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SOFTS

The Soft Machine

Canterbury Scene


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The Soft Machine Softs album cover
3.70 | 150 ratings | 21 reviews | 23% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection


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Studio Album, released in 1976

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Aubade (1:51)
2. The Tale of Taliesien (7:17)
3. Ban-Ban Caliban (9:22)
4. Song of Aeolus (4:31)
5. Out of Season (5:32)
6. Second Bundle (2:37)
7. Kayoo (3:27)
8. The Camden Tandem (2:01)
9. Nexus (0:49)
10. One Over the Eight (5:25)
11. Etika (2:21)

Total Time: 45:13

Lyrics

Search THE SOFT MACHINE Softs lyrics

Music tabs (tablatures)

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Line-up / Musicians

- Roy Babbington / bass guitar
- John Etheridge / acoustic & electric guitars
- Karl Jenkins / piano, electric piano, pianette, string, Mini-Moog synthesizers, orchestration
- John Marshall / drums, percussion
- Alan Wakeman / soprano & tenor saxes
+ Mike Ratledge / synthesizer (3,4)

Releases information

LP Harvest SHSP4056 (1976)
LP & CD See For Miles SEE 285 (1990,France)

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to snobb for the last updates
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Original Album ClassicsOriginal Album Classics
Import
Sony Import 2010
Audio CD$13.58
$19.93 (used)
Volume 2Volume 2
Import · Remastered
EMI Europe Generic 2009
Audio CD$5.44
$4.49 (used)
Tanglewood TailsTanglewood Tails
Import
SECRET RECORDS 2014
Audio CD$19.99
BBC Radio 1971-1974BBC Radio 1971-1974
Import
Hux Records 2003
Audio CD$16.18
$11.95 (used)
BBC Radio: 1967-1971BBC Radio: 1967-1971
Hux Records 2003
Audio CD$18.58
$14.99 (used)
Soft MachineSoft Machine
Sundazed Music Inc. 2012
Audio CD$8.55
$8.49 (used)
Live at Henie Onstad Art Centre 1971Live at Henie Onstad Art Centre 1971
Box set
Reel Recordings 2009
Audio CD$9.88
$13.99 (used)
Soft MachineSoft Machine
Import · Remastered
EMI Europe Generic 2009
Audio CD$5.44
$9.75 (used)
Volumes One & TwoVolumes One & Two
Import
Big Beat UK 2004
Audio CD$10.12
$7.99 (used)
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THE SOFT MACHINE Softs ratings distribution


3.70
(150 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(23%)
23%
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(47%)
47%
Good, but non-essential (24%)
24%
Collectors/fans only (5%)
5%
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)
1%

THE SOFT MACHINE Softs reviews


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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Folk
4 stars (ninth in a serie of eleven)

Holdsworth is replaced by Etheridge ( no ! not the dyke) from Darryl Way's Wolf and as Ratledge is bowing out (it had become foreseeable by listening well to Bundles), should this still be called Soft Machine after this one? Ratledge still contributes synth works on two or three tracks. Please note that Alan Wakeman holds no relationship (at least none clearly announced) to the keyboardist with the star-sprinkled cape. Although the surprise of Bundles is gone , this is still a good album though, and the progression is quite impressive . One can say that even with no original members , Soft Machine managed to keep its musical aesthetics quite clear until the last album (Cockayne) when they should've called it a day . Ban Ban Caliban is really impressive with its 9 min+ lenght and full energy. As usual Marshall blesses us with yet another drum solo on side 2. A clear relation is alluded to the previous album when you come to the second track of side 2 called Second Bundle.

