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The Soft Machine

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The Soft Machine Six album cover
3.54 | 280 ratings | 25 reviews | 15% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1973

Songs / Tracks Listing

LP 1 - Live Album (41:36)
1. Fanfare (0:42)
2. All White (4:46)
3. Between (2:24)
4. Riff (4:36)
5. 37 1/2 (6:51)
6. Gesolreut (6:17)
7. E.P.V. (2:47)
8. Lefty (4:56)
9. Stumble (1:42)
10. 5 from 13 (for Phil Seamen with Love & Thanks) (5:15)
11. Riff II (1:20)

LP 2 - Studio Album (34:40)
12. The Soft Weed Factor (11:18)
13. Stanley Stamps Gibbon Album (for B.O.) (5:58)
14. Chloe and the Pirates (9:30)
15. 1983 (7:54)

Total Time 76:16

Line-up / Musicians

- Karl Jenkins / oboe, baritone & soprano saxophones, electric & grand piano, celesta
- Mike Ratledge / organ, electric & grand piano, celesta
- Hugh Hopper / bass, sound effects (15)
- John Marshall / drums & percussion

Releases information

One disc with studio recordings and another Live, recorded at The Dome, Brighton on October 24, and the Civic Hall, Guildford on November 1, 1972.

Artwork: Terry Pastor (painting)

2LP CBS ‎- 68214 (1973, UK)

CD Epic ‎- ESCA 5536 (1992, Japan)
CD One Way Records ‎- A 26255 (1995, US)
CD Sony ‎- 82876875912 (2007, Europe) 24-bit remaster by Paschal Byrne

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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THE SOFT MACHINE Six ratings distribution

(280 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(15%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(44%)
Good, but non-essential (32%)
Collectors/fans only (7%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)


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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
4 stars (sixth in a series of eleven)

Definetely a class act, Soft Machine never had a stable line-up and became a refuge for Nucleus members as these continued to replace departing members. Karl Jenkins is a much needed new blood (replacing Elton Dean on reeds but also playing KB along with Ratledge) as the group inspiration was waning. But in this album, the newer members make their presence felt. For the first time in a while, a tracks gets group credits as opposed to individual ones and others are collaborations. the vast majority of the tracks are penned by Ratledge or Jenkins and Hopper takes a back seat.

One disc is live and the other is studio . The live album is made of two 20 min long tracks made of separate section a bit in the mini-suite mode. Clearly the first track is a renewal of the Machine and sets the direction towards fusion. the second tracks is much in the same mode but interrupted by a drum solo. The second vinyl disc was much shorter in lenght but showed that the Jenkins-Ratledge tancem was also working fine in studio. Only the last track is more in Hugh Hopper's mood - going in a typical RIO direction.

In the middle period of Soft Machine (from 4 until 7), this is the better album to start with and is recommended to all that loved Third and Bundles.

