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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 different order, was recorded within a fortnight of "Volume 2", by the trio and sounds more prog than jazz. "Third" is the transitional, double al...
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Original Album ClassicsOriginal Album Classics
Import
Sony Import 2010
Audio CD$13.58
$19.93 (used)
Tanglewood TailsTanglewood Tails
Import
SECRET RECORDS 2014
Audio CD$19.99
Volume 2Volume 2
Import · Remastered
EMI Europe Generic 2009
Audio CD$5.44
$4.49 (used)
Soft MachineSoft Machine
Import · Remastered
EMI Europe Generic 2009
Audio CD$5.44
$9.75 (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)
Volumes One & TwoVolumes One & Two
Import
Big Beat UK 2004
Audio CD$10.12
$7.99 (used)
ThirdThird
Import · Remastered
Sony Bmg Europe 2007
Audio CD$7.48
$5.98 (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)

4.08 | 363 ratings
The Soft Machine
1968
3.98 | 326 ratings
Volume Two
1969
4.21 | 680 ratings
Third
1970
3.46 | 226 ratings
Fourth
1971
3.32 | 170 ratings
Fifth
1972
3.46 | 155 ratings
Six
1973
3.59 | 173 ratings
Seven
1973
3.99 | 224 ratings
Bundles
1975
3.70 | 150 ratings
Softs
1976
2.98 | 88 ratings
Land of Cockayne
1981
1.79 | 36 ratings
Rubber Riff
1994

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

2.79 | 49 ratings
Alive & Well - Recorded in Paris
1978
3.24 | 20 ratings
Live at the Proms (1970)
1988
4.26 | 12 ratings
BBC Live In Concert 1971
1993
3.56 | 9 ratings
BBC Radio 1 Live In Concert 1972
1994
3.86 | 29 ratings
Live At The Paradiso
1995
3.29 | 15 ratings
Live In France (Paris)
1995
3.65 | 33 ratings
Virtually
1998
2.64 | 13 ratings
Live 1970
1998
4.02 | 49 ratings
Noisette
2000
3.39 | 22 ratings
Backwards
2002
1.08 | 5 ratings
Facelift
2002
2.67 | 6 ratings
Somewhere In Soho
2004
3.43 | 7 ratings
Soft Stage BBC In Concert 1972
2005
3.29 | 8 ratings
Breda Reactor
2005
3.32 | 11 ratings
Soft Machine & Heavy Friends BBC In Concert 1971
2005
3.67 | 27 ratings
British Tour '75
2005
3.74 | 35 ratings
Floating World Live (Bremen 1975)
2006
4.34 | 46 ratings
Grides
2006
2.57 | 15 ratings
Middle Earth Masters
2006
3.00 | 15 ratings
Drop
2008
4.00 | 21 ratings
Live At Henie Onstad Art Centre
2009
4.22 | 22 ratings
NDR Jazz Workshop, Germany, May 17, 1973
2010

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

4.39 | 14 ratings
Alive in Paris-1970
2008

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

3.19 | 14 ratings
Face And Place Vol. 7 (also called Jet Propelled Photographs and At The Beginning)
1972
4.30 | 43 ratings
The Soft Machine Collection [also released as: Volumes One and Two]
1973
3.85 | 16 ratings
Triple Echo
1977
3.07 | 17 ratings
Jet Propelled Photographs
1989
3.83 | 21 ratings
The Peel Sessions
1990
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 | 3 ratings
The Best Of Soft Machine...The Harvest Years
1995
3.42 | 28 ratings
Spaced (1969)
1996
3.52 | 23 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
3.98 | 32 ratings
BBC - Radio 1967 - 1971
2003
3.98 | 23 ratings
BBC Radio 1971 - 1974
2003
3.39 | 8 ratings
Six/Seven
2004
3.91 | 13 ratings
Out Bloody Rageous (Anthology 67-73)
2005
1.00 | 1 ratings
The Story of Soft Machine
2005
3.49 | 9 ratings
Original Album Classics
2010