This album is just as good as the previous Bundles and is yet another high point in Soft Machine's lenghthy career ( Vol1&2, third , 6, Bundles, and this one). Much recommended. However with each new album after this one , they will sound a bit more mainstream Jazz-rock.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#22095) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Review by Philo
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Whether this collection of well schooled musicians should have been flying under the name Soft Machine at this stage is debatable. The music bears no resemblance to the early Avant Garde semi jazz noise created by Elton Dean, Hugh Hopper, Mike Ratledge and Robert Wyatt and most prominent on their most known album Third. Of this unique quartet only Ratledge survives to make it to Softs and only features on two cuts and even then as a special guest. As the Soft Machine developed each new musician entering the ranks became more technical and the Softs became a very disciplined outfit. But with that discipline came sacrifices. The loose free form jams and originality of the earlier music was now redundant. Instead the music became more tightly structured and the music condensed into shorter more accessible formats. Softs is a good album, a good incidental album with a more focused and forgiving production than what had graced the Bundles album. Alan Holdsworth has been replaced by John Etheridge on guitar but the difference if minimal but equal in flair yet with very little passion. Personally I prefer Soft Machine without guitar and miss the wild soloing by Elton Dean jamming and riffing along with Ratledge. Not a true Soft Machine album but the Karl Jenkins led group made a decent enough album in Softs which could be best described as Acid Muzak with a solid progression.

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Send comments to Philo (BETA) | Report this review (#22097) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, August 29, 2004

Review by hdfisch
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Edited 10/15/2005!

This album by THE SOFT MACHINE sounds really completely different from all the ones they did before. And I fully understand that early hardcore fans might be disappointed by it. Like on "Bundles" already the experimental and psychedelic character of their music has disappeared here mostly making place for a really well done jazz fusion which is fully enjoyable. Although I like as well quite a lot of their previous stuff in the meantime, I still have to say this one and the even better "Bundles" are the only albums by them I can enjoy on their whole. As an example Marshall's drum solo in Track "Kayoo", the only compositions done by him alone on here is just amazing and despite it starts to be a wee more adventurous in the next track with a slightly demented guitar solo, it's still a rather easy and nice listen. "Nexus" is a very short keyboard piece and with "One Over The Eight" they're finding their way back into real great jazz rock with an amazing saxophone playing and the rest of the musicians entering, just awesome, I'm missing words to describe it, just incredibly good music. Last one "Etka" , an Etheridge composition is a wonderful acoustic guitar piece.

Some people may say Jenkins' SOFT MACHINE was not worth any more to carry this name. I might agree to that speaking about later albums like "Rubber Riff" and "Land of Cockayne", but this one and the predecessor "Bundles" were really excellent! Highly recommended for any jazz fusion fan!

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Send comments to hdfisch (BETA) | Report this review (#22098) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Review by Zac M
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This album represents the best of the post-Wyatt days. Karl Jenkins plays the main role as composer and plays keyboards with a little help from Mike Ratledge, who now appears as a guest musician on two tracks (Song of Aeolus and Ban-Ban Caliban). This album evokes a certain emotional intensity and builds upon each theme as each piece progresses. Now, on to the review.

The album starts out with Aubade, a short intro featuring sax and guitar, the sax being played by Alan Wakeman, whom I am assuming has no relation to Rick Wakeman. It sets of the mood nicely. Next comes The Tale of Taliesin, which builds with intensity as the piece goes on. John Ethridge presents himself as a stunning guitarist. This piece bridges with Ban-Ban Caliban a furioso of sorts and is full of lots of energy. Side one closes with Song of Aeolus.

Side two starts out with Out of Season, and while many people find this track boring and repetitive, I love it. The piano melody is so simple, but soon is enhanced by Etheridge's wonderful acoustic guitar. This wonderful piece bridges into Second Bundle, a cool synth piece similar to pieces like the French and German Lessons off of Seven. Next comes the ever-famous Marshall drum solo. It starts out being a bit noodley and avant-garde, but is still an interesting track to listen to. The Camden Tandem is a short featured duet between Marshall and Etheridge, which ends just as Nexus, another short Jenkin's composition begins. One Over the Eight harkens back to the sound of some of the members ex-band, Nucleus. All the players on the album get a chance to play in this funky, up-tempo piece. Alan Wakeman's sax is excellent here. After that flourish comes a simple acoustic guitar tune played by the underrated John Etheridge. It's a nice way to close an outstanding album.

