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The Soft Machine - Soft Machine & Heavy Friends  BBC In Concert 1971 CD (album) cover


The Soft Machine


Canterbury Scene

3.35 | 15 ratings

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Dick Heath
Special Collaborator
Jazz-Rock Specialist
3 stars According to Graham Bennett's Machine biography 'Out Bloody Rageous', this 1971 radio session finds the biggest line-up of Soft Machine, with some major players from the Britain 60's new jazz scene, including legendary jazz club owner and long time Machine-activist, Ronnie Scott providing tenor sax. It also finds Soft Machine in deep jazz mode but playing some familiar tunes - the centrepiece is a 30 minute plus track assembled from a number of favourites. And you'll hear too, the guest musicians successfully pushing Ratledge, Dean, Wyatt and Hopper hard. You are reminded Wyatt could swing (but no vocals here), and hold his own in this sort of company, (check out SM's 'Paradiso' for other examples), Hopper and his understated (less is more) bass, Dean throwing in the free jazz and Ratledge at his very best (too little is made of this man's keyboard skills - and here, once more, the Lowry to the fore).

And how does this CD differ from that issue by Windsong Records in 1993: 'Radio One: In Concert Soft Machine 1971': 43/ref=sr_1_0_43/202-0064998-4346254 (and apparently now commanding good prices on e-bay?) The John Peel intro, which surely questions what he claimed a couple of times in interviews before his most premature death, with respect to prog. And an additional track.

This album is an excellent snapshot of a one-off extended version of Soft Machine at their prime, experimenting hard and generating wonderful results. Hard jazz rather than jazz rock fusion - which reminds me of Ronnie Scott's quote about the session, perhaps reflecting the challenge of these compositions and arrangement : 'Can't we play some blues or "Sweet Sue"?'

Dick Heath | 3/5 |


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