

There is not one letdown on this album as there is so much to say, or better to hear.SOFTS is full of life, full of energy played by fantastic musicians (oh! JOHN ETEHRIDGE! what a force!). This is not uniform as there are so many different soundscapes going from the reflective melancholic ballad to the jazz/rock frenesy of a madman to a symphonic orgy created by these talented artists at their creative peaks. This is music the way i see it, i feel it , music the way it should be played , music for the ages! This is my 100 th review and to celebrate, i cannot give less than 5 stars.

5 STARS.

febus | 5/5 |

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