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BUNDLES

The Soft Machine

Canterbury Scene


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Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
4 stars (eighth in a serie of eleven)

4.5 stars really!!! Wow after an almost two year gap the Machine is back and what a slap this album was. The fact that they had changed label (now on the superb Harvest) and a new musical direction (their previous one had come to a dead-end) makes this album a must for anyone into fusion music.The great return of the guitar (and what a Guitar) as it had been absent since the very first (prototype) album with Daevid Allen. By now , the music on this album does not have much in common with Third either as everyone of those album moved a little further in this implacable musical direction. Holdsworth (yet another ex-Nucleus man) really brings two dimensions absent in previous album: energy and a different writing possibility (due to the particularity of the guitar). However it is now clear that the man behind the driving wheel is Karl Jenkins (both on KB and reeds) as he pens to himself the side-long suite on the first side. Side 2 is more eclectic both in terms of writers but also musical contents. We are once again "blessed" with a Marshall drum solo.

If most purists are dismissing the Soft Machine album after Third, this one and Softs should be played to them to understand that the psychadelic caterpillar has now become the flamboyant fusion butterfly.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#22085)
Posted Tuesday, February 03, 2004 | Review Permalink
Dan Bobrowski
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Soft Machine fans feel this era of the band was a let down. Mike Ratledge, the remaining original member turned the reins over to Karl Jenkins. Many felt all was lost. Too bad for those who couldn't grasp the forward looking music this disc brought to the table.

A young guitarist, fresh from his work with Ian Carr and John Hiseman, Allan Holdsworth arrived to add some fiery solos to a Keyboard/Sax based unit. His incredible speed and unusual melodic creations would bring him to the attention of Tony Williams and Jean-Luc Ponty. Allan's playing is horn-like with smooth legato runs, string skipping accuracy and shifting dynamics.

Many of the tunes are bases for Alan's exhilarating style and fresh approach. The Hazard Profile, an epic, is split into 5 parts. Due to some questionable editing, parts 3 and 4 don't quite jibe in relation to a beginings and endings, rather a break in the central part of a theme, curious. Maybe a re-mastering could play attention to the movements and edit accordingly. Part one sets the stage for introducing the audience to their new found member. Allan solos with such power and finesse. Todays aspiring guitarist would be wise to give this recording serious consideration for a showcase in study. Part two is a piano/acoustic guitar duet, very subdued and peaceful. Parts 3 and 4 give ratledge and Jenkins some room for their keyboard and sax work. Part 5 features another ripping solo from Allan.

Gone Sailing is a way too short exhibition of Allan's acoustic playing. Allan gave up on acoustic guitar a few years later because of his disdain for the string noise created by the guitarist changing postions on the fret board. Too bad. His acoustic playing is beautiful and unusual.

Bundles sounds like many future Holdsworth tunes in melody and compostion. A Strong Melodic pattern followed by a bubbling repeated bass line, which Allan begins creeping along over slowly with little flashes and sparks, building and evolving. Cymbals clatter and snare snaps while kick drum propels the movement and it breaks to the Land of the Bag Snake. Electric piano comps along while Holdsworth plays some of the tasty melodic work that made his 70's sideman work so special and timeless. You get lost in the swirls and sustain. It really doesn't get any better than this. John Marshall's groove is wonderous and at time reminds me of Bruford's jazzier King Crimson work.

The Man Who Waved at Trains and Peff slow things down and are more sax/keyboard influenced. Actually one tune broken in half. Curious editing.... Peff does pick things up a little, but right when it gets interesting the track becomes Four Gongs Two Drums (Curious) continuing the Peff riffage with muted sax and ends in a John Marshall drum solo.

The final track, The Floating World, is what the title suggests, an ambient piece. Obviously Jenkins wanted to put his stamp as the leader here. If I had Allan Holdsowrth in my band, we'd have ended with a flourish not put people to sleep.

I gave this 4 stars, the Hazard Profile alone is worthy. The editing and filler pieces are shakey, but the power and glory, which is Allan's creativity and style, are an excellent addition to any collection; Prog, instrumental, Jazz, Fusion.....whatever.

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Send comments to Dan Bobrowski (BETA) | Report this review (#22086)
Posted Wednesday, February 25, 2004 | Review Permalink
lsjkghigh34@n
4 stars Just forget about the legend of "Genuineness" of the original band. Bundles is all about musical creativeness and intensity blending Improvisational Rock and Avant-Jazz courageously. You can get yourself absorbed in this very well-structured album without marijuana.:) A highly-recommended one for any Prog/Jazz fans.

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#22087)
Posted Friday, August 13, 2004 | Review Permalink
hdfisch
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Edited 10/15/2005!

I was so amazed during listening of this album, because it sounds that much different from all previous albums. And although not being any innovative or experimental what disappointed probably many fans it's still an awesome masterpiece in jazz fusion. In fact the only change in line-up compared to "Seven" was that Allan Holdsworth joined them and I have to say the addition of this fantastic guitar player provided a nice more rocking touch to their sound, which was very much dominated by keyboards on the previous one.

The album starts very calmly building up some tension and already the first and longest part of the 5 parts- piece "Hazard Profile" is very excellent and just awesome, Holdsworth's playing is divine as usually and the interplay with the keyboards is fantastic. The result is just great jazz rock fusion kept under control by Marshall's strong drum work. I really never heard something like this from them on any previous album and somehow one has the impression it's a complete different band playing. Part 2 is very quiet featuring soft piano and acoustic guitar. Part 3 and 4 are more or less introduction for the last one which is again an up-tempo piece with excellent play of guitar, keyboards and drums. The title track is the next highlight as is "Land Of The Bag Snake" and all the rest of the album. I think this album features one of Allan's hardest playing. Really worth giving 5 stars and must-have for any jazz rock fan!!!!!!