Review by daveconn
3 stars Six, Seven... what's the difference? Originally released as a double elpee, Six is notable for the introduction of KARL JENKINS, a sax/oboe/keyboard player whose dizzying solos pushed the band ever closer toward a chaotic mantra of drug-soaked fusion. Although the vinyl version no doubt presented better defined boundaries, the single disc re-release conspires to turn Six into a single, endless organism. What appears to the listener is a 75-minute jam distinguished by shifting riffs anchored through bass or keyboards. Some sections eventually develop unique personalities, such as "Riff" (which will sound familiar to CAMEL fans) or "The Soft Weed Factor", but generally it's hard to tell where one song ends and another begins. Because I don't own any earlier SOFT MACHINE albums, I can't look to their past work for a reference point; what I can tell you is Six falls somewhere in that wide land between COLTRANE's late-period work and ZAPPA's noisy jazz. The music itself alternates between riff-driven segments (isolated islands of clarity, if you will), solos and plain jamming. KARL MARSHALl's "5 From 13", a five-minute drum solo, is stunning for example. Marshall is free to roam on this album, largely because RATLEDGE and HOPPER provide the framework with their musical mosaics. Yet the true "soloist" on the album is Jenkins, whose instruments alternately scream, wail and elevate the arrangements into a mad shouting match. It's not enough to shake the feeling that Six is one long restless jam based on a series of pre-conceived (and sometimes very catchy) patterns. Its pleasures are ephemeral, soon surrendered to the greater whole, its attraction elusive, its intellectualism intractable. Here, a track either grabs you out of the gate or you're left to fidget through a "Stanley Stamps Gibbon Album" until the next treat rolls around. If you don't find seventy-five minutes of restless fusion daunting, then you might not want to nix Six; it's not like I never play this disc. But you'll find more treasures hiding in fifty minutes of WEATHER REPORT or RETURN TO FOREVER.
Review by Philo
4 stars Good double lp of good sound quality as some live stuff from this era tends to be [&*!#]. The live part is much better than the studio lp for me with some good jams and laidback spaciness, though "The Soft Weed Factor" is one the best pieces Karl Jenkins brought to the Softies, I don't think he bettered this in any of his other compositions. Cool and well organized jazz improvisation and the sound is a bit softer than previous Softs efforts, a very smooth sound although on the side two it does go a bit wild in around the drum solo. "37 1/2" is totally grooving, nice riff and Marshall's drumming is real good, better than that Wyatt chap.

If any one out there has this and likes it then maybe you should check out a Danish 70s fusion band called Secret Oyster, very similar in style to what the Soft Machine were doing about this time, you will not be disapointed!

Review by Zac M
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Ah, now we're getting somewhere. Again, Soft Machine changes it's lineup adding Karl Jenkins, another former Nucleus member. Jenkins breathes new life into the band, adding keyboards and various winds (including his great oboe playing) into the mix). Sadly, this is High Hopper's last with the band; the Softs were never ones for keeping a stable lineup. Sixth is most definitely a major improvement over the previous release.

This double album consists of both live and studio material by the new lineup. The live sides are full of the vibrance and certain energy both Fourth and Fifth lacked. The intro to the live set is very, very similar to an intro Nucleus would have created a few years earlier. In fact, this is the first album where the band actually starts to sound like Nucleus. Highlights on the live side include "Gesolreut," "Riff," and "37 1/2."

The studio sides are a departure from the Dean style avant-jazz that was incorporated into previous releases. The tracks here are more mellow and laid-back (the energy's still there, don't worry), minus the album closer, Hopper's "1983," which is very avant-garde, much like 1984, Hopper's solo album. "Chloe and the Pirates" is one of my alltime favorite Softs pieces, primarily because of Jenkin's incredible Jazz-Rock Oboe playing. It's truly the highlight of the studio sides.

This album is sure a breath of fresh air after Fifth. Once again (do I have to really say it again...), this album is essential to Softs fan. Overall, I tend to like Seven more, but in the scheme of things, Sixth is much more impressive and important; they both still get the same rating from me. Four stars.

Review by febus
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam

FIFTH would mark the end of a cycle for SOFT MACHINE as ELTON DEAN left the band to pursue solo avant-guard/jazz new adventures. Even if FIFTH was somewhat a pleasant album, but only for connoisseurs, the band was really in need of an infusion of new fresh ideas, meaning usually new blood. And KARL JENKINS would prove to be the cure!

I don't know if the former NUCLEUS members had the same efficient lawyer, but they knew how to fill up a contract favorable to them. After KARL JENKINS who is allowed his drum solo on each new SOFT MACHINE recording, KARL JENKINS not only played the horns for taking over ELTON DEAN, he also plays a lot of keyboards and most remarkable thing, he is the writer of half the album as much as MIKE RATLEDGE. HUGH HOPPER only composed one track ''1983'' MARSHALL of course getting a credit for his drum solo.

