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The Soft Machine - Third CD (album) cover

THIRD

The Soft Machine

 

Canterbury Scene

4.21 | 676 ratings

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Prog Sothoth
3 stars This album contains plenty of building blocks to form a masterpiece, but somehow I can't stack them together properly. I'm trying to create a sleek racing car out of Lego blocks but wind up with an outhouse on wheels. Things start off fine, but I lose my way as I'm putting those little red bricks together. By the end I can only look at my abomination of a vehicle and think "When did I go wrong?"

One of the cooler aspects of various Canterbury scene groups is that they don't seem to take themselves too seriously. If you tell some serious jazz-head that your favorite jazz tune is called "Out-Bloody-Rageous", that person might think you're either some tool mocking him or a general nitwit who thinks the most important jazz album is Queen's Jazz. The one song with lyrics offer thought provoking musings like:

"On a dilemma between what I need and what I just want

Between your thighs I feel a sensation

How long can I resist the temptation?

I've got my bird, you've got your man

So who else do we need, really?"

That's the spirit! I love that attitude. The musicianship is pretty much top notch as well. Some great saxophone solos can be found in "Slightly All The Time" and there's lots of gorgeous keyboard work, especially within "Out-Bloody-Rageous". Guitars and bass are given some stellar moments to shine on "Moon In June", and there's some cool avant-garde experimentation to boot, particularly early on in "Facelift". I even dig the album cover with its funky font that screams 1970. So what's my deal?

This stuff gets tiring. It's four monster-length tracks that certainly do some wild things, but often meander about as if the band were trying to decide what to do next. As a result, I get lulled, and then something cool peps me up again, but I start feeling the lethary again and so on. I actually lose interest in "Facelift" when it becomes an actual song; I find the opening weirdness more entertaining. "Slightly All The Time" is better, a pretty nice fusion track with good solos, but it's actually the least adventurous of the lot, and that aspect sort of wears me out after awhile since jazz is not my forte by any means. "Moon In June" possesses the Canterbury prog rock sound complete with soft vocals, but it feels stretched out and padded, as if the need for this tune to be an LP side-long excursion took precedence over qualities that would have benefited the song. "Out-Bloody-Rageous" is probably my favorite of the four, since I love how the song weaves and branches from atmospheric landscapes to fusion feral-ness and back again. It's still a little long, but I can live without any cuts in time length to this number.

It was a quite an ambitious effort, and remains regarded by many as their greatest work. I think it's just not my style. Maybe one day I will figure out all these Lego blocks lying around to construct a metaphorical image of how great Third is. Maybe I'll follow the wisdom of "Moon In June" instead and focus on birds instead of blocks. I can say this, if you're into jazz/rock fusion and don't mind a little trippiness, you need to hear this if you haven't already. For someone like me who likes a TON of trippiness and a TON of rock but has a hard time dealing with 20 minute jazz tracks, it's a bit of a different story.

Prog Sothoth | 3/5 |

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