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THE SOFT MACHINE

Canterbury Scene • United Kingdom


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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...
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THE SOFT MACHINE Videos (YouTube and more)


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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)

4.00 | 598 ratings
The Soft Machine
1968
4.05 | 544 ratings
Volume Two
1969
4.18 | 1072 ratings
Third
1970
3.55 | 371 ratings
Fourth
1971
3.40 | 282 ratings
Fifth [Aka: 5]
1972
3.50 | 248 ratings
Six
1973
3.66 | 284 ratings
Seven
1973
4.10 | 412 ratings
Bundles
1975
3.89 | 256 ratings
Softs
1976
2.02 | 71 ratings
Karl Jenkins: Rubber Riff
1976
3.01 | 156 ratings
Land of Cockayne
1981
3.99 | 207 ratings
Hidden Details
2018

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

2.91 | 82 ratings
Alive & Well - Recorded in Paris
1978
3.23 | 36 ratings
Live at the Proms (1970)
1988
4.03 | 38 ratings
The Peel Sessions
1990
4.27 | 22 ratings
BBC Live In Concert 1971
1993
3.71 | 19 ratings
BBC Radio 1 Live In Concert 1972
1994
3.89 | 40 ratings
Live At The Paradiso
1995
3.29 | 25 ratings
Live In France (Paris)
1995
3.69 | 41 ratings
Virtually
1998
2.69 | 20 ratings
Live 1970
1998
4.05 | 61 ratings
Noisette
2000
3.41 | 33 ratings
Backwards
2002
1.21 | 10 ratings
Facelift
2002
4.08 | 42 ratings
BBC - Radio 1967 - 1971
2003
4.08 | 34 ratings
BBC Radio 1971 - 1974
2003
3.00 | 8 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
3.80 | 31 ratings
British Tour '75
2005
3.81 | 48 ratings
Floating World Live (Bremen 1975)
2006
4.40 | 62 ratings
Grides
2006
2.60 | 22 ratings
Middle Earth Masters
2006
3.06 | 25 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
4.77 | 12 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
 Live at The Baked Potato by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Live, 2020
4.77 | 12 ratings

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Live at The Baked Potato
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Reviewer

5 stars The tale of the history of Soft Machine is complex, with spin-off bands aplenty, and a gap of 37 years between releases under the original name, yet in many ways that is somehow apt given the complexity and groundbreaking nature of their music. Three of this line-up were members of the band back in the Seventies, namely - John Etheridge (guitar), Roy Babbington (bass) and John Marshall (drums), while Theo Travis (sax, flute, electric piano) had been a member of Soft Machine Legacy since 2006. When Roy joined that band in 2009, the quartet formed such a bond that in 2015 they felt they could drop the "Legacy" element, and in 2018 released 'Hidden Details', the first new Soft Machine studio album since 1981's 'Land of Cockayne'.

Recorded live at The Baked Potato, February 1st, 2020, during the Soft Machine's 50th Anniversary World Tour 2019/2020, this was their first return to LA since opening for Jimi Hendrix at the Hollywood Bowl on September 14th, 1968, so it had been a while. Listening to the energy coming from the stage it is hard to realise just how old these guys are, with Theo Travis being the youngster as he is only in his late fifties, while Roy and John Marshall were only just in their seventies when this was recorded, and are both now in their eighties, while John Etheridge is also in his seventies. This album shows just how great music and great musicians are somehow timeless, and when Etheridge lets rip, he really shows the youngsters what can be done on a guitar when you have spent so many years mastering it. Travis provides the musical glue which allows the Etheridge the room to play, but it is the rhythm section which keeps it all so controlled and on point at all times.

As well as tunes from the latest album, we of course also get plenty of classics from the Seventies, including "Out-Bloody- Rageous", "Hazard Profile", "Kings And Queens", "The Tale Of Taliesin" and "The Man Who Waved At Trains", but it does not matter if they are playing old or new, as there is a seamless and ageless quality. At times delicate, at others rumbunctious, this is the absolute highest quality, which one would expect from Soft Machine. Any serious proghead or jazz lover will have at least some Soft Machine albums in their collection: this should be added, as music as good as this needs the recognition it deserves.

