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THE SOFT MACHINE

Canterbury Scene • United Kingdom


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The Soft Machine biography
The probably most important and influential band to grow out the Canterbury Scene was SOFT MACHINE. The band emerged in 1967 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 the big American names, had to be measured. (Alas SOFT MACHINE, has taken a mighty long time to be accepted even by part of the jazz fraternity). SOFT MACHINE's first three studio albums contain some of their best work. The first two demonstrate a progression from R'n'B psychedelia, increasingly heavily flavored by Mike Ratledge's free jazz improv tempered by modern serious music, towards their own idiosyncratic jazz fusion. The first album is very much in the psychedelic vein. In the instrumental section of "Volume Two" and "Third", they are found freely blending modern jazz with modern rock sensibilities, with more than a hint of heavy abstract stylings, e.g. minimalism - that is not to say, they were doing this all along - for instance as found on the 1967 recordings heard on "Middle Earth Tapes". "Volume Two" retains the psychedelia through the mixture of metaphysical and apparently ad-lib lyrics, while instrumentally the psychedelic jamming was heavily infused with a complex jazzy style. Here Hugh HOPPER, RATLEDGE and WYATT were joined by Hugh's brother Brian on sax. "Live At Paradiso" covering the same tunes but in ...
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ThirdThird
Import · Remastered
Sony Bmg Europe 2007
Audio CD$6.01
$3.95 (used)
Soft MachineSoft Machine
Import · Remastered
EMI Europe Generic 2009
Audio CD$4.99
$4.48 (used)
Volume 2Volume 2
Import · Remastered
EMI Europe Generic 2009
Audio CD$4.99
$7.61 (used)
Switzerland 1974 (CD/DVD)Switzerland 1974 (CD/DVD)
CUNEIFORM 2015
Audio CD$17.61
$18.62 (used)
BundlesBundles
Import · Remastered
Phantasm Imports 2010
Audio CD$10.28
$18.60 (used)
Original Album ClassicsOriginal Album Classics
Import
Sony Import 2010
Audio CD$13.09
$13.98 (used)
4th & 5th4th & 5th
Import
Columbia Europe 1999
Audio CD$4.48
$3.10 (used)
BBC Radio 1971-1974BBC Radio 1971-1974
Import
Hux Records 2003
Audio CD$13.51
$20.78 (used)
Volumes One & TwoVolumes One & Two
Import
Big Beat UK 2004
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$9.14 (used)
Floating World LiveFloating World Live
Moonjune Records 2006
Audio CD$9.00
$7.94 (used)
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THE SOFT MACHINE shows & tickets


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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 | 433 ratings
The Soft Machine
1968
4.03 | 383 ratings
Volume Two
1969
4.21 | 789 ratings
Third
1970
3.48 | 265 ratings
Fourth
1971
3.35 | 203 ratings
Fifth
1972
3.48 | 179 ratings
Six
1973
3.61 | 206 ratings
Seven
1973
4.00 | 265 ratings
Bundles
1975
3.78 | 171 ratings
Softs
1976
2.99 | 106 ratings
Land of Cockayne
1981
1.88 | 45 ratings
Rubber Riff
1994

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

2.80 | 59 ratings
Alive & Well - Recorded in Paris
1978
3.26 | 23 ratings
Live at the Proms (1970)
1988
3.92 | 24 ratings
The Peel Sessions
1990
4.27 | 14 ratings
BBC Live In Concert 1971
1993
3.76 | 12 ratings
BBC Radio 1 Live In Concert 1972
1994
3.91 | 28 ratings
Live At The Paradiso
1995
3.33 | 18 ratings
Live In France (Paris)
1995
3.70 | 34 ratings
Virtually
1998
2.79 | 15 ratings
Live 1970
1998
4.08 | 48 ratings
Noisette
2000
3.42 | 26 ratings
Backwards
2002
1.19 | 8 ratings
Facelift
2002
4.07 | 30 ratings
BBC - Radio 1967 - 1971
2003
4.10 | 21 ratings
BBC Radio 1971 - 1974
2003
3.00 | 7 ratings
Somewhere In Soho
2004
3.70 | 10 ratings
Soft Stage BBC In Concert 1972
2005
0.00 | 0 ratings
Orange Skin Food
2005
3.39 | 9 ratings
Breda Reactor
2005
3.35 | 13 ratings
Soft Machine & Heavy Friends BBC In Concert 1971
2005
3.81 | 25 ratings
British Tour '75
2005
3.80 | 33 ratings
Floating World Live (Bremen 1975)
2006
4.43 | 47 ratings
Grides
2006
2.58 | 16 ratings
Middle Earth Masters
2006
3.03 | 17 ratings
Drop
2008
4.23 | 18 ratings
Live At Henie Onstad Art Centre
2009
4.38 | 19 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