This album really deserves five stars. Karl Jenkin's compoitional skills here are just as evident as those with Nucleus. I highly recommend this album. It's definitely the best of the post-Wyatt years and is highly underrated. 4.5 stars

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Send comments to Zac M (BETA) | Report this review (#47072) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, September 18, 2005

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars WOW! What an excellent album. When I bought this album in 1982, I though that I would get a music that is soft as the album tells. But in fact, the music is quite heavy and complex. I would say that this album has inspired (and probably influenced) Ozric Tentacles because in some segments I can get the nuance similar with the music of Ozric Tentacles.

The album kicks off with an ambient music which features John Etheridge's acoustic guitar fills accompanying Alan Wakeman's soprano saxes in "Aubade" followed almost seamlessly with second track "The Tale of Taliesin" through a nice piano solo (by Karl Jenkins) that later (with the entrance of drumming) brings to a floating music with piano as rhythm section accompanying electric guitar solo. The music turns into a fast tempo style with powerful guitar solo and dynamic drumming by John Marshall. It reminds me to the music of Colosseum II. Wow man .. I love this part and I'm lucky that this part takes relatively long guitar solo with solid bass lines by Roy Babbington. "Ban-Ban Caliban" follows with great synthesizer work by guest musician "Mike Ratledge" with a style that reminds me to Ozric Tentacles. Soprano saxes augment the music and give a richer texture. During soprano sax solo improvisation the music is performed in relatively fast tempo. It's really an enjoyable music that any Canterbury or jazz rock fusion fans would enjoy very much. The changes in style and tempo happen nicely - for example when the solo improvisation changes from soprano sax to electric guitar, the transition happens wonderfully. Drum work is awesome. This kind of music reminds me also to artists like Billy Cobham, Jean Luc Ponty (especially "Enigmatic Ocean" album), The Flock, Mahavishnu Orchestra and also Return To Forever. The music then turns slower with "Song of Aeolus" where guitar is taking the lead melody role in slow tempo style.

With Side 2 the band offers another stream of good composition where it opens with soft piano touch in "Out of Season" combined nicely with acoustic guitar. It serves like a musical break after enjoying hard-edge music in fast tempo. The guitar changes to electric and plays a role as lead melody with piano as rhythm section. also contains excellent drum solo in "Kayoo" which reminds me of Billy Cobham's drum solo. I do enjoy John Marshall drum work - it's dynamic and produces excellent sounds.

It's a highly recommended album - an excellent addition to any prog music collection. If you like jazz rock fusion or Canterbury, this album is yours. Keep on proggin' ..!

Progressively yours, GW

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Send comments to Gatot (BETA) | Report this review (#48144) | Review Permalink
Posted Saturday, September 24, 2005

Review by febus
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam
5 stars THE MARVEL OF THE JENKINS ERA!

I have a few selected recordings in my music collection that i considerlike my eternal treasures; i can listen to them on a regular basis, even after all those years and the pleasure, the excitement , the emotions i am having are as strong as ever. I never get tired to listening to them always discovering something new. This is like a journey to a wondeful world, another planet where everything is beautiful and nothing bad can happen to me. Just a few albums do the tricks like the self titled album from NOVALIS, WOLF CITY by AMON DUUL2, HAMBURGER CONCERTO from FOCUS or RED by KC and a few more. To this list, i can add this album SOFTS from SOFT MACHINE.Sometimes, it's difficult to explain.

I bought SOFTS back then in 1976 in the LP format of course and it has been a pillar of my collection and still is 31 years later! I saw SOFT MACHINE live in concert in Toulouse, France a few months before this release. The show was sold out (SOFT MACHINE was big in France!) and i witnessed SOFT history as it was one of the last concerts of MIKE RATLEDGE ever ,playing with the new guitarist JOHN ETHERIDGE.