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Send comments to hdfisch (BETA) | Report this review (#22089)
Posted Thursday, December 30, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars I'm the one who likes Karl Jenkins era in Soft Machine i.e. from 'Sixth' on ; precedeing albums are for me to avantgarde, respectively to jazzy. From the opening track, which is a variation of Jenkins' theme 'Song for a bearded lady' from his Nucleus period (excellent 'We'll talk about it later' album), to the closing 'Floating world' Jenkins' tune is clearly recognizable. As usual, he wrote most of the material, although each member has contributed in creation of this album on which there is no weak point. Allan Holdsworth's virtuoso guitar playing is impressive, whole band performance is excellent-my favourite Soft Machine album.

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Send comments to bsurmano (BETA) | Report this review (#22090)
Posted Friday, December 31, 2004 | Review Permalink
Philo
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Not the album I was expecting. I had the Softs album for a while and heard that this one was better but I find Alan Holdsworth and his guitar playing a bit on the boring side. Give me Elton Dean and Hugh Hopper and their crazy soloing any day, but this does nothing for me. The only remotely inspiring tracks were the Mike Rateledge number(s), Jenkins material is all wank and no feeling! At this point they really ceased to have been the Soft Machine and should have changed their name accordingly rather than let it become a franchise! Soft Machine in name only, not by numbers!

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Send comments to Philo (BETA) | Report this review (#22091)
Posted Thursday, January 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
I_I_IooooI_I_
5 stars I know, I know. I admit my lack of knowledge about previous material from Soft Machine. But, hey, you can hear Holdsworth playing real hard on this. I think of this album somewhat as the Gazeuze from Gong. I love this album, and you should give it a try. Enjoy it!

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#22093)
Posted Monday, May 16, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is a unique record by Soft Machine standards,mainly because it features Alan's guitar playing more than keyboard ,bass or drums as in earlier recordings of Soft Machine.This said ,I commend the band for paying notice to an emerging fresh vibrant virtuostic and original voice on guitar. Also I do not believe this record was recorded in 1975 ,I believe it was recorded in 1973 or early 1974 because this was done before he played with Tony Williams Lifetime's "Believe It " and " Million Dollar Legs" which came out in 1974 and 75 .I am fairly certain about this, however I if I am incorrect please let us know definitively... What makes this record so great ,is that to my knowledge , it is the first record of Alans' that features him playing both acoustic and electric guitar. His legato style phrasing and tone completely changed the voice, approach, velocity and sophistication of both jazz and rock at the same time . When I heard Hazard Profile for the first time I had to check my turntable to see if it was playing at the right speed because I had never heard a player so clean ,clear, uninhibited ,tender ,furious, unpretentious and sublime all at the same time. Also ,the chord voicings he used were very deep,sensitive and unlike anyone in this field. There are so few records of Alans' acoustic work which is unique,and phenomenal .I have never heard anyone play acoustic with his legato style with such deliberation and intensity while at the same time not seeming as if he is playing at the edge of his ability.He never seems harsh or as if he's trying to prove something about his musical status. This man has good things in his heart,mind and soul.I'm sure this record might tax the common persons ability to be challenged by his awesome talent. For fans of Alans' this record is an absolute must have.If you are bored by this type of playing you might want to check and see if you have a pulse...and brain while your at it. As for the rest of the fellas in the band, the playing is at least above average for that period . Whoever was responsible for involving Alan definately had an ear for talent and a will to progress.Also my understanding is that it was upon the hearing of this recording which landed him the gig with Tony Williams. This is a great guitar record , and a very unique and interesting Soft Machine record. This is my favorite record of Soft Machine.

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Send comments to jimijune (BETA) | Report this review (#22094)
Posted Saturday, May 21, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars It took me about one year but I finally found this album on record. It's to bad they stopped making it on cd, because this is one great album. We see the amazing Allen Holdsworth join the band and turn Soft Machine from a complex,sax/organ based band to a band with great solos and rifts you can imagine. Hazard Profile is one of the best things to listen to with part one jamming away with the opening rift to the seven minutes of fast pace guitar soloing. Two is a piano solo by Jenkins with the classical influence in play. Three is a cresendoing bridge to the longest rift I ever heard on four. Five goes into a sleek sax/keyboard rift with Mike Rateledge going into some wild solos on the synth. Gone Sailing is a short sweet acostic solo be Holdsworth play some twisted harmonics and chords. Side two opens with the dark rocker Bundles bleeds into to Land of The Bag Snake a nice fusion piece. The Man who Waves at Trains is a mellow soft song with picks up into the the last sax solo piece by Jenkins not to mention Rateledge last piece as well. Four Gongs and Two Drums is Marshall going into and Asian influence with this wired solo. Then to my personal favorite The Floating World with the synth mendering on and on and Ray Warleigh on flute, and probably John Marshalls only attemp to play the xylophone on maramba what ever it is. Highly recommended to anyone who loves guitar or great 70's jams,if you can find the album.

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Send comments to downtheroad25 (BETA) | Report this review (#35533)
Posted Tuesday, June 07, 2005 | Review Permalink
Alucard
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is one of my favourite Soft Machine records and IMHO their last good record.In the two years since 'Seven' the Quartet has become a Quintet by integrating Alan Holdsworth on guitar. Most of the tracks are composed by Jenkins and on this record there is a good equilibrium between the gentler side of Jenkins' compositions and the powerful playing of Holdsworth,Marshall and Babbington. The first side starts with a long suite 'Hazard Profile' , which is based on an older composition, Jenkins did for Nucleus ( 'Song for the bearded lady'). 'Gone sailing ' a short Holdsworth acoustic guitar solo ends Side One. Side 2 starts with the title track, another Jenkins composition, followed by a second Holdsworth composition 'Land of the bag snake' . Mike Ratledge is only present with one composition in two parts 'the man who waved at trains/ Peff ' with an interesting bassline.' Four Gongs two drums' is a John Marshall solo and the records ends with a another Jenkins composition 'the floating world' a minimal piece with a beautiful melody.

