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The Soft Machine - Alive & Well - Recorded in Paris CD (album) cover


The Soft Machine


Canterbury Scene

2.80 | 65 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

The Quiet One
Prog Reviewer
2 stars Soft Machine's Guitar Phase continues Alive but not that Well

Can you believe Soft Machine with a violin player instead of a sax player? Well you can't, because there is a saxophone/oboe player on board, that is Karl Jenkins, but in this performance he decided to play solely the keyboards, and as a replacement to the sax/oboe there's a violin player adding a unique though not so sparking substance to Soft Machine.

The rest of the band plays equally in the jazz rock style of Bundles and Softs, and that's where the problem is. I love that style, which means I love Bundles and Softs, but with Alive & Well the compositions became very samey to the ones featured in the aforementioned albums and that's not a good thing for a band to do. However, with the complete abscence of the sax/oboe and the presence of a violin player there must be at least slight differences, right?

Well yes there is, the violin adds every now and then some decent solos but really nothing not heard already in bands like Mahavishnu Orchestra and Frank Zappa, and the absence of a sax or oboe makes it seem less Soft Machine-esque. Luckily there's John Etheridge's distinguished guitar who is here to make the album sound alike the Soft Machine which played Bundles and Softs. The rhythm section still featuring the great John Marshall also makes it valid to still call this Soft Machine.

What actually strikes you(the most) from this album rather than the presence of Rick Sanders' violin and the total disappearance of the sax/oboe, is the studio-recorded tune called Soft Space. It's a techno-dance tune! Believe me or not, I'm listening to it right now at 2:00 am and in any moment I'm going to turn on the flashy dance-club lights and will start to dance to it! However, to be sincere it's not really good unless you're a guy who likes this type of music.

To go a bit further in the description of the album, it's your typical post-'73 Soft Machine affair in which from one song to the other it flows naturally giving that always great listening experience, despite that the material on this album is not that great as already mentioned. You got to believe me when I tell you there's not a single standout tune in here, even though there's neither a bad tune either.

2 stars: Not actually bad per se, but taking in consideration Bundles and Softs, Alive & Well is a deja-vu, every note you've already heard it previously. Recommended for die-hard fans of Bundles and Softs solely. HOWEVER, if you're not able to find either of the aforementioned albums, Alive & Well is worth checking out to listen how this line-up of Soft Machine played.

The Quiet One | 2/5 |


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