Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography

THE SOFT MACHINE

Canterbury Scene • United Kingdom


From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

The Soft Machine picture
The Soft Machine biography
Formed in Canterbury, UK in 1966 - Disbanded in 1984 - Reformed in 2015
(SM members would reconvene under several monikers along the years)

The band started playing as such in 1966 but their first record, a single, came out in 1967.
The very last concert was in 1984 at Ronnie Scott's on July 30/31 and August 1-4.
Band members at that concert were Paul Carmichael (bass), John Etheridge, Karl Jenkins, Dave McRae (once upon a time keyboard player with Matching Mole), Ray Warleigh and John Marshall.

The name of the band is similar to the book with the same title written by William Burroughs: "The Soft Machine".
Besides this, different formations/groups tour under names as "Soft Machine Legacy" (2004-2015), "Soft Works" (2002-2004), "Soft Ware" (1999-2002), "Soft Mountain", "Soft Heap (1978-1983) and "Polysoft"

The probably most important and influential band to grow out the Canterbury Scene was SOFT MACHINE. The band emerged as the quartet of Robert WYATT (drums, vocals), Mike RATLEDGE (keyboards), Kevin AYERS (bass, vocals) and Daevid ALLEN (guitar, vocals). Through a persistence of personnel changes (totalling ~30), their sound was to changed continually over the years of their existence. This band along with CARAVAN (both to come out of the formative WILDE FLOWERS), would influence the emergence of the Canterbury Sound (MATCHING MOLE, EGG, HATFIELD & THE NORTH, and many more). Many careers began with SOFT MACHINE: Robert WYATT (MATCHING MOLE band and solo artist), Kevin AYERS (later his own WHOLE WORLD band and solo artist), and Daevid ALLEN (later GONG and solo artist). Virtuosic instrumentalists such as Hugh HOPPER, Mike RATLEDGE, Elton DEAN, Allan HOLDSWORTH, (briefly) Andy SUMMERS, Roy BABBINGTON, John MARSHALL and Karl JENKINS were attracted to MACHINE's ranks through out its history, leaving us a series of ground-breaking albums.

Now, briefly - what is the music like? The SOFT MACHINE were, for many listeners, the standard against which all jazz-rock fusion, including many of t...
read more

THE SOFT MACHINE forum topics / tours, shows & news


THE SOFT MACHINE forum topics Create a topic now
THE SOFT MACHINE tours, shows & news
No topics found for : "the soft machine"
Post an entries now

THE SOFT MACHINE Videos (YouTube and more)


Showing only random 3 | Show all THE SOFT MACHINE videos (4) | Search and add more videos to THE SOFT MACHINE

Buy THE SOFT MACHINE Music



More places to buy THE SOFT MACHINE music online

THE SOFT MACHINE discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

THE SOFT MACHINE top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.02 | 586 ratings
The Soft Machine
1968
4.05 | 534 ratings
Volume Two
1969
4.19 | 1058 ratings
Third
1970
3.55 | 365 ratings
Fourth
1971
3.40 | 277 ratings
Fifth [Aka: 5]
1972
3.50 | 243 ratings
Six
1973
3.66 | 279 ratings
Seven
1973
4.09 | 399 ratings
Bundles
1975
3.88 | 249 ratings
Softs
1976
2.02 | 70 ratings
Karl Jenkins: Rubber Riff
1976
3.00 | 152 ratings
Land of Cockayne
1981
3.99 | 203 ratings
Hidden Details
2018