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Send comments to Alucard (BETA) | Report this review (#39154)
Posted Monday, July 11, 2005 | Review Permalink
Rivertree
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Psych/Space Team & Band Submissions
5 stars Bundles of Jazz Rock

My prefered SOFT MACHINE album. Not so experimental as the former outputs but therefore pure Jazz Rock/Fusion with a lot of jamming. The band line-up was enhanced with the inclusion of a guitarist and they could convince Allan Holdsworth. No-one else might have done this job better.

For example Hazard Profile Part 1 which is a fantastic kickstart for this album. The main theme is copied from Song for the bearded lady released in 1970 when Karl Jenkins and John Marshall were playing with NUCLEUS. But nevertheless this song gets new accents because of the excellent guitar part by Holdsworth who has enough space for demonstrating his ability. Part 2/3/4 are a nice contradiction to the uptempo beginning but with Part 5 the songs speeds up again.

Gone Sailing is a short acoustic interlude and followed after a minute by the fusion title song Bundles which has to be estimated together with the next four tracks as a matter of fact. Principally they are a suite with parts blending into each other where some other members of the band also get the chance to shine. Even John Marshall with his Four gongs and two drums. The album is closed by The Floating World, a song which is differing to the rest. An ambient piece with nice flute attendance in a very melancholic mood written by Jenkins.

'Bundles' is a SOFT MACHINE masterpiece in my opinion, a classic of Progressive Rock whereas Allan Holdsworth contributes a considerable proportion.

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Send comments to Rivertree (BETA) | Report this review (#48154)
Posted Saturday, September 24, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Album of SOFT MACHINE announced in 1975 "Bundles". The guitarist is finally made to join and the tone of the ensemble has been enhanced. Respect as thrilling more technical than the former work, jazz-rock becomes strong. It is a work to which the speed feeling of the performance increases. "The Floating World" is a masterpiece.

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Send comments to braindamage (BETA) | Report this review (#49225)
Posted Thursday, September 29, 2005 | Review Permalink
Slartibartfast
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars What do Soft Machine and Gong have in common? Both bands had two versions that were practically different bands musically speaking and Alan Holdsworth played in both of them!

It's a shame that Bundles is currently out of print. I have to rank this as my favorite Soft Machine album. Holdsworth seems to freshen up thing a bit musically. Hell, this is almost more of a Holdsworth album than a Soft Machine album and that's not a bad thing for me.

Holdworth steps out of the band for The Floating World,(I think) and we get a piece that is of a more ambient music nature than anything you'll hear by SM. It's one of my favorites. Turnoffyourmindrelaxandfloatdownsteam.

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Send comments to Slartibartfast (BETA) | Report this review (#135558)
Posted Thursday, August 30, 2007 | Review Permalink
febus
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam
4 stars ANOTHER NEW SIDE OF SOFT MACHINE.

You never cannot get bored easily with SOFT MACHINE! There is always something new happening. After the good, but average SEVEN , the band will come back with quite a few surprises, and good ones at that. Not that any regular members left, but a new one has been added, one that will drastically -again-change the sound of SOFT MACHINE. His name is ALLAN HOLDSWORTH - who is gonna make a big name out of himself later on- and he plays ...guitar!! The guitar, this is not a word assimilated with the SOFT MACHINE name in the same sentence usually! Last time i checked, HUGH HOPPER played some acoustic on VOLUME 2 on his track DEDICATED TO YOU BUT YOU WEREN'T LISTENING, and that was nothing lead.

Not only there is a guitarist, but the band gives him the main stage to shine throughout the whole recording; Yes, BUNDLES is a guitar driven album where the other musicians instruments take more or less a backseat behind the guitar profusion of ALLAN HOLDSWORTH. Not only we can hear memorable scorching guitar bravado, but there are also some delicate acoustic passages quieting the mood of this album.

Another big change we can notice is that this album is not ''numbered'' as usually and don't carry the name ''EIGHT'' as one would have expected! Now we have BUNDLES showing clearly who the new boss in town is. KARL JENKINS now has almost complete artistic control of the band as more and more the lone original member is relegated in the background bringing to the table only 2 short pieces THE MAN WHO WAVED AT TRAINS and PEFF. Of course, JOHN MARSHALL is back with his customary percussions solo track named FOUR GONG AND TWO DRUMS.

I always wondered many times why MIKE RATLEDGE who was the main architect of the SOFT MACHINE sound and its main composer pratically gave up artistic power to a rather recent newcomer KARL JENKINS before actually leaving the band for good. Not only RATLEDGE would leave the band but also witdrew from the music scene completely, never to be heard again (until a percussion programing !!!!20 years later on the ADIEMUS project....with KARL JENKINS!). This is a unique case in the whole world of prog. I can only guess the passion and drive for creating music and touring took a toll and left him for good.He never has released a solo album or been part of any musical reunions or one-time musical events. Never! MIKE RATLEDGE has left the music building very discreetly without fanfare with no return address!!

BUNDLES is a typical jazz/rock fusion album well in the spirit of the time-1975- not trying any new ground as SOFT MACHINE used to in the past. But that's a very refreshing album, thanks to the guitar of ALLAN HODSWORTH who is having a lot of fun, especially on the ex-side 1 which featureS the fantastic suite HAZARD PROFILE , a suite in 5 movements alternating strong rock rythms where HOLDSWORTH shines furiously and more mellower passages with beautiful gentle piano playing. HAZARD PROFILE is the jewel of the album which showcase the great compositional qualities of KARL JENKINS. As good as the best other great fusion bands would come up with back then.