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

4.34 | 16 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
3.19 | 16 ratings
Face And Place Vol. 7 (also called Jet Propelled Photographs and At The Beginning)
1972
4.36 | 42 ratings
The Soft Machine Collection [also released as: Volumes One and Two]
1973
3.94 | 15 ratings
Triple Echo
1977
0.00 | 0 ratings
Rock Storia E Musica: Soft Machine
1983
3.08 | 20 ratings
Jet Propelled Photographs
1989
3.23 | 6 ratings
The Untouchable Collection (1975-78)
1990
4.38 | 4 ratings
As If...
1991
3.00 | 1 ratings
Soft Machine (Live & Demos)
1994
3.57 | 5 ratings
The Best Of Soft Machine...The Harvest Years
1995
3.43 | 26 ratings
Spaced (1969)
1996
3.58 | 22 ratings
Fourth / Fifth
1999
3.50 | 2 ratings
soft machine
2000
1.97 | 12 ratings
Man in a Deaf Corner: Anthology 1963-1970
2001
4.25 | 4 ratings
Turns On Vol. 1
2001
2.25 | 5 ratings
Turns On Vol. 2
2001
1.60 | 6 ratings
Kings Of Canterbury
2003
3.39 | 8 ratings
Six/Seven
2004
3.91 | 13 ratings
Out Bloody Rageous (Anthology 67-73)
2005
1.00 | 2 ratings
The Story of Soft Machine
2005
3.51 | 11 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)

3.08 | 6 ratings
Love Makes Sweet Music
1968
4.00 | 3 ratings
Why Are We Sleeping?
1968
4.00 | 3 ratings
Soft Space
1978
2.00 | 1 ratings
Bundles (Promo Single)
2010

THE SOFT MACHINE Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 The Soft Machine by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1968
4.02 | 433 ratings

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The Soft Machine
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Jazz-Rock/Fusion/Canterbury Team

3 stars The album that launched a subgenre. Experimental pop rock jazz with a sense of humor both musically and lyrically. Experimentalism seems the band's modus operandi as almost every song seems to be trying something new or unusual. Not nearly so bold or boundary pushing as their next album, this one does push boundaries--and buttons. I find that the band has not yet established its propensity for melodic hooks--though the lyrical/linguisitc hooks are certainly full on display. Also, the individual members are still honing their instrumental skills--a fact that gets much more exposure with each successive album (Soft Machine and Matching Mole). My two favorite songs also happen to be the two shortest: the organ beauty, "Priscilla," and "Plus belle qu'une poubelle"--though the beatnik "Why Are We Sleeping?" is also great. The others remain musical oddities that test already-proven styles and sounds though usually contributing Robert Wyatt's unusual approach to both vocals and lyrics. If you want great music, memorable music, with the more fresh innovative spirit, go to their second album.

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 Seven by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.61 | 206 ratings

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Seven
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by MusicHead196809

4 stars This album to me seems to put a full stop to all that had gone before within Soft Machine's development from the Dada practicing psychedelic funsters they started out as to the cerebral (some might say downright cold, clinical and mathematical) fusion practitioners that they had become by 1973. With Mike Ratledge the only founder member remaining from the original band, it's no surprise that you'll find no 'Hope For Happiness' here...

