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The Soft Machine - Backwards CD (album) cover


The Soft Machine

Canterbury Scene

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4 stars With noisette, this is to me the best live album of soft machine, during wyatt period. It's not the case of every live cd that exist, since the sound quality of most live cd is crap !! This one is a MUST
Report this review (#22140)
Posted Wednesday, April 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Album of SOFT MACHINE announced in 2002 "Backwards". Work collected in May, 1970 and November, 1969. Live sound source and album that consists of demonstration of ROBERT WYATT. The first half is a performance by four person organization by the medley of 40 minutes. The latter half is a performance of seven person organization including the wind instrument. Tone quality is a little inferior. The final tune is a demonstration of "Moon In June" recording. It is a prototype of the work collected to "Third".
Report this review (#51322)
Posted Wednesday, October 12, 2005 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars This is called "Backwards" because it takes the listener backwards in time as the album plays out. Three different recording sessions are dealt with beginning with the classic lineup of Hopper, Ratledge, Wyatt and Dean.These include the first three tracks all recorded in May of 1970 just after the album "Third" was finished. So we get "Facelift", "Moon In June" and "Esther's Nose Job" all amazing sounding tracks. I like how prominant Ratledge's fuzz organ is on these songs and Wyatt's drum work as well. I have to be honest, I wasn't expecting anything this good with these three songs.These are incredible versions to say the least.

The next two songs "Facelift" and "Hibou Anemone And Bear" are from the septet line-up and are from November 1969. Again lots of fuzz from Ratledge and more horns of course. Great versions. The last tune "Moon In June" is significant because it's the demo that was used on "Third".The first half was recorded by Wyatt only in the USA in October and November 1968 after the band had temporarily broken up. Lots of vocals on the first half. And while I like Robert's singing the last half is much more enjoyable for me.The last half was recorded in the UK with the whole band in 1969 after they had gotten back together.

4.5 stars.This is a document that I sort of avoided because of the duplicate tracks on it plus there being two different versions on the band on the same disc. Well I was greatly mistaken.These are some of the best versions of these songs that i've heard and now a valuable piece of my SOFT MACHINE collection.

Report this review (#302190)
Posted Monday, October 4, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Well, the quality of the posthumous Soft Machine live albums never fails to amaze me. There are some truly duds among them. But the overall quality is great.

This is strictly not a true live album. It is more a compilation album of three recordings, going backwards from the most recent to the oldest stuff. A very smart way of presenting these recordings in my view.

The party starts with an absolute amazing version of Facelift. I should now hasten to add that the line up is the classic Ratledge, Dean, Hopper & Wyatt lineup. The ultimate Soft Machine lineup, in my view. I don't think many would argue with that view though. They creates a monster version of Facelift, full of life and dynamics. Simply stunning.

A rather short, but sweet version of Moon in June follows. Again, a very dynamic version. Another shortish version of a 3rd number, Esther's Nose Job follows on from that one again. A very good version of this Soft Machine standard song, it is. All in all, these three songs taken from Third is simply excellent and proves why this band was/is so great.

The archive stuff continues with a short version of Facelift before we dip into Hibou Anemone and Bear for some minutes. The version of Facelift still contains the best of this song, but it is not that dynamic and is really lacking the x-factor the original has. Not to mention the x-factor from the first version on this album.

The final track and the oldest track is a rather space rock version of Moon in June. This is the twenty minutes long demo version of this classic song and is alone worth the whole purchase price of this album. The difference between this version and the version appearing on Third is like the difference between an eagle and a shark. Robert Wyatt sings in a whimsical way and the jazz stuff is very much in the background. Elton Dean too is missing. That is not a good thing. But yet again; this song highlights what Soft Machine could had been if they had continued down the space rock path instead of going the way Elton Dean wanted. I prefer Elton Dean and the Third album. But this version of Moon In June is really interesting and cast a different light on Soft Machine, the band and the legend.

In short; Backwards is a very interesting album. The first three tracks are excellent on their own. The Moon In June demo alone justifies this album. This is not a fully blooded live album though. It is more a historical artifact and that is how it should be treated. .......And it contains some cracking excellent music too.

4 stars

Report this review (#417633)
Posted Thursday, March 17, 2011 | Review Permalink
2 stars A bit of a mixed bag from Cuneiform this time around; whilst the excellent Noisette live album captures a full live set, this is more odds and sods ranging from the Third period back to earlier times for the group, incorporating Robert Wyatt's early demo of Moon In June. Individually, many of the archive scraps collected here are of unquestionable interest to Soft Machine fans, but collectively the album doesn't flow nearly so well as the Softs' studio releases or live sets - or even others of Cuneiform's archival series. It's all good fun, but ultimately not an album you're going to chase up unless you're already a committed fan - in which case you probably have all this material in better renditions already. Strictly for collectors only.
Report this review (#459399)
Posted Sunday, June 12, 2011 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
3 stars Another archives release from the excellent Cuneiform label, but this one should be reserved to completists only, because of the nature of the three different provenance (and relevance) of the music presented on it. Indeed, the main half (in length) of this compilation comes from a gig played soon after their Third album's release, when the band was freshly reconceived as a quartet, featuring their classic line-up. Relying mostly on their main two live centerpiece (Facelift and Nose Job), you'll find roughly the same kind of material on the Prom's (dating from one month later) posthumous archives album, or in other recordings, but it's fairly interesting to compare how their tracks and set list of May 70 changed over a few months, as evidenced by the track list on the Grides release in Oct 70 and March 71. Soooo while the set is excellent in itself, it won't be essential listening, if you already own a few live recording from that often-recorded quartet line-up.

The second third of the compilation is probably the most interesting, but also the shortest, and is a rare witness of the short-lived period of the band when it was expanded to a septet, including a four-man brass section. Indeed, with Mark Charig, Nick Evans, Lynn Dobson and Elton Dean freshly integrated into the band, but the first two would leave very quickly, while the third would stay on for a while more - and there is a superb Live In Paris filmed concert available as a quintet. But here, we have one of only three short testimony of the septet and indeed it might be interesting to regroup all three remaining testimonies in one disc of that brief and intriguing period of the band's career. These two tracks are highly interesting, with a major brass enhancement, but you'd better brace yourself, because the (abridged) version of Facelift and the Anemone track can produce a WTF reaction. It's clear that the Keith Tippett Group horn section (and also partly present on two Crimson albums) adds a little 'je ne sais quoi' to the band's soundscape, but in some ways, it feels maybe a tad too 'brass rock' (ala Chicago) at times. Anyway, these two tracks (just over 12-mins) are the main attraction of this archives album.

The last third is probably the stranger artifact ion exhibition, as it comes from a test- pressing acetate of the Machine classic Moon In June, but it's actually amazing that it ever made on CD. While the sound quality is sometimes iffy, it generally doesn't degenerate into Voiceprint-type of releases of this band. The interesting side of this lone track is the form of the band when it was recorded. The liner notes explain the trio format for this rendition of the Third album classic track and how Wyatt found himself on almost 75% of the instruments of the 20-mins session. While the demo track holds much interest by its very nature, the surprise might come from the very psychey ambiance, one that reminds more of Volume 2 than the famed Third release. Definitely completist compilation album, Backwards would certainly not be a good introduction to the Machine neophyte, but unconditional fans will probably love it.

Report this review (#552592)
Posted Wednesday, October 19, 2011 | Review Permalink

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