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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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BundlesBundles
Import · Remastered
Phantasm Imports 2010
Audio CD$9.58
$12.86 (used)
Original Album ClassicsOriginal Album Classics
Import
Sony Import 2010
Audio CD$12.45
$17.48 (used)
Soft MachineSoft Machine
Import · Remastered
EMI Europe Generic 2009
Audio CD$4.99
$3.64 (used)
Switzerland 1974 (CD/DVD)Switzerland 1974 (CD/DVD)
CUNEIFORM 2015
Audio CD$17.44
$19.98 (used)
Volume 2Volume 2
Import · Remastered
EMI Europe Generic 2009
Audio CD$4.99
$7.62 (used)
ThirdThird
Sbme Special Mkts. 2008
Audio CD$2.60
$2.59 (used)
Alive and Well Recorded In ParisAlive and Well Recorded In Paris
Import
101 DISTRIBUTION 2010
Audio CD$11.85
$15.64 (used)
FourthFourth
Import
Imports 2014
Audio CD$6.61
$9.26 (used)
Floating World LiveFloating World Live
Moonjune Records 2006
Audio CD$8.88
$9.38 (used)
SoftsSofts
Import · Remastered
ESOTERIC 2010
Audio CD$9.58
$13.52 (used)
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Backwards by Soft Machine (CD, Mar-2009, Cuneiform Records) USD $16.95 Buy It Now 1 day
Noisette by Soft Machine (CD, Jan-2000, Cuneiform Records) USD $16.95 Buy It Now 1 day
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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)

4.04 | 420 ratings
The Soft Machine
1968
4.04 | 375 ratings
Volume Two
1969
4.21 | 773 ratings
Third
1970
3.48 | 261 ratings
Fourth
1971
3.35 | 200 ratings
Fifth
1972
3.47 | 177 ratings
Six
1973
3.60 | 205 ratings
Seven
1973
4.00 | 259 ratings
Bundles
1975
3.75 | 170 ratings
Softs
1976
2.99 | 105 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 | 27 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
4.06 | 29 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 | 12 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
4.39 | 18 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
 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
3.75 | 170 ratings

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Softs
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by Quinino

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
4.04 | 375 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 | 773 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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 The Soft Machine by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1968
4.04 | 420 ratings

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The Soft Machine
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by Gatot
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars The most important thing in enjoying vintage album is getting the full nuances when the album was produced. By no exception is this debut album by Soft Machine, released in 1968. Of course I was not aware by the time this album was released as my musical taste was limited to pop music, typically from Indonesia. But I am happy having been exposed to many kinds of music which at the end lands beautifully and voluntarily to PROG music. If I knew this album in the seventies, I might not be able to digest the music as it's different in typical music style dominated by pop.

In particular this debut album by Soft Machine, i was not aware that I had not reviewed anything about this album until certain point of time, maybe couple of months, my prog mate Cosmic Eargasm wanted me to write this album. My first reaction was: Yes! Will do! But then what happened I was swamped from one location to another until now I have a chance to write my view while enjoying this album. One of the reasons to write is because there is "A Certain Kind" which typically known by many people as a song by Bloodrock. Which is true, in the seventies this Bloodrock version was very famous in fact in my small city of Madiun, East Java, Indonesia.

Composition-wise this album is really excellent as it provides very definitive music that creates its own genre / subgenre even though most of us label it as Canterbury. I would say the music is a perfect blend of classic rock, psychedelic and jazz. You will find any many segments they combine each style beautifully. You might say the music is raw but you have to understand that this was released in 1968 - of course the audio technology was not that advanced compared to current situation. It's quite difficult where I can exclude my favorite tracks as I almost enjoy every single segment in any track the perform. The dominant instruments sound like drums that demonstrate very raw, performed by Robert Wyatt, hammond organ as well as bass guitar. In fact , I enjoy the album since its opening track Hope for Happiness (4:22) which has unique style, followed nicely to Joy of a Toy (2:56). Once you enjoy the music, you would not want to stop it. It's a joy enjoying this excellent music from the past. At the end of the album you will find dynamic music demonstrating solo by each member of the band ...it's really col.

Overall, this is of course an excellent prog music collection. Keep on proggin' ...!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

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 Volume Two by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1969
4.04 | 375 ratings

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Volume Two
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE Team

5 stars OK. Call me a SOFT MACHINE slut for giving their first two albums 5 stars but damn! I really love these guys and a belated introduction to their musical output hasn't dampened my enthusiasm to their sound one bit. In fact it may have enhanced it. I, like countless others, weren't around at the time of these releases to comprehend their musical meisterhood and it seems like many a music fan of the era didn't get to appreciate their ingenious jazz-fusion whimsy at the time of its release. SOFT MACHINE continued their evolution on VOLUME TWO by ratcheting up all the unusualness of their first album and keeping just enough of the familiar poppiness to give a musical structure to embellish upon. The whimsical glee exerts itself full throttle on the first track with their childlike playfulness meets their adult contemplative spirituality on "Pataphysical Introduction." You know you are in for something special right away.

There had been a few personal changes from Volume One to VOLUME TWO. Robert Wyatt was still in charge of drum duties and lead vocals. Mike Ratledge stayed on board for as keyboardist, but on this release bassist Kevin Ayers was out and Hugh Hopper who guested on the first album was now in. This time around Hugh's brother Brian Hopper guested on the sax (both soprano and tenor.) This album is really two long tracks but because of the advise of Frank Zappa the band broke those two longer tracks into many because of the fact one could reap more royalties that way. The album is actually very short clocking in at just over a half an hour but there is so much going on in that time that it actually feels longer to me.

VOLUME TWO is the logical evolution from "Volume One." Instead of just jettisoning the psychedelic pop leaning template that had begun before their first album and still utilized on the debut, the band keeps this as a template and simply expands the avant-garde and jazz-fusion tendencies developed on their debut. The result is another superbly excellent album that is short but sweet. The jazz factor is ratcheted up quite a few notches but the underlying flow of the album remains comparable to the debut. As with the previous album this is a grower. No SOFT MACHINE album unleashes its secrets easily. One must listen attentively to let the magic unfold at his or her own time. For me personally, I find this an excellent successor to the debut and a logical bridge between the debut and the even more jazz infused developments of "Third." Yeah, the only totally unoriginal thing about this band is that they could have been more creative in naming their albums!

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 Land of Cockayne  by SOFT MACHINE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1981
2.99 | 105 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
4.04 | 420 ratings

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The Soft Machine
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE Team

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
3.08 | 20 ratings

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Jet Propelled Photographs
The Soft Machine Canterbury Scene

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE Team

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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