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

3.40 | 5 ratings
Love Makes Sweet Music
1968
4.00 | 3 ratings
Why Are We Sleeping?
1968
4.00 | 3 ratings
Soft Space
1978

THE SOFT MACHINE Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Land of Cockayne  by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1981
2.98 | 88 ratings

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Land of Cockayne
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator Rock Progressivo Italiano Team

3 stars It's always wonderful accidently rediscovering an album in your collection that you simply forgot you had, perhaps coming across it again after finding it was put back in the wrong place what feels like a lifetime ago! Case in point for me, Soft Machine's final work (with the exception of endless compilations and archive releases), `Land of Cockayne', a record that often causes much derision from die-hard fans of the band. Looking back now, this was the first Soft Machine related album I owned, at a time right at the start of my prog collecting when I had no patience or the frame of mind for anything jazz/fusion related. Coming back to it now, with an appreciation and better knowledge of the various Soft Machine incarnations, I find while it's a perfectly worthy and distinctive release from the group, full of restrained but tasteful playing by a bunch of consumate professional musicians (now including members from bands such as If, Nucleus, Cream) that you can only admire. It may be a world away from the ragged psych early days, the sonically violating noisy exploratory middle years or the driving fusion after that, and yes, it's smooth, pleasant and often a little too squeeky-clean, but there are still moments scattered throughout where the band really simmers, and at the very least, there's almost nothing that's actually terrible on the entire LP.

The opener `Over 'N Above' is actually one of the poorest moments, a repetitive and slightly bland AOR fusion-lite plodder that's at least twice as long as it should be. There's some silly orchestral strings over part of it that sound like it's wandered in from an Alan Parsons Project album, but I suppose the sighing wordless harmonies give it a slightly recognizable Canterbury sound. Tinkering programmed loops and raindrop-like synths patter `Lotus Groves', sounding more like something off a later Ashra disc with an almost New-Age influence, but there's some nice (if slight) fretless bass from Jack Bruce murmurring away drowsily in the background, and drifting flute gives it a mysterious old-world sound. `Isle of the Blessed' is a dramatic cinematic orchestration that grows more impressive as it progresses, eventually taking on a sweeping romantic quality. `Panoramania' is the first real workout on the disc, a sax fuelled mid-tempo jog with a tasty extended Rhodes electric piano solo spot from John Taylor in the middle (that just becomes a little politely unhinged in a few momens as nicely as possible!), droning harmonies, gentle synths/orchestration, and John Marshall's peppy drum-work - pretty tasty stuff. The first side closes with a brief electronic and sax lament interlude.

The perky uptempo jazz/fusion of `Hot-Biscuit Slim' has enough punchy busy drumming, driving spirited sax-work and a sprinkling of glistening electric piano to bring some catchy and foot-tapping grooves. `(Black) Velvet Mountain doesn't really go anywhere, just a soaring powerful orchestral melody over a Pink Floyd-like solid drumbeat and a nicely played but somewhat unthrilling lead electric guitar run from Alan Holdsworth. He makes a better impression on the twisting guitar of `Sly Monkey', a little more playful and energetic number with infectious sax melodies and gulping bass. All the players get little moments to shine in this compact little arrangement. Sadly the album closes on a wretched piano and sax interlude `A Lot of What You Fancy' that is so cosy it practically comes with an oversized knitted Christmas sweater from your Mum to keep to warm in winter. Thanks a lot, Mum.

Depending on your preferred version of the band, this album may be as far removed from what your interpretation of Soft Machine should be as possible. I actually find it a perfect background listen to enjoy, especially if I'm not in the mood for their earlier blistering feedback dirges and honking hell! `Land of Cockayne' may not be greatest album to properly end on for the Soft Machine, but it's varied and eclectic, and all the musicians involved here delivered a respectable and perfectly enjoyable listen with their dignity intact.

Three and a half stars.