SIX was released as a double LP back then in 1973. The first one is a ''live ''recording and the second is comprised of 4 studio tracks. If there was no mention on the cover that the first LP was live, you wouldn't guess it as you don't hear the crowd at all and the quality of the production is just excellent. So far SIX is the best sounding SOFT MACHINE album with a crystal sound.

The influence of KARL JENKINS can be heard right away when you hear the first notes. The sound is more lively, more energetic, definitely rid of any experimental/avant guard jazz tendencies from the last 3 albums. SOFT MACHINE in a way stops to experiment on their own and decide to join the Jazz/rock/fusion movement. Some consider SOFT MACHINE lost their own personality by renouncing to their experimental sound by being ''just another'' fusion band, but i think it's a harsh statement.

From SIX, they will still evolve to new territories as SOFTS for example cannot be compared to this album.This album SIX still has tracks that are well in the SOFT vein, going further into new sounds and experimentations on tunes such as the wonderful RATLEDGE penned CHLOE AND THE PIRATES or very futuristic ''1983'' from HOPPER; It doesn't sound like any other fusion band to me.

What's new especially on the live recording is the grooviness of the music!! Imagine that!! SOFT MACHINE, groovy!!!! Just listen to HUGH HOPPER's bass and MARSHALL'S drums: they rock!!! they don't play jazz like on FIFTH. They play a solid rythmic, efficient, i won't say funky, but groovy is definitely the right word. Just listen to RIFF or the great GESOLREUT, i am sure people in the attendance at this concet got up from their seats and got into the rythm.

No don't get me wrong, this is not dance music, we are still talking about SOFT MACHINE here, but they play tight in a very refreshened way full of vitality and energy. A contrast with the dark realities of FOURTH and FIFTH. KARL JENKINS bring a lot of fun with his sax playing bringing a definitely well needed bowl of fresh air within the band. There are introspective moments like the sweetE.P.V and still experimenting weird ones like on LEFTY which sound like an impro, but well done. This is also the only track where you will the old Fuzz bass of HUGH HOPPER. The great organ sound from THIRD also has disappeared in favor of the electric piano, but Ratledge playing sounds rejunevated anyway.

The studio album is more into the contemporary music realm with 12mns THE SOFT WEED FACTOR well in the TERRY RILEY genre, a very moody introspective piece, very spacey! STANLEY STAMPS GIBBON ALBUM is a very energetic (groovy again!!) RATLEDGE track where JENKINS shines with his sax, but is getting a little bit repetitive at the end. Ex-side 4 is where the 2 treasures are; the aforementioned CHLOE AND THE PIRATES a mesmerizing hypnotic piece with an almost ...latin south american rythm to give the beat.HUGH HOPPER has never sounded like that!

And then the album concluded with ''1983'' a sort of spacey voyage to the future track which would be the testament of HUGH HOPPER as he will leave the band after this album. Who knows! maybe HUGH was not into this 'groovy' thing .

SIX is just what the doctor ordered: a new fresh transfusion bringing some life back into the ''machine'' that was going nowhere. This is not a masterpiece, but as i am just listening to it while reviewing, i can tell you it sounds great! This is a new SOFT MACHINE maybe, but that's still SOFT MACHINE, and a good one at that! 3.5 stars, but closer to 4 than 3....will be


Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars The sixth album from The Soft Machine called Six is where The Soft Machine again began to spark my interest after the jazzy Fourth and Fifth. Six is a very jazzy album as well but itīs like some of the old psychadelic parts have returned. The are much nicer here though and not quite as edgy as they were on Third, but they are there.

The album is divided into a live part and a studio part. The live part is very well performed and with a really good sound quality. There is a lack of audience appreciation between the songs though and that pretty much kills the idea of a liver performance IMO. Riff II which is the last song of the live set does include audience noises though and itīs nice to hear. The music on the live part does remind me of Fourth and Fifth but the relentless sax soloing isnīt as hysterical as on the two previous albums and there are actual structures in some of the songs. 5 from 13 (for Phil Seamen with love & thanks) is a good example of a great theme itīs just too bad that what could have been a great song is ruined by a boring drum solo. The theme returns in the end of the song though.