This is a new SOFT MACHINE, a new sound ,a band that could be aggressive now ''rocking'' and could be at the same time a very introspective and delicate band with beautiful tracks such as the wonderful ambient THE FLOATING WORLD and its haunting flute playing or some of the quiet parts of the suite.

Some old fans complained that SOFT MACHINE was merely following now the path opened by other Jazz/rock giants not creating anything new like the ''old good'' SOFT MACHINE that was not shy to experiment. I am not one of those as i think the band needed new blood and a refreshened sound as the band became to static artistically.And the best has yet to come!!!!

4 STARS.

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Send comments to febus (BETA) | Report this review (#136542)
Posted Thursday, September 06, 2007 | Review Permalink
tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover Team
5 stars Memories! Early 1975, I attended a Soft Machine concert in Montreal with Maneige opening. I was very busy salivating over my first true girlfriend attributes (a buxom blond from France) but eventually my lust-drenched attention veered to Roy Babbington's superfuzzed bass and by the time Holdsworth kicked in on his rather messy Gibson SG, she was visibly pouting at my sudden lack of affectionate desire. To her immense credit, she started groovin' to the weird music being played (I guess live shows by Genesis, Ekseption and Gentle Giant helped alter her tastes). They played this amazing album just as it is laid out on record, opening with the "Hazard Profile" suite, blasting through the title track and finishing with "Floating World". (Check out the YouTube video snippets from that tour!). Even though the keyboard duo of Ratledge (what an odd sound from his organ, obviously his machine ain't soft!) and Jenkins paved a rich ivory tapestry to play on, with Babbington and Marshall putting down some fierce jazz-rock rhythms (the word "progressive" did not yet exist , in those days), truth must be said that former Tempest guitarist Allen Holdsworth's virtuosity really stole the show, thus launching a burgeoning career, first with JL Ponty, Gong , Bill Bruford and Tony Williams' Lifetime. By the time he joined super group UK (saw that concert too, in 1978), his fame was set in stone. So what's the big deal, you dare ask? Well, firstly, he was trained as a jazz purist and yet made his bed in the somewhat decadent world of rock and secondly, he had the audacity to incorporate yet unheard combinations of tone and sequence, sneeringly dissonant chord work and some of the strangest melodic solos ever put to disc. In one word: Original! This is why this recording really smokes and is rightly considered to be a revered icon, remembering that Soft Machine had not used a guitarist since the very early pre-album years (future Daevid "Going Going Gong" Allen and Andy "The Cop" Summers ). Seek out this seminal offering and check out what all the fuss was/is about, perhaps then your prog machine will harden! Finally, I get to agree with Hughes, our senior prog pundit , after so many attempts, time for a Duvel! A ta Sante! 5 holds worth of stars

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Send comments to tszirmay (BETA) | Report this review (#149785)
Posted Friday, November 09, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Another amazing album of this band. Lot of improvisations in guitar and keiboard's but unfortunately the guitar player " Allan Holdworsth "was not so fast that in live performances. I think that this band is a Jazz Fusion band and with high instrumental performances, specialy in improvisation parts, when all band elements have a good balanced. Very good guitar and drum's player's and exist a record in a bootleg, I think, called Bundles Live, when the guitar solo are the most fast that I heard, in Hazard Profile performance. If you can listen this live performance you give me reason, because this dizzy scales of guitar are quite uniques and more fast that in Child in Time guitar performance in Made in Japan Deep Purple album. This is a good album, not boring and essential for improvisation music fans. Another one of the best albuns of this canterbury scene band.

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Send comments to Joăo Paulo (BETA) | Report this review (#220754)
Posted Friday, June 12, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars WOW !!

It is obvious that Allan Holdsworth's inclusion on guitars was the kick Soft Machine needed. His guitars are excellent. The Bundles album kicks of with his guitars at the nine minutes long opening track Hazard Profile Part 1. This track is a solid jazz-rock track and a break with the stuff from their previous albums. It is also like a breath of fresh air, in my view. The rest of Hazard Profile is a mix of jazz rock and a return to the old Soft Machine from Third onwards.

Gone Sailing is a piece of Allan Holdsworth on accoustic guitars. I believe that is a first on a Soft Machine album. A nice fifty seconds long track btw. The second excellent track on this alum is the title track Bundles. This is an excellent melody which is played almost as an improvisation with Allan Holdsworth on his electric guitars, backed up by hammond organs, drums and bass. This is one of Soft Machines best ever pieces of music.

After some other interesting pieces of music with the usual Soft Machine fingerprints all over them, we arrive at the third truly excellent track on this album. It is called The Floating World. This is an unusual piece of music for this album. It is not jazz rock. It is Soft Machine staring back at their previous four albums. It is a melancholic meditation with flute which ebbs and flows. This too is one of the best pieces of music Soft Machine has ever released.

Some says this is an untypical Soft Machine album. I disagree. In my view, they just did some tweaking on the Soft Machine formula after a slight stagnation on Six and Seven. Yes, it is a jazz rock album of sorts. But it is not a generic jazz rock album. It is jazz rock on Soft Machine's own terms. A couple of better tracks and this album would had been perfect. Anyway, Bundles is a truly stunning album.

4.5 stars

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Send comments to toroddfuglesteg (BETA) | Report this review (#250363)
Posted Friday, November 13, 2009 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars I feel like one of the few out there who loved "Seven" the previous album. We get the same lineup on "Bundles" except for one major addition, the great Allan Holdsworth on guitar. "Bundles" isn't as structured as "Seven" in fact there's a lot of jamming going on which I like, especially when Holdsworth is involved. By the way everyone in this lineup except for Ratledge played with NUCLEUS. In fact the main theme for the opening track is taken from NUCLEUS' "Song For The Bearded Lady" which was a Jenkins composition.

