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The Soft Machine - Land of Cockayne  CD (album) cover

LAND OF COCKAYNE

The Soft Machine

 

Canterbury Scene

2.98 | 88 ratings

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Zac M
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Take it for it what it is. That is what you need to be thinking as you listen to this album. This is only a Soft Machine album in name. There are really only two members of the band here, and they were not even original members. If you listen to this with an open mind and realize that this is primarily a Karl Jenkins and John Marshall collaboration with various guess stars (Allan Holdsworth, Dick Morissey, et al...), you might actually enjoy it. Now on to the review.

The album opens with a very riffy number entitled "Over 'n Above." It features a wonderful catchy sax part with a steady percussion (John Marshall) and bass line (Jack Bruce). Karl Jenkins decided to add background vocals and string parts where he is the conductor. The sax part is a highlight of this piece, although it is much smoother than in previous Softs releases. This is a very laid-back composition.

Next comes "Lotus Groves," a more new age style piece. This is probably the weakest composition on the whole album, although the keyboard parts are still excellent. However, the title is appropriate because the piece does have an ethnic feel to it.

"Isle of the Blessed", a purely classical composition in nature, serves as a marvelous introduction to what is IMO the highlight of the entire album, "Panoramania." It is an upbeat piece that starts out with a nice sax part by and incredible drumming by John Marshall with the string arrangements in the background. John Taylor then gets an incredible solo on the Fender Rhodes. The fist side ends with "Behind the Glass Curtain," again a more new age style piece featuring sax and keyboards.

Side two begins with "Palace of Glass," which continues in the new age realm of things, creating a soft and serene mood. "Hot Biscuit Slim" is extremely catchy and features yet another great sax part. Another new age sounding piece, "(Black) Velvet Mountain," is next. This and the next track are probably the only pieces where Holdsworth's presence is fully felt. On most of the other tracks, he seems to take a step back. The track continues on with yet another sax solo. "Sly Monkey" (the titles are getting a bit silly) has even more featured sax parts and another Holdsworth solo. By now the music starts to wear a liyyle thin and the pieces seem to all sound very similar even if that was not Jenkin's intention. The album closes with another short piece in the smooth laid-back jazz style, "' A Lot of What You Fancy...'"

Overall, this is a pretty good album. My main issues with it are that many of the compositions are similar in nature, and Holdsworth's presense is rarely felt like on "Expresso II." This is definitely not the place to start with the Softs. Although, for an avid fan of them or any smooth jazz, this a good album to listen to. Karl Jenkin's does a fine job as a composer on this album. 3 stars.

Zac M | 3/5 |

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