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The Soft Machine - Middle Earth Masters CD (album) cover


The Soft Machine


Canterbury Scene

2.63 | 23 ratings

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2 stars Very Early Softs

All but the most fanatical fans (guilty as charged!) will want to avoid this release. This captures the band in concert around the time of their first album, the trio of Kevin Ayers, Robert Wyatt, and Mike Ratledge. The acoustics, in what sounds like a concrete basement, are fairly rough, and most of Robert Wyatt's vocals are all but inaudible, though that may be his own fault for not singing directly into the mic (which can be tough to do when you're busy drumming).

This set is notable for showcasing a couple of early Kevin Ayers tunes which did not appear on a Soft Machine album but later were recorded by Kevin as a solo act -- "We Know What You Mean" (aka "Soon Soon Soon") and "Clarence in Wonderland". The versions are unremarkable, but it's fun to hear them in such early, intimate versions.

Much of the set, however, is given to extended versions of tracks from the debut, which give some idea of how noisy and unhinged this band could be in their early days. "Hope for Happiness" runs for 13 minutes, with Mike Ratledge's organ screeching away at top volume. "I Should've Known" (later retitled "Why Am I So Short/So Boot if at All" for the debut) takes a similar path. As if such free form insanity weren't enough, there's a fully improvised piece called "Disorganization" that will certainly test your patience.

I'm glad to own this, but honestly it's a rough listen. Recommended to historians only.

HolyMoly | 2/5 |


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