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The Soft Machine

Canterbury Scene

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4 stars Actually a very good sampler of the premium period Soft Machine, with some obscurities thrown in as well, such as the first two tracks on album 1. I do not believe that this has ever made it to cd format, unfortunately.
Report this review (#22107)
Posted Monday, January 26, 2004 | Review Permalink
Dick Heath
Jazz-Rock Specialist
4 stars A triple vinyl set issued by Harvest Records in the mid 70's, and no doubt very difficult to find even on the second hand market.

Apart from the earlier tracks on the first disc, taken from the 1966 to 67 period and originally aimed at the English underground singles market, much of this album can be found spread across several currently available CDs. There are pieces from the first two studio recordings for ABC Records, although I find it odd that "Hope For Happiness" is omitted. At the time of "Triple Echo's" original release, the BBC/John Peel radio recordings hadn't been released before - although this must have been one way Harvest could include music from "Third" through to "Seven" period without actually using copyrighted CBS/Columbia Records material. However, some of these radio recordings were to be later released on the "Strange Fruit" double CD and then comprehensively on the recent, definitive Hux Records "BBC 1967-71" and "BBC 1971-74" double sets. And for completeness you have pieces from the first three Harvest recordings.

Overall this set provides a reasonable history of the evolution, development and significant musical and personnel change Machine underwent in its first 8 years. From English R'n'B band to English whimsy & psychedelic, to proto-jazz rock to the leading Europe jazz fusion group before disappearing up their own version of Terry Riley inspired minimalism. The two double sets of BBC radio recordings recently issued by Hux, provide a more comprehensive detailed overview including some examples of the free jazz nor heard elsewhere record.

Report this review (#22108)
Posted Monday, April 19, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars This triple (record) album, which has not yet been released on C.D., offers the best possible introduction to the music of the Soft Machine. Its first L.P. offers an excellent overview of the band's (predominantly) cheerful dadaist phase. The second is devoted to their jazzy experiments from circa 1970, featuring Elton Dean on sax. The third contains typical mid- seventies jazz-rock and introduces the unique sound of Allan Holdsworth's electric guitar.

One special reason why I used to enjoy this set immensely, when I still had a record player: its opening tracks actually consist of the Soft Machine's first ever single, and they strike me as one of the most exciting things the band ever did. 'Love makes sweet music' is incredibly catchy and energetic, and it has typical Kevin Ayers lyrics:

Every night it's the same old scene / waking up 'cause you're scared to dream / but I know that things will get better / if you let your dreams get wetter than wine!

'Feelin' Reelin' Squeelin' (the original single's B-side) is a wacky but totally essential piece of 1960s psychedelica, which no admirer of either Ayers or Robert Wyatt should be without. As far as I know, these tracks have NOT appeared in CD form, which I just don't understand, since record companies keep churning out one superfluous Softs anthology after another...

It's even more of a shame that this set still languishes in the vaults when you consider that the record company which originally produced it keeps selling classic Pink Floyd albums at inflated prices - including RELICS, the best tracks of which could easily have appeared as bonus material elsewhere. But then again, it's hard to do TRIPLE ECHO justice in the CD format, since it originally came with a witty and highly readable booklet, richly illustrated with Rare Photographs and a Pete Frame-designed family tree!

To sum up: A gorgeous collection, perfect for everyone who ever wondered how Robert Wyatt, Daevid Allen, Kevin Ayers, Hugh Hopper, Mike Ratledge and other Canterbury luminaries started out. Wyatt's superb drumming alone is worth the price of admission.

P.S. Almost as soon as I finished this review, I found out that most of the pieces included in TRIPLE ECHO (including that classic first single!) have now been incorporated in the anthologies OUT-BLOODY-RAGEOUS and THE HARVEST YEARS, reviewed elsewhere on Prog Archives.

Report this review (#96683)
Posted Wednesday, November 1, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars A very good compilation that has both sides of their debut single (not available elsewhere) and the magnificent John Peel show version of 'The Moon In June' with customised lyrics for the occasion (not available otherwise until the Strange Fruit album came out). The obscure Memories is a beautiful song, which was covered by NY band Material (and sung by a young Whitney Houston!) Canterbury fans will happily pay $$$ for this set especially if it comes with the booklet. However if you like the Softs you have most of this already if you get the Peel Sessions album, so I have given it four stars.
Report this review (#114515)
Posted Thursday, March 8, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam

Usually, i try not to review compilations or best-of albums as the selection of the songs included on those recordings are always a matter of personal taste and subjectivity. I haven't met one fan yet not complaining that a specific song he likes was not included on some best-of of his favorite band. So maybe, there is no possibility for a compilation to get a 5 star treatment!

