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The Soft Machine - Alive & Well - Recorded in Paris CD (album) cover


The Soft Machine


Canterbury Scene

2.80 | 65 ratings

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Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam

ALIVE AND WELL is a live album recorded in Paris where SOFT MACHINE always had a strong following through its diverse incarnations. As one can guess, this is -AGAIN- a new line- up performing on this album. This is SOFT MACHINE, after all!! ROY BABBINGTON bowed out after the excellent SOFTS and was replaced by STEVE COOK , but the most noticeable change is the arrival of a violonist named RICK SANDERS. Another- BIG- difference with the past is the total disparition of reeds. ALAN WAKEMAN was no longer in the band and KARL JENKINS only played keyboards back then.

I haven't heard before of a SOFT MACHINE album without a saxophone, a trademark SF characteristic. Even on the first album and VOLUME 2, horns could be heard occasionally here and there played by BRIAN HOPPER, the brother of HUGH. So now we have a quintet guitar-bass-drums-keyboards-violin. Doesn't it remind you MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA kind of line-up? Of course, you are right and the thing is the music sounds very close to JOHN MCLAUGHLIN and CO first version, BIRDS OF FIRE period.

SOFT MACHINE was in the past a band known and admired for its adventurous musical spirit and was a leader of the progressive movement always trying to go forward with new experimentations. Since KARL JENKINS took over the band, this spirit was lost as the new SOFT MACHINE went for a more classical Jazz/rock/fusion sound played by hundreds of other bands following the influences of MAHAVISHNU, RETURN TO FOREVER and other WEATHER REPORT.

If SOFT MACHINE was no longer a musical pioneer , it doesn't mean everything went wrong as this SF period came with 2 great albums, an excellent BUNDLES and one of my all-time fave, the magnificent SOFTS. ALIVE AND WELL is a live album but sounds like a studio one as the quality of the recording is very clear and you don't hear much of the attendance.Also, there are only new songs on this album, even if some of them sounds like ''deja vu''.

Pieces like EOS or PUFFIN are definitely MAHAVISHNU clones with those ETHERIDGE guitar scales ,well in the style of what you can hear on BIRDS OF FIRE. The same goes for ODD BULLETS with a very classic fusion sounding, not very original at all, but of course impeccably performed. In between speeding numbers, you will find some spacey keyboards tunes such as WHITE KITE or SONG OF THE SUNBIRD and a very nice acoustic performance from guitarist JOHN ETHERIDGE on NUMBER 3.

The only amazing and strange addition on this album is the last piece SOFT SPACE. If you have followed SOFT MACHINE since their early days, even if you only know the KARL JENKINS era, SOFT SPACE will come to you as a schock! we had psychedelic SOFT MACHINE in the past, we had jazz SF, avant guard SF, fusion SF, now we have ''dancing SOFT MACHINE'' . SOFT SPACE is some kind of a disco/ techno tune , not short, more than 8 mns that really could put you on a dance floor. This is far away from FACELIFT, believe me. SOFT MACHINE , the founder of techno?? hey, why not? we are only in 1978!

This is a very well played performance, the rythm new section of COOKS-JENKINS is very tight and brings a lot of energy to this concert. The violonist SANDERS adds a different sound to the band, but the star is once again the guitarist JOHN ETHERIDGE who plays like a crazy possessed soul with frenetic and furious solos but also excels in the more introvertive melodic sections KARL JENKINS stays a background with his keyboards like a conductor of his orchestra.

This is a good album, just lacking of originality or personality; the new songs are traditional fusion as there are no outwordly compositions like BAN BAN CALIBAN or THE TALE OF TALIESIN from SOFTS. If you like this JENKINS era, you have to get this album, otherwise try first SOFTS or BUNDLES!!


febus | 3/5 |


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