With no album having the same personel as the previous one (although one could argue that 'Third' & 'Fourth' defy that statement, but that's not something I need to elaborate on here) it's only logical that each subsequent album by this band would be different to the last whilst preserving the identity of this most unclassifiable band. Are they a rock band trying to play jazz? Are they a bunch of jazz players trying to play rock? Are they neither of these? That seems to be the constant debate surrounding this highly enigmatic group. Perhaps it would be best just to consider their output as simply Soft Machine music and leave it at that... Should one wish to listen to their entire studio output from beginning to end, there is a very strong continuity and, dare I say it, consistency to their canon that is quite unique.

Which brings us to the album in question. From the introduction of ex Nucleus drummer John Marshall on the second side of 'Fifth' via the replacement of the now sadly deceased Elton Dean with ex Nucleus reedsman Karl Jenkins to the replacement of long standing (and again, sadly deceased) Hugh Hopper with ex Nucleus (do you see a pattern forming here?) Roy Babbington as full time bass player, it wouldn't be unfair to say that this album would inevitably draw comparisons with that band's oeuvre. It's to the credit of the four musicians involved in this album that even with a cursory listen, it does not.

What it DOES bear comparison with is The Softs previous record: the ideas and musical tangents that had begun to be explored on that album are presented here with a much sharper focus and clarity. If one takes the rambling 'The Soft Weed Factor' from 'Six' and we're to listen to the highly crafted and MUCH more precise 'Snodland'/Penny Hitch' from 'Seven', this concentration of ideas is blindingly apparent. The other interesting factor is how the two main composers in the band at this point try harder than at any other point in the history of Soft Machine to write to the strengths of the musicians involved and the overall sound of the band as opposed to using the group as simply just a vehicle for their won musical agendas.

There are some very significant things that occur on 'Seven': the main one being it's the last album to feature Mike Ratledge's fuzz box powered Lowry organ (a Lowrey Holiday Deluxe to be precise, fact fans!) and the first to feature him soloing on that notoriously difficult to control instrument the EMS Synthi A synthesiser, notably so on the uncharacteristically rowdy (for Karl Jenkins) opener 'Nettlebed'. It's also highly noticeable that Karl Jenkins has by now adopted the rôle of principal composer and had begun to concentrate more on playing second keyboard rather than his usual oboe, baritone and soprano saxophones. It's also very noticeable that, as a soloist, Jenkins' limitations become very apparent in comparison to Elton Dean's highly fluent and breakneck speed flights of fancy on previous Soft Machine albums. The replacement of Hugh Hopper with Roy Babbington brought to the band a bass player who had enormous respect for how Soft Machine's music sounded under Hopper's tenure. He also brought the sound of another rarely seen instrument to the band's sonic palette in the form of the Fender Bass VI, giving a more melodic underpinning to John Marshall's faultless drumming whilst losing none of the rhythmic drive and pure groove of Hopper's style.

"So what's the music like?" I hear you cry. A very satisfying listen (to my ears) is the short answer. There's everything here that a fan of mid-period Soft Machine wants to hear: interesting musical schools of thought sometimes juxtaposed in unlikely yet successful combinations (fusion minimalism, anyone?), much more concise composition than previous albums which means that whilst not every piece on this album may be to your taste, none of them outstay their welcome by virtue of both their brevity and the incredibly high standard of musicianship on display. There's the hard 'n' fast riffing of 'Nettlebed', 'Tarabos' & 'Block'; the gentle, reflective tone poem that is 'Carol Ann', the measured beauty of 'Day's Eye', the showcasing of drummer John Marshall's percussion creativity with 'D. I. S.' (the story behind the naming of this piece and why it sounds like it does can be found in Graham Bennett's excellent book 'Out-Bloody-Rageous') as well as the aforementioned fusion minimalism of 'Snodland/Penny Hitch' and the two segued closing numbers 'The French Lesson' & 'The German Lesson'. What really makes the album a very satisfying listen is the running order: a near perfect ebb and flow of musical impressions that maintain interest by dint of their arrangements and the exceptional musicianship from all involved.

As I mentioned at the start of this review, 'Seven' is the full stop to everything that went before it in the Softs' history. With their next album came a label change and that most unexpected addition: guitars. Things went in a very different direction for Soft Machine after this. Given it's place in the Soft Machine timeline and the fact that in an interview at the time Mike Ratledge mentioned that he was rather pleased with it, anyone with a passing interest in Soft Machine could do worse than give this one a listen and try and enjoy it on its own merit, without the band's historical baggage, and I think you won't be disappointed! In the context of the rest of Soft Machine's output, I give 'Seven' a well deserved four out of five stars. Many thanks for reading!