"Hazard Profile Part 1" opens with church bells before the drums of Marshall come in then a full band sound before a minute. Love the repetitive guitar melodies from Holdsworth. It settles a little before 3 minutes as the guitar solos and bass throbs. Marshall is great here. This is the Allan Holdsworth show though. Organ is back 7 1/2 minutes in. "Part 2" opens with laid back piano melodies. Acoustic guitar helps out part way through. "Part 3" builds to a full sound with guitar out in front. This continues in "Part 4". "Part 5" is where the drums take the lead. I like the way the keyboards come and go. Incredible sound here. "Gone Sailing" is a minutes worth of acoustic guitar.

"Bundles" reminds me of CAMEL early, I think it's the guitar. A change a minute in where i'm reminded of MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA. The bass, guitar and drums are excellent here. It's like they're all ready to explode but they don't. Organ before 3 minutes. It blends into "Land Of The Big Snake". Check out the guitar and drumming on this one. The bass and piano really add to the sound as well. It settles 3 minutes in. "The Man Who Waved At Trains" features intricate drumming and keyboards. Very laid back. Sax and aboe join in. Such a pleasant and relaxing sound. It blends into "Peff" but picks up speed. Same sound though. It blends into "Four Gongs Two Drums" where the intensity is raised once again. A change late as we get a Marshall drum solo. "The Floating World" features guest Ray Warleigh on flutes. They picked the title well because this is floating music with a TANGERINE DREAM vibe even, except for the flute melodies.

I can't say enough about this album or this band.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#253567)
Posted Sunday, November 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
The Quiet One
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Allan Holdsworth's Soft Machine

With the inclusion of a guitarist, and not any, if not the one and only Allan Holdsworth, The Soft Machine could fully develop and deliver the jazz rock style that was featured on both previous albums, Six and Seven. While Allan was the key-factor to produce this, the other ''sections'' of the bands still offer quite a lot:

The 'rhythm section' compromised by John Marshall and Roy Babbington had already showed their capability as a team on Seven, so in Bundles they continue being relentless, Roy with his persistent bass lines and John with his variety of delicate jazz fills and rapid powerful ones.

The 'keyboard section' formed by founding member Mike Ratledge and Nucleus' keyboardist, Karl Jenkins, had also showed their capability as a team already since Six, adding lots of jazzy runs as well as some spacey stuff. However, what is highly surprising in this album, is that the keyboards are pretty much in the background, it's shocking in comparison to the complete keyboard driven Seven.

The 'solo section' while mainly being compromised by recently arrived Allan Holdsworth, being the main performer on Bundles delivering plenty of solos full of originality and energy, though not his finest I've got to admit, there's still the ocassional solo spot for either Karl's sax/oboe, Mike's synths and John's drum kit. John playing a drum solo on the tune 'Four Gongs Two Drums'.

As for the music, the trend of relating each track with the following is also present here, so again expect a flawless flow making some unrelated(by name) tunes be related forming one big great piece and that's the case from 'Bundles' up to 'Four Gongs Two Drums' making one related big piece of 14 minutes. The other standout is obviously the 19 minute splitted piece called 'Hazard Profile' which showcases all the characteristics from the stated sections.

Bundles in its essence features the line-up Soft Machine had been waiting for since Six, which is the reason why the album is so darn good and the reason why it overshadows the, similar in style, antecessors. While definitely not being in the style of the albums that made Soft Machine a popular Canterbury band, those were Third and both Volumes, Bundles shows us once again that this band is capable of playing diferrent varieties of jazz forms and still play them at full steam with all of the Machine's originality, this doesn't sound like Mahavishnu Orchestra or Retrun to Forever. Soft Machine's jazz rock masterpiece.

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Send comments to The Quiet One (BETA) | Report this review (#256030)
Posted Monday, December 14, 2009 | Review Permalink
Kazuhiro
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars The flow of the work might have indeed reflected passage as the band in the album when talking about the history of their music characters. Changing places of the member who was related to the band by the album indeed had various respects as an impression of the work.

Especially, the side of the album is greatly reflected in the tune for the album of Soft Machine. And, the listener might have to go back the music character that they did when listening to this album if he or she is possible.

Time can be divided by some delimitations when thinking about the passage of their music characters and albums. Especially, if this album is considered, a very important point will include the content and the flow of "Six" and "Seven" announced in 1973. It is thought that it is evidence to contain the important factor by the time "Six" and "Seven" reach this album as passage of their music characters.

As for an important part, the existence of Karl Jenkins and John Marshall will be enumerated for the band including the revolution of the music character when thinking about some respects. Especially, the composition of the tune that valued the music score that Karl Jenkins thought about was a major break for Soft Machine. Respect of the composition had greatly acted on the music character of the band. The music character to listen by "Six" and "Seven" might have decided groping and the extension of the directionality that the member who was related to the band at the same time as showing that the band had surely revolutionized it thought about.

As for details until reaching the flow of Jazz Rock and this album with diversity to listen by "Seven", very various methods might have been tested though the flow became a flow with shape that Nucleus unites with Soft Machine as a result.

Point that part where band valued perfection that Karl Jenkins gradually thinks about as some respects when talking about this album appears remarkably. It has respect different from the music character when Hugh Hopper and Elton Dean are surely on the register. And, the point to have excluded the figure mark used for the title of the current album. And, the point that transfered the register from CBS that contracts to EMI/Hervest and was announced. Or, the participation of Allan Holdsworth that surely decided the position of the guitar since Daevid Allen and Andy Summers might have sent a new wind for the band as a history of the band. Allan Holdsworth miraculously participated in "Belladonna" that Nucleus had announced in 1972. If Mike Ratledge that had flexibility in the flow of "Six" and "Seven" of course and was reactive did not exist, this album might not have been approved.

