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The Soft Machine - Middle Earth Masters CD (album) cover


The Soft Machine


Canterbury Scene

2.63 | 23 ratings

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Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam

MIDDLE EARTH MASTERS is more interesting on a historic side than it is is musically, really! This is a very young SOFT MACHINE recorded in a London club at the height of the psychedelism era .CUNEIFORM records did again a good job at finding these old tapes and more importantly at cleaning them to offer us a -relatively- good sounding concert from -yes- 40 years ago...already!!

The line-up is KEVIN AYERS on bass and vocals, playing occasionaly the guitar, ROBERT WYATT on drums and vocals and ,of course, MIKE RATLEDGE on organ. This album was recorded just after DAEVID ALLEN left because he was not allowed a visa to re-enter the UK after a France tour. Most of the songs has been recorded in the fall of 1967 while 2 others comw from another concert at the same club in the spring of 1968.

The sound is good considering the way the gig was recorded, yet some parts are missing or the vocals can be heard only in the background like on WE KNOW WHAT YOU MEAN or HOPE FOR HAPPINESS .This was very difficult music for the time and you will understand why SOFT MACHINE was seen as a pioneer of the underground psychedelic in London at this time with the likes of PINK FLOYD. I even don't think that BARRETT and co went as far as SOFT MACHINE on being the wildest or weirdest one.

Just listen to the performance of MIKE RATLEDGE here; this is not the RATLEDGE from THIRD we all know. Sounds more like an halucinogenic RATLEDGE to me.There is this- very wild-organ experimentation with an apropiated name ''DISORGANISATION'', i mean no way, you can listen to that all the time; the same goes for another strange early 13mns version of HOPE FOR HAPPINESS with RATLEDGE ''playing'' or getting some sounds, i would say, out of his organ.

The KEVIN AYERS songs are of course, considering his forthcoming solo career the most accessible tracks on this album. CLARENCE IN WONDERLAND and YOU KNOW WHAT YOU MEAN will appear later with different versions on JOY OF ATOY, his first solo album..with the 2 other SOFT MACHINE members.However, it doesn't mean it is mainstream as KEVIN is one unique artist, one of the kind. There have never been 2 KEVIN AYERS.

HUGH HOPPER, a roadie of the band at the time, contributes I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN and A CERTAIN KIND. I SHOULD HAVE KNOW show us already some signs where SOFT MACHINE would be heading in the future with a long wild distorted organ solo from the master.However, if this is a pleasant album to listen to, this is no masterpiece as the musicians rely on a lot of self indulgence to make the CD really worthy, especially MIKE RATLEDGE. Maybe the musicians had fun this evening, i guess the attendance was under the charm as well, but those were the times for that.

Now listening to that now sounds a little bit childish or amateurish, kind of approximate experimentations that have not held very well the passage of times; but that it is rather a rare opportunity to hear what SOFT MACHINE was all about in 1967; a very unique young band that will become a prime force in the burgeonning prog scene.

2.5 STARS.

febus | 3/5 |


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