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The Soft Machine

Canterbury Scene

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The Soft Machine Volume Two album cover
4.03 | 606 ratings | 42 reviews | 36% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1969

Songs / Tracks Listing

Side 1 - Rivmic Melodies:
1. Pataphysical Introduction Pt. I (1:00)
2. A Concise British Alphabet Pt. I (0:10)
3. Hibou, Anemone and Bear (5:58)
4. A Concise British Alphabet Pt. II (0:12)
5. Hulloder (0:52)
6. Dada Was Here (3:25)
7. Thank You Pierrot Lunaire (0:47)
8. Have You Ever Bean Green? (1:23)
9. Pataphysical Introduction Pt. II (0:50)
10. Out of Tunes (2:30)

Side 2 - Esther's Nose Job:
11. As Long as He Lies Perfectly Still (2:30)
12. Dedicated to You But You Weren't Listening (2:30)
13. Fire Engine Passing With Bells Clanging (1:50)
14. Pig (2:08)
15. Orange Skin Food (1:52)
16. A Door Opens And Closes (1:09)
17. 10.30 Returns to the Bedroom (4:14)

Total Time: 33:20

Line-up / Musicians

- Mike Ratledge / piano, Lowrey Holiday Deluxe organ, Hammond (3), harpsichord (12), flute (3,10)
- Hugh Hopper / bass, alto sax (3,14-16), acoustic guitar (12)
- Robert Wyatt / drums, percussion, vocals, arranger (2,4-8)

- Brian Hopper / tenor (3,9,10,14-16) & soprano (15,16) saxes

Releases information

ArtWork: Byron Goto & Henry Epstein with Eric Goto (photos)

LP Probe Records - CPLP-4505 (1969, US)
LP Barclay - 921019 (1969, France) Alternate Cover

CD One Way Records ‎- MCAD-22065 (1990, US)
CD Universal Music ‎- B0008536-02 (2007, US) Remastered by Gary Hobish
CD Polydor ‎- 532 050-6 (2009, UK) 24-bit remaster by Paschal Byrne

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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THE SOFT MACHINE Volume Two ratings distribution

(606 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(36%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(39%)
Good, but non-essential (20%)
Collectors/fans only (3%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

THE SOFT MACHINE Volume Two reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
3 stars (second of a serie of eleven)

3.5 stars really!!You'd swear this was a carbon copy of the first one if Ayers had not left. But he had and was replaced by a voiceless Hopper on bass but his influence is not immediately felt on here ( but on all the others .......). The popish tunes keep on coming but don't be fooled by that as those are definitely subtle, clever and funny and are very typical of the Canterbury current they created with old mates Caravan as both bands emerged of embryonic Wilde Flowers. The sheer inventivity and adventurous nature of the trackls qualify this album as a must hear for most proheads.

Much recommended along with their debut and historically important , these two albums come as a 2 albums on 1 cd for excellent value.

Review by Carl floyd fan
1 stars I loved the first Soft Machine cd but never got into this one....It is just pointless with a bunch of really short songs that make no sense. I never sensed any sort of flow on this cd and this is not a good example of how good these guys can really be. Pick up their debut which is five times better than this one....Yuck!
Review by Dick Heath
5 stars One of about half dozen albums in my lifetime, first heard being played on a record shop's speakers and I had to have it - (btw that was Musicland In Kingston, who had stock of the US import many weeks before the album's UK release date in the 60's).

This wasn't quite like what I had ever heard before. This was new: especially rock music being putted together and played like I had never heard before. Side one is really one track, despite the sub-titles offered on the sleeve notes: a long song which keeps changing tempo and modes and ideas (and these at first seemed quite whacky). This sounded to me to be cutting edge rock - yet tempered by jazz, illuminating in my mind what I had only read in magazine reviewing the performances of the more avante gard bands of the British psychedelic underground. I could just about cope with the jazz (I had heard the likes of Mike Westbrook and a few of the other young British jazzers) but it wasn't the lacklustre trad heard too often on radio (or the modern jazz of Brubeck), this was something particularly British.