Of course, SOFT MACHINE being SOFT MACHINE, personel changes occured once again with the departure of ALLAN HOLDSWORTH after just one album being replaced by JOHN ETHERIDGE.Also KARL JENKINS gave up the horns and concentratred to play the keyboards. ALAN WAKEMAN was hired to take over tenor and soprano saxes. Most importantly, as widely expected considering its shrinking role in the band, former leader MIKE RATLEDGE left discreetly. He is still present on SOFTS, but only on 2 tracks and the worst is that he is listed as a ......guest!!! MIKE RATLEDGE guesting! in his own band he created and led!!! the rise and fall of a great musician!.

With all these new changes, are we going to have another switch of the musical direction that we have been accustomed to with SOFT MACHINE? Not really as SOFTS bears a lot similarities with BUNDLES. First of all, the change of tha axeman doesn't affect the sound as ETHERIDGE plays-very-similar to ALLAN HODSWORTH. I am sure a lot of listeners wouldn't have noticed the difference if you don't mention the fact that this is not the same guitarist who plays on BUNDLES and SOFTS.

Hey! to keep the traditions intact, we are once again treated to another JENKINS percussion solo KAYOO, but the great part is when JOHN ETHERIDGE enters the fray with THE CAMDEN TANDEM for a furious, frenetic guitar/drums combo battle , kind of amazing for something labelled with the Soft Machine name on it; but that's a very exhilarating experience, especially when the short symphonic (yes , symphonic a la MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA)track NEXUS follows.

You will find every kind of music on this album, but everything blends together as a lot of pieces are bridged together.The album opens with the delicate ambient tune AUBADE played only with an acoustic guitar and a flute; what an enchanting intro it is. SOFT MACHINE playing beautiful romantic music, what happened to this world?

The meat of SOFTS comes next with some of my most beloved tracks ever: THE TALE OF TALIESIN and BAN BAN CALIBAN , 17 mns of joy and beauty. Great piano, fast furious guitar solos with a frenetic rythm section, then a symphonic soundscape to make it grandiose, a great theme and what to say about BAN BAN CALIBAN? maybe the most energetic track ever under a SOFT MACHINE name. Did i say funky? not really in the Detroit Motown style ,i mean but for them it's quite funky.The same goes for ONE OVER THE HEIGHT with this lively dynamic rythm section and a demential sax solo from ALAN WAKEMAN; that's really blowing the horn, believe me!

There is not one letdown on this album as there is so much to say, or better to hear.SOFTS is full of life, full of energy played by fantastic musicians (oh! JOHN ETEHRIDGE! what a force!). This is not uniform as there are so many different soundscapes going from the reflective melancholic ballad to the jazz/rock frenesy of a madman to a symphonic orgy created by these talented artists at their creative peaks. This is music the way i see it, i feel it , music the way it should be played , music for the ages! This is my 100 th review and to celebrate, i cannot give less than 5 stars.

5 STARS.

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Send comments to febus (BETA) | Report this review (#136579) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, September 06, 2007

Review by Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Down to just Ratledge

Apparently by the time the band entered Abbey Road in the spring of 1976 Mike Ratledge was the last remaining original member of the Machine, and in a reduced capacity at that. He performs on but two tracks. Karl Jenkins seems to be the man in charge of things at this time, writing the lion's share of the material. This album is a controversial title to fans, many of whom see it as somewhat illegitimate but others who name the title as their favorite. I think there are several very good tracks even if the overall album doesn't leave a lasting impression. This is not just a typical jazz rock album by any means-there are clearly portions that sound like quite different. Listen to the gorgeous acoustic guitar on "Aubade" which is the intro to the fabulous "The Tale of Taliesin." Tale features a relaxing, repeating piano backdrop for some gorgeous electric leads patterns that spring forth from John Etheridge. The drumming can get a bit busy in jazzy Bruford fashion leading to a shift halfway through to a harder edge fusion jam. This continues into "Ban-Ban Caliban" with some wicked jamming.really quite tasty. Then things take a turn with "Song of Aeolus" which seduces you: a quiet and gentle keyboard backdrop for sleepy leads and very slow beat. The consistency seems to wane quite a bit in the second half with some space keys attempts, a drum solo, and some wankery that puts the flash over any kind of thoughtful songwriting. So as mentioned, a few very good tracks and the rest a very mixed bag. Probably one for the fans mostly. The French SFM issue features a decent bio from that particular period. 5/10

