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The Soft Machine - Fifth [Aka: 5] CD (album) cover


The Soft Machine


Canterbury Scene

3.36 | 234 ratings

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3 stars By 1972, even Robert Wyatt had left Soft Machine, and the fifth album saw keyboardist Mike Ratledge, saxman Elton Dean and bassist Hugh Hopper plough more determinedly down the jazz-rock furrow. The absence of the whimsical charm of writers like Wyatt and founder bassist Kevin Ayers to balance out the fusion means means that while this album has some great playing, it doesn't match up to earlier Soft Machine albums, nor in fact to the work that the likes of Hatfield And The North would soon cut.

That said with new drummer John Marshall on board (Phil Howard actually drummed for the first half of the album, but Marshall was the long-term replacement for Wyatt) the new Soft Machine actually showed marginally more energy and innovation than the previous album Fourth had possessed. Unfortunately it only happened in fits and starts.

Ratledge's Drop starts off as a trippy aquatic journey that is eventually fuelled by some great exchanges between Dean and himself. Another one of his tunes, Pigland Bland is probably my favourite tune here (at least it twists and turns and rocks along nicely) but his other contributions All White and As If are jazz-rock-lite with too much "dressing" and not enough meat. In fact the last time I listened to the album the Marshall drum solo L B O actually woke me up from an "As If" slumber! Hopper's M C is quite a disappointing, aimless affair that doesn't match up and Dean's Bone is also one of those sparse ambient aural improvisations.

This album like Fourth, can get pretty boring at times, and one has a right to expect more from an innovative group like Soft Machine. ... 52% on the MPV scale

Trotsky | 3/5 |


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