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The Soft Machine - Volume Two CD (album) cover

VOLUME TWO

The Soft Machine

 

Canterbury Scene

3.98 | 326 ratings

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zravkapt
Special Collaborator
Post/Math Rock Team
5 stars One of the great early prog albums and one of the best releases from 1969, period. This is probably the second 'Canterbury' album after Caravan's debut. Only drummer/vocalist Robert Wyatt and keyboardist Mike Ratledge remain from the original line up. Daevid Allen had already left before the debut album and formed Gong by this point; bassist/vocalist Kevin Ayers left after the first album to start his solo career. Ayers' replacement was the more jazz-inclined Hugh Hopper. Along with him came a strong jazz influence which would only get stronger with each album.

One of the things you notice right away on this album is that the bass is often put through a fuzz-box. Ratledge also modifies his organ with fuzz-box and a wah-wah pedal. It was his idea to fuzz up Hopper's bass. At this point, it was mostly guitarists who used effects. After this album came out you would hear many keyboardists and bassists alter the sound of their instruments. Volume 2 was recorded after the band had toured the US with Jimi Hendrix. Andy Summers was the guitarist on that tour; he would later go on to join The Police.

The music here is mostly psych rock mixed with jazz-rock. There is an avant-garde element as well. On "Dedicated To You But You Weren't Listening" there is even a folk influence. If having a classical/symphonic influence in your prog is a prerequisite, you will be disappointed. However, you will find a little bit of a classical/symphonic influence in the songs "Have You Ever Bean Green?" and "As Long As He Lies Perfectly Still". The songs here range in length from 10 seconds to 6 minutes. The bulk of the album is made up of the two suites "Rivmic Melodies"(all of side one) and "Esther's Nose Job"(side two after the first two songs).

The album begins with an announcement from Wyatt before he recites the alphabet. "Hibou, Anemone And Bear" is one of the best songs here. It starts with fuzz bass, jazzy snare and piano before the saxes appear. Then some fuzzy organ. Later just bass and Wyatt's vocals. Some drums and organ join in. Later more saxes. Ends with cymbals and tom-toms. Wyatt then recites the alphabet backwards. In "Hulloder", Wyatt sings about how he wishes he was a black man who worked for the FBI or CIA.

"Dada Was Here" is another highlight. Wyatt sings in Spanish here. This might seem like novelty until you learn that in the early 1960s Robert lived on the Spanish island of Majorca. That island is mentioned later in the lyrics of "As Long As He Lies Perfectly Still". The music of "Dada" is mostly piano, bass and drums. I love the fuzz bass and the snare rim sound during the 'chorus'. In "Have You Ever Bean Green?", Wyatt thanks Noel, Mitch and Jim(aka The Jimi Hendrix Experience) for "our exposure to the crowd". "Out Of Tunes" is aptly titled because it has some of the most noisy avant-jazzy bits on the album.

"As Long As He Lies Perfectly Still" is yet another highlight. It has both piano and organ. The latter has a nice wah sound to it. I like the line: "heaven on earth or is it the moon". "Dedicated To You But You Weren't Listening" is a folky song with just acoustic guitar and Wyatt's voice. Hearing an acoustic guitar on a Soft Machine album is a very rare treat indeed. Some nice organ at the beginning of "Fire Engine Passing With Bells Clanging" before it gets more noisy and dissonant. "Pig" starts with some great piano and an almost metal sounding fuzz bass. This song has funny lyrics about how virgins are boring.

"Orange Skin Food" has repetative, hypnotic saxes and bass line. Also some crazy wah organ soloing. "10:30 Returns To The Bedroom" begins with electric piano and fuzz bass. When the drums come in the music is almost metal sounding. Bass gets a cleaner tone with organ. Drum roll and then a drum solo. Wah bass and guitar-like organ before some scat singing. Then an almost symphonic sounding organ while the bass noodles.

This album is a classic. If you don't like this, you have no soul. Well, maybe not, but you can't deny the influence this album had on the Canterbury Scene. One of Softs best and most consistent albums. One thing here that is sadly lacking in most prog is a sense of humour. Music in 1969 rarely got better than this. 5 stars.

zravkapt | 5/5 |

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