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The Soft Machine Drop album cover
3.07 | 28 ratings | 5 reviews | 7% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Live, released in 2008

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Neo Caliban Grides (6:23)
2. All White (6:14)
3. Slightly All The Time (13:16)
4. Drop (7:40)
5. M.C. (3:25)
6. Out-Bloody-Rageous (11:30)
7. As If (6:10)
8. Dark Swing (1:55)
9. Intropigling (0:53)
10. Pigling Bland (4:44)

Total Time: 1:02:06

Line-up / Musicians

- Mike Ratledge / Lowrey Organ, Fender Rhodes Electric Piano
- Elton Dean / Saxello, Alto Sax, Fender Rhodes Electric Piano
- Hugh Hopper / Bass Guitar
- Phil Howard / Drums

Releases information

Moonjune records (MJR023). Live from Germany, 1971.

Thanks to Man With Hat for the addition
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THE SOFT MACHINE Drop ratings distribution

(28 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(7%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(21%)
Good, but non-essential (68%)
Collectors/fans only (0%)
Poor. Only for completionists (4%)


Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Man With Hat
COLLABORATOR Jazz-Rock/Fusion/Canterbury Team
3 stars An under heard version of The Soft Machine.

Ever wonder what a free jazz version of The Soft Machine would sound like? Well, this is your answer. At this point Mr. Wyatt was out of the band and Phil Miller was brought in to fill his stool. Mr. Miller is apparently well known in jazz circles and his presence in the band plus Elton's desire to steer the band in a freer direction, gave way to this interesting side road in the Softs long journey. Most of the songs presented here are given this free-jazz treatment, meaning plenty of blowing and sqeaking from Dean and relentless (yet never outlandish or engulfing) attacks on the drums from Miller. Additionally, most rock or jazz-rock influences/sounds have left, leaving what isn't saturated in free-jazz (or even just dipped in for flavor) purely jazz.

The first three songs are the most free-jazz and most uncompromising. I particularly love Ratledge's solo on Slightly All The Time. The opening to Drop, with it's swirling piano lines and lack of Miller is almost a welcomed relief after 25 or so minutes of constant onslaught. This track also contains a dynamite solo from Ratledge. As If is another highlight, being as ominous as ever. Excellent drum work here, and I can imagine Dean's solo making the audience member's hairs stand on end. Dark Swing is a short drum solo from Miller. While this track is not truely outstanding (and with mild shock value), you can really hear and analyze Miller's approach to things on this track (perhaps most notably how different it is from Wyatt's). Pigling Bland is given a robust treatment here, and is the least free-jazzy of the album. Powerful, compact, and outstanding. A nice ending tune and one of my favorite versions of the song. I'm not sure if this is all one concert or not, but all of the songs seemlessly glide into one another. Thus if this was one concert (and not various takes from different concerts) this album gets another star for impressibility! Finally a word about sound quality. Absolutely no complaints here. While not perfectly sounding, for being a live album from 1971 this certainly well recorded. Very few things (if any) get lost in the mix so to speak (if anything does it could be the subtleities of Miller's drums, but that could just be the nature of the beast), everything is loud, and nothing sounds muddy.

All in all, this is a very good document in the history of Soft Machine. The Ratledge-Dean-Hopper-Miller quartet would never make a full studio album (though they do contribute the majority of Fifth), thus making this the first proper recording of this line up. Soft Machine gurus should find this an excellent historical document if nothing else. Also, fans of free-jazz and avant-jazz should find plenty to enjoy here. (Incidently this might make a good introduction to free-jazz, being its not totally out in left field but still contains plenty of the elements while being grounded firmly in Soft Machine). Overall though, for a progressive rock rating a few points should probably be deducted, being this is a jazz album through and through (albeit sophisticated and throughly Soft Machine). 3 stars for PA, 3.8-4 stars in a general sense.

Review by Mellotron Storm
3 stars What might make this attractive to the SOFT MACHINE fan is that "Drop" is a live recording with drummer Phil Howard on it. He only played with the band for about 5 months before being asked to leave. He was originally asked to join by Elton Dean who he was already playing with in Elton's side project. Both Dean and Howard were both very much into the Free-Jazz scene and you can certainly see that SOFT MACHINE were headed in that direction on this live recording. After recording about half of "Fifth" Howard was sent packing, Dean would leave a few months after that, then Hopper would follow suit. Phil Howard who replaced Robert Wyatt was himself replaced by John Marshall. I should mention that this recording was taken from their tour of Germany back in the fall of 1971. I had to laugh at febus' review of the live album "Grinds" where he says: "How many more versions of "Facelift" or "Eamon Andrews" can you have ? You've got to draw the line somewhere".This was coming from perhaps SOFT MACHINE's biggest fan. Well I agree with febus and feel that "Grinds" and "Floating World Live" are much better live recordings than this. Just an opinion.

