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Soft Works - Abracadabra CD (album) cover


Soft Works


Canterbury Scene

3.00 | 17 ratings

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3 stars this review was originally written for

Soft Works was one-shot Elton Dean lead Soft Machine incarnation of new millenium. All- stars quartet consisting of two "classic line-up" Softs (Elton Dean-Hugh Hopper) and two later and quite successful Soft Machine versions members (Allan Holdsworth - John Marshall). It's interesting that all being Softs members in different time Soft Work members never played as one band till now.

It is not a mistake this sole project's album is credited to Elton Dean as leader - in other words you can listen to Elton Dean's version of Soft Machine here.And - modernized version, not nostalgic one.

Album contains mature, a bit philosophic and very slightly melancholic music, based around Dean's sax soloing. It's still very fusion album - other very important instrument is Holdsworth guitar, but not as you remember it sounded when he played as Softs member last time. Here Holdsworth use mostly syntax guitar he liked to experiment with on his some early solo albums. In combination with Dean's saxello those two instruments build specific sound timbres,very different from what you could expect from Soft Machine's sound. At first impression all sound could be called "flat and synthetic" but after repeated listening one can just understand that it's just new Softs for new era.

With very competent support from rhythm section, Dean's freer sax steals the show. Even if Holdsworth guitar is almost equal partner in album's music, Dean's expanded free jazz soloing over the generally fusion sounding songs (compositions are mostly Dean's as well, some coming from his previous solo albums)openly shows who is the boss here.

Such "Dean's Soft Machine" version is really interesting to be heard because being important band's member from their golden age Dean never was one of the band's leader. This album is in fact one and only release which could be counted as Elton Dean-lead Soft Machine's work (Soft Heap was another Dean-lead ex-Softs project but it couldn't be called Soft Machine incarnation).

Looking from now it's obvious that this transitional release became first step for reanimation of Soft Machine few years later - same line up just with another ex-Soft Machine guitarist John Etheridge instead of Holdsworth two years later will start playing as Soft Machine Legacy (read - new millenium Soft Machine), but that project will be openly lead by Etheridge and will play more heavyweight guitar-based fusion,even if seriously rooted in sound, presented on "Abracadabra". After few first and not very successful recordings with Soft Machine Legacy Elton Dean died in 2006 leaving Soft Works as best evidence what Dean's Soft Machine sounds like.

snobb | 3/5 |


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