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The Soft Machine

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The Soft Machine Noisette album cover
4.05 | 69 ratings | 11 reviews | 29% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
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Live, released in 2000

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Eamonn Andrews (12:15)
2. Mousetrap (5:24)
3. Noisette (0:37)
4. Backwards (4:48)
5. Mousetrap(reprise) (0:26)
6. Hibou, Anemone and Bear (8:50)
7. Moon in June (6:55)
8. 12/8 Theme (11:25)
9. Esther's Nose Job (14:30)
10. We Did It Again (7:15)

Total Time 72:25

Line-up / Musicians

- Elton Dean / alto saxophone, saxello
- Lyn Dobson / soprano saxophone, flute, vocals
- Hugh Hopper / bass
- Mike Ratledge / electric piano, organ
- Robert Wyatt / drums, vocals

Releases information

CD Cuneiform Rune 130 (2000)

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Buy THE SOFT MACHINE Noisette Music

THE SOFT MACHINE Noisette ratings distribution

(69 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(29%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(52%)
Good, but non-essential (13%)
Collectors/fans only (4%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

THE SOFT MACHINE Noisette reviews

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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
4 stars This great Cuneiform album might just be the only recorded trace of SM ever being a quintet, down from a septet (as Nick Evans and Mark Charig both ex-Tippet boys had departed) before reducing to the quartet that will record the Third album (although Dobson will play a bit on it). These tapes are taken from a Jan 04, 1970 concert at Croydon just before one of their numerous tour de France and as opposed to a lot of live albums the quality of these recordings is excellent, probably thanks to Cuneiform even if they admit a bit of doodling about. Dobson still manages to make an impact on the others and is responsible for a scat/flute duo during Backwards. The repertoire they were playing by that time is lot closer to Third than the previous two albums of which only Hibou and We Did It Again are left (and greatly modified) as Wyatt was rather silent with the microphones. Even Moon In June bears no vocals, and the band was in top-notch form for a splendid night of semi improvised high-energy jazz-rock. This is maybe THE live album every SM fans was waiting for.

Review by febus
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam

Since the mid-90s, 15 years after the band went silent, an abundance of SOFT MACHINE live recordings and other compilations have been unearthed and offered to old fans every year. There are good ones, some others not so great sounding. Not to say anything bad, it's good to check out who released those albums and if it is by CUNEIFORM records, go for them as they all are very well recorded and often show us an aspect of this storied band we cannot found on their original LPs.

Take NOISETTE (nut in french) for example, this album highlights a concert SOFT MACHINE performed at Croydon's Fairfield hall on January 4th 1970. For those who follow the band, the name sounds familiar with just reason, as a part of FACELIFT from THIRD has been taken out of this evening's concert.

We all know that SOFT MACHINE music after the release of VOLUME TWO shifted drastically towards a more edgier experimental jazz formula adding no less than...4 horns becoming a seven head band! This experience didn't last very long as first NICK EVANS and MARC CHARIG left the band, leaving only ELTON DEAN and LYN DOBSON with the main guys RATLEDGE, WYATT and HOPPER.

This quintet formula will be short lived as well as LYN DOBSON will bail out as well, even if he will be credited as a guest on THIRD. So NOISETTE is so far a unique document giving the listener a rare opprtunity to enjoy this band version. THIRD was not released yet, but i can tell you if people in the attendance were at the concert to enjoy the music of the then-new album VOLUME TWO, they would be there for a shock.

NOISETTE is definitely a live cousin of THIRD in style and a lot of it can be heard here in pieces. Worth noticing as well is that the vocal performances from ROBERT WYATT have already been cut to a minimun. The best example is his own masterpiece MOON IN JUNE played ...instrumentally! Yes, you are getting only the middle part with the -fantastic- RATLEDGE organ solo. Not one word! WYATT also sings a few lines on HIBOU ANEMONE AND BEAR from the second album and that's it.

This is a very lively concert , everybody plays with passion, especially the 2 saxophonists who know how to blow a horn furiously! Just listen to 12/8 THEME from HUGH HOPPER, they are both fantastic as some parts of this tune will wind up on FACELIFT. MIKE RATLEDGE is a phenomenon behind his organs, and hearing him playing be it on piano or organ, this is a shame he has been kind of forgotten as he has nothing to learn from big star names such as EMERSON or WAKEMAN. No one else sounds like RATLEDGE! He also can play like a crazy devilish soul like on ESTHER'S NOSE JOB which of course is mostly vocal-less by now as well.

As i wrote before, many track themes of this evening set list will be bridged together to form the epics which comprise THIRD. For example, some parts of EAMON ANDREWS, NOISETTE and BACKWARDS will form SLIGHTLY ALL THE TIME. The oddity of this album is that SOFT MACHINE is still playing a KEVIN AYERS-era song, the famous WE DID IT AGAIN which is rather kind of freaky here with WYATT singing(!!!!) for AYERS .Hey!it's not every day you can hear ELTON DEAN performing a song from the dandy KEVIN. Only that is worth the price of admission.