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Send comments to Finnforest (BETA) | Report this review (#170707) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, May 11, 2008

Review by Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Interesting album especially when it lists Mike Ratledge as a guest player. What ! Karl Jenkins has taken on Mike's role completely and so they've added Alan Wakeman to play saxes.The other change is Allan Holdsworth leaving and being replaced by John Etheridge.

"Aubade" is a beautiful track with sax and gentle guitar throughout. "The Tale Of Taliesien" opens with piano. Drums and guitar join in. I don't know why this is so moving for me. Marshall sounds amazing as usual. The tempo picks up after 3 minutes and some ripping guitar follows. It settles back before 5 1/2 minutes. "Ban-Ban Caliban" is spacey to open with what sounds like electronics. Ratledge is responsible for this. Drums then sax comes in. Guitar and drums take the spotlight after 5 minutes. Nice bass from Babbington too. A change after 7 minutes as guitar backs off. Lots going on with all these intricate sounds. "Song Of Aeolus" opens with spacey winds as piano, drums and synths build. Guitar before a minute. The guitar is gorgeous. The wind is back to end it.

"Out Of Season" opens with piano as it slowly builds. Synths, guitar and drums lead. Piano replaces the synths as it winds back down slowly. Cool song. "Second Bundle" is spacey and electronic sounding like the start of "Ban- Ban Caliban". "Kayoo" features percussion sounds with no beat or melody. Eventually this turns into a drum solo. It blends into "The Camden Tandem" as drums continue. The guitar comes in lighting it up. "Nexus" has a nice full sound of piano, drums and guitar. "One Over The Eight" is kind of funky, especially the prominant bass .Sax plays over top. Great sound 2 1/2 minutes in. Big, big finish 4 1/2 minutes in then it settles to end it. "Etika" features intricate acoustic guitar melodies.

While I prefer "Bundles" to this one, i'm very impressed with this album. Easily 4 stars.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#253755) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, November 30, 2009

Review by The Quiet One
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars There's Pierre Moerlen's Gong and there's Karl Jenkins' Soft Machine

Softs is the successor of Bundles, the first Soft Machine album which featured a guitarist that leads the band and the first Soft Machine album having the Jazz Rock style fully developed. On Softs the one on the guitar duties is a great admirer of previous guitarist, Allan Holdsworth, his name is John Etheridge. While he might barely ring a bell to anybody, he is nonetheless totally capable of fitting Allan's shoes for this record entitled Softs. John Etheridge had already shown he was capable of playing Allan's stuff back on tour in 1975 while promoting Bundles, but not only he achieved that but also added his own trademark sound to the solos making him a very distinguished jazz-rock guitarist and not just an imitator. So in Softs he plays his own style which varies through potent sentimental notes and dazzling solos which in times resembles McLaughlin's fast and intense guitar bites.

The rest of the band is unchanged with the exception of the loss of keyboardist and mastermind, Mike Ratledge, the last remaining founding member of the band. However, it's not an actual loss since the band is still capable of playing wonders without him and the rockin' jazz style of Bundles is not lost without him. Karl Jenkins being now the main composer and keyboardist puts all what he has in this record creating some of Soft Machine's greatest efforts within the jazz rock world, tunes like Ban Ban Caliban, with it's funky style but still well arranged structure shows the entire capabilities of this line-up, even featuring Rick Wakeman's cousin on the sax for a more Soft Machine-esque sound.

Another fantastic composition from this record is The Tale Of Taliesien with it's semi-tenebrous piano intro, it later evolves into a wild ride with Etheridge's consuming guitar and the unstopabble rhythm section compromised by Marshall and Babbington.