"Hazard Profile Part 1" might be a tune that shows that the band completely revolutionized it. And, it might be a highlight in the tune of this album. Riff of repeated aggressive guitar. Obbligati with tension in close relation to complete dash feeling. The flow reaches the peak from the start. The tune receives Solo of the guitar stabilizing. The performance of Allan Holdsworth that unifies complete Solo to the progress of Chord will be able to be counted as one of eminent Solo. The band produces high-quality Jazz Rock with the dash feeling continued in union.

A beautiful piano melody of "Hazard Profile Part 2" is impressive. It might be understood that Mike Ratledge always pulled the atmosphere of Softs. And, the melody of an acoustic guitar in close relation to a beautiful piano contributes to the tune. The tune shifts to the following flow with a gentle impression kept.

As for "Hazard Profile Part 3", the melody of the organ and the melody of the guitar with Sustain are impressive. The tension gradually expands width. This tune plays the role of the intro to go to "Part 4".

"Hazard Profile Part 4" puts out atmosphere that Riff of an aggressive guitar is a little like to Blues Rock. Riff of the guitar repeated to a steady rhythm is connected with "Part 5" at once.

"Hazard Profile Part 5" receives the flow from "Part 4" and produces the dash feeling at once. The melody of the synthesizer with originality in the flow that appoints the rhythm of seven twines. Each part might indeed include diversity though the tune is advanced from "Part 1" by the composition of the suite. Solo of Mike Ratledge is indeed refreshing.

"Gone Sailing" is solo with the guitar. The picking of original harmony and harmonics that are has been taken. It might be a part where the directionality of the new band presented because the band introduced the guitar was exactly shown.

In "Bundles", the theme with which the tension overflows in close relation to the rhythm of six is a feature. The tension with a good guitar and organ presents the element that looks like Improvisation that the band originally had. And, Solo of the guitar to contribute to the sound of the band completely will have a good flow. However, because Karl Jenkins made it, some calculation might be given as for this tune. To shift to the following development further, the tune heads for the top.

As for "Land Of The Bag Snake", the sound of the guitar of the float in the space twines round an intense rhythm. Mike Ratledge supports the atmosphere of the tune by the obbligati. An intense part is continued. However, the impression that past Softs has because the element of Rock is strong might be a little weak. The tune progresses with the anacatesthesia gradually.

The line of the rhythm and Bass with the anacatesthesia pulls the tune to "The Man Who Waved At Trains". The melody of the wind instrument will have the part that looks like the idea of the composition where the band had gone to middle term. The composition of Mike Ratledge that follows the idea of the music character such as "Fifth" and "Seven" always always continues the atmosphere of good Canterbury.

Because Mike Ratledge composed, "Peff" will have the impression of a mid-term composition of the band very much. The impression of Softs that Mike Ratledge exactly thinks about might appear remarkably in this flow. The tune becomes intense with the wind instrument. Making the sound distorted a little might act on the tune well, too.

In "Four Gongs Two Drums", the dash feeling succeeded from "Peff" is continued and the band advances in union. An oneness advanced as the rhythm of five is introduced might be a part where this album exactly has diversity. The tune of the latter half of the album doesn't appear too much a lot of guitars.

"The Floating World" advances with a complete anacatesthesia. The sound with a beautiful organ is continued. The melody with a grand impression might have exactly added a new part to the band.

This album secedes as a result and Mike Ratledge secedes the band at the end. However, the contribution that he did might be exactly large for the music of Canterbury and Softs. This album shows that Softs is completely done by initiating Karl Jenkins at the same time as existing as very high-quality Jazz Rock.

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Send comments to Kazuhiro (BETA) | Report this review (#256359)
Posted Tuesday, December 15, 2009 | Review Permalink
Negoba
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Above Average Fusion Introduces Guitar Legend

Soft Machine's Bundles album has a special place in the history of jazz fusion as being an introduction of sorts to the up and coming guitarist Allan Holdsworth. Though I am far from a Softs authority, early work by this group was both more quirky and exploratory. By the time of this album, jazz fusion was an established genre and this lineup of the Machine follows the formula reliably. If you know Holdsworth's style, this album holds few surprises. For all the love that is given this album, nothing really grabs hold of me here. In fact, there are some frankly boring parts including long repetitive riffs in the opening and closing songs that don't build or go anywhere. In the latter case, this can be forgiven as a slow release for the entire project. But to start the listener with the same riff played identically almost 50 times is hardly the way to evoke interest or to introduce your new star.

Certainly, the fusion here is good. All of the players here are quite talented, and really Holdsworth does not come across as the lion in a den of cubs that is sometimes depicted. To be sure, his technique was absolutely unique in those days, and he has influenced many of the best guitarists in the world since then. He is a Hall of Fame player. But his actual playing lacks some fire to my ear. Remarkably exact, quick, exotic note choices, it's all here. But something emotional is not. His best piece is the all too brief acoustic interlude "Gone Sailing," where Allan actually lets a bit hang out. More of that would have pushed him to greater heights, as his taste for controlled, over polished sound probably cost him some fans throughout his career.

There are places later in the album where Holdsworth is in the background riding the groove that the band really starts firing on all cylinders. "Peff" is perhaps the greatest example of this, with sax and piano giving an almost Weather Report feel to the music, but this time Holdsworth's simple riffing gives true energy to the tune. The song "Bundles" is another of my favorites. It is basically a Holdworth solo with a good hook, but drummer John Marshall steals the show. Drumming is for me always the high point of good fusion, and here it's crisp and propels the music forward at a brisk run. The keys are aggressive and textured. The variety of feels and sounds between songs is mature.

