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The Soft Machine - Third CD (album) cover


The Soft Machine


Canterbury Scene

4.21 | 984 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars In my book, giving this album less than a 5 star mark is a gigantic felony of underrate (I think I recently said the same thing about some other great album). Soft Machine's third album is their ultimate opus, and of course, one of the cornerstones of the Canterbury movement. Not only had all three members of the line-up that recorded the previous album gone wilder and become more cohesive as an ensemble, but they also managed to integrate beautifully the wind instrument as crucial element for their sound with the entry of newcomer, master saxophonist Elton Dean. In many ways, Dean manages to bring in a series of refreshing new colours to the powerful wall of sound that Ratledge, Hopper and Wyatt create with and against each other. And of course, the jazz thing has now become the major musical direction for the band's musical ideology - it was hinted at quite clearly in 'Vol. 2', but now in "Third" it's an official statement. The essential greatness of this double album is the combination of technical prowess and emotional fire in everyone's performances (including those by the guests). The addition of other wind players (among whom is recurrent Canterbury hero Jimmy Hastings) and a violinist (for the final moments of 'Moon in June') helps to augment the repertoire's sonic pallet in an effective way, but essentially the quartet is in charge of the main musical display that takes place all throughout the four terrific sidelong pieces. 'Facelift' and 'Out-bloody-rageous' (one of my personal absolute SM faves ever) are the most bizarre numbers in this album, since they find the band carrying away their avant-garde edge to full excitement in a very noisy, dense, intense ambience. Anyway, the overwhelming sonic storm cannot hide the display of clever interplaying that tales place. The former was actually edited from two different live shows performed in January of 1970. 'Slightly All the Time' is more focused on the Miles Davies-kind of thing, mostly on a 6/4 tempo - the limelight is successively centered on the soprano sax, the bass guitar and the electric piano, while Wyatt displays his amazing drumming skills with a more subtle touch than usual, showing that he's now a fully matured musician - as always, he keeps himself busy at filling any possible hole that might come in during the whole jamming. 'Moon in June' is the only Wyatt-penned track in "Third" (and the last SM tune to include vocals). Perhaps his most celebrated composition among lots of Canterbury prog fans, 'Moon' is somewhat related to the previous album's overall spirit, although it goes to more places (especially in the non-sung second part) and the sonic tension feels more prominent than the (unhidden) shades of humor brought out during the first part. The final section is something like a sordid hallucination translated into music, with that demented violin solo soaring over those heavily echoing keyboard layers - as brilliant as it is mysterious. My final conclusion can only be extremely optimistic: this is a masterpiece, and as such, it deserves the maximum rating.
Cesar Inca | 5/5 |


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