And then there was that vocalist: what a strange voice, what were those freaky lyrics - subsequently John Peel called it 'the school of anti-song', and within the last few months saxophonist Theo Travis called it one of the rare examples of 'jazz vocal with a British accent'. Both definitions after 35 years of listening to Robert Wyatt as a vocalist, hitting close to the centre of the target. It took a Saturday afternoon to crack those lyrics with the daft opening featuring the British alphabet and then sung in reverse order about 4 minutes later (note: Y is heard in LH channel while the rest of the alphabet in the RH stereo channel - watch-out for those throw away jokes). Through the longer, complex instrumental breaks Wyatt comes back, here singing about the joys of being a British hippy, then something in Spanish lost in the mix and finally coming back to thank Noel Mitch & Jim for 'our exposure to the crowd' before thanking Mike (Ratledge or manager Jeffreys?, is the current debate) for ???? (well this is being debated as well). Then the coda and a free jazz ending. Amazing stuff and only half way through.

Side 2 has a change of mood although it gets even more jazzy. That is apart from 'Dedicated To You But You Weren't listening', (the most covered Machine song???). A song written by Hugh Hopper, sung by Wyatt to an acoustic guitar, with its metaphysical lyrics (how many songs include lines like: "Famous Parabolic Version" or "Give Me The Cure, Give Me The Cure, Give Me The Cure, Help me".......?), a beautifully weird song that haunts. Then the band are back down to business with just over 10 minutes of avante rock (or avante jazz ??) instrumentals - and a great potted drum solo from Wyatt.

And the rest of the band/ Ratledge - frightening, complex, accomplished on keys - nobody sounding like this before not even Keith Emerson, who then would have been the immediate comparison, (in passing: how can anybody omit Ratledge from a keyboard poll- suggests limited musical horizons). And Hugh Hopper, replacing Kevin Ayers on bass, providing Machine with a very different sound, low in the bottom and muddy with a fuzz effect that filled the space that a three piece group might leave in their wake. Hey apart from the 3 minutes of "Dedicated", there is no guitar................ however, the saxophone does duties in support c/o Hugh's brother Brian.

This is a seminal British album,THE precursor to British jazz rock, the half way house between psychedelia (of 'Soft Machine') and jazz rock fusion ('Third' and after). But also an album that also has large chunks of recognisable straight prog rock. This especially comes home to you when you hear Soft Machine's 'Live At Paradiso' - recorded 2 weeks after they finished 'Volume 2'. In Amsterdam, Soft Machine as a three piece lacked the jazz sax, and with a considerable shuffle around of tune order, the music of 'Volume 2' sounds less jazz-based. Instead the progressive rock elements are more obvious - perhaps allowing direct parallels to be drawn with The Nice.

In summary a great timeless album but one that is far from safe.

Review by lor68
3 stars The introduction of this album is perfectly symbolized by the definitive idea about their music, as reported into the following sentence: "There is music for the body and there is music for the mind. Music for the body picks you off the floor and hurls you into physical activity of whatever type you may prefer at them moment. Music for the mind floats you gently downstream, through pleasurable twists and turns, ups and downs, rapid and calm waters".well in particular this latter metaphor is their crazy idea of creating a "psychedelic flow" around their sessions of free music and the style from Canterbury as well, which is not strange for me, especially if I regard of their long music career, often coherent with this music idea .

Talking about the present album, you can listen to a few instant crazy fragments coming from Hopper's moments of madness (above all for the concise British alphabet from "a" to "z" and vice versa) with the support of R. Wyatt, but also to the reasonable track "Out of tunes", in which their team work is better defined.of course the short length of the songs allows to appreciate their "stupid" but well constructed and arranged music idea, even though better things would have characterized their most convincing and inspiring albums in the next period. Anyway, coming back to this work, I find something more interesting in the second side, especially track two and four, in which Hopper and Ratledge are conscious to be intelligent musicians; while the last tune-finally- is the best manner to conclude the album: "10.40 Returns to the bedroom" still represents a true team work, however being quite far away from the most inspiring moments of the psychedelic side regarding the music-genre of Canterbury (by thinking of the works by Khan, Gong and Hatfield & the North, for example) .

Important but not completely essential work, even though their next albums -true surprising gifts- will be appreciated by a wider "underground" audience, as for the diversity concerning their half another half star at least!

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This album emerged at the end era of the psychedelic years with something different with what was commonly issued in the market. Even though this is a unique endeavor it cannot be said that this is "the" pioneer. The music is something like Frank Zappa as well as the choirs remind me to the music of Gentle Giant. "Pataphysical introduction Pt. I" (1:00) represents something "introductory" to the music of Soft Machine as it is indicated through the narration on the intro part. It's then followed by "A concise British alphabet Pt. I" (0:10) performed in a funny way by the band. The true music is coming with "Hibou, anemone and bear" (5:58) whereby the music is typical Canterbury style, similar with bands like Khan or National Health or Gong. This can be considered that the music is definitely a Canterbury style.

