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The Soft Machine - The Soft Machine CD (album) cover

THE SOFT MACHINE

The Soft Machine

 

Canterbury Scene

4.08 | 363 ratings

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fuxi
Prog Reviewer
4 stars This is an album I have mixed feelings about. I'd like to be able to say that it is an undisputable masterpiece of psychedelic prog, but it is not. Certainly, it has some great tunes on it. "Hope for Happiness" and "Lullaby Letter" are catchy and energetic 1960s "beat" music with great vocals, superb drumming and masterful keyboard playing. "A Certain Kind" is a prime candidate for the most soulful Soft Machine ballad ever. "Why Are We Sleeping" almost deserves its reputation as an epic, but I was a Kevin Ayers fan first, and I prefer the bombastic (but tongue-in-cheek) treatment Ayers would give this on THE CONFESSIONS OF DR DREAM.

On the other hand, the many experimental snippets, sound collages and purely instrumental passages the band managed to strew throughout this album give a rather childish and unexciting impression, especially if you compare them with the effects that had been achieved a full year earlier by their friends and colleagues, the Pink Floyd, on THE PIPER AT THE GATES OF DAWN. I doubt the Floyd were better song-writers or players, but their debut album is a Multi-Coloured Dream Machine, whereas THE SOFT MACHINE sounds monochrome by comparison. Perhaps it was Syd Barrett's manic guitar playing that made all the difference? Perhaps the Floyd just had a better producer?

Anyway, the good news is that you can now hear THE SOFT MACHINE in better form than ever, thanks to the remastered edition which appeared in 2009. This edition makes a real difference: Robert Wyatt's overdubbed vocal experiments, percussional echo effects etc. stand out more clearly than ever before. The new edition also has the considerable advantage of including the Softs' first single as a bonus. That single's original A-side, "Love Makes Sweet Music", is yet another indomitable "beat" tune (which really should have been a huge hit!) while its totally whacky B-side, "Feelin' Reelin' Squealin'", is more fun (if you ask me) than anything on the original LP, mainly thanks to Kevin Ayers's dopey vocal. (As on "Why Are We Sleeping", both he and Wyatt take care of the singing.) Unfortunately, these bonus tracks are in mono and apparently unremastered.

fuxi | 4/5 |

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