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The Soft Machine - Softs CD (album) cover


The Soft Machine


Canterbury Scene

3.88 | 242 ratings

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The Quiet One
Prog Reviewer
4 stars There's Pierre Moerlen's Gong and there's Karl Jenkins' Soft Machine

Softs is the successor of Bundles, the first Soft Machine album which featured a guitarist that leads the band and the first Soft Machine album having the Jazz Rock style fully developed. On Softs the one on the guitar duties is a great admirer of previous guitarist, Allan Holdsworth, his name is John Etheridge. While he might barely ring a bell to anybody, he is nonetheless totally capable of fitting Allan's shoes for this record entitled Softs. John Etheridge had already shown he was capable of playing Allan's stuff back on tour in 1975 while promoting Bundles, but not only he achieved that but also added his own trademark sound to the solos making him a very distinguished jazz-rock guitarist and not just an imitator. So in Softs he plays his own style which varies through potent sentimental notes and dazzling solos which in times resembles McLaughlin's fast and intense guitar bites.

The rest of the band is unchanged with the exception of the loss of keyboardist and mastermind, Mike Ratledge, the last remaining founding member of the band. However, it's not an actual loss since the band is still capable of playing wonders without him and the rockin' jazz style of Bundles is not lost without him. Karl Jenkins being now the main composer and keyboardist puts all what he has in this record creating some of Soft Machine's greatest efforts within the jazz rock world, tunes like Ban Ban Caliban, with it's funky style but still well arranged structure shows the entire capabilities of this line-up, even featuring Rick Wakeman's cousin on the sax for a more Soft Machine-esque sound.

Another fantastic composition from this record is The Tale Of Taliesien with it's semi-tenebrous piano intro, it later evolves into a wild ride with Etheridge's consuming guitar and the unstopabble rhythm section compromised by Marshall and Babbington.

Unfortunately, it's mainly the first half of this album that is really excellent, that is up to Out of Season. The second half is rather weak and self-indulgent, beginning with Karl's spacey keyboard solo spot on Second Bundle and then having the usual drum solo by John Marshall on Kayoo and finally there are two solo spots for Etheridge's guitar, The Camden Tandem and Etika, the former featuring John's electrifying bites while the later has his delicate acoustic guitar. Not totally bad, but it's rather annoying to have so many solo tunes for each member since it totally breaks the flow which unlike the three previous albums which featured a stupendous flow from one tune to the other without any pauses nor anything.

So, Softs ends up being an incostintent but still great successor to the masterpiece that Bundles was. Excellent Jazz Rock offering which would have been a masterpiece if it wasn't for the weaker, already stated, second half.

The Quiet One | 4/5 |


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