THE SOFT MACHINE Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.90 | 80 ratings
Alive & Well - Recorded in Paris
1978
3.23 | 35 ratings
Live at the Proms (1970)
1988
4.03 | 38 ratings
The Peel Sessions
1990
4.29 | 21 ratings
BBC Live In Concert 1971
1993
3.74 | 18 ratings
BBC Radio 1 Live In Concert 1972
1994
3.89 | 39 ratings
Live At The Paradiso
1995
3.29 | 24 ratings
Live In France (Paris)
1995
3.70 | 40 ratings
Virtually
1998
2.71 | 19 ratings
Live 1970
1998
4.06 | 60 ratings
Noisette
2000
3.41 | 32 ratings
Backwards
2002
1.21 | 10 ratings
Facelift
2002
4.07 | 41 ratings
BBC - Radio 1967 - 1971
2003
4.08 | 34 ratings
BBC Radio 1971 - 1974
2003
3.00 | 7 ratings
Somewhere In Soho
2004
3.54 | 13 ratings
Soft Stage BBC In Concert 1972
2005
2.00 | 1 ratings
Orange Skin Food
2005
3.29 | 12 ratings
Breda Reactor
2005
3.35 | 15 ratings
Soft Machine & Heavy Friends BBC In Concert 1971
2005
3.81 | 30 ratings
British Tour '75
2005
3.82 | 46 ratings
Floating World Live (Bremen 1975)
2006
4.40 | 61 ratings
Grides
2006
2.60 | 22 ratings
Middle Earth Masters
2006
3.06 | 24 ratings
Drop
2008
4.18 | 27 ratings
Live At Henie Onstad Art Centre
2009
4.48 | 30 ratings
NDR Jazz Workshop, Germany, May 17, 1973
2010
0.00 | 0 ratings
Daevid Allen & Gilli Smyth With The Soft Machine Family: Live At The Roundhouse 1971
2012
4.03 | 12 ratings
Switzerland 1974
2015
4.25 | 8 ratings
Live at The Baked Potato
2020

THE SOFT MACHINE Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

4.50 | 27 ratings
Alive in Paris-1970
2008

THE SOFT MACHINE Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
The Soft Machine (Compilation)
1970
3.18 | 19 ratings
Face and Place Vol. 7 [Aka: Jet Propelled Photographs, Aka: At the Beginning]
1972
4.39 | 51 ratings
The Soft Machine Collection [also released as: Volumes One and Two]
1973
3.94 | 17 ratings
Triple Echo
1977
4.00 | 1 ratings
Rock Storia E Musica: Soft Machine
1983
3.09 | 25 ratings
Jet Propelled Photographs
1989
3.24 | 8 ratings
The Untouchable Collection (1975-78)
1990
4.38 | 4 ratings
As If...
1991
3.10 | 2 ratings
Soft Machine (Live & Demos)
1994
3.58 | 6 ratings
The Best Of Soft Machine...The Harvest Years
1995
3.35 | 32 ratings
Spaced (1969)
1996
3.59 | 26 ratings
Fourth / Fifth
1999
3.50 | 2 ratings
soft machine
2000
2.00 | 13 ratings
Man in a Deaf Corner: Anthology 1963-1970
2001
3.13 | 8 ratings
Turns On Vol. 1
2001
2.19 | 7 ratings
Turns On Vol. 2
2001
1.67 | 7 ratings
Kings Of Canterbury
2003
3.38 | 9 ratings
Six/Seven
2004
4.03 | 8 ratings
Out Bloody Rageous (Anthology 67-73)
2005
1.00 | 2 ratings
The Story of Soft Machine
2005
3.52 | 14 ratings
Original Album Classics
2010
0.00 | 0 ratings
Tanglewood Tails
2014

THE SOFT MACHINE Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.07 | 8 ratings
Love Makes Sweet Music
1968
4.00 | 4 ratings
Why Are We Sleeping?
1968
3.67 | 6 ratings
Soft Space
1978
2.00 | 1 ratings
Bundles (Promo Single)
2010

THE SOFT MACHINE Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Fifth [Aka: 5] by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.40 | 277 ratings

BUY
Fifth [Aka: 5]
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by A Crimson Mellotron

3 stars Soft Machine remained unapologetically consistent in releasing music throughout the 70s no matter what was happening inside the band, and so their fifth studio album (Can you guess how it was named?) was presented to the world in July of 1972. At this point in the band's career, it is obvious that Soft Machine is a jazz (sometimes even free jazz would be the more appropriate term) and fusion collective that tries to write unnerving and experimental music, often unmatched by their peers and strictly at the foreground of the innovators' list, if I may put it like that.