NOISETTE is definitely an album to have for any SOFT MACHINE fan, especially from the ''classic'' period. But believe me, ther is absolutely nothing classic about the music SOFT MACHINE was playing at the time. This is some very adventurous experimental jazz/rock no one else could play. That was the peak of CANTERBURY creativity. Of course, this is not for everybody's taste; this is not easy listening; but this is what prog is all about, isn't it?


Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars To quote the liner notes: "This cd is the first full-length release to feature the short-lived quintet version of SOFT MACHINE, captured here on what was actually their very first gig- January 4th,1970 at Croydon's Fairfield Hall. Upon completion of an extensive French tour the previous month, the septet lineup had been trimmed down to a quintet with the departures of Nick Evands and Marc Charig, leaving saxaphonist players Elton Dean and Lyn Dobson to act as the group's brass section.This version of SOFT MACHINE was again mostly active in France, their tour there in February / March 1970 ironically being the last with Robert Wyatt on board." I enjoy some of febus' thoughts in his review, especially where he wonders what the fans would have thought who went to this concert to hear the music from their previous album "Two". Yes "shock" would have been an emotion many would have felt. By this time (just before "Third" was recorded) this band was highly experimental and loved to improvise.They sounded nothing like they did on their first two albums. I must admit even for myself (a huge SOFT MACHINE fan) that this recording is tough to digest at times. Love it though.

The concert opens with one of the band members saying "The program for this evening is that we do a bit, then we stop for a bit, then we do a little bit more." "Eamonn Andrews" is the first track and it starts with piano and bass. It kicks in before 1 1/2 minutes to a jazzy mode. Fuzz from Ratledge and drums from Wyatt both crash in at 2 minutes. Impressive. Check out Wyatt. Horns before 5 1/2 minutes start to light it up. The fuzz from Ratledge is killer after 8 1/2 minutes. Bass and drums lead 10 1/2 minutes in. We get blasted right away on the next track "Mousetrap". I like the drums and sound 2 1/2 minutes in. Sax is playing over top. Vocal expressions from Wyatt before 5 minutes. Great tune.

It blends into "Noisette" which features sax and a more laid back sound. It blends into "Backwards" where Dobson comes in on flute and the sound is even more mellow. Nice. Wyatt adds some vocal expressions. It blends into "Mousetrap (Reprise)" where the tempo has picked up and we get some fuzz as Wyatt pounds away. So good. It blends into "Hibou, Anemone And Bear" where the fuzz is very prominant. This is quite jazzy too. Some dissonant sax after a minute. More fuzz before 4 minutes. A calm with vocals before 7 minutes then it kicks back in before it settles one more time a minute later to end it. Great to hear Robert singing in this one. After this song one of the band members announces that they're going to take a piss and have a beer and be back in 10 minutes.

"Moon In June" surprisingly has no lyrics. Drums kick in and dominate then the fuzz takes over. Intense. It settles after 6 minutes but not for long. It blends into "12 / 8 Theme" which features bass, drums and dual horns standing out.The sax is screaming 4 minutes in and the keyboards are prominant too. "Esther's Nose Job" is intense to start. What a fantstic sound here. It settles in after 1 1/2 minutes.Fuzz a minute later. Vocal expressions 8 minutes in and more fuzz a minute later. The tempo continues to shift the rest of the way. "We Did It Again" opens with some killer drumming and the vocals come in around a minute. Sax comes and goes. Keyboards follow. Great sound here.The sax is screaming before 4 1/2 minutes and late to end it.

I so appreciate the pictures of the band in the liner notes. These guys were the definition of cool back then. Outstanding release !

Review by snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Another great Soft Machine's live archival recordings, released by Cuneiform in 2000.This album is really more interesting between many others band's archival recordings because all material there comes from the same live session (January 4th, 1970) live part of band's best ever album "Third" was recorded.

Band plays in quite rare line-up (as quintet) there with two reeds players (Elton Dean and Lyn Dobson) besides of classic trio of Wyatt/Ratledge/Hopper.Musical material recorded mostly comes from band's early psychedelic albums,but it's reworked on the new jazz fusion manner. Some compositions, unused on any albums ("Third" live recordings outtakes) are included as well.

By its atmosphere music is quite unique there - being jazz fusion,it contains huge doze of band's early psychedelic sound. The only other source you can hear Soft Machine,sounding like that is "Facelift" composition from "Third", coming from same recording session. If you like it - take this album, you will hear more than a hour of similar music.

From negative side only very average sound quality should be noticed ( everyone knows same problem exists with any release of "Third" though). Musical material is a bit bulky and unfocused, what is not strange again - outtakes and unused recordings are presented there.

In all, this album is one between most important and valuable archival releases from Soft Machine's "classic period". Still BBC recordings from late 60-s/early 70-s ("The Peel Sessions" or one of BBC live recordings)are better choice.

My rating is 3,5 rounded to 4.