The studio part of the album consists of 4 songs where especially The soft weed factor is a slow building song with some great themes. The studio part is generally the most likable seen from my point of view.

The musicianship is great and Hugh Hopper says goodbye to The Soft Machine with 1983, which is a typical Hugh Hopper composition. Drummer John Marshall is now a fulltime member of the group ( he only played on half the tracks on Fifth) while saxophonist Elton Dean has been replaced by Karl Jenkins who is a bit more restrained in his playing style than Elton Dean was.

Six is a more accessible album than both Fourth and Fifth but itīs still way too jazzy and unstructured jamming to satisfy my taste and Iīll rate it 2 stars.

Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars Exit Elton Dean and enter Karl Jenkins formerly of NUCLEUS. Actually the drummer John Marshall is also from that great band. The addition of Jenkins is significant considering his composing skills and the fact that he is a multi-instrumentalist. In fact he would be involved in composing 8 of the 15 tracks here.This was originally released as a double album with the first record being a "live" one from their tour of Europe in 1972. The second record is a studio recording in which each of the four members composed one track each.

The first record is interesting because although it's "live" none of these tracks except for "All White" had been released before. "Fanfare" sounds so amazing with the electric piano, sax and drums standing out. It blends right into "All White" from the "Fifth" album. Jenkins leads the way but I like the drumming on this one best. "Between" features lots of atmosphere and keys. "Riff" has a great sound to it. Some nice bass lines as Jenkins comes barging in. I like the rhythm here. "37 1/2" is so intricate and jazzy and I love the sax. "Gesolreut" has such a groove to it. Cool song. "E.V.P." is laid back with that high pitched sax ? "Lefty" is a little experimental early before we get some good drumming. "Stumble" is good as we get piano and sax with outbursts of drums. "5 From 13" is a drum solo. This song blends into "Riff II" where he's still beating the hell out of his drums.

The studio album starts with Jenkins' "The Soft Weed". Kind of cool to hear dual piano melodies here as Ratledge and Jenkins do their thing. Drums and bass join in after 3 minutes followed by sax. The song ends as it began. "Stanley Stamps Gibbon Album" is Marshall's song. This one features drums and percussion.The tempo picks up when the aboe arrives. "Chloe And The Pirates" is a Ratledge tune. It's actually spacey to start until it changes after 2 minutes when the sax comes in and a steady beat. It's spacey again to end it with sax. "1983" is Hopper's song. Interesting that he called his first solo album "1984". And yes it's a continuation of the experimentation that's found in this tune. I like the dark piano that comes and goes throughout.

Interesting that with Hopper's good friend Elton Dean gone he has taken a back seat here. Perhaps voluntarily, perhaps not.

Review by Kazuhiro
3 stars The member changes most by the unit of one year and directionality turns around to Softs by the member actually by contraries. After Wyatt had come off, Softs might have given a little loose impression because the impression at time that contained Wyatt was strong. However, Softs gives the impression with the extension from the current, inner element to the outside music is materialized to the counterplan at that time by the directionality that each member thought about. It is true that of course, there was an element of Jazz Rock from at first of the formation to the time of dissolution for Softs. However, they are not the translations to which only simple Jazz is performed. There was already establishment as the brand of the name called Softs even if the Softs member changed a little. Elton Dean is not already a member in this album. The player of the wind instrument that replaces Dean and joins Softs is Karl Jenkins. He was a member of Nucleus as well as drum player's John Marshall. And, this album is made at the end and Bass player Hugh Hopper also has seceded. And, Dean and Hopper that secedes Softs form the band that is newly called "Soft Heap". Music is variously derivative to Canterbury Scene of the 70's really. And, it is also true that they always influenced people. The tune of the album collects the recording of live and the recording of the studio respectively. This might have been an irregular composition in the music at this time. Because Karl Jenkins is related to the composition to some degree, the impression might recall the sound of Miles Davis in the 70 a little's. However, the organ to which Ratledge is distorted is always alive and well even if there is a straight melody of the rhythm and Jenkins like Rock that Marshall is hard. However, the support of Ratledge might be also a little loose here. It might be evidence that the color of Jenkins has gone out strongly obviously. The tune is made chaotic at the angle besides current Softs.
Review by snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Elton Dean's departure soon after the release of band's previous album,Fifth,and his replacement by ex-Nucleus Karl Jenkins opened new era in Soft Machine's music. Six is a double album, second after Third,but it's structure is different: it opens with live recordings (all first LP)and continues with studio recorded compositions on second vinyl LP.

