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The Soft Machine - Fourth CD (album) cover


The Soft Machine


Canterbury Scene

3.56 | 351 ratings

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4 stars If one had never heard the previous albums with their quirky beginnings in psychedelia one might enter into the world of Mike Ratledge, Hugh Hopper, Robert Wyatt, and Elton Dean thinking that these guys are 1) serious jazz musicians and 2) great masters of their instruments. The only problem is: There is very, very little here that feels or sounds like Canterbury style music--a little in "Kings and Queens" and Virtually part 3." That's it. While Dean's saxes will become more refined and creative in his more free-form future, the playing here of Robert Wyatt is the first and only time that I found myself thinking that "this is a really impressive musician." Ratledge and Hopper are really good and the addition of double bass from NUCLEUS founder Mike Babbington is awesome. Also, I still think it rather unique and brave of the band to go without a guitar player.

1. "Teeth" (9:15) Jazz! Free jazz! At least, from the saxophone. From the opening notes this song presents the band as a jazz band with little or no ties to its previous incarnations. It's too bad as this is not one of the album's better songs--even the recording mix is "off." (15/20)

2. "Kings and queens" (5:02) slow and melodic with the gentle waves of keys, toms, and cymbals to support. Ratledge is brilliant in his support and Wyatt and Hopper and Dean are impressive as well. (8.75/10)

3. "Fletcher's blemish" (4:35) pure free-form jazz in which the musicians exhibit some great control and, surprisingly, cohesiveness. (8.5/10)

4. "Virtually part 1" (5:16) jazz, pure and simple, with some nice structural experimentation. The barebones-ness of this piece gives each instrumentalists plenty of space in which to shine. (8.5/10)

5. "Virtually part 2" (7:09) enter the Lowrey organ--the last vestige of the Canterbury sound--and multiple tracks given to Elton Dean for his two instruments. Great instrumental performances--especially true of Robert Wyatt--but nothing very special melodically or emotionally. (12.5/15)

6. "Virtually part 3" (4:33) sees a step back from pacing and walls of sound as the drums check out and everybody else goes into "tuning mode." The electric bass of Hugh Hopper takes the lead while everybody else offers a kind of gentle support. It's actually kind of pretty music despite the fuzzed bass up front. (8.75/10)

7. "Virtually part 4" (3:23) smoother and more cohesive, even melodic. My favorite section of the album and the one that allows me to keep this album in the list of Canterbury favorites. (9.5/10)

Total Time: 39:13

3.5 to a Low four stars; a nice jazz album for its time but not a very glowing representative of the Canterbury Scene.

BrufordFreak | 4/5 |


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