The only compilation i have reviewed so far is the 5 LPs/3 CDs boxset of JETHRO TULL ''20th YEAR ANNIVERSARY'' as it was mostly filled up with unreleased JT goodies. TRIPLE ECHO does not go as far as bringing a lot of new -never heard before-stuff , but rather should be viewed as a perfect introduction to the music (musics) of SOFT MACHINE. This is not a best- of either, as there are a few unreleased tracks and different versions from the classic versions of the original albums.

I don't think TRIPLE ECHO has been released on CD sadly; So i can only review the old original 3 LPs boxset which came with a great, great chic book full of never seen before pictures, but the most interesting feature is the Canterbury family tree. Knowing the changes of line-ups between each SF album, building this tree should have been a huge task for its creator who allows you to link all the Canterbury bands with each other thanks to all those musicians moving from one band to another. A very nice historical document about the Canterbury musical scene indeed!

All different periods of SOFT MACHINE are not represented equally; The first 2 albums from the psychedelic vocal period takes a full LP. The THIRD era , their most successful commercial and artistic peak covers an LP all by itsef.The ''best'' moments of FOURTH anf FIFTH find a way to be on 1 side of an LP. But the JENKINS era is badly misrepresented as SIX, SEVEN, BUNDLES and SOFTS--4 albums--as only one song of each one are being added to this compilation to end it up on side 6; Told you so that compilations never make everybody happy!!

What makes this box set interesting is first, the addition of unreleased LP tracks as the first 4 songs were only available as singles a very, very long time ago at the time when DAEVID ALLEN was with the band back then in 1967. Only a different version of the sweet haunting ballad MEMORIES could be heard on the JET-PROPELLED PHOTOGRAPH album that was released a few years ago. LOVE MAKES SWEET MUSIC is a nice typical song from this time , kind of commercial when a very young SOFT MACHINE was trying to reach the charts but with their very already peculiar way.Weirdness was not very faranyway as you can hear on FEELIN, REELIN, SQUELLIN another unearthed gem.

LP 2 is where you will find other goodies. MOON IN JUNE is played differently in a shortened 13mns version; i cannot say if it is better or worse than the original, this is only different. the band plays tighter, a lot of HOPPER fuzz bass, still great WYATT performance. MOON IN JUNE is such a masterpiece anyway, how could be another SOFT MACHINE version be bad??? This is MOON IN JUNE for god sake. And it's always fascinating to discover another performance of one of your favorite songs! There are also different versions of parts from THIRD. Excerpts from SLIGHTY ALL THE TIME are taken of the suite and being given another musical treatment on their own giving them their own particular personality. The sublime BACKWARDS is of course present as well a different jazzier instrumental version of ESTHER NOSE JOB from VOLUME 2.

Only the third LP doesn't bring anything new! 2 tunes from FOURTH are included with sadly the rather forgettable TEETH, a pure unimaginative jazz piece which drags too long. On the last side, i don't think STANLEY STAMPS GIBBON ALBUM was the most representative song of SIX, bu that's just me. Also, not having BAN BAN CALIBAN from SOFTS included is a big omission imlho. But anyway, TRIPLE ECHO was issued as an overview of all SOFT MACHINE different musical phases, including FOURTH and as such , it suceeds very well.

Hopeully, one day it will be released on CD, but i don't know how they gonna do with the huge family tree from the original album; i guess we would have to buy magnified glasses!! TRIPLE ECHO is a perfect introduction for the newcomer as an obligatory addition to the long time fan as there are some unheard jewels on this album. With tracks like TEETH,i cannot give the 5 star treatment, so will be....


Report this review (#137387)
Posted Sunday, September 9, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars It is a sad fact that this band has never been blessed with a great greatest hits or essential album. A type of album which will entice those who are curious about Soft Machine to buy more albums from them. Soft Machine is therefore an exlusive shop where new fans have to part with a lot of money to get access.

Triple Echo is a triple LP, but has yet to be released as a digital download or a CD. Hopefully, that will change. But I am not counting on it.

The songs here are from the debut to Softs, the last good Soft Machine album. The collection of songs are strange to say at least. No Facelift and no Moon In June. The best songs from Bundles has also been omitted. Most of the songs here are very good, but this album is nowhere as good as it could be. Triple Echo is by no means the essential Soft Machine. Maybe it is best to let Triple Echo rest in peace without any further re-release. Just of kindness towards Soft Machine.

3 stars

Report this review (#466342)
Posted Tuesday, June 21, 2011 | Review Permalink

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