Funny but I cannot get into this album at all. I mean it's cool to hear Howard's style and the new freer flavour that the band had, but for me it doesn't compare to the "Grinds" album with Wyatt on it. I agree with what Man With Hat says in his review about the opening of the song "Drop" that it's almost a relief not to hear Howards prominant drumming as it's much calmer with electric piano. Elton Dean is also all over this record as he and Howard really do dominate.

So a good album for sure, and this rare glimpse at this version of SOFT MACHINE makes this worth checking out.

Review by Sean Trane
3 stars I'm not sure this is good news for this small label. Drop is AFAIK, their first Soft Machine album on their catalogue, but it represents the Machine at its most difficult and abstract period or phase. Indeed once Wyatt left the group "that made him so miserable" , the group turned towards a new drummer and friend of Elton Dean, I name Phil Howard. Musically the newcomer was of a different fabric than Wyatt was; unlike his predecessor, Phil was not keen on vocals, which was probably a relief to Ratledge, the most annoyed by Robert's scatting mania. But much to Ratledge's stupor, Howard turned out to be an adept of free form improv, which was Dean's wish and Hopper was interested enough to follow that direction, but this was simply horrifying Mike. Sooooo after a few concert and half an album recorded, Phil got the boot (no doubt Mike's Santiag) and in came ex-Nucleus John Marshall, that would tuirn out to be Soft Machine's third and last drummer (he' still there today). Needless to say that the given Howard phase was so short that few gigs were able to give proper tape result, but Drop is certainly one of them.

Sound-wise this is a gig from Radio Bremen recorded in October 71, so the sound is as usual quasi-perfect, but the Machine has found at least on of its limits: free jazz. If three of the four musicians seem to find their aerial space and marks quickly (Dean's sax is squeaking to death) and Hopper's fuzzed bass is dropping bombs all over), it is not really the case of the Lowrey organ, which seems to remain heavily terrestrial. Although he seems able to follow his colleagues, Mike doesn't seem very inspired by the direction taken. Note that Howard's sacking would provoke Dean's departure and the following album would be Hopper's lasts. So, as I was saying, starting out this review, now that Moonjune Records (named after that track from SM's Third album) finally release a Machine album, it's definitely one that will probably attract few sales, due to the full improvisation scheme on the disc.

Review by snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This live album is archive recording,released in 2009 only,but chronologically its place is between Fourth and Fifth studio albums.Fourth was excellent jazz fusion release,but without traces of band's early psychedelic rock sound and vocals compositions what initiated Robert Wyatt departure.

Phil Howard was a drummer who changed Robert Wyatt in band. His participation was quite short and are recorded only on a part of Fifth studio album. "Drop" is very interesting album in sense it's a excellent evidence what was the band with Phil Howard as drummer playing live.

The material recorded on this album (played during band's German tour,fall 1971)is mostly new compositions,later released on Fifth studio album. It's interesting, that on Fifth only three first songs are recorded with Phil Howard (all them are presented on "Drop" as well), other songs are recorded with band's new drummer John Marshall(after Phil Howard was resigned). Almost all of them are presented on "Drop" and played by Phil Howard ,so one can compare the difference.

Robert Wyatt was a founding Soft Machine member,very characteristic vocalist,original drummer and charismatic figure,After release of Fourth when he left the band,Soft Machine will never be same band as before. His drumming manner had its roots in rock tradition still, Phil Howard changing him showed on this release how different band could sound with free-jazz rooted drummer.

"Drop" is most free-jazz oriented Soft Machine album ever,it sounds quite different from their other works (what doesn't mean better or worth,just different).Possibly most radical difference with just few months before this concert recorded Fourt's music is Phil Howard became one of central figure on this album. His drumming manner is very different from Wyatt's,but even bigger difference is he isn't a member of team, he's more soloing artist there. Possibly for the first time in their history Soft Machine sounds not like a band,but more like a team of soloists,playing free jazz compositions with slight rock flavor. Drumming is complex,thunder-like heavy and often not very connected with rest of the music.Other space is filled by plenty of short Dean's sax solos (and even few electric piano ones)and Ratledge's keyboards passages.Hugh Hopper's bass are mostly on back-up,giving some structure to quite chaotic music though.

This release is really an interesting one for every Soft Machine fan - it's a rare evidence what could happen after Wyatt departure if band would chose different direction. Quite bulky album with tension in music,some unusual but sometimes a bit raw moments isn't best purchase for more casual listener though.All in all, "Drop" has it's important place between bunch of band's archive live releases as their most free-jazz oriented album ever.

Latest members reviews

3 stars Soft Machine goes jazz......... all out, no compromise. The various setups of Soft Machine always dictates the music on their 20+ live albums. That's why these 20+ live albums is so fascinating. Soft Machine = many different bands. None of them are any bad whatsoever, even though some of the ... (read more)

Report this review (#301269) | Posted by toroddfuglesteg | Friday, October 1, 2010 | Review Permanlink

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