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THIRD

The Soft Machine

 

Canterbury Scene

4.21 | 696 ratings

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The Quiet One
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Who said that the British couldn't play great jazz as the Americans?

Man, this is a psychedelic jazz gem yet to be heard by most jazz fans. Ok, probably most wouldn't dig it, but who cares? The Soft Machine's third release is one of a kind in the entire world and while it doesn't deliver spine-chilling moments as 'I Get Up, I Get Down' or climaxes as 'Apocalypse in 9/8', all of the classic Prog bands wished they could have made intense atmospheres and floating soundscapes as the ones featured on Third. Surely Miles Davis was also jealous of what this band made contemporary to the man's jazz rock experiments.

At times so fine and British-jazzy, at others so chaotic, sometimes dreamy as hell, yes, this is freaky jazz (rock?) bliss. Before I enter in details, I'd like to state that the overall production is rather weak but being 1970 not many had great productions either, so take that in mind. However, after all, this is majestic twisted jazz, who needs great production anyway?

First composition, 'Facelift', is the one that is most inclined towards free jazz and avant-garde out of the four huge compositions. It has a lot of dissonancy and experimental bits, though with repeated listens you will capture a bit of sense of the whole thing, but I got to admit that I usually skip this nowadays. Probably the only composition of the album that seems to be affected by the raw and dusty production, though it was recorded live. Mind you, when I'm in the mood for it, it's like listening to an extremely powerful and noisy rock jam which really rocks. But I probably don't get it hehe, if you're a fan of the freakier stuff of Henry Cow and The Mothers of Invention's most avant moments, and maybe some free jazz, you will get a better kick out of this than me.

Second composition, 'Slightly All the Time', announces The Machine's future albums (Fourth and Fifth), being heavily based on jazz with great saxophone playing courtesy of Elton Dean plus a great rhythm section. The composition evolves a lot, from gentle paces to faster ones, from beautiful melodies and moods to more ferocious ones. Definitely an amazing track.

Third composition is 'Moon in June', a composition that has a huge fan base and I, after repeated listens, became to be part of it. It's the only track featuring vocals; these are from the one and only Robert Wyatt, the drummer of the band. A tad bit melancholic and psychedelic at first, but in the very middle of the tune it all becomes another Soft Machine rockin' jazzy jam with a solid performance of overlooked keyboard master, Mike Ratledge. The ending is pretty much noise, featuring backward playing and a noisy violin, but since already from the beginning the track seems to be very schizophrenic in mood, it fits really well. Odd at first, but very rewarding after various listens.

Fourth composition, 'Out Bloody Rageous', is yet another incredible tune that is more akin to 'Slightly All the Time' in the jazzier aspect. But the highlight of this tune is not actually the jazzy playing, if not the five minute spacey intro which is pure bliss. Of course, the overall playing of the rest of the band in the rest of the composition is fantastic, great bass work and especially superb brass work, as well as a really fine keyboard solo courtesy of Mike Ratledge. Surely my favourite composition from the album.

No further comments other than my recommendation: Highly recommended if you're a jazz and fusion fan looking for something completely fresh, this may blow your mind, beware. For Prog fans in general, this is not an easy ride, if you're keen to delve through the Canterbury Scene you might better check Caravan or National Health, but for those of you more adventurous Prog fans who dare to listen to different kinds of music that one usually listens to, do me a favour and purchase Third.

5 stars: despite the initial track which I'm not completely fond of, the other three tracks complement the album in the greatest way, so I can't really make this a 4 stars album. This is The Soft Machine's unique jazz style masterpiece, previously they released a psychedelic jazz masterpiece, and in future years they would release a fusion masterpiece. What an amazing band.

The Quiet One | 5/5 |

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