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The Soft Machine - Bundles CD (album) cover


The Soft Machine


Canterbury Scene

4.07 | 333 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Dan Bobrowski
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Soft Machine fans feel this era of the band was a let down. Mike Ratledge, the remaining original member turned the reins over to Karl Jenkins. Many felt all was lost. Too bad for those who couldn't grasp the forward looking music this disc brought to the table.

A young guitarist, fresh from his work with Ian Carr and John Hiseman, Allan Holdsworth arrived to add some fiery solos to a Keyboard/Sax based unit. His incredible speed and unusual melodic creations would bring him to the attention of Tony Williams and Jean-Luc Ponty. Allan's playing is horn-like with smooth legato runs, string skipping accuracy and shifting dynamics.

Many of the tunes are bases for Alan's exhilarating style and fresh approach. The Hazard Profile, an epic, is split into 5 parts. Due to some questionable editing, parts 3 and 4 don't quite jibe in relation to a beginings and endings, rather a break in the central part of a theme, curious. Maybe a re-mastering could play attention to the movements and edit accordingly. Part one sets the stage for introducing the audience to their new found member. Allan solos with such power and finesse. Todays aspiring guitarist would be wise to give this recording serious consideration for a showcase in study. Part two is a piano/acoustic guitar duet, very subdued and peaceful. Parts 3 and 4 give ratledge and Jenkins some room for their keyboard and sax work. Part 5 features another ripping solo from Allan.

Gone Sailing is a way too short exhibition of Allan's acoustic playing. Allan gave up on acoustic guitar a few years later because of his disdain for the string noise created by the guitarist changing postions on the fret board. Too bad. His acoustic playing is beautiful and unusual.

Bundles sounds like many future Holdsworth tunes in melody and compostion. A Strong Melodic pattern followed by a bubbling repeated bass line, which Allan begins creeping along over slowly with little flashes and sparks, building and evolving. Cymbals clatter and snare snaps while kick drum propels the movement and it breaks to the Land of the Bag Snake. Electric piano comps along while Holdsworth plays some of the tasty melodic work that made his 70's sideman work so special and timeless. You get lost in the swirls and sustain. It really doesn't get any better than this. John Marshall's groove is wonderous and at time reminds me of Bruford's jazzier King Crimson work.

The Man Who Waved at Trains and Peff slow things down and are more sax/keyboard influenced. Actually one tune broken in half. Curious editing.... Peff does pick things up a little, but right when it gets interesting the track becomes Four Gongs Two Drums (Curious) continuing the Peff riffage with muted sax and ends in a John Marshall drum solo.

The final track, The Floating World, is what the title suggests, an ambient piece. Obviously Jenkins wanted to put his stamp as the leader here. If I had Allan Holdsowrth in my band, we'd have ended with a flourish not put people to sleep.

I gave this 4 stars, the Hazard Profile alone is worthy. The editing and filler pieces are shakey, but the power and glory, which is Allan's creativity and style, are an excellent addition to any collection; Prog, instrumental, Jazz, Fusion.....whatever.

Dan Bobrowski | 4/5 |


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