Album's opener Fanfare and next composition All White sound excellent and in few first moments listener can be fooled he's listening Dean's sax solos. But very soon the difference become obvious - instead of Dean's free improvisational playing manner,Jenkins plays groove fusion.He is technically capable musician,so music sounds really good,but the atmosphere of all recording is very different from everything Soft Machine played and recorded before.

All live recording is quite well structured with simple bass line,and all rhythm section mostly on support of soloing sax and electric piano.It could be a good music played by any other band, but with Soft Machine legacy such change looks as step back.

Studio-recorded materials are even more different.Almost fully composed,well structured songs with repetitive sections,some sound effects and experimental elements sound interesting,but are even more far from classic Soft Machine compositions. When you listen sound of melted minimalist contemporary music and jazz fusion with electric piano multi-layers,you understand that Soft Machine is really interesting,but absolutely different band from now.

Review by The Quiet One
4 stars All in one: Soft Machine's Early Period and Future Period

Soft Machine's 6th album, entitled no more nor less than Six, was the turning-point to the full- blown Jazz Rock sound they would get somewhat popular with their future records, Bundles and Softs, which would feature a guitarist. While Six(and Seven) do not feature any guitarist, this record still manages to sound like those upcoming releases very much, of course that could be product of it being the same line-up, with the exception of Hugh Hopper who would leave for the following record. But what it really is that makes it sound similar to the 'Guitar' phase of Soft Machine is what I'm going to say while reviewing the album:

First LP of the original recording compromises of a live performance of this new line-up, in which demonstrates what the band will be playing in the future; lots of groove and energy coming from the fantastic rhythm section compromised by well-respected bass player Hugh Hopper and Nucleus' John Marshall, which in following releases would be compromised with Roy Babbington in place of Hugh on the bass duties. However the usual constant saxophone solos are present, but this time done by Karl Jenkins who also shares the keyboard duties with mastermind Mike Ratledge, giving a wider variety of soundscapes and jazzy hooks. Also, I must not forget that Jenkins' sax(and oboe!) style is rather more loose and suites well the groovy style this album has newely featured, unlike the more jazz-rooted and spacey Elton Dean who often edged strict jazz territory or avant-garde dissonance. Overall very exciting, and pretty jazz-less compared to their highly acclaimed 'Third', so this record is not exclusive for fans of that album either of Jazz. Worthy of mention is the exceptional craft from each song in which flows flawlessly one after the other as if they all compromised one awesome huge jazz rock composition, very much alike as they would do with Bundles and the live recording, British Tour '75.

Second LP is pretty much a different story, though. Not only it's the studio recording, but the style of it is pretty much in the vein of the proto-jazz rock style of Fourth and Fifth, rather than the rock-headed and groovy vein the live record presented. So fans of that previous period who didn't enjoy the live recording because of its rock-direction, then this record will surely satisfy your jazz and spacey needs, specially with Chloe and The Pirates and The Soft Weed Factor, two mesmerizing compositions in which take you to a whole different level to that of the live recording, both remind somewhat of In a Silent Way's slow build-up structure, but a bit more spacey-alike and with a 70s sound.