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 Volume Two by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1969
4.03 | 383 ratings

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Volume Two
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by ALotOfBottle

3 stars After a succes of their debut, Soft Machine setteld in the United States after playing support for Jimi Hendrix. Robert Wyatt stayed in New York producing his solo material with Jimi Hendrix on bass guitar, which was released on an album "'68" in 2013. Kevin Ayers could not stand the tension of touring, so he left the band recommending Hugh Hopper as a replacement. In 1969, the band reformed and recorded "Volume Two".

To start out, I could never really like this album. After a fantastic debut, Soft Machine produced material which was sort of a let-down (I'm talking about this album in particular, because "Third" was a really solid effort). The case with this one, I think is similar to Rick Wakeman's solo albums. It does have a true potential lying in great musicians, but for most part its sound is a big overload of ideas thrown here and there. The tracks like "A Concise British Alphabet" or "Pataphysycal Introduction" are interesting with a sense of humour typical of Soft Machine, but these kinds of ideas are all over the place. The thing is, "Volume Two" lacks a climax that is hard to achieve. Some albums do not need a climax, that's true. Nonetheless, the music quickly becomes a collection of short comedy sketches that don't contribute to a reasonable whole with just a few extended jams (which indeed are interesting). However, this album does feature some neat moments like "Hibou Anemone and Bear" which is undeniably Soft Machine's classic, signature sound, or "10:30 Returns To the Bedroom".

I want to give this album 3 stars, as it does have a potential, could be a nice work and it showcases good musicianship. A lack of flavor lets it down. I wouldn't recommend this album to anyone, because I wouldn't be honest. Sorry, Soft Machine. Much better things were to come! However, this is definitely recommended for a Canterbury scene fan. Even if you won't like it, this is an essential Canterbury album.

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 The Soft Machine by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1968
4.02 | 433 ratings

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The Soft Machine
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by ALotOfBottle

4 stars Ground zero for Canterbury scene. This is arguably where it all started for Canterbury scene. Although still a psychedelic rock record, this incorporates proto-prog and jazz elements. It is the only Soft Machine album to feature Kevin Ayers, who is indeed an excellent bass player with a very distinct sound, capable of laying down outstanding grooves. Robert Wyatt's drumming is very unique, pushing the whole machine (Soft Machine) forward. Mike Ratledge's organ replaces any guitarist you would ever want. His break-neck, speedy salvos are what makes his playing style so unique. Overall, a really good album with some great songwriting. The highlights of the work are "Hope For Happiness", "Lullabye Letter" and "Why Am I So Short/So Boot If At All". A must-have for every progressive rock fan!

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 Third by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1970
4.21 | 789 ratings

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Third
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by ALotOfBottle

5 stars Out-Bloody-Rageously good.

With their second album, Volume Two, Soft Machine were clearly transforming into a much more jazz-oriented outfit. The piquancy of psychedelic rock for which the band became renowned for was by 1970 nearly gone from Soft Machine's music. The group recruited a four-piece horn section, which soon found they did not find comfort in constantly being on-tour with a loud rock band, so they decided they would only appear on the band's studio albums. The exception was Elton Dean, a young saxophonist, who had previously played in Keith Tippett's sextet. He stayed with Soft Machine, therefore he is listed as a full-time member, rather than a guest musician (like the rest of the horn section). In April the same year, the quartet entered the doors of IBC Studios in London to record a two-disc release named simply Third.

Third is an absolutely exceptional progressive rock album, a journey into the extremely gifted minds of Soft Machine's members. The album is made up of four long pieces, each a side of two discs. The music on Third is mainly centered on improvisation, relying strongly on urban jazz methods. However, it goes far beyond sounding like sterile noodlings, which is often the case with the style. What makes this album really stand out for me is a phenomenal variety. "Moon In June" is probably the most progressive rock-like sound that the band has in its catalog. It is Robert Wyatt's own multimovement epic which goes through many different segments, all varied, presenting many different moods in an incredible tasteful and attractive manner. Another track which is really one-of-a-kind experience and a highlight of the album is "Out-Bloody-Rageous". It starts out with minimalistic electronic ambient passage which repeats itself adding more layers. It's one of the most beautiful soundscapes I have heard in my life. Then, it resolves into a very catchy jazz theme with long free jazz improvisation. "Facelift" and "Slightly All The Time" are definitely very good tracks with more of a traditional jazz feel to them, but with Soft Machine's own Canterbury scene twist. The musicianship is excellent throughout with every band member contributing crucially into the fantastic fruit.

