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Soft Machine Legacy - Steam CD (album) cover

STEAM

Soft Machine Legacy

 

Canterbury Scene

3.76 | 31 ratings

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toroddfuglesteg
4 stars The art of fine whisky tasting is to add a drop of water to the whisky just to open up the flavours and the bouquet in the whisky. This especially goes for the more older single malt whiskies.

It is a long time since I have done some serious whisky tastings although both my office and my home is physically surrounded by whisky distilleries. But this fundamental whisky tasting rule came to me when I was listening to the version of Mike Ratledge's Chloe & The Pirates on this album. This song was originally featured on Soft Machine's Sixth album and it was a rather convoluted, restrained version of this song. Soft Machine Legacy's version on Steam, their second studio album, is nothing short of brilliant. They have added some water to the spirit and opened up the full flavours of Chloe & The Pirates. Suddenly, this song has become a masterpiece.

I wrote in my review of Live In Zaandam that Soft Machine Legacy was not entirely true to the Soft Machine name and legacy in their sound and music. Well, Steam has proven me wrong and I can only raise my hands and apologize. Steam is not a four old men returns on a Soft Machine nostalgia trip. Steam is a product of four great musicians creating something great together. Elton Dean sadly passed away before this recording and Theo Travis took over. To my knowledge, Theo Travis has never been a member of Soft Machine either.

On this album, Soft Machine Legacy takes some old Soft Machine songs and simply develops both the Soft Machine brand into a new territory....... while they are still true to the original band. Nothing on the stuff here is laid back jazz by any means. The only difference between the original band and this band is the lack of fuzz keyboards and some really hardcore woodwinds. Another difference is that Soft Machine Legacy is brilliant when it comes to the interplay between woodwinds and electric guitars. Step forward, John Etheridge and Theo Travis. Their interplay is excellent throughout. Hugh Hopper is as always excellent on bass and John Marshall proves that he is one of the best ever drummers from the British scene.

The material on this album is a mix of old and new. Chloe & The Pirates has already been mentioned and that is the easiest accessible and the best song here. The rest of the material is more dominated by intricate interplays between these four great musicians and therefore more avant-garde jazz in the old Soft Machine vein. The songs are still great though and this album captivates the listener from the very beginning to long after the last tone. "Was I just hit by a steam train there ?" is the normal reaction after the last tone has rung out from the speakers.

In short, this album is close to being a masterpiece and it should be added to everybody's record collection next to 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 from Soft Machine. I am truly won over and very happy to learn that a new studio album is scheduled for next year. Unfortunate; without Hugh Hopper who sadly passed away after the recording of this album. Steam is a fitting end to his fantastic career.

4.5 stars

toroddfuglesteg | 4/5 |

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