Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
The Soft Machine - Softs CD (album) cover

SOFTS

The Soft Machine

 

Canterbury Scene

3.88 | 242 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Greta007
4 stars Just forty years late in making this review and rediscovering this album after having owned the vinyl disc back in the Paleozoic Era, which I wasn't wild on at the time TBH. In retirement I've been catching up with old music that I'd missed. Unlike most, I find much of Soft Machine's much lauded, and more progressive, albums almost unlistenable and their Harvest period much more approachable without ever selling out.

Track by track:

1. Aubade (1:51) - a gentle pastoral guitar / alto sax duet - enjoyable background without being naff

2. The Tale of Taliesin (7:17) - Jenkins's atmospheric and hypnotic keyboard ostinato leads to an exotically tuneful head. This sails along gorgeously for a while before being abruptly interrupted by a brutally-shredded odd time guitar solo section.

Once the listener is beaten into submission the band slows back to the head, leading to a grandiose outro. (At the time of writing there is an outstanding YouTube live clip of this tune with a young Alan Holdsworth playing superbly, as John Etheridge does on this version). At this point they are sounding like an instrumental prog band with fusion influences). My favourite track on the album.

3. Ban-Ban Caliban (9:22) - the other epic-y piece, starting with a stereo-toggled electro synth sequence. This early early part of the the track reminds me of Passport's Ataraxia album - if Jazz Krautrock fusion isn't a category, it probably should be. New saxophonist, Alan Wakeman, soon enters and has his first chance to stretch out on the album, with some fine soprano work.

As the tune progresses the album for the first time sounds like the old Soft Machine of old before a bizarre, jarring change heralds in John Etheridge for another fast, old-time shred-fest duel with the similarly hyperactive Marshall.

Bassist Roy Babbington continues to play selflessly, holding the mayhem together akin to Rick Laird's anchor role on MO's Birds of Fire. Then a return to the "Krautrock fusion" Passport feel leading to the end with added drive and marimba. Excellent.

4. Song of Aeolus (4:31) - slow, atmospheric 6/8 tune in the vein of Jeff Beck's Goodbye Pork Pie Hat cover or John McLaughlin's The Unknown Dissident (which almost certainly took the same inspiration) but with more of a Floydish spaceyness. Luscious, soulful music. Excellent.

5. Out of Season (5:32) - Karl Jenkins loved beautiful, stately, hypnotic piano ostinatos, seemingly inspired by Philip Glass's minimalism. Etheridge joins with a melodic and sophisticated head and the rest of the band work around the ostinato. Nice.

6. Second Bundle (2:37) - starts with more of Karl Jenkins's psychedelic new-agey keys (move over Miquette Garaudy) - enjoyable background music without being naff

7. Kayoo (3:27) - drum solo piece by John Marshall. Musical use of bells and space early gave way to cacophonous shredding. At this length, it would probably work well live but is wasted in the studio IMO (maybe should have been a coda consisting of just the first minute)

8. The Camden Tandem (2:01) - drum duet between the two Johns - Etheridge on guitar and Marshall on drums. I guess it wouldn't be Soft Machine album without at least some fierce harshness. This tune is seemingly inspired by Mahavishnu Orchestra's Noonward Race and, especially so, by King Crimson's Groon (which I much prefer to either).

9. Nexus (0:49) - a lovely grandiose introduction to the next tune. Why did they make it a separate tune? No one knows.

10. One Over the Eight (5:25) - let's get down, baby, it's Funkytime! Well, it started out funky and again reminded me of Ataraxia's edgy moments with a stylish and intelligently-built sax lead. The jam gradually loosens and intensifies until a new bass riff is introduced and, with Wakeman's tenor by now honking, wailing and squawking we're sounding more like the old Soft Machine again before the entire thing falls into a horrid cacophony that thankfully, bot not too soon, shifts into a 6/8 outro. As a drummer, I find that cacophony is far more fun to play than to listen to. Otherwise excellent.

11. Etika (2:21) - during this era it was fashionable to let the guitarist have an acoustic tune for variation. This is that track, arguably better than most, and enough edge to be more than background.

Greta007 | 4/5 |

MEMBERS LOGIN ZONE

As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Share this THE SOFT MACHINE review

Social review comments () BETA







Review related links

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: JazzMusicArchives.com — jazz music reviews and archives | MetalMusicArchives.com — metal music reviews and archives

Donate monthly and keep PA fast-loading and ad-free forever.