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The Soft Machine - Alive in Paris-1970 CD (album) cover


The Soft Machine


Canterbury Scene

4.51 | 24 ratings

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Man With Hat
4 stars If I could go back in time to see various concerts when I wasn't alive, I would easily choose this gig. Or at least one in this time frame.

Soft Machine circa 1970 are often regarded as one of the best line ups SM produced, and this DVD shows why. From start to finish is a wild ride featuring everything you love about Soft Machine (and maybe even more)...Wyatt's frantic (and subdued) drumming, top notch sax solos, constantly engrossing basslines, Wyatt's freeform vocals, and the man with the sun glasses. In addition to all this, we get some lovely flute work (and some curious harmonica work) courtesy of Lyn Dobson (and may I add it's a shame he didn't stick around longer in the Machine). I would have to agree with Mr. Trane that Dobson steals the shows from Dean, who isn't a slouch in his own right.

The show starts off with a killer rendition of Facelift (perhaps my favorite SM song). The duel sax lineup is perfect for that almost hard-rockin' main riff. This is supported my the audiance. Yes, it is true. Part of the audiance (what seem to be young 20 or so year olds) is doing all but moshing! Hilarious, in my humble opinion. Anyway, this is our first look at the excellent and aforementioned flute work of Dobby. My only complaint is that Facelift ends quite abrutply. After this, the track list on the back gets punched out. A seemingly unplanned cut to Robert Wyatt's Vocal Improv takes place next, which breaks the continuity of things a bit. Following this comes Ester's Nosejob, which is again indicated incorrectly by the back of box. Part II is played straight through, starting out with a nice version of Out-Bloody- Rageous (sadly missing the beginning keyboard madness as is on the studio album). However, this contains the better of the two flute solos, in my opinion. Afterwards, the DVD rolls along nicely with with some Eamonn Andrews and what seems to me as a particualar fun version of Backwards/Mousetrap Reprise.

With all the excellent things one can say about this DVD, there is one glaring error as seen my this reviewers eyes. The camera work. Perhaps its a French thing, perhaps they were trying to make it theatrical, or conform to some period of art/video, but for me its mostly distracting/hilarious. I can understand shots of the audiance (especially when they were being as exciting as I noted eariler), but shots of Wyatt's elbow and cymbal stand, a really zoomed in shot of Dean/Dobson's face, or the back of Ratledge's head, I don't understand. Additionally, there are few (if any!) shots of the entire band on stage. (At one or two points its possible they all make it in the shot, if only the top of Ratledge's head or the left side of Hopper.) Instead, they choose to shoot a wide shot from the back of the stage so all you could see is Wyatt's back, and some heads sticking out. While that isn't a bad thing in itself, being the panoramic view of band is a bit disconcerting. However, that is not by biggest complaint. There is a part of the show where the camera decides to move behind some speakers or equipment boxes and the entire screen is black, or at least five seconds. This is the worst thing to do, IMHO, being I'm watching this to actually SEE the band, not just hear them. But, aside from these two horrid decisions, the cameras are mostly chuckle producing and don't detract much if any from the show.

All in all, this is a great document of a great band during what could be considered their artistic peak. Despite the camera woes, there is little to fault here. The music is excellent and entertaining, the song selectiong is pretty damn good, and for a band that many believe excelled in the live setting having this certainly backs that claim up (and being there considerable lacking in visual edvince of SM out there, and certainly this line-up of it, this is made all the more essential). Soft Machine fans have no reason not to own this. 4.5 stars. Thoroughly recommended!

Man With Hat | 4/5 |


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