Unfortunately, it's mainly the first half of this album that is really excellent, that is up to Out of Season. The second half is rather weak and self-indulgent, beginning with Karl's spacey keyboard solo spot on Second Bundle and then having the usual drum solo by John Marshall on Kayoo and finally there are two solo spots for Etheridge's guitar, The Camden Tandem and Etika, the former featuring John's electrifying bites while the later has his delicate acoustic guitar. Not totally bad, but it's rather annoying to have so many solo tunes for each member since it totally breaks the flow which unlike the three previous albums which featured a stupendous flow from one tune to the other without any pauses nor anything.

So, Softs ends up being an incostintent but still great successor to the masterpiece that Bundles was. Excellent Jazz Rock offering which would have been a masterpiece if it wasn't for the weaker, already stated, second half.

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Send comments to The Quiet One (BETA) | Report this review (#257545) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Review by snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Bundles,previous Soft Machine's album, was kind of band's return to form with new energy of guitarist Alan Holdsworth (stylistically far from classic Soft Machine's sound though). Unhappily, Holdsworth left the band few months after Bundles was recorded, and last founding member keyboardist Mike Ratledge left the band soon as well.

So Softs were recoded by band under the formal "Soft Machine" name, but without original members at all, with no direction and with newly formed line-up. In new band's guitar-led fashion Holdsworth was changed by John Etheridge on acoustic and electric guitars,Karl Jenkins switched from sax to keyboards and new sax player Alan Wakeman came to band.

Not much left from original band's line-up, not much left from original band's music as well.Being still team of competent musicians, band almost lost last jazz elements in their sound,music played is in fact prog rock (close to pop-rock in some moments). Straight forward often mid-tempo melodic compositions with simple arrangements and accent on tune and some soloing sound very different from everything band (even different incarnations of Soft Machine)played before. Even more - all album sounds as collection of bulky material: some pop-rock tunes,prog-rock compositions and technically competent but out of place heavy guitar soloing and even long drums solo! Direction-less compilation of average and below average instrumental music.

In fact,this release is final point of Soft Machine,even if there will be released few more albums under that name.

My rating is 2+.

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Send comments to snobb (BETA) | Report this review (#296381) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, August 27, 2010

Review by ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars I guess that I will be much less laudatory about this album than my prog reviewer friends. But it has been the same story since their "Volume Two" release.

Some of their works so far should be considered as pure jazz-rock items; and to be honest: this "Softs" album is no other of the story. To my astonishment, I have to admit that the long "Ban-Ban Caliban" is quite well achieved.

Of course, this is jazz-rock all the way through, but so magnificently played and performed! It is truly a HUGE piece of music even if I can't share the genre. I have also to admit that some sort of "Santana" feel is deeply expressed during "Song Of Aeolus". But it is not the first time that one can experience such a great and inspired Carlos moment, right?

This "Softs" album is not of great help in their discography as far as I am concerned. Some good drum solo during "Kayoo"; but I guess that most of you have experienced a better one. At least, I feel so. I preferred the "Bundles" in comparison with this "Softs".

This album brings me back to some of their jazz- improvised music of the past; even if more structured ("One Over The Eight"). The short & acoustic closing is of course more of a Hackett or Howe surprise.

Still, I can't go over two stars for this: actually, five out of ten.

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Send comments to ZowieZiggy (BETA) | Report this review (#338453) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, November 29, 2010

Review by Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
1 stars With Mike Ratledge only appearing on a couple of tracks - and then only billed as a guest artist - Softs marks the precise moment where Soft Machine's links to its illustrious past were finally severed forever. Though to be fair, the only remaining link was the fact that Mike was present, rather than anything he was playing or contributing - by Mike's own account, Karl Jenkins and others had essentially taken over the songwriting for a while, and his last years in the band were a deeply uncomfortable experience he was glad to put past him.