The turbulent events surrounding the band's previous record, 'Fourth', resulting in drummer Robert Wyatt's departure did not leave the rest of the members stunned or unable to continue in any way; Even more, they replaced Wyatt with not one but two drummers (Ha!) - one for each respective side of the album. This makes up, of course, the following line-up: the enigmatic Mike Ratledge on keyboards, Hugh Hopper on bass, Elton Dean on saxophone and saxello, Phil Howard on drums for side one, John Marshall on drums for side two, and Roy Babbington appearing once again as a contributor, on double bass for side two. Although the subtitle of 'The Mike Ratledge album' could be given to 'Fifth', the Softies seem to apply the same formula that worked well for them on 'Fourth' - everyone contributes to the album, the songs result clearly from 'jams' or probably from single riffs by Ratledge or Dean, around which everyone starts building up something.

Opening up 'Fifth' is the great fusion track 'All White', one of the fan-favorites that would also appear often on stage, a great Ratledge composition that is in the same vein as 'Teeth' from 'Fourth' but somehow tamer and more purposeful at the same time. Then comes another song written by the enigmatic Fender Rhodes freak, 'Drop' that begins with soundscape-like keyboard loops just to morph into another explosive fusion track. 'M C' concludes side one; this is Hugh Hopper's contribution to the album, an OK one for the standards of Soft Machine.

Side two is introduced by Ratledge's 'As If', another one of the stronger moments on the album, a more manic composition that sets the mood for the whole second side. 'L B O' is a John Marshall drum solo, leading to 'Pigling Bland' - another fantastic jazzy number that is once again written by Mr Ratledge (At this point in the album, which is almost at the end, of course, I cannot help but think that this man is severely underrated for what he has composed, and could have easily written the whole album?). Finally, 'Bone' is another soundscape-like composition, the only one by Elton Dean.

All in all, this record cements Soft Machine's reputation as a special and different jazz and fusion act, a prominent and important exponent of the Canterbury Scene, and a leading force in the progressive rock ether. However, 'Fifth' is far from being a perfect album, and I believe that better jazz albums have been released at the same time, which does not make 'Fifth' less enjoyable, for the most part.

 Fourth by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.55 | 365 ratings

BUY
Fourth
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by A Crimson Mellotron

3 stars 'Fourth' by Soft Machine was released in February of 1971 and came after a triplet of ground-breaking and compelling but very different from one another albums that are still considered some of progressive rock and especially the Canterbury scene's finest. Whether it is the whimsical and lighthearted psych-pop adventures of the well-known Volumes 1 & 2, or the menacing avant-garde masterpiece that is the monumental album 'Third', one cannot neglect these first three albums, as they showcased that the band could easily morph into different creatures, every time to great results. So, what could one expect from the next release except another tremendous and jaw-dropping masterwork?

Well, the reality is a bit different. Fully embracing the role of avant-garde and fusion explorers, Soft Machine's new agenda was not matching each band member's musical desires. This is, of course, in reference to Robert Wyatt, with whom creative differences were quite dramatic. The in-band pressure resulted in him leaving after this album and making 'Fourth' the last studio recording to feature the legendary drummer and former vocalist of The Soft Machine.

Alongside Wyatt, on 'Fourth' also play keyboardist (and in my opinion one of the unsung masters in progressive rock) Mike Ratledge, bassist Hugh Hopper, who was responsible for writing most of the album, and saxophonist Elton Dean. However, as it always happens in this band, several other musicians get to work on the studio albums and re-work or add something to some of the songs' sections: Roy Babbington on double bass, Nick Evans on trombone, Alan Skidmore on tenor sax, Jimmy Hastings on flute & clarinet, and Mark Charig on cornet are the names of the people that are also featured on 'Fourth'.

