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The Soft Machine - NDR Jazz Workshop, Germany, May 17, 1973 CD (album) cover


The Soft Machine


Canterbury Scene

4.48 | 30 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars Wow, what an eye-opener! This archival release offers up a live set recorded by Soft Machine in the gap between the "Six" and "Seven" albums. That places it in a time period which is a little contentious among followers of the band; Robert Wyatt is out, as is Hugh Hopper (though he guests in a bonus feature on the DVD performing a little something from his "1983" solo album), and Roy Babbington, Karl Jenkins, and John Marshall are all in.

In other words, at this stage only one founder member of Soft Machine is left, and he's increasingly taking a back seat in terms of the compositional direction of the band, which is increasingly dominated by the new members, all of whom are ex-members of Nucleus. A shift in the band's overall sound is only to be expected, and for some fans - especially those who prize the psychedelic aspects of the Machine's early output - it isn't really Soft Machine any more, just a Nucleus side project with Mike Ratledge along for the ride.

Regardless of how you feel on that front, though, there's no denying that this live set is absolute dynamite. Yes, it's very much in the jazz fusion side of Canterbury and might be just a shade over the borderline into straight-ahead fusion of the Nucleus school, but it's really goddamn good fusion!

Since the set was recorded for television, you get the best of both worlds here: the release combines the energy and rawness of a live performance with the sound quality of a professional studio. The upshot is a release which really captures the capabilities of the lineup, and to my ears sounds better than the rather polished, mild-mannered studio albums the band were putting out at this time.

Frankly, I think it's a bit of a shame that Soft Machine's post- Wyatt lineups never quite managed to produce a studio album on the level of this set; had they done so, I think their legacy would be far less contentious. As it stands, I have to say that this is the best post-Wyatt Soft Machine release I've ever heard.

Warthur | 5/5 |


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