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Soft Machine Legacy - Steam CD (album) cover


Soft Machine Legacy


Canterbury Scene

3.76 | 33 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
4 stars Rouded up to the fourth star!!!

Second studio album from the Legacy of one of the greatest jazz-rock band of the 70's, but as relatively evident from day one of this reformation, the Canterbury-ian elements are almost absent in this form (despite Hopper's fuzzed bass), so we're faced with a purer more conventional 70's-style jazz-rock, and sometimes downright jazz. With Elton now gone (and Hugh not yet departed for calmer skies), the newcoming Theo Travis (so to speak as most of you will know him from the Gong planet, where he subs in for Bloomdido Malherbe) is more than fine sax and even better a flute player, something absent in the Machine since Lyn Dobson's short SM tenure in early 1970.

Only one track dates back from the halcyon days, it is Ratledge's rather quiet Chloe And The Pirates, the rest being original composition, where a bit surprisingly (for a newcomer) Travis writes three of them alone and co-signs three more, out of a total of ten, all of them clocking between almost 5 to just-under 9 minutes. Hopper and Etheridge sign the rest of the songs, but participate in the communally-written tracks as well. Hopper's opening Footloose features an incendiary Etheridge guitar, but the Travis-penned near-title track has the sax taking its revenge, but royally allows the guitar some extended exposure. While Marshall's drumming is still as awesome as it was a few decades ago (see Big Man), it's mostly the presence of the guitar (not that present in the group's legacy) that dazzles, and fires up the band, while the absence of keyboards strikes a bit, so it's not that easy to instantly recognize the link between the two bands.

As you'd guess Etheridge's Black Room features some wild guitars, while Hopper and Marshall's Firefly goes slightly dissonant with Travis's flute interventions then features a short drum solo. The album explodes with the awesome Last Day's second part, maybe its best moment. So English is another feature of Steam, with its typical Hopper signature and dissonant sounds, starting slowly with flute twirls and loops, guitar strings being caressed before evolving more conventional. Definitely a step up, Dave Acto (probably De Facto) is more aggressively dissonant, stretching your patience and eardrums in the intro, but it actually is reminiscent of Gong's soundscapes in its second half. A cool wind-dominated Travis-penned track closes the album peacefully.

Well, the SML is certainly a worthy homage to its long-gone previous incarnation, even if it doesn't have the typically Canterburyan fuzzed-out keyboards and feature lots of electric guitars, you're still left with an often-brilliant jazz-rock/fusion album, that if hardly groundbreaking, it can still stand proudly in the proghead's shelves.

Sean Trane | 4/5 |


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