So, what does Soft Machine sound like without Mike Ratledge? That's a good question, and one which the band show no sign of knowing the answer to. There's a gentle acoustic bit here, a bit of unimaginative rockin' out on electric guitar by John Etheridge over there, and Karl occasionally tinkles on the synthesisers but doesn't seem to come up with anything decisive or compelling to do with them. The album sounds like a technically competent band waiting to receive their marching orders and aimlessly jamming whilst they wait, only to accidentally release the directionless, aimless, pointless guff that results instead of a properly composed album.

Softs, quite simply, is a bunch of guys playing under the name Soft Machine for the sake of being Soft Machine. No creative vision on the part of anyone present is in evidence, and it's shockingly clear that this era of the band was dominated by Karl Jenkins not by design but by default - quite simply, he's prominent enough on the album to be considered by most to be the band leader despite not really bringing anything resembling leadership or direction to the table. Those absolutely devoted to hearing everything the Machine ever produced will probably want this one, but for everyone else there's plenty of alternatives if you want a slight, technically competent fusion album - try, oh, I don't know, anything by any band with any sense of identity or purpose whatsoever.

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Send comments to Warthur (BETA) | Report this review (#549734) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, October 13, 2011

Review by tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover Team
5 stars This review is dedicated to our regretted friend febus, may you rest in prog peace.

Funny thing about the Soft Machine as the fan base is often divided in 2 separate camps, one preferring the Ratledge/Hopper/Wyatt period encompassing Vol 1,2,3,4 and the Jenkins/Babbington/Marshall agglomeration that produced the amazing Bundles and this utter marvel. Truth be said that many love both, as I do. Nevertheless, having seen the Bundles tour live and witnessed the 'Holdsworth experience', I remain partial to this guitar drenched period. My original 1976 vinyl copy of 'Softs' has more holes in it than an Aero chocolate bar and I finally received my CD version (yeah, colder sounding but durable') , so I was looking forward to this review with unhinged trepidation. While Bundles is a jazz-rock jewel in its raw form, this record shows a different side that has not been repeated since, with the inclusion of the revoltingly underrated axeman John Etheridge, some savvy electronics twiddling, even some funkier patterns that are pelvic shake inducing. 'Aubade' is a precious entr'e en matiere , a drop dead gorgeous melody on acoustic guitar and soprano sax (courtesy of Alan Wakeman 'no relation to the Yes/No man ) and the gargantuan guitar plunge 'The Tale of Taliesin' , a sensational Youtube video is available on the Soft machine PA page you should check out. This piece remains within the realm of my all-time favorite guitar tracks, a 7 minute exploration of some Andalusian knight conquering enemy windmills with his Gibson SG , ripping, raging, rattling and then cajoling, undeterred. I remember the comments back then 'Hey man, this cat is faster than Alvin Lee' (who at the time was the speed demon on guitar). This track alone is worth the effort of inclusion in your collection but by no means are the other tracks shabby. Case in point, the delectable 'Ban-Ban Caliban' featuring cameo synthesizer work from former leader Mike Ratledge which is simply unreal, swerving nearly into T Dream zones , sequencers leading the path towards a tight percussion-heavy workout that hints almost at Caravanserai period Santana, the sultry sax carving out heady emotions and then followed by a whiplash Etheridge solo that devastates everything in its passage. But the groove, of my goodness, tight as a Scotsman! The insane Babbington and prolific Marshall are in sync like few rhythm section ever. The best word to describe this osmosis of sound and rhythm is SMOOTH. It segues straight into another colossal winner, the soporific 'Song of Aeolus' which remains my preferred SM track ever. A guitar lullaby par excellence, the obvious restraint is a timeless jewel that defies categorization, crushingly serene and yet poignant. Etheridge makes his axe cry, sob and you can feel the pain within the notes. Such beauty! The moody and meditative 'Out of Season' has a piano intro that maintains the gentleness, very English, sounding almost like a Rick Wakeman piece, Etheridge carving out a nice little solo once again. The dynamics are held in check, pastoral and repetitive. Please note once again the restraint exhibited by the musicians that keeps this highly charged and emotional piece breathing. Stellar! 'Second Bundle' is a short synthesizer quiver that serves as an interlude, in fact the first of a series of smaller pieces, including a Marshall cymbal driven spot ('Kayoo') that blooms into a flat-out speed freak drum solo. Then we have a wee guitar/drum duet penned 'The Camden Tandem' where both Etheridge and Marshall show off their deranged and plenteous skills. Monstrous! 'Nexus ' is less than a minute long and leads into the hilarious 'One Over The Eight' , as fine a Canterbury piece as you will ever hear, with smoky tenor sax, machine-gun drumming, groovy bass and tchakatchaka guitar rhythms. This sounds almost like Didier Malherbe Gong blow-out, though less spacey and way funkier. The Brits certainly have a recipe on jazz-rock that is hard to beat, ballsier, humorous and whimsical. 'Etika' is an Etheridge acoustic piece that tucks this baby to bed, warm beneath the sheets of progressive posterity.