Probably the most severe sign of the inner-band conflict is the fact that Robert Wyatt did not write anything for this album, and he really feels just like the drummer who added his parts on top of everyone else's works. He, however, did not approve of the band's new direction of a fully-blown instrumental jazz and fusion collective, so all these events are certainly interconnected. Nevertheless, the rest of the band members who wrote music for 'Fourth' did a very impressive job.

'Teeth' is Mike Ratledge's free jazz mini-epic, and certainly the only song that gets as close to the quality of the compositions of the preceding behemoth of an album; a true indication that this man was the Softies' secret weapon with hands like spiders, as he goes ballistic later on in the song; 'Teeth' also feels like the most complete of all the songs here. Then the band dive into 'Kings and Queens', a slower sax-centered composition that is reminiscent of some 60s modal jazz, a Hugh Hopper composition. Following this one is Elton Dean's original contribution to the album, 'Fletcher's Blemish'. It is funny, because they went so 'free' on that song, that everyone seems to be playing a song of their own, making this utterly unlistenable and startling at the same time. Finally, we go into the land of Hugh Hopper again, with the four-parted side-long suite 'Virtually', a very interesting addition to Soft Machine's catalogue on which Robert Wyatt feels quite isolated from all the action. Part 1 is fantastic, Hopper and Ratledge play the necessary number of notes with grace and intelligence that can only be heard on 'Third', as strange as it sounds. Part 2 is no worse, while the final two episodes of 'Virtually' blur out the suite that was feeling just so good up to that point. However, 'Virtually' could not match up to any of the epics on 'Third' in my book which does not make it less enjoyable.

I would say that this has to be one of the lower points in Soft Machine's career, given the success of the three preceding albums. The ambitious ideas are there, but the pressure of the discrepancies in the band members' visions about the band is reflected upon the album in an abstract way. For a band that has always been trying to figure out its identity, this is both a very important album, maybe even a watershed kind of album, and a slightly disappointing one, as it failed to live up to the expectations created by the mighty 'Third'.

 Third by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1970
4.19 | 1058 ratings

BUY
Third
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by A Crimson Mellotron

5 stars Soft Machine's third album, wittily named 'Third' was released in June 1970, and it is certainly one of the most radical shifts in style that any band could display at that time (possibly comparable to Deep Purple's from the same year, or King Crimson's perpetually changing sonic perspectives). It is also the first studio record on which there are four full-time band members (excluding, of course, the additional musicians and/or collaborators); and is also the longest record released by them, clocking in at 75 minutes, famously portrayed by the four long tracks taking up one side of the double LP.

Bedazzling, bold, manic, eccentric, and unorthodox, 'Third' is the album that marked the metamorphosis of Soft Machine from a psychedelic Canterbury Scene outfit to an unstoppable jazz monster - described as progressive rock, electronic rock, and jazz, this album is worth hearing every minute with full attention, always eagerly expecting the next grand shift, the next utterly satisfying and bewildering moment; almost like it is a different band, when compared to the pair of albums that came before 'Third', Soft Machine manage to break every bit of expectation, and instill inside the stoked listener a sense of havoc!

To the already-existing line-up of Mike Ratledge, Hugh Hopper, and Robert Wyatt, the listener has to know about the presence of their new member Elton Dean, playing both the alto saxophone and the saxello on three of the four epic tracks. The additional personnel consists of Lyn Dobson (flute, soprano sax), Nick Evans (trombone), Jimmy Hastings (flute, bass clarinet), and Rab Spall (violin).

Kicking off the album is the absolutely hazardous and unsettling instrumental live recording of 'Facelift' - a composition so vigorous and lively, it was further edited with loops and speed changes in the studio. It is so starkly different from everything else they did before, so menacing with the aggressive and protruding saxophone-keyboard interplay; brilliant rhythm sections and strong dependence on the loud-soft effects. Adding to the aforementioned qualities of the composition is the quality of the recording itself, quite harsh, unpolished and hissing; the editing is patchy and imperfection seems to be the fifth element that adds to the vitalité of 'Third'.

On side two, the listener will find 'Slightly All the Time', another very jazzy but more somber track, a sort of a 'patchworked' composition from shorter instrumentals written by Ratledge and Hopper, a very pleasing track.