The music brings us to another narration :" A concise British alphabet Pt. II" (0:12) and "Hulloder" (0:52). "Dada was here" (3:25) is to me like a marriage between Canterbury and psychedelic. In terms of composition this track is quite unique. "Thank you Pierrot Lunaire" (0:47) is another narration accompanied with good jazzy music. It flows seamlessly to "Have you ever bean green? " (1:23). It then returns back to "Pataphysical introduction Pt. II" (0:50).

"Out of tunes" (2:30) represents good combination of Canterbury and avant-garde. The composition seems like a free-form music with barely no (or little) melody and harmony. Esther's Nose Job. The vocal quality of the band is actually similar with Gentle Giant especially on "As long as he lies perfectly still" (2:30). I think Phish has been influence by Sost machine as well as Frank Zappa. The following "Dedicated to you but you weren't listening" (2:30) has shown even further the similarity with Gentle Giant's singer.

Overall, this is a good album which I just listened to it long after the album was initially released in 1969.

"God gives you your face, but you have to provide the expression."

Review by NetsNJFan
5 stars Soft Machine Vol. II -- the quintessential Canterbury Rock album, slightly edging those laudable works such as Caravan's "In the Land of Grey and Pink" and Hatfield's "Rotter's Club". Though only clocking in at a paltry thirty-three minutes, this album packs a punch, with a dizzying seventeen songs. Released in 1968, Vol. II is slightly less poppy and more complex than its predecessor, and frankly former bassist Kevin Ayers is not missed.

The album shifts effortlessly (and rather quickly) between fun, poppish numbers such as "Hulloder", "If He Lies Perfectly Still" and "Pig" and rather complex Jazz-rock (though not fusion) pieces, such as "Hibou Anemone and Bear" and the free-jazz of "Out of Tunes". The album is divided into two suites; Side A is penned mostly by bassist Hugh Hopper and arranged by Robert Wyatt. Side B is pure Ratledge (the organist). Side B is much more jazz oriented and abstract, which is surprising given Hopper's later work. The poppier Side A is much better, though both are incredible. Wyatt, while grating at times, especially later in his career, is flawless here -- his breathy, slightly high pitched, careless delivery dovetails perfectly with the whimsical music. (This album also signals the first time The Soft Machine used a horn section, to great effect.)

This album is the apex of the Soft Machine's varied and illustrious career, a perfect and mellow blend of Jazz, Psychedelia, Pop and Rock. Not to be missed. (Don't let the low-fi recording turn you off).

Review by clarke2001
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars

After a brilliant debut, a follower is brilliant too....but not in the same way. This one is somewhat hollow, but in a good way. The band distanced for the hard-core psychedelia attitude, a moved more towards that "progressive rock" manner that is impossible to define, but so easy to finger-point. Plus, this album is not very jazzy yet, and it is full of more-or-less latent humour.

The sound is equally raw but with much more reverb. As a result, SOFT MACHINE produced a tapestry of hard-boiled rock that is, magically, still able to flow smoothly from one idea to another. Speaking of ideas, some of them (musical themes, that is) are repeating with no particular reason, but they are certainly giving a spleen of a strong artistic statement, almost avantgarde in its attitude...while the truth is actually just a shining of sheer intelligence of the authors blended with their sophisticated sense of humour.

Usually, the albums are failing in their consistency (and artistic value as well) if they are not well-balanced with entirely different moods that the music itself is trying to provoke. That's not the case withVolume Two, because Wyatt & Co. captured MAGIC at first place.

With such a nice set of vectors packed onto one album pointing into your brain's centre for emotions, I would feel really lobotomised by labeling this album with anything else but a masterpiece status. Again.

Review by fuxi
5 stars VOLUME TWO is my favourite Soft Machine album, no doubt about it! The Softs' debut album may have been charming but it's a little too "pop" to my taste, while THIRD (a double album) contains too much aimless noodling - although it does feature the gorgeous (Wyatt-saturated) "The Moon in June".

