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The Soft Machine - BBC - Radio 1967 - 1971 CD (album) cover

BBC - RADIO 1967 - 1971

The Soft Machine


Canterbury Scene

4.07 | 38 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
3 stars 3,5 stars really!!

In just two double discs Hux records will release the numerous radio sessions done for the BBC, this one ranging from the Halcyon days of 67 - where the Machine was still a psychedelic caterpillar - until 71 with the most classic line-up including Dean, Hopper, Wyatt and Ratledge. These are just the studio radio sessions but there are two others BBC live concerts available also and as usual with BBC archives the sound is pristine and the interest of them is invaluable.

On disc 1, the first five tracks are due to the line-up that recorded the debut album with Kevin Ayers singing and playing bass and this is maybe the best sounding live recording from that period. With Hope For Happiness and Strangest Scene as showcase for their dynamic qualities, that session may just be the most interesting of all the ones on the two double discs set. The next session is one of the definitive ones showing on how the tracks from Volume 2 have evolved to lead into the famous and seminal Third album. Four tracks from that album are meddled into one suite while the second track from the session is a first version (pre-album) of Moon In June where Wyatt recommends Ayers, Caravan Pink Floyd and thanks the BBC and its orchestra while singing. Du grand art, monsieur!!! This session is also invaluable because those tracks are much more often played as a foursome (with Elton Dean), but more rarely as a trio.

Then comes a strange UFO in the name of Instant Pussy (that should be more at home on a Matching Mole record although it does not sound anything like the latter MM version) that was strangely separated from the rest of the session, which closes the second disc. This anti-chronological order is due to Robert Wyatt, but it is the only one of a kind on this release! Then we jump to the mid 70 session the now classic quartet doing a medley of tracks that are present on the Third album.

Disc 2 starts with an early 71 session the band presenting the rather cold fusion (sometimes right into free jazz thanks to Elton dean's influences) of their album 4, this one not being quite interesting as there are tons of other recordings available on those tracks, although maybe not of this caliber! The next session of the same year but in June and also being of lesser interest if you have any live BBC recordings or anything on Cuneiform records. Do not get me wrong, these two sessions are absolutely essential to the unconditional fan, but again if one is of that category he will already own one or two live version of these tracks. Another strange "gift" on here is another Wyatt vocal improve playing with echoes but this is messy and like the Instant Pussy does not really belong here!

Finally comes the session from late 69 and another invaluable one as this is a rare version of the Machine as a septet before recording the third album. The lengthy medley produced here is an interesting version the machine sounding a bit like a jazzier Chicago Transit Authority with a four-man brass session as they had stripped the Keith Tippett Group from most of its collaborators, but Charig and Evans leaving relatively quickly and Dobson hanging around for just a while longer!

Apart from the two odd choices Monsieur Wyatt chose to include (I would tend to say ill- advisedly as they sort of ruin a bit the record), we have another superb Hux record release that is essential to Soft Machineheads. And apart from the parti-pris (anti-jazz rock attitude) of the liner notes from some writer, the presentation and luxurious booklet make this release hard to resist

Sean Trane | 3/5 |


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