Side three contains the only vocal composition, 'Moon in June', written by Wyatt; the only song on 'Third' reminiscent of their past psychedelic sound, with lyrics derived from songs from their previous studio recordings, resulting in another very enjoyable experience. This happens to be the only song that does not feature Elton Dean, and the only one that cannot be classified as jazz.

Finally, on side four, there is another mighty instrumental - 'Out-Bloody-Rageous', a very saxophone-oriented composition bookmarked by the slightly exhausting electronic soundscapes and tape loops, composed by Ratledge.

'Third' is one of the 70s albums that leaves the listener in awe and excitement and one of the most impressive achievements of the Canterbury Scene!

 Volume Two by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1969
4.05 | 534 ratings

BUY
Volume Two
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by A Crimson Mellotron

4 stars 'Volume Two' is the second album released by Canterbury-native Soft Machine (or The Soft Machine, as they were billed at the time of the album's release). This record was released almost a year after their debut one, more specifically in September of '69. Stylistically very similar to their first album, 'Volume Two' is very psychedelic, very humorous, very extravagant and unusual, quirky, frantic, and compelling. This time, however, to the trio of Mike Ratledge, Hugh Hopper and Robert Wyatt, and additional musician is added and this is, of course, the brother of Hugh Hopper - Brian Hopper on soprano and tenor saxophone, adding for the first time to their psychedelic sound a flavor of jazz.

This happens to be the band's shortest album, with a total length of 33 minutes, but also their most fragmented one with its seventeen tracks. As on the previous album, the songs on each of the two sides seem to form larger, longer pieces, beautifully named 'Rivmic Melodies' and 'Esther's Nose Job', respectively for sides one and two.

For me, there has always been almost nothing separating 'Volume Two' from 'Volume One'; these two records really sound like the two halves of a big psychedelic, jazzy, mad album (Almost like the one that will come next - 'Third' but this is another story). Very 60s and very English, I consider 'Volume Two' one of the essential Soft Machine releases. The witty song titles, the multiple references sprinkled across the album, the memorable melodies, and the moments of insane experimentation with instrumental passages are all prerogatives for a very strong Canterbury Scene album!

 The Soft Machine by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1968
4.02 | 586 ratings

BUY
The Soft Machine
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by A Crimson Mellotron

4 stars Soft Machine were formed in mid-1966 in Canterbury, one of the two bands (alongside Caravan) to be the shapes to come out of the Wilde Flowers, a psych-pop/rock band from the same place. Upon their formation, The Soft Machine (as they were initially billed as) consisted of drummer and vocalist Robert Wyatt, bassist and vocalist Kevin Ayers, organist/keyboardist Mike Ratledge, and guitarist Daevid Allen.

An early UK underground act, the band would really go on to become an underground legend, never achieving impressive commercial successes. However, their cult following is what I believe to be the reason for this enigmatic band's activity - releasing records in four different decades.

Their self-titled first album (also referred to as 'Volume One' in later reissues) was released in late 1968 and represents their all-out psychedelic music collage, spread across thirteen tracks with lengths ranging from 50 seconds to 7 minutes.

As already mentioned, the earliest Soft Machine sound is rooted in the tradition of the psychedelic rock, and 'Volume One' is reminiscent here and there of bands like Vanilla Fudge or The Jimi Hendrix Experience. However, the music is very English, very soothing sometimes, and very frantic on other occasions; It is evident that humor and eccentrics are central to the band's early output. Not only this, the songs are quite memorable (And this, I believe, is one of the significant traits of the Canterbury Scene bands) and very experimental in nature.

As it can be heard in the following album as well, the songs on each side of the album seem to constitute two larger tracks. Here, on side one, the listener will find some very recognizable tracks by the Softies, like 'Hope for Happiness', a 'model' psych-rock song, 'Joy of a Toy', a very quirky instrumental transition, 'So Boot If at All', the longest song on their debut release and an extravagant proto-prog bonanza.

