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The Soft Machine - Fifth [Aka: 5] CD (album) cover


The Soft Machine


Canterbury Scene

3.36 | 234 ratings

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5 stars Many believe Soft Machine Third is their best LP. Fifth deserves additional consideration, even though Robert Wyatt is not involved. Fifth represents the best blend of Soft Machine's most remarkable elements: Hugh Hopper's fuzz bass, Mike Ratledge's Lowery organ, and Elton Dean's saxello. All three instruments have a fuzzy edge to them that some find irritating. A friend of mine has gone so far as to dub it "mosquito music." Give it an objective listen and compare it to what what was being released in the rock and jazz genres at that time. What distinguishes Fifth is what jazz commentator Joachim Berendt described in Soft Machine's music as "monumental coldness." Add Elton Dean's electric piano to the aforementioned trio of instruments and you have a sound that is unique and compelling. For its day, Soft Machine Fifth was the pinnacle of electric jazz and one cannot help but think that Mike Ratledge's opening number "All White" is a boast that white Brits and an Aussie could crank out the hottest jazz sounds that were being played at the time. By turns, this album swings and punishes with a palette of sounds that has never been duplicated. Fifth is the only Softs LP that works as a whole; the opening theme in "All White" is actually a segment of Elton Dean's composition "Bone," which closes the set. Thus, the LP is a complete compositional loop that includes manic, powerful solos from Ratledge and Dean and the kind of stunning spacey bass work by Hopper that was more fully explored in his album "1984." Phil Howard's drumming on the first several tracks is explosive, but controlled. John Marshall's work on the remainder is more traditional and makes one long for the excitement that Robert Wyatt conveyed on Soft Machine Four. Wyatt's absence is tolerable only because the other members crafted a beautiful and powerful set of compositions that display their best talents, without venturing into the boredome of Virtually: Parts 1 through 4.
| 5/5 |


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