In VOLUME TWO the band reached the highest heights of pataphysics, especially with the gorgeous suite on the original A- side. Although instrumentation is minimal (bass, drums and keyboards), there are good tunes aplenty. Some have the bass as lead instrument, some the piano or the organ (both with and without fuzz-box), and Wyatt's drumming is bouncier than ever. This is essentially good-humoured music: most of the lyrics (which you will find on the Calyx website) are about partying, having sex, and recording in a New York studio - impossible to listen to without a smile. Particularly charming are the bits where Robert starts crooning in Spanish (he seems to have spent a lot of time in Majorca, with Kevin Ayers), and when he expresses his heartfelt thanks to the members of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, with whom the Soft Machine had been on tour.

Side Two is less striking than Side One although, in "Dedicated to You" and "Pig", it contains at least two songs that are both unforgettable and irresistible. The album as a whole is a must for anyone who's even remotely interested in the Canterbury Scene. In 2009, VOLUME TWO was finally remastered, and the brand-new edition sounds so brilliant the album can now be acclaimed as the masterpiece it clearly is.

Review by febus
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam

VOLUME 2 is the logical follow-up to their groundbreaking first album. The same kind of atmosphere prevails once again with a psychedelic jazzy feel, silly and funny lyrics, wild musical experiments but there are also a few noticeable changes showing some hints about the musIcal direction SOFT MACHINE would take in the future. This album came out in 1969 at the end of the psychedelia era at the time when prog music would become more ''serious'' and more elaborated with structured ''suites'' and ''concertos''. VOLUME 2 can be seen as the testament of this wild era, but what a powerful way to end it.

One of the change with the first album is a human one that somehow will change slightly the sound of the band.Long time friend and roadie HUGH HOPPER took over bass duties when KEVIN AYERS decided to leave the band after a grueling USA tour opening for JIMI HENDRIX! KEVIN has never been known as a hard worker, acknowledged he was a lazy guy preferring the mediterranean beaches drinking wine and cheese surrounded by pretty woman than spending hours and hours in a studio trying to make new songs sound better or doing long ''exhausting'' tours. KEVIN AYERS was a unique artist, one of a kind, who will produce several- one of a kind- albums in the future without much great succes due mainly to the fact he never tried hard enough, but that's another story.

When KEVIN AYERS was a regular bassist just playing groovy rythmic lines on the first album, HUGH HOPPER brought to the table more solid technical skills, but more importantly, more originality and creativity as basically, he is playing his bass...lead! HUGH is using a lot of distortion and fuzz box and sounds more as a guitarist than a rythmic bassist on this album. HUGH HOPPER was a very inventive bassist and one of the first to go beyond the definition of a bass player people were used to by then. The bass became as important to the sound than the rest of the lead instruments such as guitar and keyboards and enabled bands to experiment further.

Also, if some parts of this album still contains ingredients from the free-spirited wild experimental jams from the first album, the musicianship is tighter and the sound more ''organized'' and disciplined than before. The brother of HUGH HOPPER, BRIAN guests on VOLUME 2 playing soprano and tenor saxophone on some tracks that would be the musical base for the future SOFT MACHINE sound staring with their next album THIRD which marked a big change of direction after their first 2 albums.

However, VOLUME 2 is still in the same mould than their first as ROBERT WYATT influence is still strong with his silly lyrics and beautiful (or weird depending if you like it or not) vocal acrobatics.HOPPER has a good share of the songwriting, but curiously knowing his ''serious'' compositions of the future, he is responsilble for a lot of those short funny tracks giving room to WYATT to have some fun. Who could have guessed this is the same man who composed here the delirious A CONCISE BRITISH ALPHABET or the haunting beautiful DEDICATED TO YOU BUT YOU WEREN'T LISTENING and a few months later came out with the -very,very- challenging avant guardist suite FACELIFT which opens THIRD?

On the other hand, MIKE RATLEDGE is the serious guy in the band (HOPPER will become too) and is responsible for the 2 longest tracks on this album, the mostly instrumental HIBOU ANEMONE AND BEAR and 10:30 RETURNS TO THE BEDROOM where you can already see some signs of their future musical jazz direction with piano or fuzz bass intro and sax soloing all along with minimun vocal input.

There are....17 tracks on volume 2 for a duration of 33 mns. However, this album can be listened as a whole piece, at least in 2 parts as each side of the LP has its own title, RIVMIC MELODIES for ex-side 1 and the famous ESTHER'S NOSE JOB for side 2. And like on the first album, there are no breaks between the songs as every piece is bridged together ,thus allowing VOLUME 2 to be appreciated as a 2 ''suites'' album instead of a 17 songs LP/CD.