Then on side two there are some seminal Soft Machine compositions, like 'Lullabye Letter', 'We Did It Again' and 'Why Are We Sleeping', which could easily be mistaken for a Vanilla Fudge song, alongside the shorter more interlude-like pieces.

Overall, this is a very impressive and important first step in this legendary band's history - an album that is unique in its own way, compelling in its presentation, and memorable in every sense.

 Softs by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.88 | 249 ratings

BUY
Softs
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by Squire Jaco

4 stars There were primarily two albums from Soft Machine that really interested me: "Bundles" from 1975, and "Softs" from 1976. Despite the departure of Allan Holdsworth and Mike Ratledge after "Bundles", the quality of the compositions and playing on "Softs" continues to impress as much as its predecessor. Both albums are 4-1/2 stars.

Critics of this album often compare it to elevator music or light jazz. Listen up: forced to suffer through endless hours of listening to Muzak as a security guard during my summer job in my college days (the late 70's), I feel supremely qualified to quash that hideous "light jazz" accusation! (Don't get me humming the clarinet version of "Penny Lane" again! Aarrgh!!!)

To be sure, this is not the aggressive, "Look what I can do" jazz/rock fusion of Mahavishnu Orchestra, U.K., some Brand X, or other contemporaries of the band. There is a dreamier atmosphere that pervades "Bundles" and "Softs"; but that background is supplemented with catchy bass riffs, searing and soaring guitar solos, great drumming, and interesting melodies interspersed with some great jamming. Actually, if you combined the pre-Brand X "Marscape" album with Camel's "The Snow Goose", you'd have a pretty good idea of the sound of "Softs".

I realize I'm kind of reviewing both albums here, but "Bundles" and "Softs" really are kindred albums that bookend a unique phase of Soft Machine. They share a similar feel and scope between them, while still managing to differentiate themselves with new melodies and perspectives.

These are very good, interesting, entertaining and - dare I say - ESSENTIAL albums for the serious progressive rock/jazz fusion aficionado.

 Third by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1970
4.19 | 1058 ratings

BUY
Third
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by Kelder

3 stars Thanks to ProgArchives I discovered a lot of great bands! When I started listening to Yes, Jethro Tull and King Crimson as a teenager I also found this site and wrote down the top 100 albums so I wanted to explore all the greats of prog. When I found this album in a secondhand shop I was extremely happy and couldn't wait to experience the album. Well imagine my surprise when I found that the album had none of those psychedelic sounds (like the 1st album) or laidback Canterbury prog. It was mostly free jazz. I remember putting on the first side and I just couldn't make anything of it. It was just a big mess to my ears. It sounds like every member plays something different and they have no idea what they want to express. To this day I still don't like "Facelift". The second side is more or less the same. It has some better moments but just not enough to save the song. Fortunately, the second record is way better. Side 3 is still in the jazz compartment but at least features some vocals and shows more or less a structure I can follow. The last side "Out-Bloody-Rageous" is great! This song really saves the album for me. It features a more psychedelic soundscape and has some hypnotic keyboard pattern. I find that this record starts really messy and gets better with every song. Overall I don't find this album the masterpiece a lot of people claim it to be. Side 4 is great but since it's only 1/4th of the album doesn't make it a great album.
 Noisette by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Live, 2000
4.06 | 60 ratings

BUY
Noisette
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by sgtpepper

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 instruments. Vocals are reduced to minimum, which does not hurt me at all. The sound is pretty good and reasonable to 1970's. Drums are clear, dynamic. In the first composition, the part with soloing organ and jamming bass is my favourite seconded by busy drums. "Mousetrap" is close to fusion as anything from 1969-70 can be. It has also some creepy, doomy slow riffs (with no guitar). "Backwards" is flute's showcase and the drummer has some time to breathe out but he'll catch up later on. The following long composition show the instrumental strength of the band. The last song is from the old times with Ayers and needn't have to be included, it sounds more like a bonus/encore track. Excellent live album.
 Third by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1970
4.19 | 1058 ratings