So 'Six' is indeed one excellent fresh, half Jazz Rock the other half classic Soft Machine, album. Both, fans of the guitar-driven Soft Machine and fans of the jazzier and more spacey Soft Machine can be delighted with this album, since the material of both styles are excellently done.

Review by ZowieZiggy
2 stars For those who are not deeply in love with "Soft Machine", it is quite hard to review each of their albums. I am just saying this because this is another double one clocking at almost eighty minutes. And the content is not very different of their prior releases: fully jazz oriented (being the live disc or the studio one).

Is there any need to mention that the band changed from personal again? I guess not.

Is there any need to mention that the musical style hasn't really changed? I guess not.

There is no need to proceed to a track by track reference: the global feeling that prevails is just a fully jazz oriented album again. Canterbury style is alien here (as during most of their works actually, but one can try and argue). This is jazz rock: period.

I'll leave the debate to know if jazz-rock is part of prog music to your judgment. But I have my idea?

To tell you the truth, I would advise you to listen to each side (or section) in a separate way, because the whole of this offering is quite indigestible to listen to as a whole. Again, your feeling might be more obliging if you are under the jazz charm. But I am not.

The worst I had to experience was the second free-jazz jam "Gesoltreut etc. ". It reminds me of the VERY difficult to bear "Facelift" from their third album: inconsistent, improvised, and rather loose to say the least. At the end of the day, this is pretty much dispensable. The only decent part is the drum solo. Big deal!

Two stars. This is again on the upper side of my rating system.

Review by zravkapt
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Like Third, this is a double-album, but this time one record was all live and the other all studio. This is also the best thing Softs did since Third, the two albums in between showing the group at their most avant-jazz. Six is the first album with Karl Jenkins and the last with Hugh Hopper. Jenkins, like drummer John Marshall, had been a member of Nucleus before joining the Softs. It wouldn't be long before Jenkins started taking over the group. He replaces saxophonist Elton Dean but also becomes a second keyboardist along with Mike Ratledge. Besides saxes and keys he also plays oboe, which is an unusual instrument to have in a 'fusion' group.

The cover artwork is one of my favourites from this group. It looks like a visual artists' interpretation of the groups name. The live album sounds like two long suites, being divided up into shorter pieces. Most of the live songs are new except "All White" which appeared on Fifth. "Between" is mostly electric pianos which builds up to the great "Riff". This song has a great mix of fuzz-organ and wah-piano. "Gesolreut" is probably the best song on the live record. Nice bassline and drumbeat. I like how the electric piano and sax play together at points. Great solo on a modified sax or oboe, almost sounds like a guitar.

"E.P.V." starts off almost New Age with electric piano and sax/oboe. Then slowly bass and drums join in and it becomes loud and intense instead. Then the song mellows out. "Lefty" is similar to "Facelift" from Third; noisy and avant. "Stumble" is another great song but way too short. Nice acoustic piano in this song. "5 From 13 (for Phil Seamen with love and thanks)" has a very Canterbury sounding title. But it's just the obligatory John Marshall drum solo. Ever since he joined a spot was set aside on every album for him to solo. "Riff II" is completely different to "Riff".

The studio half opens with "The Soft Weed Factor". This begins with an electric piano playing a hypnotic repeated figure. Slowly it gets joined by another electric piano playing something similar yet different. Before long, one or two more electric pianos appear. Very mellow and trance inducing. After 3 minutes drums and bass come in with a nice groove. Shortly after fuzz-organ and sax/oboe play in unison. In the middle some percussion noises get added. Before 9 minutes the bass and drums stop. The last two or so minutes is more hypnotic electric pianos, gradually going back to just one.

"Stanley Stamps Gibbon Album (for B.O.)" goes back to Vol. 2/Third territory. Nice percussion. What sounds like hypnotic, looped oboes at the end. "Chloe And The Pirates" begins with spacey sounds, some backwards. You hear backwards sax/oboe and then a repetative electric piano and bass while the sax/oboe now plays forward. Drums come in and it builds to a loud climax of sorts. Then it switches to an easy going groove with sax or oboe soloing. At 6 1/2 minutes some more backwards effects and the beginning played forward. Ending with more spacey effects and backwards loops along with sax playing over top.