Review by Warthur
4 stars There's no shortage of archival live material available from the Soft Machine - a great deal of it hailing from that crucial period between the release of Volume Two and the eventual departure of Robert Wyatt from the band, during which the band's transformation from a deranged Canterbury-psych monster to a cool and together jazz-rock unit occurred. But out of that confusing abundance of material, Noisette stands out as a release to pay particular attention to. Unlike many archival releases, it presents more or less one single live performance - specifically, a January 1970 appearance by the band in one of various new lineup configurations they experimented with between Volume Two and Third, adding and subtracting various musicians to the central core of Hopper, Ratledge and Wyatt.

This time around, it's a quintet taking the stage, the extra members being Lyn Dobson on soprano sax and flute and Elton Dean on various flavours of saxophone. (Dean would eventually become a full member of the band.) The addition of the sax section brings the Soft's sound much closer to that on Third than on Volume Two, betraying a huge amount of musical development in the intervening months - just compare to Live at the Paradiso 1969, the sound on which is almost identical to that recorded on Volume Two (once you get past the production issues on Paradiso). In terms of recording quality, Noisette is pretty good for live albums of its era - the one problem I saw being that Wyatt's vocals are very slightly too quiet in the mix, though the emphasis of the band had already gone so heavily over to instrumentals this is less of an issue than it might otherwise have been. (The version of Moon In June on here is an instrumental extract from the larger composition rather than the whole thing.)

The recording combines the liveliness of Volume Two with the epic jazz-rock structures of Third to produce a mixture which wasn't quite captured on either album but which seems to have reverberated throughout the scene; you can see how the music of the likes of Hatfield and the North/National Health, Henry Cow, and Wyatt's own Matching Mole could have been inspired by the burning hot fusion produced by the Softs in the 1970s. The production quality means that I can't quite reach to five stars for this one, but it earns four stars with ease.

Review by Mirakaze
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Eclectic Prog & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars In the crowded field of Soft Machine live albums, Noisette positively stands out for multiple reasons: first of all, it was recorded on January 4th at the Fairfield Halls in Croydon, the same night on which the band would record the version of "Facelift" that would end up on their famous Third album later that year. This also makes Noisette one of the rarer recordings to feature Lyn Dobson, and thus one of the few Soft Machine albums to prominently feature a flute (not to mention scat vocals from anyone besides Robert Wyatt); secondly, it captures the band right in the middle of their transition from psychedelic prog rock to experimental jazz fusion. Therefore, interspersed with pieces which would remain a main staple of the band's live catalog for a couple of years like "Mousetrap" and the jazzed-up rearrangement of "Esther's Nose Job" (as well as a very early version of "Teeth", here titled "12/8 Theme"), we get a droning, minimalistic take on "Eamonn Andrews" that runs for over twelve minutes, and as a real bonus treat at the end of the album, the band entertains the audience with a tripped-out version of "We Did It Again", a song that was to quickly disappear from their setlist but which is here presented in a noisier and jazzier fashion, with Elton Dean channeling the middle ground between the old and the new Soft Machine styles really well.

And that leads me to the final pro, which is that the instrumental performances are absolutely stellar. The band had an exceptionally good night on that January date in Croydon, with Mike Ratledge furiously assaulting his organs and Elton Dean blowing his lungs out; both are more free and unashamedly let loose than at possibly any other point in their career, and the rhythm section backs them up beautifully the whole time. It's just an amazing document of how good this band really was during their prime. An essential listen for any Soft Machine fan; just a damn good experience for any prog or jazz fusion aficionado.

Latest members reviews

4 stars Found this release accidentally but already well aware of the quality of the "Third" album which is my favourite because of the most typical Canterbury sound and very focused compositions. Apart from the band core, we can enjoy tenor and soprano saxophone, flute that sound jazziest of all instru ... (read more)

Report this review (#2437677) | Posted by sgtpepper | Friday, August 14, 2020 | Review Permanlink

4 stars The Soft Machine as I want to remember them. Remember is the wrong word out here. I should had written "Soft Machine as I like them". This is another one of the post-split up Soft Machine live albums. There are twice as many live albums by them now than studio albums, Rubber Riffs and Alive ... (read more)

Report this review (#299620) | Posted by toroddfuglesteg | Saturday, September 18, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Live album of SOFT MACHINE announced in 2000 "Noisette". Live album that collected Take of the remainder on January 4, 1970 to which "Facelift" collected to "3" is recorded. It is five person organization that added Lyn Dobson. You can enjoy the performance with heat badly to record the work. ... (read more)

Report this review (#49636) | Posted by braindamage | Saturday, October 1, 2005 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Incredible fusion between jazz pre-fuse and canterbury sound, really cool with the power rythm of wyatt and the textures of the great keyboard player mike ratledge. A great disc to discover this machine of great songs. ... (read more)

Report this review (#38536) | Posted by | Tuesday, July 5, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Probably the best live concert of the softs, excluding "six" album1; only because the sound quality is not as perfect as on six. The presence of Lyn Dobson really lifts the band into new realms; the influence of Roland Kirk on Dobson is very apparent, and it sounds wonderfull with the smoothe ... (read more)

Report this review (#22139) | Posted by | Wednesday, July 7, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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