There are some great moments on this album, and certainly a healthy helping of early Holdsworth. But nothing here truly dazzles. 3+ album that I'm rounding down.

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Send comments to Negoba (BETA) | Report this review (#258571)
Posted Wednesday, December 30, 2009 | Review Permalink
snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Competent and well balanced,but too safe previous Soft Machine's album (Seven) was a serious sign of reaching the dangerous zone: band really was in need of new ideas and new blood.

First Soft Machine's studio album,didn't tagged by number,but name,is significant moment in band's history. In fact, newcomer and still not very well known guitarist Alan Holdsworth bring what they needed - new energy and new direction. Seriously transformed during last few years ,band was a supporting team around sax player Karl Jenkins groove-oriented soloing fusion band vision. Alan Holdswordth rock-edged guitar sound changed priorities very drastically: Bundles is album of great soloing guitarist with plenty of space (and some really excellent passages) for last founding member still on board - keyboardist Mike Ratledge.

For sure, Soft Machine with Bundles is far not the same band as Soft Machine with their debut or Third, but at least they found new energy and new direction, and they recorded another strong (if different) album.Holdsworth demonstrates great guitar playing (even excellent - as for time of album's release),John Marshall's drumming is possibly his best till now, Holdsworth's rock-oriented sound is really much closer to Marshall drumming style,than previous band's direction. Mike Ratledge sounds really inspired again, besides of Holdsworth he is a hero of the release!

It's only pity Holdsworth left the band few months after the release of Bundles,leaving the band in transition faze once again.

My rating is 3,5,rounded to 4.

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Send comments to snobb (BETA) | Report this review (#273039)
Posted Friday, March 19, 2010 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars This is the eight releases from "Soft Machine". And my eighth review is full of criticism or maybe objectivism as I would could (sorry Febus).

Let's only talk about the positive signs of this album, which is quite more accessible in comparison with their work from "Third" until "Seven".

Some instrumental passage borrows A LOT to "Cinema Show" of whom you might know. The comparison with some of another wonderful giant of the music I have loved since the very first listening is quite obvious while you listen to this album (Santana of course).

In all, there are fine (but scarce) moments to experience during this album. But not too many as I have outlined. None the less, this is by far the most accessible work from "Soft Machine" since their debut album.

As usual, I will upgrade this "Soft machine" to three stars. As a tribute to Antoine; whom I dreadfully miss.

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Send comments to ZowieZiggy (BETA) | Report this review (#338413)
Posted Monday, November 29, 2010 | Review Permalink
friso
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars The Soft Machine - Bundles (1975)

Soft Machine started as a psychedelic/Canterbury rock band, going to progressive fusion after their second album. After a series of ground-braking fusion albums we arive at the '75 Bundles album with a totally different. Only Mike Ratlidge from the original line-up appears on this album and I myself think the band would have done some good if they had come up with a new band-name. However, there's still a line-up of brilliant jazz-rock musicians; among whom is one of the most bizarre skilled guitarist, Allan Holdsworth. Though not a melodic genius, he surely is one of the fastests guitarplayers and his special technique has been practiced by almost all other major guitarplayers. This album would prove to be a highlight of his career, his solo's are great throughout. That is, if you can stand the brilliant technical approach and lack of emotional commitment. On wind-instruments we find Karl Jenkins, also a very talented musician and my favorite of the album (only his free playing reminds me of the masterfull psychedelic jazz moments of Third).

What does Bundles have to offer? Solid, professional polished fusion with perfect musicianship but flat peformance. Moreover, the production is perfect and the composition is good, but never too exciting. This album could be pointed at as the architipel seventies polished fusion albums. All songs are instrumental. It reminds me of the conventional pieces of Return to Forever and the Gazeuse-album by Gong. Fans of these exsamples shouldn't hesitate; this album is a safe buy.

Conclusion. Good fusion & superb musicianship, but not very memorable, innovative or catchy. Recommended to fans of fusion and technical achievements on instruments. Fans of the Canterbury approach (for whom for example Gazeuse was a letdown) should look elsewhere. Three stars, can't get attached to this album though I like a lot of the instrumentation.

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Send comments to friso (BETA) | Report this review (#405213)
Posted Tuesday, February 22, 2011 | Review Permalink
Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover & JazzRock/Fusion Teams
4 stars After a two year break, Soft Machine returned with essentially the same lineup as the previos album, "7", with one major addition. Allan Holdsworth was added as the first guitarist to be featured in the band. While Holdsworth is great, and certainly does a fantastic job on every song he appears in, he is so good that he dominates the album, pushing the rest of the band into the background.

Compositionally, the songs are similar to the previous albums. The music is made up of clever chords and melodies in interesting time signature blends, with a heavy nod toward soloing. And this group was certainly proficient at soloing. But the addition of the guitar gave the band a much more conventional fusion feel.

So while to me the albums "4" thriough "7" rate in the high four star range, this one is closer to the low fours. Still a great album, just not quite at the level as the previous few.