"1983" is bassist Hopper's baby. This sounds more like the stuff on his solo album 1984, released a year earlier, than it does with anything else on Six. More avant-prog than Canterbury or fusion. The main song is based around piano and cymbals. Various sound effects get added. Overdubbed basses noodle at the end with weird oboes or saxes whining away. Intense song, not for everybody, that's for sure. You actually don't hear a lot of Hopper's trademark fuzz-bass on this album, although it does rear it's ugly head once in awhile.

The studio half has better sound and compositions. But the live half has better performances. After Hopper left, Jenkins will really start to influence the group. It gets to the point that even Ratledge leaves, with no original members left. The groups sound would also get closer to stereotypical fusion. Because this is the last album with Hopper and Ratledge together, in many ways it is the last real Soft Machine album. I like the albums they did after this, but it justs seems like a completely different group altogether. Not a good place to start with Softs, but this is recommended to those who are mainly familiar with the first three albums. 4 stars.

Review by Warthur
4 stars Elton Dean left Soft Machine after Five, and in came Karl Jenkins, who plays on both reed instruments and keyboards on this albums. The arrival of Jenkins is, like the departure of Robert Wyatt, a controversial point amongst Soft Machine fans, some of whom resent the way he eventually took control over the band, but - despite the fact that I am a major fan of Robert Wyatt and his tenure in the Machine - I think Karl was exactly what the group needed at the time.

Mike Ratledge has said that at around this point his enthusiasm for the group had been flagging, not least because being in the position of being the only remaining original member of the group proved to be deeply uncomfortable. The fact that Jenkins contributes about as much to the songwriting on this album as Ratledge (they compose more or less all the tracks, Hugh Hopper's creepy and foreboding 1983 being a notable exception) seems to show that the new boy had a heap of musical ideas and was able to take on the burden of producing material for the group just as Ratledge was beginning to falter.

The change in the band's sound evident on this album represents a significant artistic shift. Backing away from the almost-completely-jazz model of fusion that dominated the previous two studio albums, the double-disc sets shows a bolder, rockier, funkier model of fusion, played by a band which sounds fresh and revitalised. Even All White from Fifth, which makes an appearance on the live disc, sounds utterly different from its previous incarnation - and greatly improved to boot, with the new lineup breathing new life into the track. (Remember, John Marshall didn't drum on the studio rendition because it was recorded before he joined the group, so there's two entirely new players performing on this version.)

Diverse, dramatic, and once again grabbing the listener's attention and forging their own bold vision of fusion rather than pandering to the jazz establishment, Six put the Softs straight back to the top - and finally won them the awards and approval from the jazz world that had eluded them previously. It is probably best to treat this band as a different group with the same name as the band that produced the first three studio albums, but having passed through two difficult transitional albums the transformed Soft Machine is a more than technically competent beast in its own right. It's really a fusion group rather than a Canterbury scene institution at this point, and whilst I tend to prefer the Wyatt-era albums in general, I'm increasingly hearing the worth of the Jenkins albums as my fusion tastes mature. Those who enjoy the later Jenkins-led version of the band can't go too far wrong with taking in the album where his vision of the Machine began to form.

Review by Dapper~Blueberries
4 stars This review is gonna be a bit quicker than most of the other Soft Machine reviews because the old review got trashed by an internet crash and all that bad stuff and there were like 3 paragraphs so I don't really have the time and patience to make this the best it could be so sorry about that. Anyways this albums is very good. The live songs are honestly spot on. I loved the minimalistic tracks like Between and EPV and I also loved the cool jazzy songs like Riff and Stumble. I also really enjoyed the studio stuff. Each of them has an aura of coolness and their own distinctive themes. I love how creepy 1983 is too, very spooky. Anyways, yeah I thought the album was great, definitely one of Soft Machine's best works.