There are no weak parts on this album; the silliness of some songs mix well with the more experimental parts as the musicianship is top notch and very creative all along. This is a ''happy'' album where everyone is having fun as you can imagine when you take a look at the titles of the song.You know the lyrics are not about death, depression or solitude with songs such as HAVE YOU EVER BEAN GREEN, THANK YOU PIERROT LUNAIRE or FIRE ENGINE PASSING WITH BELLS CLANGING.

Like with the first album, there is nothing else that sounds close to VOLUME 2; this is another adventure in the SOFT MACHINE saga which makes this band absolutely unique. They had their own sound, you know when it is RATLEDGE who plays organ as he is the only one with that particular sound and the same goes for HOPPER bass and WYATT drums (and alot of cymbals!); and of course, we all know about the particularity and uniqueness of the drummer's voice!

VOLUME 2 is a memorable musical voyage you cannot compare with anything else, a wonderful uninterupted joyful trip- albeit short- that makes the world of prog so unique and ultimately satisfying. VOLUME 2 is one of those gems which will never get forgotten as it is one of its main creative pillar, the prog world will buid upon.

At the beginning SOFT MACHINE was a bunch of fun silly young musicians who wanted to experience the good side of life and not take themselves seriously . They laughed , deride everything, experiment wildly with no rules attached. But , one by one , the funny guys left the ship, DAEVID ALLEN first, then KEVIN AYERS. The last one ROBERT WYATT will have his role within the band greatly reduced with the next album as the lone ''serious'' man of the band MIKE RATLEDGE is taking charge of the band and adding more ''serious '' musicians such as HUGH HOPPER and ELTON DEAN. Of course, looking at their faces, you knew they were not thinking of drinking wine with a beautiful woman on an IBIZA beach like dear handsome KEVIN AYERS. Another world!

There is no ''serious'' prog collection which would not include VOLUME 2; the same goes for the first album and the next one THIRD. This is CANTERBURY as its best.A wonderful journey! Only........


Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars With Kevin Ayers leaving and Hugh Hopper coming in it seems like the band has switched over to a more experimental and psychedelic sound. It gives us an idea of the direction the band probably would have headed if Daevid Allen had been able to get his visa and stay with them in the first place.This record is really made up of two side long suites even though there are 17 songs on it.

The first suite is titled "Rivmic Melodies" and the first notable track is called "Hibou,Anemone And Bear" the longest song on the album. This is such a good tune with piano, fuzz organ and fuzz bass. Just a great sound. Vocals before 3 minutes as the melody stops. The next highlight for me is "Dada Was Here" that features Spanish vocals. Wyatt spent two summers on a Spanish island at a friend of his parents house, who happened to be a poet / novelist. "Have You Ever Bean Green ?" is a tribute to Jimi Hendrix and his band who they opened for in the USA. "Out Of Tunes" is the final song on the first suite. It gets chaotic and features the only flute on the album.

The second suite is called "Esther's Nose Job". "Dedicated To You But You Weren't Listening" is a lighter, acoustic song that Wyatt would later use (changed somewhat, including the title) on his MATCHING MOLE debut record. The vocals are reserved. "Fire Engine Passing With Bells Clanging" has no real melody and is experimental. "Pig" has some fantastic drumming on it. This is a jazzy song. "10.30 Returns To The Bedroom" has some more amazing drumming. Vocals 2 1/2 minutes in.This is such a good way to end the album.

An interesting second album to say the least and one of my favourites from the band. An improvement over the debut in my opinion as well.

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The second album from The Soft Machine just called Volume Two continues the intellectual psychadelic late sixties prog rock style from their debut. Kevin Ayers has left the band to be replaced by former roadie for the band Hugh Hopper. The change is instantly heard as the distorted bass from Hugh Hopper is heard for the first time. It must have been quite a revolution to hear a bass so heavily distorted as this one in 1969. Hugh Hopper´s dominant distorted bass is one of the great things about this album.

Overall the style of the music is pretty much a continuation of the style Soft Machine introduced on the debut. Witful lyrics and pretty short psychadelic rock songs with exciting twists. There are lots of small interludes between the longer tracks which works as bridges between those songs. It means that Volume two sometimes has a kind of concept feeling to it.