5 hard ones

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Send comments to tszirmay (BETA) | Report this review (#609218) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, January 13, 2012

Latest members reviews

4 stars At that point , our dear MIKE RATLEDGE is but credited as a guest, playing sinthy on two pieces.It's clear he didln't realy agree the guitar arrival through the previous album ( BUNDLES) I think it's a huge waste for the band as much more that RATLEDGE,JENKINS combination was very fruitful on ... (read more)

Report this review (#301006) | Posted by jean-marie | Thursday, September 30, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This review is from: Softs (Esoteric 2010 Remaster Audio CD) "Groups exist for the use of musicians" so said drummer Bill Bruford. I think that this statement applies here. Much is made of Mike Ratledge literally fading away from the group during these sessions thus effectively leaving the S ... (read more)

Report this review (#298965) | Posted by beebfader | Monday, September 13, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Soft Machine never ever repeat them selves from album to album. That's why this band is both frustrating and fascinating. Allan Holdsworth left the band after Bundles and in came another Nucleus member; John Etheridge. Mike Ratledge, the only remaining Soft Machine member left halfway throug ... (read more)

Report this review (#251305) | Posted by toroddfuglesteg | Tuesday, November 17, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Amazing album of this band. We have two forces here, the jazz improvisation and virtuosity in calm parts. In some parts we feel the city movement in day and in another's, the sadness of the night. This band have one of more dizzy guitar player that i now, not so fast to touch scales in this alb ... (read more)

Report this review (#220743) | Posted by João Paulo | Friday, June 12, 2009 | Review Permanlink

4 stars As i wrote Repeatedly in many other reviews , regarding jazz - rock fusion in the late 70's , surely, Soft machine were involved , one way or another with other bands & soloist . Apperently some of these releases reaches the highpoints of emerging Classical - jazz rock & put it in a satisfying ... (read more)

Report this review (#164829) | Posted by trackstoni | Monday, March 24, 2008 | Review Permanlink

4 stars With some new men on the board Soft Machine was really gettin' soft, with heavily orchestration and not so overwhelmingly guitar driven tune, as on its predecessor.'Aubade' opens the album calmly,with nice acoustic guitar and sax; 'The Tale Of Taliesin' is in my opinion a hihgpoint of the whol ... (read more)

Report this review (#77524) | Posted by bsurmano | Monday, May 08, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Album of SOFT MACHINE announced in 1976 "Softs". The sound is a technical, melodious jazz-rock. It is a performance that comes and goes between lyricisms the estheticism principles in a sublime tension feeling. It might be the highest performance at latter term SOFT MACHINE. It is a masterpiec ... (read more)

Report this review (#49227) | Posted by braindamage | Thursday, September 29, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This album is pretty interesting along with Bundles. First you have the short melody Aubade between guitar and sax.The it comes to the long adventureous The Tales of Talisen with shows that John Etheridge has as much talent as Hollsworth. Ban Ban Caliban is kind of a dance number. So ... (read more)

Report this review (#22099) | Posted by downtheroad25 | Friday, December 31, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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