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The Soft Machine - Third CD (album) cover

THIRD

The Soft Machine

 

Canterbury Scene

4.21 | 971 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

ALotOfBottle
5 stars Out-Bloody-Rageously good.

With their second album, Volume Two, Soft Machine were clearly transforming into a much more jazz-oriented outfit. The piquancy of psychedelic rock for which the band became renowned for was by 1970 nearly gone from Soft Machine's music. The group recruited a four-piece horn section, which soon found they did not find comfort in constantly being on-tour with a loud rock band, so they decided they would only appear on the band's studio albums. The exception was Elton Dean, a young saxophonist, who had previously played in Keith Tippett's sextet. He stayed with Soft Machine, therefore he is listed as a full-time member, rather than a guest musician (like the rest of the horn section). In April the same year, the quartet entered the doors of IBC Studios in London to record a two-disc release named simply Third.

Third is an absolutely exceptional progressive rock album, a journey into the extremely gifted minds of Soft Machine's members. The album is made up of four long pieces, each a side of two discs. The music on Third is mainly centered on improvisation, relying strongly on urban jazz methods. However, it goes far beyond sounding like sterile noodlings, which is often the case with the style. What makes this album really stand out for me is a phenomenal variety. "Moon In June" is probably the most progressive rock-like sound that the band has in its catalog. It is Robert Wyatt's own multimovement epic which goes through many different segments, all varied, presenting many different moods in an incredible tasteful and attractive manner. Another track which is really one-of-a-kind experience and a highlight of the album is "Out-Bloody-Rageous". It starts out with minimalistic electronic ambient passage which repeats itself adding more layers. In fact, the peace is very similar the first part of Terry Riley's Rainbow in Curved Air, proving how forward-thiking and unorthodox the Softs were, looking far beyond just jazz influences. It's one of the most beautiful soundscapes I have personally heard in my life. Then, it resolves into a very catchy jazz theme with long free jazz improvisation. "Facelift" showcases the psychedelic edge of the album. Although the band checks in for an incredibly tasty jam in 7/4, the piece remains very experimental throughout, featuring a lot of fascinating knob-tweaking and raw fun with timbres. "Slightly All The Time", Hugh Hopper's composition, is the jazziest of all. Some listeners familiar with Caravan's For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night might be familiar with one of the parts of the piece, "Backwards", whose portion Caravan did perform three years later. This one in particular is built around a beautiful progression with a great flute solo from Jimmy Hastings. The musicianship is excellent throughout with every band member contributing crucially into the fantastic fruit.

Third is a phenomenal, unique work with a very distinctive sound and is a must-have for every progressive rock fan. It occupies a territory of the genre that no other album has ever got close to. Words cannot simply describe how amazing this album is - everybody needs to listen to it, then the world will be a better place. Highly recommended for newcommers to jazzy prog and prog veterans alike! Five stars!

ALotOfBottle | 5/5 |

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