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 The Soft Machine by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1968
4.08 | 363 ratings

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The Soft Machine
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by siLLy puPPy
Prog Reviewer

5 stars All one has to do is listen to the demos (available as Jet-propelled Photographs) recorded the year before to hear how quickly THE SOFT MACHINE was evolving their sound. It had been a wild ride since the days of the Wilde Flowers for drummer Robert Wyatt and bassist Kevin Ayers to get to this point. Mike Ratledge joined the band in 1966 when they officially formed as keyboardist and fellow ex-Wilde Flower veteran Hugh Hopper (bass) joins in on a few tracks here. Hugh would later join the band as a full member.

Originally the band also included Larry Nowlin on guitar but by the time we get to this debut album there is no guitarist to be found and just as well. It allows the band to emphasize how much a band can do with just a bass, keyboards and drums. Although Daevid Allen (guitars and vocals) was out and would begin his own Canterbury powerhouse Gong, on this debut we get a mixture of his own beatnik philosophy that he left behind, the psychedelic rock that was in fashion at the time and a new found appreciation for jazz that is incorporated into the nooks and crannies of the song structures creating a very new and exciting kind of music.

I personally believe that the sudden evolution can be attributed to the musical genius of Jimi Hendrix with whom SOFT MACHINE would tour. Hendrix was a major catalyst in the musical world at large and such a close proximity to his world surely must have served as an energizing lightning bolt for the band catapulting them suddenly into the more progressive interpretations of their earlier psychedelic pop churned out just a short time prior their debut. The band tackles the songs quite creatively. I love how the leading track "Hope For Happiness" is really one long track but in the middle they insert another track titled "Joy Of A Toy." That strategy is repeated throughout the album making a smooth. flowing album from beginning to end. The melodies are catchy, the musicianship is excellent and the arrangements are quite brilliant. Ayers and Wyatt trade off vocals complementing each other quite well.

This one was certainly a grower. Upon first listen most of the complexities passed me by and I was more focused on the psychedelic pop aspects of the music. To fully appreciate SOFT MACHINE albums takes patience and dedication to fully unlock the brilliance embedded into the music. Although I liked this album on the first listen, I have grown to really love it for its bold and daring display of creativity as well as for its long lasting influence on not only the Canterbury side of jazz-fusion but for the evolution of progressive music in general. A belated 5 star masterpiece in my world but one that will firmly remain in that status. You'll know you're hooked when "Hope For Happiness" becomes the dominant ear worm beckoning you to put on the album time and time again!

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 Jet Propelled Photographs by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1989
3.07 | 17 ratings

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Jet Propelled Photographs
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by siLLy puPPy
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Although these demos of the first lineup of SOFT MACHINE were recorded as far back in 1967, they wouldn't see the light of day until this compilation was released in 1972 under the title "Faces And Places Vol 7." For some strange reason, not content with simply re-releasing these 10 tracks under the same name over the years, it has also been released under the following titles: "Jet-Propelled Photographs," "Jet Propelled," "At The Beginning," "Memories," "Soft Machine 1967 Demos," "London 1967,"Les génies du Rock n°042: At the Beginning"and simply "Soft Machine." Almost as many titles for this compilation as there are tracks!

These tracks which were supposed to be SOFT MACHINE's first album are all that exist of the 1967 lineup with Daevid Allen, Kevin Ayers, Mike Ratledgte and Robert Wyatt. What we get here is a sound not too far removed from the Wylde Flowers' version of jazzy pop songs that have a slight progressive edge to them but light-years away from the more masterfully developed debut album that would finally emerge after the departure of Daevid Allen.

These tracks are actually pretty good as far as 60s pop oriented songwriting goes and I find this to be a gleeful little listen every now and again. Nothing else at the time sounds like this and although this isn't even close to the full on jazz-fusion that would take off in just a few short years, it is an interesting relic of history that shows a legendary band finding their own sound. A few of these would be spruced up to be included on the first album and some of them would be used on solo albums by individual members. Hardly essential but certainly sufficiently entertaining and a glimpse into their inchoate ideas.