 Bundles by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1975
4.10 | 412 ratings

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Bundles
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by MaxnEmmy

5 stars A few years ago, I purchased several Soft Machine albums. I like how they numbered them with chronological simplicity. When I absorbed this one, Bundles, I was amazed. I now know why this is not numbered, as it's different than any other Soft Machine album, before or since. For the first time they went total fusion with electric guitar. They hired probably the greatest guitarist of the 20th century. Mr. Allan Holdsworth delivered as he always does. He played his heart out, and then some. Bundles is essentially an Allan Holdsworth album with a great backup band. After this project finished Allan split for other bands always looking for that quintessential format that would express his desire in music. He finally went solo in the early 80's and produced a major output of beautiful improvised music based on his own theory of harmony. This album of the mid 70's is 5 stars in my book.
 Third by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1970
4.18 | 1072 ratings

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Third
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by prog_traveller!!

4 stars In 1970 one of the most important realities of the whole "Canterbury scene" (that branch of progressive groups even more involved in experimentation) or Soft Machine published this colossal work that will become a must for psychedelic rock with jazz-fusion influences. The album is pervaded by the sound of the organ played by Mike Ratledge at times distorted and futuristic at times solemn and intimate and, in the song "Moon in June", we note the vocal mastery and the innovative technique of the singer and drummer Robert Wyatt, and also the excellent wind arrangements that are very reminiscent of the sound of classical jazz players. Going back to the dawn, the original core of Soft Machine counted among the most original musicians of the century, such Daevid Allen, Kevin Ayers, Mike Ratledge and the aforementioned Wyatt, who conceived a perfect blend of psychedelia, jazz, pataphysical surrealism, rock and improvisation, leaving out that pop tad found in the first recordings already from the second disc, and going to place, according to the critics, between Zappa and Monk. But you know, it is difficult for many artists to live in a band without disputes, and a certain internal dichotomy is already evident in "Volume Two", where jazz-rock taken too seriously by Ratledge almost clashes with Wyatt's psychodadaism; despite this, this second album approaches the masterpiece. How can this be overcome? How to prevent such an ambitious project from being ruined by souls with such different stimuli? And here is the stroke of genius! As well as Pink Floyd on Ummagumma's studio album, Soft Machine also choose to entrust a facade of the new album to each member, thus free to give vent to their creativity. Thus was born "Third", a superlative monument of experimental music and art of the entire twentieth century, a swan messenger of a sudden dawn, a rainbow that frames an autumn sunset, a shining comet in boundless skies.

Difficult to conceive, difficult to make, difficult to comment on. Three facades, one more beautiful than the other, which leave room for the most unexpected cosmic digressions, a grandiloquent synthesis of Miles Davis' "electric" neo jazz and Terry Riley's experimental minimalism, with evident influences from Carr and Tippett, the crème of jazz. In "Facelift" it is Hugh Hopper who sets the tone, with his fuzz-bass and Elton Dean's free-style horns that burst after about five minutes, in short, you begin to sclerate into the purest and most abstract free-jazz, without borders. Apocalyptic. Melody and rhythm alternate in "Slightly All The Time", entrusted to Ratledge, where time accelerates and decelerates, and first the flute solo and the jazz finishing to Wyatt's hi-hats and then a new sax and bass theme demonstrate mastery complete as well as an extremely peculiar sound research of the band. "Out-bloody-rageous", also by Ratledge, is a perfect synthesis of the group (synthesis, oh my God, we're still talking about a 19-minute song!), It begins and ends in perfect minimalist style, and the winds on the fabric sound of bass and piano, as well as the overbearing gait of Sir Wyatt's drums, create one of the most intense and enveloping atmosphere that music has ever been able to give to the human psyche. These three works, concentrated on a single disc, alone would be enough to raise Soft Machine and "Third" in particular to the top of modern, contemporary and experimental music, without envying classical works or jazz commonly understood.

