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The Soft Machine - Six CD (album) cover

SIX

The Soft Machine

 

Canterbury Scene

3.47 | 161 ratings

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daveconn
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Six, Seven... what's the difference? Originally released as a double elpee, Six is notable for the introduction of KARL JENKINS, a sax/oboe/keyboard player whose dizzying solos pushed the band ever closer toward a chaotic mantra of drug-soaked fusion. Although the vinyl version no doubt presented better defined boundaries, the single disc re-release conspires to turn Six into a single, endless organism. What appears to the listener is a 75-minute jam distinguished by shifting riffs anchored through bass or keyboards. Some sections eventually develop unique personalities, such as "Riff" (which will sound familiar to CAMEL fans) or "The Soft Weed Factor", but generally it's hard to tell where one song ends and another begins. Because I don't own any earlier SOFT MACHINE albums, I can't look to their past work for a reference point; what I can tell you is Six falls somewhere in that wide land between COLTRANE's late-period work and ZAPPA's noisy jazz. The music itself alternates between riff-driven segments (isolated islands of clarity, if you will), solos and plain jamming. KARL MARSHALl's "5 From 13", a five-minute drum solo, is stunning for example. Marshall is free to roam on this album, largely because RATLEDGE and HOPPER provide the framework with their musical mosaics. Yet the true "soloist" on the album is Jenkins, whose instruments alternately scream, wail and elevate the arrangements into a mad shouting match. It's not enough to shake the feeling that Six is one long restless jam based on a series of pre-conceived (and sometimes very catchy) patterns. Its pleasures are ephemeral, soon surrendered to the greater whole, its attraction elusive, its intellectualism intractable. Here, a track either grabs you out of the gate or you're left to fidget through a "Stanley Stamps Gibbon Album" until the next treat rolls around. If you don't find seventy-five minutes of restless fusion daunting, then you might not want to nix Six; it's not like I never play this disc. But you'll find more treasures hiding in fifty minutes of WEATHER REPORT or RETURN TO FOREVER.
daveconn | 3/5 |

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