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 Third by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1970
4.21 | 680 ratings

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Third
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by Anon-E-Mouse

5 stars It's that time of the year again (June) when I usually reach for this CD. (The old vinyl is still here too, but .my turntable is long gone to Heaven.) So, why this album? Simple. For the track "Moon in June". On the side, it's also a gentle reminder of this excellent band that hasn't received much attention lately in the reviews.

I love pretty much all incarnations of Soft Machine. At this point they leave their early psychedelic approach and delve into Canterbury/ Jazz-Rock without compromises . Four long tracks on this double album (none much under 20 mins) are quite a mouthful to digest. Mainly because these tracks command due attention. This is not a criticism from my part, but one is to allow sufficient time to duly pay attention in place of listening to music on the run. It also helps if one is in the mood.

Having taken care of the bulk of this album (3 tracks!), I'd like to reflect on "Moon in June" which is perhaps one of Robert Wyatt's finest moments before forming Matching Mole. Here he sings softly and plays multiple instruments onto a dynamic beat. Truly charming and effective. Then the second half of the song turns into a full blown instrumental jazz run typical of that era of British approach. How these two widely different halves merge so well is a bit of a mystery, but they sure do. It's almost sexual and in a way I am reminded of Robert Fripp's skills of creating tension and release in some early KC tunes. But this piece is almost in the reverse of that. Like gentle foreplay followed by furious and sustained activity. This piece alone is worth your purchase. but the whole album is pretty good, nevertheless.

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 Third by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1970
4.21 | 680 ratings

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Third
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by BatBacon

3 stars Easley one of the trickiest records I have in my collection and always makes me feel confused and disorientated. Those who know the genre Canterbury Scene know it stands for long, stretched out jams, weird melodies and that strange fuzzy organ sound. Its almost pop, but at the same time not even close. Almost jazz, but mutated into something beyond recognition. Soft Machine is Canterbury Scene at its most extreme and I don't know their records that well because I rarely have the energy to listen to them. To be completely honest I think this was the first time I listened through whole this record, I can't really recall having heard the last track before. A bit strange and funny, but at the same time, how could I tell? It sounds pretty much as the rest of the record.

Just the opening is enough to scare most people off, its about four minutes of weird organ noises. Only people looking for something slightly disturbing to listen to would sit through this intro (Yes, I had one of those nights, so I was pretty stimulated). Then comes the bass and drums and starts of some kind of jam, which is kind of nice for the first couple of minutes. But soon you realise this jam goes on for the rest of the 18 minutes long song and nothing really happens.

I admit it, this record has a lot of great moments, but most of the time it doesn't sound like the musicians are reflecting over what they are playing. All the four songs are over 18 minutes, but I don't think there is enough interesting ideas to stretch any of them that much. Except from a moment in the third song "Moon in June", which has a bit of vocals (Robert Wyatt's voice is fantastic!), its all mostly just a long and a bit annoying jam. A lot of organs and saxophone, noises and wild rhythms, but nothing really happens.

I would recommend this to anyone who thought National Health or Matching Mule (other Canterbury Scene bands) wasn't extreme enough. But for those who love Robert Wyatt's solo material or Caravan I have to say: Be careful around Soft Machine.

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 Rubber Riff by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1994
1.79 | 36 ratings

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Rubber Riff
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by Suedevanshoe

3 stars I love this album. Similar to the 1976 recording "The Guitar of John Renbourn" this is just a collection of pre-muzak snippets to be used to play in libraries. Not imaginative, not exciting, boring, dull, pedestrian, many adjectives can be used to describe this entry in Soft Machine's catalog. I purely enjoy this as background music, this album has a definite niche in my library. Morning newspaper and a glass of milk and some uninspired playing from seasoned vets. What a way to start the day.

Honestly, I'd give this four stars if my own criteria were used to judge the album. However, three stars seems more appropriate. I can see why some prog fans out there give it one star, it is middling and untidy. If you like background sounds, try "The Guitar of John Renbour" which is very relaxing.

