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The Soft Machine - BBC Radio 1971 - 1974 CD (album) cover

BBC RADIO 1971 - 1974

The Soft Machine

 

Canterbury Scene

4.00 | 21 ratings

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febus
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam
3 stars A LIVE SET FROM FIFTH TO BUNDLES!

This album features rare live in studio recordings for the BBC being aired on the famous ''JOHN PEEL SHOW'. They cover SOFT MACHINE career from their album FIFTH to BUNDLES through SIX and SEVEN, meaning a lot of personel changes and numerous musical direction shifts in between.This album gives us the opportunity to check some live performances from short lived SOFT line-ups and discover some well known tracks in a different version.

The first disc starts with 3 songs from the FIFTH line-up only first side of the LP with PHIL HOWARD on drums after WYATT left. If you have read my reviews about FOURTH and FIFTH, you know this period is the least interesting for me, especially FOURTH which was a very dull album. Also the sound is very, very cold, no warmth at all. This is the time when SOFT MACHINE has turned into a free jazz band with almost no rock elements. The music is pretext only to mostly ELTON DEAN sax soloing and became completely lifeless and stalled.

Now we know why PHIL HOWARD didn't last long with the band. He doesn't fit at all with the philosophy of RATLEDGE and HOPPER. His drumming is plain horrible, not that he is bad. He is a free form jazz drummer, not a jazz rock one. He was perfect with ELTON DEAN as they would play together in the future, but he was not meant for SOFT MACHINE. The difference can be heard withthe next tracks of the first CD of this set with the apperance of KARL JENKINS on drums and KARL JENKINS taking over ELTON DEAN.

With them, all of a sudden, the music is warming up, just listen to the way the newcomers play the ALL WHITE and DROP studio versions from FIFTH. This is day and night! No wonder SOFT MACHINE will do betterl commercially with their next album SIX than they did with FIFTH. SOFT MACHINE was going to reach the point of no return with their elitist jazz cold sound, you hear on FOURTH and FIFTH. Some fans criticize JENKINS and MARSHALL, but i think they were the new blood the band needed badly.

Starting with track five , ROY BABBINGTON enters the stage after HOPPER left and, him too, would help the band to straighten the sound and bring more life to the rythm section.The first album ends up with a rarity, a very young excerpt of HAZARD PROFILE recorded in 1973 ( 2 years before his official release) with......no guitar yet. The HOlDSWORTH part are played on electric piano and synthetiser by both keyboardists. One of the highlight of this release.

CD 2 opens with a short bass solo from BABBINGTON ( everybody is entitled to have fun!) followed by a 'SEVEN' track with a great oboe ( i think) solo from JENKINS over a very rock bass line. That's nice to see how the SOFT MACHINE music is more pleasant to the ear than during the HOWARD days, getting more structured ,melodic and thematique than it was not a long time ago.

The rest of the CD brings us ALLAN HOLDSWORTH guitar and with him, the sound of the band of course will once again evolve into a classic jazz-rock fusion form which was popular at this time with bands like RETURN TO FOREVER or MAHAVISHNU. The whole HAZARD PROFILE is played here full of beauty, then full of electric fury. Once again on a SOFT machine release, we have a 3mn drums solo from Mr JENKINS as usual.

The only common point through all these recordings is the presence of organist MIKE RATLEDGE who is is the only member playing the whole album. But BUNDLES will be his swansong as well . This is a good recording, well produced with a nice sound showcasing the drastic evolution of a great band, with the good and sometimes not so good.

3 STARS.

febus | 3/5 |

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