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The Soft Machine - Noisette CD (album) cover


The Soft Machine


Canterbury Scene

4.07 | 55 ratings

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Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam

Since the mid-90s, 15 years after the band went silent, an abundance of SOFT MACHINE live recordings and other compilations have been unearthed and offered to old fans every year. There are good ones, some others not so great sounding. Not to say anything bad, it's good to check out who released those albums and if it is by CUNEIFORM records, go for them as they all are very well recorded and often show us an aspect of this storied band we cannot found on their original LPs.

Take NOISETTE (nut in french) for example, this album highlights a concert SOFT MACHINE performed at Croydon's Fairfield hall on January 4th 1970. For those who follow the band, the name sounds familiar with just reason, as a part of FACELIFT from THIRD has been taken out of this evening's concert.

We all know that SOFT MACHINE music after the release of VOLUME TWO shifted drastically towards a more edgier experimental jazz formula adding no less than...4 horns becoming a seven head band! This experience didn't last very long as first NICK EVANS and MARC CHARIG left the band, leaving only ELTON DEAN and LYN DOBSON with the main guys RATLEDGE, WYATT and HOPPER.

This quintet formula will be short lived as well as LYN DOBSON will bail out as well, even if he will be credited as a guest on THIRD. So NOISETTE is so far a unique document giving the listener a rare opprtunity to enjoy this band version. THIRD was not released yet, but i can tell you if people in the attendance were at the concert to enjoy the music of the then-new album VOLUME TWO, they would be there for a shock.

NOISETTE is definitely a live cousin of THIRD in style and a lot of it can be heard here in pieces. Worth noticing as well is that the vocal performances from ROBERT WYATT have already been cut to a minimun. The best example is his own masterpiece MOON IN JUNE played ...instrumentally! Yes, you are getting only the middle part with the -fantastic- RATLEDGE organ solo. Not one word! WYATT also sings a few lines on HIBOU ANEMONE AND BEAR from the second album and that's it.

This is a very lively concert , everybody plays with passion, especially the 2 saxophonists who know how to blow a horn furiously! Just listen to 12/8 THEME from HUGH HOPPER, they are both fantastic as some parts of this tune will wind up on FACELIFT. MIKE RATLEDGE is a phenomenon behind his organs, and hearing him playing be it on piano or organ, this is a shame he has been kind of forgotten as he has nothing to learn from big star names such as EMERSON or WAKEMAN. No one else sounds like RATLEDGE! He also can play like a crazy devilish soul like on ESTHER'S NOSE JOB which of course is mostly vocal-less by now as well.

As i wrote before, many track themes of this evening set list will be bridged together to form the epics which comprise THIRD. For example, some parts of EAMON ANDREWS, NOISETTE and BACKWARDS will form SLIGHTLY ALL THE TIME. The oddity of this album is that SOFT MACHINE is still playing a KEVIN AYERS-era song, the famous WE DID IT AGAIN which is rather kind of freaky here with WYATT singing(!!!!) for AYERS .Hey!it's not every day you can hear ELTON DEAN performing a song from the dandy KEVIN. Only that is worth the price of admission.

NOISETTE is definitely an album to have for any SOFT MACHINE fan, especially from the ''classic'' period. But believe me, ther is absolutely nothing classic about the music SOFT MACHINE was playing at the time. This is some very adventurous experimental jazz/rock no one else could play. That was the peak of CANTERBURY creativity. Of course, this is not for everybody's taste; this is not easy listening; but this is what prog is all about, isn't it?


febus | 4/5 |


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