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 Bundles by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.99 | 224 ratings

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Bundles
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars "Bundles" is the 8th full-length studio album by UK experimental/fusion/jazz rock act Soft Machine. The album was released through Harvest Records in March 1975. Keyboard player Mike Ratledge was at this point the only founding member left in the lineup and even his involvement in Soft Machine was dwindling at this point. His writing contributions to "Bundles" is limited to two short tracks. Most of the material on the album are composed by Karl Jenkins (oboe, soprano sax, acoustic & electric pianos).

Musically "Bundles" also marks a pretty big shift in direction compared to the last couple of more jazz oriented releases. It's especially the inclusion of the, at the time, only 19 years old guitar prodigy Allan Holdsworth and his considerable contributions to the album, that make "Bundles" such a different sounding album to it's predecessors (Soft Machine's music hadn't featured guitar since their earliest days). The energy and the rythms make this a much more contemporary sounding fusion album than the more jazz oriented albums that came before it (think acts like jazz rock/fusion period Gong and Return to Forever).

The musicianship is not surprisingly top notch. These guys are professionals but not the type of professional musicians who are devoid of emotion because of it. It's probably an aquired taste if you can appreciate the change in sound and Allan Holdsworth's frantic shredding, but I guess people's opinions on "Bundles" will very much reflect how they feel about the preceeding releases. Personally "Bundles" appeal much more to me than anything Soft Machine released between "Third (1970)" and this one, so I'm happy as a pig.

The sound production is powerful and organic, which suits the music well. So upon conclusion "Bundles" is a high quality jazz rock/fusion album by Soft Machine. Tracks like the "Hazard Profile" suite and "Four Gongs Two Drums" are great jazz rock/fusion and the rest of the material are for the most part equally exciting. The ambient closing track "The Floating World" is a bit too longdrawn and to my ears a bit of an anti climatic way to end an otherwise greatly energetic release but I guess that's an aquired taste. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

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 Third by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1970
4.21 | 680 ratings

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Third
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by LSDisease

1 stars This one appeared to be an obvious choice for the first encounter with The Soft Machine's music. It wasn't a good idea I guess but if it's their finest work I don't want to hear their other albums. Facelift is semi amateurish nonsense, a piece of truly sensless cacophony that was recorded partly live. Guys learn how to play as they stay completely out of tune. The second song is better but still not a glimpse of idea how to create something that makes sense and isn't just a collection of random sounds. This is a bit jazzy, I don't know, maybe guys wanted to play what appeared in their heads while recording the album. Moon In June is partly ok which I mean it finally sounds like some kind of a song. Out-Bloody-Rageous is a pure jazz tune. It's nothing interesting to me and the whole long album is a bummer. Sorry. I don't know if I want to listen to some other records by The Soft Machine.

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 The Soft Machine by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1968
4.08 | 363 ratings

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The Soft Machine
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by Memo_anathemo

4 stars The Soft Machine were the creators along with Caravan of the Canterbury scene. Let's not forget most of the members were together at the Wilde Flowers, previous to their bands. They liked the psychedelia of the time, but they also liked to feel free to compose, and also they liked to feel attached somehow to their folk roots, all this mixture was the origin of the Canterbury sound. Their first album was a first effort, and with great success, to accomplish the sound they were looking for. Little by little and band after band (remember that each member left to form other bands with same quality) they were improving in their music, that's why this album cannot get the 5 stars because they got over themselves in their future albums but definitely this album is the milestone of a complete genre.

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 Fifth by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.32 | 170 ratings

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Fifth
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by Luís de Sousa

5 stars In the rock music world there are recordings that have become landmarks; decades may pass over its original production but a consensus perdures on its exceptional qualities, even among those that may have born long after. In other cases the consensus does not exit, by one reason or another, an outstanding work can push the limits in such a way that it alienates part of the listeners' spectrum. [i]Fifth[/i] by Soft Machine is one of these records.