BUY
Third
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by sgtpepper

5 stars "Third" is musically a stunning, transitional, influential and progressive album by Soft Machine. Not only has it influenced many proggers and to some extent, psychedelic rock fans, it also contains a very good balance between improvisation, emotions, motives and craftmanship. I understand that some people complain that music sounds repetitive and is certainly more monotous than jazz. Basic chords aren't complex, dynamic parts alternate between 2 or 3 chords. However, instrumental performance, changes of moods, innovative use of vocal, sonic textures and being one-of-kind make it an exceptional album not only in the Canterbury realm but overall in progressive rock.

The band started to absorb more jazz-rock influence and get more distanced from psychedelic rock but haven't abandoned it. The combination of organ and various brass instruments is irresistible. I praise busy Watt's drumming which may not be very inventional or technical but adds a lot to colour. The first composition "Facelift" starts too slowly to my taste but brings a more reflective mood in the vein of psychedelic jazz. Great saxophone and great soloing with supporting bass guitar playing is inspiring. Btw, did you notice the absence of guitar on the album? Even though compositions aren't complex by definition, there's plenty of soloing and rhythm augmentation. The first composition is closest to jazz with very loose structure and abundance of saxophone.

"Slightly all the time" is more structured and elegant, highly recommend focusing on bass and keyboards (pianet, organ). After 5 minutes, we finally get a fast-paced very elegant section with irregular rhythms and clarinet soothing. Organ kicks in later. The peak of the composition comes quite late towards to the end - you can hear one of the most classic Canterbury sections sonically, absolutely breaktaking and saxophone solos absolutely out of jazz. The very end is more solem with nice chords.

"Moon in June" has a nice development too; it contains fine Wyatt's vocals as another instrument. It also sounds quite straightforward in the beginning having clear psychedelic rock organ and melody. The second part of the song is totally legendary, this time without brass instruments, only organ(s). bass, drumming as busy and jazz as it gets. The end is smooth again, showing experimenting in the studio and traces of avantgarde jazz with violin.

"Out-bloody-rageous" has a "classic" fusion/jazz motive and is pretty intensive right from the beginning. Drumming by Wyatt is stunning because of the fill-ins. The quiet part has great saxophone improvisation. The end is pretty experimental but digestible with repeated loops of instruments.

A masterpiece of Canterbury progressive rock and an extremely focused record without any thought of going commercial.

 Third by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1970
4.19 | 1058 ratings

BUY
Third
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by BubbaVenice

5 stars I've read several reviews that underrate this album generally considered "historical". I'm not surprised of that. "Third" is not an easy record. It requires years of training before one guy would have the listening skills to enjoy it. Let me make an example: take whatever easy-listener you know and put in his/her ears "Bitches Brew". The kindest thing you can hear from him/her will be that it is a inconsistent soup of stuff unworthy to be called "music". I love "Third", especially the underrated Mike Ratledge's "Slightly All the Time" that I personally consider one of the highest peaks of the so-called "Canterbury Sound". Generally, of the four tracks people praise only Robert Wyatt's "Moon in June", the prototype of the second generation of Canterbury Sound, that of Hatfield and the North, National Health and other less known bands. It's not my case, though I like very much Wyatt. I tell you a bit of my life. When I was fifteen I buyed "Ummagumma", convinced to have in my hands a record like "Dark Side" or "Wish You Were Here". The shock was great. The same was the first time I listened to "Third". Years passed, I began to appreciate jazz, firstly Bird & Dizzy, after Monk, Mingus, Davis and so on, till I arrived to John Coltrane. After that, I had the occasion to approach again "Third" (and "Fourth" "Six"...). And "Third" was so clear to me, so understandable, that even I thought it was "easy". Almost ten years of listening and music training passed between the first time I listen terrified to "Third" and the time I enthusiastically bought the CD.
Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: JazzMusicArchives.com — jazz music reviews and archives | MetalMusicArchives.com — metal music reviews and archives

Donate monthly and keep PA fast-loading and ad-free forever.