But there is a snake that the master and genius as well as sublime Artist as well as Sir Robert Wyatt was harboring in his belly, since 1967: he wanted to be the advocate of a great work, of something that could remain in the canons of art for centuries to come, something for which it would have been right to coin the adjectives SUPERLATIVE, SENSATIONAL, AMAZING, STRATOSPHERIC, WITHOUT COMPARISON, and everything that can begin with S: in short, gentlemen, in three words: "MOON IN JUNE"! And here, believe me, there is nothing more exciting, more complete, more beautiful !!! In the aforementioned "Jet-propelled photographs" it is possible to hear a draft of 2.29 minutes, which already suggests what an unreachable talent this man is gifted with, and for his skills as a drummer first and (unfortunately) percussionist then, and for his voice that pervades you like a howl, subtle, soft, magical expression of a concrete and abstract art, a praise of chaos and madness, the essence of being and of the human condition. I have never heard anything like it and more enthralling, because this music enters the bowels and carries me ethereal throughout the space that my person can occupy !!! Heck, it's 19.08 minutes of pure ecstasy, of total upheaval, of complete longing! Is it an adventure, what could be more beautiful than venturing into unknown and unimaginable areas? Robert Wyatt thus achieves his very noble intent, to make us travel in the cosmos following his improvisation, his incredible ability to upset us, his guiding us into the most coveted state of the human soul, that is to relax still, if anything lying on a soft mattress, contemplating everything and nothing, free, exalted, crazy. Friends, companions, brothers, with the brandy and with MOON IN JUNE in the heart you will be able to realize yourself! Well, if there is a Big Bang in music, this is Moon In June!

 Volume Two by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1969
4.05 | 544 ratings

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Volume Two
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by prog_traveller!!

4 stars We are in 1969. The London UFO audience is finding its psychedelic standard in the young Syd Barrett and Wyatt's group alternates with Pink Floyd performances on that same stage and in those same years. The risk is, however, that the whole rock scene after the death without resurrection of the last Beatles will become populations of visionary ferrymen who, in order to wave the flag of originality at all costs, lose contact with the musical dimension from which to draw to create new things. From this variegated underground world emerge the Soft Machine, jazz-trained musicians of the so-called "Canterbury scene". Primarily characterized by a high musical technique and a taste for experimentation. But they are also remembered for the use of the tenor and soprano saxophone in a rock formation, for the complex arrangements associated with disturbing noise and sound effects. What I like about this record is the fact that music is the undisputed protagonist and the desire to amaze is present but kept under control.

The very short tracks "Pataphysical Introduction - part I and II" have echoes of Rithm and Blues and modern sound. It is not accidental in II the mention of the horns of a very famous jazz standard "These Foolish Things". The ability of this group to draw on the past, rework it and even distort it is more alive than ever. There are very enjoyable interludes such as "A concise British Alphabet" in which the alphabet is recited by the amused voice of Wyatt who here still does not have the dark colors of his future solo albums. We pass from the tempo changes of "Hibou, Anemone and Bear", perhaps more typical forerunner of the classic "prog rock", to the vocal arrangements of "Dada was Here" and "Have You Ever Bean Green?". In particular, the latter in my opinion is a masterpiece of melodic intertwining, suspended harmonies and sudden apparently senseless rhythmic detachments, all in less than 1 minute and 20 seconds of music.

I also spend a word on the justly famous "Dedicated to You But You Weren't Listening". Acoustic guitar and voice: to be left speechless. Listen to it and tell me if you still think that to be original you need synthesizers, shouts and hyper-fast drums. Ratledge's songs "Orange Skin Food" and "A Door Opens and Closes" are certainly the most fusional ones, a trend that will then develop after the third album with its conclusion in volumes 6 and 7.

In my opinion this is the most interesting album even though I love the whole discography of the group very much. Wyatt is very inspired and a great singer. Artistically here it reaches its peak and then gets lost a bit in the experimentation as an end in itself in Third and go towards a slow decline in the following years. On the other hand, however, it must be said that despite losing in terms of originality, Soft Machine have refined themselves more and more in the seventies as first-rate musicians. In particular, I really appreciate the ability to compose original instrumental music mixing it with jazz improvisation and pop song.