Soft Machine was on of the bands emerging in Canterbury in the late 1960s towards international recognition. They took a particular approach to Rock, embedding elements of Jazz, in what would become known as Jazz-Rock. In spite of being one of the unavoidable precursors of the genre, Soft Machine remained for a few years well ahead of its peers, avoiding any fall into stereotypes. These first few LP evolved around the trio composed by Mike Rutledge (organ), Hugh Hopper (electric bass) and Robert Wyatt (drums), later with the important addition of Elton Dean (alto sax). This core line up featured in the first four LP of the band, each time diving further into Jazz, composing what are today its most appreciated recordings.

Robert Wyatt would leave the band right after, still in 1971, and almost two years passed before the band returned to studio. Late in 1972 the band would finally release their [i]Fifth[/i] LP, which would be the last in several aspects: the last featuring Elton Dean and the last really experimenting into Jazz (actually Free Jazz) for instance with concurrent double bass and electric bass. It went once again into territories where neither Rock nor Jazz listeners feel completely comfortable. However, in doing so, the band epitomised the work of its early carer and perhaps even the true essence of Jazz Rock.

[b][i]All White[/i][/b]

A spacey intro with a reverbed saxophone and fuzz bass that sounds completely apart from anything else immediately grabbing the listener. Eventually evolves into a familiar jazz rock piece with Mike and the drums joining in. Still, it sounds well ahead of its time.

[b][i]Drop[/i][/b]

Another eerie intro, this time using a repeater plugged to the electric piano, again recreating the sense of vanguard. A lead organ slowly emerges, backed by a full jazzy ensemble. The remainder of the musicians, although having great freedom to improvise, still keep the listener focused with simple melodies here and there. It gives a warming sense of discovery and leaves the listener looking forward for what may come next.

[b][i]M C[/i][/b]

A collective improvisation from which no distinguishable rhythmic structure or melody ever emerges, producing a somewhat dysfunctional exit to side A. This is one of the efforts that may have lend some bad reputation to the LP, but it makes sense.

[b][i]As If[/i][/b]

A short bass phrase on tame tempo sets the scene for a great deal of experimentation from the other instruments, especially the double bass, here played with the bow. Slowly the song melts down, like a painting washed by rain, loosing the rhythmic structure and melody. Expectation builds up, in away that can be painful for the less jazzy listener, eventually leading into the follow track.

[b][i]L B O[/i][/b]

A noisy and chaotic intermission with all the instruments together closing the previous track and opening up for a short drum solo, still leaves the listener in uncomfortable territory.

[b][i]Pigling Bland[/i][/b]

Totally cuts with the previous chaos in a very elegant way. The band brings you back again to comfortable territory with the familiar and plasent Soft Machine signature sound of the previous LP. This time the leading melody is produced by Dean.

[b][i]Bone[/i][/b]

It comes out of nowhere, putting an end to the previous track and again immersing the listener in a futuristic soundscape. A tame but spacey bass supports a melody by the organ with an out of this world reverbed flute improvising. It is a mysterious sound alike anything else that slowly fades away.

The LP takes an arc like shape going from comfortable Soft Machine sounds, plugging into full fledged Free Jazz and then coming back again to the familiar Jazz-Rock.

[b]The Veredict[/b]

Apart from the dearths into Free Jazz this LP also contains some outstanding space pieces, especially in [i]All White[/i], [i]Drop[/i] and [i]Bone[/i], that make it all the more interesting. These are unique experiments that the band would never try again, producing sounds well ahead of their time.

The early 1970s were a time of great experimentation. Jazz musicians where captured and drawn to Rock and Rock musicians boldly delved into Jazz. This record is likely the best portrait of this epoch, blurring the boundaries between the two genres. Some might say that Soft Machine went too far, but Progressive Rock is just that, going where no one went before. Thus I can only classify this work as a Masterpiece.

After [i]Fifth[/i] Hugh Hopper and Mike Ratledge kept Soft Machine going but rapidly retreating to the comfortable sounds of bare Jazz-Rock, at times producing pleasant music, but never daring as before.

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