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SOFT MACHINE LEGACY

Soft Machine Legacy

Canterbury Scene


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4 stars Well, what do you expect from a band with that name ?

Being a pretty ardent Soft Machine fan, it is obvious that I am attracted to this band as a grizzly bear being attracted to a honey pot. And I do get my honey with this album, although not without some bees on the bargain too.

As with Soft Machine, the line up is important. In this instance, the line up is as strong as it can get. John Etheridge, Elton Dean, John Marshall and the king of bass guitars; Hugh Hopper. It's the Barcelona soccer team of fusion/jazz. This line up off course really let rip on the songs here.

Compared to Soft Machine, where do we put this album ? A blend of Softs and Sixth, in my humble view. You have Elton Dean who really attacks the songs with his woodwinds and you have John Etheridge who plays a more laid back virtuous electric guitar. Behind them, Hugh Hopper rumbles on as usual and John Marshall demonstrates why he is one of the greatest drummers of his generation.

So what's the difference between Soft Machine and Soft Machine Legacy ? There is two main differences. Soft Machine had Mike Ratledge; Soft Machine Legacy does not (Mike Ratledge is now the leading British classical music composer). The other main difference is that, and perhaps because of Mike Ratledge, Soft Machine was much more straight up in your face with a very intense, frantic sound while Soft Machine Legacy is much more laid back. Those are the main differences I have found so far.

Quality wise, the music here is great. Kite Runner starts as a fusion track more towards rock than jazz. Ratlift is a nod and a tribute to Soft Machine. Theta Meter is another great jazz tune where John Ratledge comes to the forefront. The other tracks are great too where they mix fusion with straight jazz.

My overall impression is that this is a great fusion jazz album. But what surprises me most is that these four ex Soft Machine members has not tried to copy what they did in Soft Machine. Yes, this album is a tribute to Soft Machine. But it is not a copycat of any of the Soft Machine album. Even the sound is not a Soft Machine copycat either. Soft Machine Legacy actually have their own sound, their own style and their own identity, besides of being a tribute to the great band. That is a truly great achievement in itself.

For me, this album is rather weak four star, but still an enjoyable album. I love this album more and more, I have to admit and my score took a small jump up to four star during the final two listening sessions out of my customary ten listening sessions.

For all fans of both fusion and the great band called Soft Machine, this is the band and the album for you.

4 stars

Report this review (#302436)
Posted Wednesday, October 6, 2010 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Recorded in September of 2005 these former SOFT MACHINE members have created an album that really makes me proud. Sadly this would be the last or one of the last studio albums that Elton Dean would be a part of. Of course Hugh has also passed on but i'm so thankful to have this record that they made late in their lives.So while this lineup did do a couple of live albums together this studio album was the first and last. It's cool to hear some Fender Rhodes here from Elton Dean as it really adds to the sound. In fact it's too bad that Ratledge or Jenkins couldn't have been a part of this. Regardless this is an incredible recording.

"Kite Runner" gets my attention right away with Etheridge's guitar work then the bass, drums then sax joins in.The guitar is back out front 2 minutes in. Nice bass too.The sax returns and leads 4 minutes in. Some intensity before 6 minutes. Great start ! "Ratlift" opens with drums as some sparse keys and guitar come in.This is great.The sax starts to make some noise before 5 minutes. Amazing track. Check it out 6 minutes in as we get a NUCLEUS vibe. It settles a minute later. "Twelve Twelve" opens with atmosphere and intricate guitar as cymbals, bass then sax joins in.The tempo picks up after 3 1/2 minutes. Elton is ripping it up before 5 minutes for over a minute. Nice.Tasteful guitar 6 1/2 minutes in as drums and bass support in a prominant manner.The guitar is getting more passionate.They're grooving after 9 minutes.

"F & I" is a short guitar/piano piece. Beautiful stuff. "Fresh Brew" features bass and sax as the guitar comes in. I'm reminded of Miles Davis here for some reason. Some intensity here until after 4 minutes. "New Day" is jazzy with the sax playing over top. The guitar leads for a while then the sax returns. "Fur Edge" is a cool track with that dissonant sax coming and going. "Theta Meter" opens with drums before the sax and bass join in. Great sound here. "Grape Hound" is heavy to start then the guitar, drums and bass settle in, sax too.The guitar leads when the sax stops. A calm after 3 1/2 minutes with sax. It's building. "Strange Comforts" is laid back. Sax before 1 1/2 minutes. A relaxing mood here to end it as they ride off into the sunset. Goodbye Elton and Hugh.

An incredible work that I think will surprise and impress SOFT MACHINE fans.Thanks Torodd !

Report this review (#362430)
Posted Thursday, December 23, 2010 | Review Permalink
snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars review originally written for www.jazzmusicarchives.com

The first Soft Machine Legacy studio album is very much a John Etheridge work. Yes, there are at least two original core-members from the original Soft Machine on board - sax player Elton Dean and bassist Hugh Hopper, and fourth member, drummer John Marshall, has a much longer history in the original Soft Machine than guitarist John Etheridge himself.

Even more - half of the material on this release is old Soft Machine compositions, reworked for this album. But the thing I missed most in this album's music is Soft Machine's spirit. All of this music is fully instrumental and balances somewhere between jazz-rock and instrumental rock, but comparing this with the classic Soft Machine sound reveals a lack of complexity and spirit.

On this album four Canterbury Scene veterans play relaxed and a bit unfocused hard rock variations on themes from Soft Machine's legacy. All of these musicians were original members of Soft Machine in different times, and even more strange that they often sound like a quality tribute band. This music is generally straight forward heavy-edged instrumental rock with an overloaded and almost shredding guitar sound. Hopper's bass is somewhere deep under the surface and generally has no influence on the whole sound. Dean's sax solos are sad, uninspired and sound more like attractive add-ons than part of the music. It's a pity that Dean's last released work (he died a few months after this album's release) isn't his best or greatest work.

This album is mostly for Soft Machine/Canterbury Scene collectors and heavy fans.

Report this review (#856187)
Posted Sunday, November 11, 2012 | Review Permalink

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