 Third by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1970
4.18 | 1072 ratings

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Third
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by Beautiful Scarlet

3 stars On this album Soft Machine closes their Canterbury Scene shop, never to look back.

Facelift opens the album with avant- sounds, this goes on for to long in my opinion on a first listen. Knowing what comes after I think makes it worthwhile so I'm fine with it. Anyways, when the music begins its solid instrumental playing that keeps a high octane energy till the song is done. Bold opener.

Slightly All The Time is my least favourite song on here as it has this very average sound to it. I've always thought of this song as a last minute addition because they needed another side.

Moon In June is ridiculously good. The singing is on point, the organ/bass solos are awesome, just a really impressive example of a suit and the reason this album can be considered as Canterbury Scene.

Track four reminds me of track one, it's fine but like track two strikes me as unnecessary.

Overall this album is too long and too jazzy for my tastes. Thus, while one track is an easy 5/5 the other equally long songs bring the album down as a whole. Finally, I think this album would be much much MUCH better as a regular two side album of Facelift/Moon In June.

 The Soft Machine by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1968
4.00 | 598 ratings

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The Soft Machine
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by Beautiful Scarlet

3 stars I think an important thing to consider when listening to this album is that some of the songs form suites, like 1-3 are one song. Anyways the music here is cool at times, at others to psychedelic.

Hope for happiness opens the album with organ drone and Wyatt ramblin. Soon the song kicks it up and you hear, "Hope For Happiness, Happiness Happiness" it's memorable and catchy but not superb sounding? There's an organ solo in here that's spear to short I want to hear Ratledge rip some more, sad. Anyways a janky organ interlude segues into the second part, Joy of a toy. This track is very chill. I believe it's guitar on this track that leads the song, it has a bubbly tone that's quite nice. The end of the track kicks it up a bit and returns to hope for happiness which ends on some organ playing. There are some good moments on this suite.

The second song starts with Why Am I So Short, which is a lovely song with great singing and really just everything. This track goes into the great So Boot If At All. Full of organ, awesome. Bass solo in the middle and drum solo at the end keep the 7:41 section engaging. Right as the track ends it repeats part of Why Am I So Short, establishing an undeniable continuity. A Certain Kind then begins, yielding more beautiful Wyatt singing plus organ playing of a more melodic style. The song ends with percussion, marking the end of side one? This track is excellent and along with the first song are actually quite good, the second side is where the quality dips.

Save yourself on the debut is better then the 1967 demos which have some pretty bad back up vocals. Still, I dislike the backup singing "Save yourself~" The scatting and organ on this one are nice. This song goes straight into Priscilla which is a pretty interlude. Lullaby Letter then begins in the same style of Save yourself. The organ playing here as usual is wonderful. From here we go to the spectacularly bad We Did It Again. Annoying sixties chanting for a stupid joke, skip. This then goes into Plus Belle an interlude of screaming organ. Why Are we sleeping then begins which has talking over the music in an accent? sigh. Box 25/4 ends the sidelong suite with some piano. And boom, the album is done.

Tldr the first side is two songs and the second side is one song.

Overall this is a good debut/album but there is a bit to much singing and not enough instrumental playing plus one track I hate which strikes this album for 4*.

 Fifth [Aka: 5] by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.40 | 282 ratings

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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 | 371 ratings

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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, a 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'.

 Volume Two by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1969
4.05 | 544 ratings

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Volume Two
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by Beautiful Scarlet

4 stars An improvement over the debut due to losing the annoying eastern stuff aka We Did It Again. I think this change is due to the loss of Kevin Ayers, so no more hope for happiness tunes. Just Wyatt vocal songs.

I'd just like to say this album is not a bunch of short songs, rather one sidelong suite on the first side which tied together by the two interludes that are repeated twice. Additionally, the second side contains two short songs (as long as he? and dedicated to you but? ) then you get another suite. Other then that people have pretty much covered my opinion on this album.

Overall this is a great album, I think there's just a bit to much singing/avant- noises and not enough organ playing to warrant a higher review. Canterbury Sound Score 5/5

 Third by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1970
4.18 | 1072 ratings

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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!

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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