In conclusion, Third is a phenomenal, unique work with a very distinctive sound and is a must-have for every progressive rock fan. It occupies a territory of the genre that no other album has ever got close to. Highly recommended for newcommers to jazzy prog and prog veterans alike! Five stars!

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 Love Makes Sweet Music by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1968
3.08 | 6 ratings

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Love Makes Sweet Music
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

3 stars With an A-side that is reminiscent of the sunny mid-1960s British Invasion pop that has only tastes of the tripped-out psychedelic Canterbury experiences to come, and B-sides that combine that approach with darker verses reminiscent of a prelude to Song From the Bottom of a Well from Kevin Ayers' third solo album, this first single from the Soft Machine - recorded even before the demo sessions which were later released as Jet Propelled Photographs - represents a very embryonic point indeed of the band's development.

Though Daevid Allen was in the lineup at this point, his presence is barely felt, whilst the jazzy influences that would inform their subsequent work are almost entirely absent - unless you count the freakier portions of Feelin' Reelin' Squealin' as free jazz. Interesting stuff, but not something to break the bank tracking down; perhaps the best way to find this is to pick up Polydor's 2009 CD remaster of the first Soft Machine album (which benefits greatly from superior sound quality to previous CD reissues that album to boot).

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 Face And Place Vol. 7 (also called Jet Propelled Photographs and At The Beginning) by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1972
3.19 | 16 ratings

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Face And Place Vol. 7 (also called Jet Propelled Photographs and At The Beginning)
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by thwok

3 stars My review of JET PROPELLED PHOTOGRAPHS is primarily intended for big fans of the band like myself. This demo isn't for people with a passing interest in The Soft Machine. As others have suggested, this is the kind of late 60's psychedelic pop/rock which was so popular at the time. There are bands who wrote and played in this style more compellingly; Jefferson Airplane is the first band that comes instantly to mind. The 9 songs on JET PROPELLED PHOTOGRAPHS are very well-performed; the great skills of the group are evident even in their first recording. David Allen's guitar and Mike Ratledge's keyboards stand out for me.

Like other Soft Machine releases, the singing is just adequate. The song writing is also adequate, but I wish the band would stretch out more and show off their instrumental skills. Most of the songs, which appear in different form on later albums, haven't really stuck with me. Since we can't give 2 1/2 star ratings, I'll give JET PROPELLED PHOTOGRAPHS 3 stars. I like most of Soft Machine's music, although there's quite a bit I haven't listened to. If you listened to the band's early official releases repeatedly, JET PROPELLED PHOTOGRAPHS is a good alternative.

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 Softs by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.78 | 171 ratings

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Softs
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by Quinino
Collaborator Errors & Omissions Team

5 stars My ALL-TIME Greatest #5

Starting in 1968 SM released an album practically each and every year until this one in 1976, never repeating twice the same line-up, and culminating on this one with only Mike Ratledge remaining from the original band (and even here with a somewhat limited presence,would leave during recordings).
I wont go to another extended description of this allucinating sucession of musicians/recordings, others have done it already with enough detail, but only underline the much centerpiece role of Karl Jenkins either on composing as well as arranging this album.

Global Appraisal

In fact KJ composed and arranged almost every theme (some in collaboration), all instrumentals, what gives a feeling of continuity and wholeness to a work that can benefit with a un-interrupted listening, functioning well as a giant suite.

This is a masterpiece, really timeless and until this day bearing absolutely no riddles. A sure personal companion for every season of now 40 years, and counting.

Goodies

Musicianship above any reproach, the set working as a tight unit on a delightful continuous rolling of jazz-rock of the highest standard.

