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The Soft Machine - Land of Cockayne  CD (album) cover

LAND OF COCKAYNE

The Soft Machine

 

Canterbury Scene

2.97 | 86 ratings

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febus
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam
3 stars A DECENT ENDING OF THE SOFT MACHINE CAREER.

I don't really think of LAND OF COCKAYNE as a ''real'' SOFT MACHINE album as this is more of a JENKINS project with a little help of some friends, especially old SOFTIES alumnies. The always faithfull JOHN MARSHALL is back behind his kits, but we are witnessing a few surprises here. First of all, ALLAN HOLDSWORTH is back in the fold after only one album with the band BUNDLES. Also playing bass is no less..JACK BRUCE of CREAM fame!!! 2 saxophonists join their talents with RAY WARLEIGH who also was present on BUNDLES and ex-IF member DICK MORISSEY.

Yes, the name of the band is SOFT MACHINE, but i see no other reason than a shrewd marketing one to make the album more appealing commercially.Because if you are expecting another BUNDLES or another MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA cloning, you are dead wrong; This is -again- a totally- new SOFT MACHINE sound. LAND OF COCKAYNE is NOT a guitar album as the presence of ALLAN HOLDSWORTH is rather discreet on this recording. Also the saxophones are back in the front after their influence started to shrink with the SIX album to become completely non-existent on ALIVE AND WELL IN PARIS.

But we are not over with our surprises as there are now......backing vocals!!!on some tracks and let's not forget the presence of a string ensemble. So what do we get when you mix and shake hard all these ingredients?? a rather friendly listening jazz modern album. The musicianship is of course, as on any other SF album top notch and the musicians seem to have fun recording it. KARL JENKINS always compose admirably concise precise, well arranged tunes that don't leave much room for improvisation .Nobody is going to leave the building when listening to LAND OF COCAYNE contrary to FACELIFT or FLETCHER'S BLEMISH!

KARL JENKINS brings also new musical elements such as world music and new age, a path he will follow later with his own projects to great success like ADIEMUS. There is nothing crazy on this album, you even have some nice -even syrupy- tracks like the ballad BLACK VELVET MOUNTAIN which is the only 2 tracks that comes to my mind where i can really HOLDSWORTH guitar, and this is not a furious adventurous HOLDSWORTH either; more of a melodic ALLAN simply playing a cute theme. The next song SLY MONKEY is the other track where the presence of HOLDSWORTH is felt, but believe me, this is not HAZARD PROFILE!

The opening track OVER'n ABOVE, HOT BISCUIT SLIM or PANORAMIA are nice modern,very catchy jazz tunes where the sax prevails, but always in a very disciplined way,this is not ELTON DEAN! This is kind of easy listening jazz fusion, but very well arranged and well orchestrated, pleasant to the ear, but don't expect anything groundbreaking!

The real treat on LAND OF COCKAYNE is the masterful bass playing of JACK BRUCE; we knew for a long time he has never been the discreet guy and that his ego made sound his bass as loud as the guitar of CLAPTON in the good old CREAM days, a tendency he would pursue with WEST BRUCE & LAING and on his solo albums; but sometimes it's with good reason as he is is a formidable bassist and he definitely provides the goods on this album: he does an amazing job associated with JOHN MARSHALL. Speaking of MARSHALL another paricularity is for the first time since he joined SOFT MACHINE, he doesn't ''treat'' us with a percussion piece. I told you LAND OF COCKAYNE was not a 'real' SF album!! no drum solo, can you believeit?

LAND OF COCKAYNE is a good album, not a great one, more of a background music but with excellent musicianship, good compositions and great arrangements. A strange way to end the regular SOFT MACHINE carreer, a band with many surprises and so many twists. The only band that i know of changing musicians on each album ending their long storied career with absolutely no original members in the line-up.

3 STARS.

febus | 3/5 |

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