Latest members reviews

2 stars The first truly boring Soft Machine album. There are actually two albums here, a live album and a studio album. Karl Jenkins had taken on the lead role, and Mike Ratledge, while still an official member and playing great solos, starting to recede from view. The live album is actually relatively ... (read more)

Report this review (#1697014) | Posted by Walkscore | Sunday, February 26, 2017 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I know ! it's a fact ! for most of SOFT MACHINE early fans the story ends up with THIRD or almost FOURTH (a bit free boarder line for me )but it's a great mistake, i mean this recording is a real achievement . I remember at the time in 1973 when i got this album , just a few monthes later tha ... (read more)

Report this review (#300404) | Posted by jean-marie | Saturday, September 25, 2010 | Review Permanlink

3 stars The entrance of the multi-talented Karl Jenkins into the cushy apparatus was quite a big deal. Like the pied piper, (except replace the flute for an oboe) he brought with him melodic ideas of all sorts and especially riffs into a band that had abandoned structured playing for all sorts of nasty, ... (read more)

Report this review (#294906) | Posted by LionRocker | Tuesday, August 17, 2010 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Another good reason to love Soft Machine. This album is made up of two parts. A live recording and one studio recording. But in essence; it is still a seventy minutes long jam. A bit strange for anyone but Soft Machine fans. For us; a Soft Machine album recorded naked in the Gobi Desert would ... (read more)

Report this review (#246352) | Posted by toroddfuglesteg | Monday, October 26, 2009 | Review Permanlink

4 stars A definite improvement over Four/ blood revives some lost spark. The live half shifts thru two extended multi-track pieces of solid spacy's not just noisy noodling as other reviewers have's much more spacious than the last two or three albums and the exc ... (read more)

Report this review (#114746) | Posted by Intruder | Saturday, March 10, 2007 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Cool. A jazz Ummagumma, coupling a live album of meandering renditions of older stuff with a studio-album of four tracks stylistically as diverse as can be. Some might see this as the beginning of the end to Soft Machine, as some numbers have very smooth shapes. The elements of improvisation ... (read more)

Report this review (#37989) | Posted by | Wednesday, June 29, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars A wonderful album to own and listen to. You have the best of both worlds on this live/studio album. The live album is groovin and jammin while the studio has the best work of the jenkins period. All songs on the studio album are pecan except 1983 with is pretty boring i don't know why people ... (read more)

Report this review (#22069) | Posted by downtheroad25 | Friday, December 31, 2004 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This is the first Soft Machine album I ever had, and it is still my favourite one. I always preferred the studio album over the live album. it took me a while to come round to that one. I didn't know much about jazz, or much of anything beyond rock at the time. This album though marked my goin ... (read more)

Report this review (#22066) | Posted by | Tuesday, June 15, 2004 | Review Permanlink

2 stars Hit and miss album without any outstanding tracks. It leans too much towards jazz for my taste, but does have some good easy listening for the end of a rough day.The music itself is well performed and cohesive, but lacking in any real bite. It's a shame they didn't keep up their earlier high standar ... (read more)

Report this review (#22064) | Posted by | Wednesday, April 28, 2004 | Review Permanlink

2 stars This album is split into two - a studio album, and a live album. The latter (the live album) is not bad (not as good though as the early Softs live - Karl Jenkins is not nearly as passionate and exciting a player as Elton Dean, and John Marshall is too straight a drummer for this music). However, th ... (read more)

Report this review (#22061) | Posted by | Monday, February 2, 2004 | Review Permanlink

3 stars A very enjoyable album. Karl Jenkins enters & replaces Elton Dean on he Reeds section. This album is divided into a live album & a studio album. The live album represents their tour in Europe in 1972, which is very enjoyable, & the sound quality is terrific. Great Jazz-Rock jams. This album is the g ... (read more)

Report this review (#22060) | Posted by | Monday, December 29, 2003 | Review Permanlink

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