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The Soft Machine - Bundles CD (album) cover


The Soft Machine


Canterbury Scene

4.01 | 302 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
2 stars I find this album rather a disappointment after Six and Seven, two albums in which the band established a new sound for itself - still with its own unique personality, but more carefully positioned in a fusion context with heavier leanings towards jazz than rock. Bundles continues to provide technically competent fusion, and provides an early platform for the talents of Allan Holdsworth, but what gets to me is just how unimaginative and middle-of- the-road it is. Play a snippet of it out of context and all but the most dedicated fusion fans will struggle to guess which band is playing. Is it Passport? Brand X? It can't be Return To Forever, or Mahavishnu Orchestra, or Weather Report, or one of Miles Davis' mid-70s groups, those all have a far more unique and vibrant sound.

The fact is that whilst the music on Bundles ticks all the genre boxes and is competently performed, there's no enthusiasm, no verve, no personality to it. It's the sound of a band going through the motions, in other words. This would be Mike Ratledge's last album as a full member of the band, though it's clear on here that his heart really isn't in it any more anyway - he contributes only a tiny snippet of music in terms of compositions, and as for performance he's barely a presence in the band's sound any more. Allan Holdsworth's guitar playing is decent but doesn't really capture the imagination here. And as for drummer John Marshall - well, all I'll say about his performance is that the Robert Wyatt era never yielded a drum solo as predictable, cliched and tedious as Four Gongs Two Drums.

I won't go as low as one star on this one because it doesn't have any absolutely fatal flaws which make it a chore to listen to. But at the same time, it has absolutely nothing to make it memorable once you've listen to it. Bundles is a disposable album of disposable music, made by a once-essential band which at this point in its existence had, sadly, become disposable itself. I honestly consider it to be greatly overrated, possibly because it's the last Softs album with Mike Ratledge as a band member, and the last one before the long drawn- out death of the band, which would see increasingly unsuccessful attempts to revive its fortunes and convince the listening public that the band was a) still alive and b) still worth listening to.

I can understand this perspective. Certainly, at its best, Bundles is miles better than the great majority of the post-Ratledge material the band produced. But at its worst, Bundles makes it abundantly clear that the rot had already well and truly set in. I said that it's the sound of a band going through the motions - perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it's the sound of a dead band walking.

Warthur | 2/5 |


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