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Soft Heap - Soft Heap CD (album) cover


Soft Heap


Canterbury Scene

3.53 | 53 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
3 stars 3.5 stars really!!

After leaving Soft Machine after their fifth album (in 72), Elton dean returned to the jazz scene for a few years and created his own groups and projects like Just Us, Elton Dean Quartet and big band Ninesense. Around Jan 78, Soft Heap was created by him with ex- Hatfield and Gligamesh members Pip Pyle and Alan Gowan, and Elton thought of inviting his old buddy and ex-Machinist Hugh Hopper. Thus the name of the band being a bit of revenge, using the Soft part of the Machine, the Heap being their respective forename's first letter. (Thus Soft Head was the same, when Pyle was unavailable and they called upon Dave Shean). Sadly Esoteric Record did not find any extra tracks lying around for this album's only second reissue, but deliver some neat liner notes.

Starting slowly , as if from a Tery riley album, the gorgeous Circle Line is the only Hopper- penned track, but certainly the most poignant on this album, in no small part due to Elton's impression of Coltrane. The collective jamming AWOL is a much more furious affair, breathing Elton's intentions with Phil Howard's short tenure of the drum stool in Soft Machine. Demented and sometimes spacey, but never really totally dissonant either. Gowen's Petit 3's is a much quieter affair with the dominating electric piano, but the slow groove is evolving a bit in an early Nucleus lava stream, pouring down a volcano's cone. Cool yet torrid, but not reaching the apex you'd wish it had.

The flipside starts on the Terra Nova were the Softs would be meeting Coltrane on the way to Ascenscion, but not reaching the summit either, even though this is the album's best track. The other Dean composition Fara is a slow jazz, close to standard granddaddy jazz and it sticks out a bit from the rest of the album. Not even old Tippettt mate Mark Charig can bring much excitement to this crooning jazz track that's only missing Louis or Ella's vocals. The closing short Hand is a free-form jazz piece written by Gowan, and sticks out just as muchas its predecessor, but in the opposite direction. True enough, Soft Heap has the inevitable Soft machine traits, but you won't catch this writer to say that they were trying to revive a spirit, even though by now, the SM mothership had folded after much more line-up changes.

A very worthy one shot album from a group that would go on to record under this name but with different personnel, their debut remaining their best. Both Gowan and Pyle woud go on in National Health (this album was a bit delayed to that group's schedule), but today as I write this review, Soft Heap is the first prog group (let's put aside Jimi Hendrix Experience), with Hugh Hopper's death, this group is the first to extinct by all of its members, something I'd have rather not seen or known

Sean Trane | 3/5 |


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