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 Volume Two by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1969
4.03 | 383 ratings

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Volume Two
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Jazz-Rock/Fusion/Canterbury Team

5 stars Gone are founding members DAEVID ALLEN and Kevin AYERS. The remaining members decide to produce an album as a trio with Robert WYATT on drums and vocals, Mike RATLEDGE on keyboards and flute, Hugh HOPPER on bass and alto sax, and special guest, Hugh's brother, Brian HOPPER on soprano and tenor saxes. What unveils is a masterpiece of supremely melodic and humorous exercises and experiments in modern and psychedelic jazz pop. I find the album eminently enjoyable to this day--one of my favorite start-to-finish 'adventures' in music listening. Each song is interesting for its experimental nature as well as for its lyrical content and instrumental performances. Robert is quite a talented drummer, Mike a wonderfully melodic piano and keyboard player, and the Hopper boys add quite a bit of colour and harmonic beauty. I don't really want to go through each of the seventeen songs, nor do I want to name my favorite or the "five star" songs as to my ears and mind the album is one continuous play experience, but if you really twist my arm I'd go out there to say that "Dada Was Here" is a wonderful composite example of all of the best qualities of this album--with the additional highlight of having Robert singing in Spanish! and that Side One is more engaging and more melodic than the more experimental and more instrumental Side Two--and yet I find the jazzier experimentations fascinating!

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 Third by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1970
4.21 | 789 ratings

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Third
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE Team

5 stars So intent was SOFT MACHINE to evolve at the speed of light into new musical territory that in only a few short years since they founded as a psychedelic pop band and then virtually establishing what would eventually be called the Canterbury Scene in the musical world that by the time they got to their THIRD album so they had practically abandoned all that had come before and dove head first into the world of free jazz and avant-garde psychedelia with only tidbits of rock still to be found throughout this sprawling and ambitious undertaking. Despite the gaudily ugly packaging and the horribly generic album titles, the music is some of the most complex and sophisticated that 1970 had to offer. SOFT MACHINE was simply ahead of the pack by first creating the Canterbury Scene of rock music well before any other takers would continue down that path but they also jumped into the seas of super complex jazz-fusion which can be heard on this bizarre and transitory classic.

THIRD has a much broader spectrum of sound than anything attempted by the band before. Still on board are Robert Wyatt on drums and vocals on the sole vocal track "Moon In June," Hugh Hopper on bass and Mike Ratledge on various keyboards but we also get Lyn Dobson on sax and flute, Jimmy Hastings (brother of Pye) on flute and bass clarinet, Rab Spall on violin and Nick Evans on trombone. The result of this expanded musical lineup is a big fat jazzy sounding album that is predominantly jazz in nature but has just enough rock and psychedelic influences to keep it firmly in the unusually experimental section on your shelf. The four tracks almost hit the 20 minute mark each but they often seem like they contain several tracks that combine to make a larger track.

"Facelift" is a live recording on the album and it starts out with very trippy sounding intro before getting into jazz-fusion territory. "Slightly All The Time" seems like a pure jazz piece in the beginning but really rocks out at the end. "Moon In June" is the only track to feature vocals and the last one of SOFT MACHINE to ever contain them. I personally think at least one track on an this mostly instrumental album adds a human touch to the bizarre soundscapes created. "Out-Bloody-Rageous" is evenly divided into four parts with the first being psychedelic, the second being jazzy, the third being keyboard oriented and the last part extremely trippy. This is simply a brilliant album from beginning to end but certainly not an easy one to digest. This one requires being well versed in both progressive rock and jazz to really enjoy. It takes many more listens than the average album to fully fall for. I certainly didn't warm up to it at first but eventually after many persistent and attentive attempts it has in the long run paid off handsomely.

I should also mention that is well worth tracking down the 2007 remastered version for not only do you get superb sound quality but a bonus disc from a concert at The Royal Albert Hall for BBC Radio Three in 1970. There are three tracks: "Out-Bloody-Rageous," "Facelift" and the previously unreleased "Esther's Nose Job." This is simply one of those albums where words fail to convey the many moods and dynamisms employed in these works. It is a must hear to understand for it is unlike anything that came before and since as far as I am aware. Classic.

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