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Send comments to Evolver (BETA) | Report this review (#440070)
Posted Thursday, April 28, 2011 | Review Permalink
b_olariu
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Excellent, this album named Bundles issued in 1976 is a total winner in Soft Machine career. Soft Machine incorporated in their line up one of the major guitarists in jazz fusion Allan Holdsworth and the result is quite outstanding, he was the fire beneath that same group, who some years beform reached to an end , musicaly speaking. Now with a new label the great Harvest records, Soft Machine manage to release one of the best jazz fusion albums of the golden era - the '70's. With the group's reinvention , in musical terms bringing some fantastic druming from John Marshall, truly great musicianship by founding member and the constant main man since the beggining Mike Ratledge not to mention the prominent contributions of Holdsworth making from this album a special one in Soft Machin career. Hazard profile the opening piece divided in 5 parts is brilliant, the musicianship is top notch, special on part 1 and 5 being more up tempo, excellent pieces. Side A is greater then side B with exception title track who opens side B is briliant and very tight in musical terms, remind me of later on Holdsworth compositions from era Bruford or solo, but as a whole is quite outstanding release. Not a weak moment here. Canterbury atmosphere combined with jazz fusion and progressive rock briliancy is to be found here. Another thing that worth mentioned is that this is the last studio album featuring Ratledge listed as band member. Only two compositions by him are featured, both less than two minutes long in contrast with the rest of the musicians involved here, for example Karl Jenkins compose all pieces with exception Going sailing - Holdsworth composition and Four Gongs Two Drums John Marshals piece. So my rating is 4.5 rounded to 5 because of the excellent cover art, the result is a worthy album and a masterpiece that needs to be discovered by anyone intrested in jazz fusion and progressive rock in general. It's a rebirth of great band and a legendary album aswell. Warmly recommended, together with Unorthodox behaviour (Brand X), Electric savage (Colossuem II), Romantic warrior (Return to forever), Elegant gypsy (Al DiMeola) or What If (Dixie Dregs), etc one of the peaks of the genre and one of my fav albums eswell.

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Send comments to b_olariu (BETA) | Report this review (#453015)
Posted Saturday, May 28, 2011 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars I find this album rather a disappointment after Six and Seven, two albums in which the band established a new sound for itself - still with its own unique personality, but more carefully positioned in a fusion context with heavier leanings towards jazz than rock. Bundles continues to provide technically competent fusion, and provides an early platform for the talents of Allan Holdsworth, but what gets to me is just how unimaginative and middle-of- the-road it is. Play a snippet of it out of context and all but the most dedicated fusion fans will struggle to guess which band is playing. Is it Passport? Brand X? It can't be Return To Forever, or Mahavishnu Orchestra, or Weather Report, or one of Miles Davis' mid-70s groups, those all have a far more unique and vibrant sound.

The fact is that whilst the music on Bundles ticks all the genre boxes and is competently performed, there's no enthusiasm, no verve, no personality to it. It's the sound of a band going through the motions, in other words. This would be Mike Ratledge's last album as a full member of the band, though it's clear on here that his heart really isn't in it any more anyway - he contributes only a tiny snippet of music in terms of compositions, and as for performance he's barely a presence in the band's sound any more. Allan Holdsworth's guitar playing is decent but doesn't really capture the imagination here. And as for drummer John Marshall - well, all I'll say about his performance is that the Robert Wyatt era never yielded a drum solo as predictable, cliched and tedious as Four Gongs Two Drums.

I won't go as low as one star on this one because it doesn't have any absolutely fatal flaws which make it a chore to listen to. But at the same time, it has absolutely nothing to make it memorable once you've listen to it. Bundles is a disposable album of disposable music, made by a once-essential band which at this point in its existence had, sadly, become disposable itself. I honestly consider it to be greatly overrated, possibly because it's the last Softs album with Mike Ratledge as a band member, and the last one before the long drawn- out death of the band, which would see increasingly unsuccessful attempts to revive its fortunes and convince the listening public that the band was a) still alive and b) still worth listening to.

I can understand this perspective. Certainly, at its best, Bundles is miles better than the great majority of the post-Ratledge material the band produced. But at its worst, Bundles makes it abundantly clear that the rot had already well and truly set in. I said that it's the sound of a band going through the motions - perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it's the sound of a dead band walking.

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Send comments to Warthur (BETA) | Report this review (#524567)
Posted Friday, September 16, 2011 | Review Permalink
UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Bundles" is the 8th full-length studio album by UK experimental/fusion/jazz rock act Soft Machine. The album was released through Harvest Records in March 1975. Keyboard player Mike Ratledge was at this point the only founding member left in the lineup and even his involvement in Soft Machine was dwindling at this point. His writing contributions to "Bundles" is limited to two short tracks. Most of the material on the album are composed by Karl Jenkins (oboe, soprano sax, acoustic & electric pianos).

Musically "Bundles" also marks a pretty big shift in direction compared to the last couple of more jazz oriented releases. It's especially the inclusion of the, at the time, only 19 years old guitar prodigy Allan Holdsworth and his considerable contributions to the album, that make "Bundles" such a different sounding album to it's predecessors (Soft Machine's music hadn't featured guitar since their earliest days). The energy and the rythms make this a much more contemporary sounding fusion album than the more jazz oriented albums that came before it (think acts like jazz rock/fusion period Gong and Return to Forever).

The musicianship is not surprisingly top notch. These guys are professionals but not the type of professional musicians who are devoid of emotion because of it. It's probably an aquired taste if you can appreciate the change in sound and Allan Holdsworth's frantic shredding, but I guess people's opinions on "Bundles" will very much reflect how they feel about the preceeding releases. Personally "Bundles" appeal much more to me than anything Soft Machine released between "Third (1970)" and this one, so I'm happy as a pig.

The sound production is powerful and organic, which suits the music well. So upon conclusion "Bundles" is a high quality jazz rock/fusion album by Soft Machine. Tracks like the "Hazard Profile" suite and "Four Gongs Two Drums" are great jazz rock/fusion and the rest of the material are for the most part equally exciting. The ambient closing track "The Floating World" is a bit too longdrawn and to my ears a bit of an anti climatic way to end an otherwise greatly energetic release but I guess that's an aquired taste. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

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Send comments to UMUR (BETA) | Report this review (#1117138)
Posted Tuesday, January 21, 2014 | Review Permalink

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