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The Soft Machine

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The Soft Machine Backwards album cover
3.45 | 38 ratings | 6 reviews | 16% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Live, released in 2002

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Facelift (18:49)
2. Moon in June (7:38)
3. Esther's Nose Job (12:55)
4. Facelift (8:32)
5. Hibou Anemone and Bear (4:00)
6. Moon in June (demo) (20:46)

Total Time: 72:40
Recorded in 1968-1970 in London, Paris and USA.

Line-up / Musicians

- Mark Charig / trumpet
- Elton Dean / alto sax, saxello
- Lyn Dobson / soprano sax, tenor sax
- Nick Evans / trombone
- Hugh Hopper / bass
- Mike Ratledge / electric piano, organ
- Robert Wyatt / drums, vocals

Releases information

CD Cuneiforme Rune 170

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Fassbinder for the last updates
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THE SOFT MACHINE Backwards ratings distribution

(38 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(16%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(47%)
Good, but non-essential (32%)
Collectors/fans only (5%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

THE SOFT MACHINE Backwards reviews

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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars This is called "Backwards" because it takes the listener backwards in time as the album plays out. Three different recording sessions are dealt with beginning with the classic lineup of Hopper, Ratledge, Wyatt and Dean.These include the first three tracks all recorded in May of 1970 just after the album "Third" was finished. So we get "Facelift", "Moon In June" and "Esther's Nose Job" all amazing sounding tracks. I like how prominant Ratledge's fuzz organ is on these songs and Wyatt's drum work as well. I have to be honest, I wasn't expecting anything this good with these three songs.These are incredible versions to say the least.

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

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

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

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

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

Latest members reviews

4 stars Well, the quality of the posthumous Soft Machine live albums never fails to amaze me. There are some truly duds among them. But the overall quality is great. This is strictly not a true live album. It is more a compilation album of three recordings, going backwards from the most recent to th ... (read more)

Report this review (#417633) | Posted by toroddfuglesteg | Thursday, March 17, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Album of SOFT MACHINE announced in 2002 "Backwards". Work collected in May, 1970 and November, 1969. Live sound source and album that consists of demonstration of ROBERT WYATT. The first half is a performance by four person organization by the medley of 40 minutes. The latter half is a perform ... (read more)

Report this review (#51322) | Posted by braindamage | Wednesday, October 12, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars With noisette, this is to me the best live album of soft machine, during wyatt period. It's not the case of every live cd that exist, since the sound quality of most live cd is crap !! This one is a MUST ... (read more)

Report this review (#22140) | Posted by | Wednesday, April 20, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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