The instrumentation is keyboards, bass, drums and vocals and some sax from Hugh´s brother Brian Hopper. Since Daevid Allen ( Gong) wasn´t admitted entrance into Britain after a vacation, and had to leave the band because of that, there hadn´t been a guitarist in the band. There are sporadic guitar playing, but no one is credited for playing the guitar. You don´t miss the guitar though as Mike Ratledge is very good at filling out any empty space with his keyboards and both the bass and the drums are very dominant too. The vocals from Robert Wyatt are very good on this album. Really enjoyable.

The production is pretty similar to the one on the debut album which means a good sixties sound quality.

Volume Two is an excellent canterbury scene album that deserves 4 stars. Even though there are similarities between volume one and two I still think Volume two is a bit better than the debut. This is highly recommendable music.

Review by crimson87
5 stars Anarchy in the UK!!!

This is the most exprimental Soft Machine record and the last one before they turned into a jazz ensemble. Kevin Ayers left the band so the softs are a three piece unit now. Describing "Volume Two" is a bit hard since it's not structured as your average record. The album was way ahead of it's time and I have no doubt this guys were influenced by Zappa as well. I see some similarities with "Absolutely Free" or "Uncle Meat" as regards structure since "Volume Two" is a constant flow of music (white noise sometimes) that is divided into two "suites": Rhythmic melodies and Esther's nose job. The record starts with an introduction in whick the band announces that they are going to delight us with The British Alphabet!! As you can see the record borders on insanity. Then we have something resembling an actual tune called "Hibou Anemone and Bear" ( those song titles are priceless) One aspect of Volume two that is worth commenting is that you can hear the jazzier style the band was embracing and would fully develop in the next couple of albums. Songs on volume two , while short , have several mood changes to keep you entertained. In that aspect this is a short but intense album. As usual , lyrics are naive and hilarious in typical Canterbury fashion. Right after that , we have the alphabet sang backwards. Hulloder has quite particular lyrics , Dada was here is sang in spanish!! ( porque no soy feeeeelliiiiizzz en la es-cue-la , es que puedo coonfiar en alguien que no esta??...) Adding a jazzy touch , quite an unique song. After two short interludes we have a number called "Out of Tunes" that ends the first suite. The song is pure white noise and it resembles "The ritual dance of the young pumpkin" by the Mothers of Invention. In all that mess , the listener may find some phrases by Caravan's "Place of my own". The second side includes the "Esther's nose job" suite which will be usually played in most concerts by the band. In this side there isn't that much cacaphony and the structure is more song orientes. There are some very beautiful vocal melodies by Robert Wyatt , the song itself is about Kevin Ayers and it's time in Spain. "Dedicated to you but you were not listening" is the only number off the album that includes guitar. "Fire engine passing" is the second part of the aftermentioned tune. "Pig/Orange skin food" has some of the funniest lyrics ever within progressive rock. The last 7 minutes of the album are more jazz oriented including loads of experimentation by Mike Ratledge, anticipating what was to come...

And if you wonder why I didn't put any paragraphs in this review... let's say that this is the only way to describe "Volume two" This is music without any form , uncohesive just like what you finished reading.

Review by Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The second Soft Machine statement, aptly entitled "Volume Two", was the first one with the bass genius and lifelong friend Hugh Hopper as part of the band's line-up, and may I add that this novelty led to a tremendous progression in the band's musical evolution. Being as it is solidified in the psychedelic trend that was very common in the British rock scene during the late 60s, "Volume Two" also brings hints of a robust orientation toward the areas of the then incipient prog rock standards and experimental jazz moods that soon would make Soft Machine a perfect cornerstone for the maturation of prog rock as a proper musical genre. Once you get acquainted with this album, chances are you won't be able to resist the whimsical charm delivered on both the defined melodies and the immaculate performances. Also, the loud fuzzed bass courtesy of Master Hopper fits quite well in this environment of enhanced enthusiasm that the band was feeling at the time; in this way, Ratledge hits the mark when he decides to reinforce his instrumental role and Wyatt does the same when going headlong for a noticeably increased sophistication of his drumming input. Plus, Wyatt takes his vocal input closer to the stereotype of beat jazz, singing as if he almost were reciting and expressing ideas caught from a train of thought. Add the presence of occasional wind instruments (some sax is actually provided by the blessed Hopper and the flute free flows on the 'Out of Tunes' portion come from Ratledge), and what you get is an amazing sonic palette that needs only an impressive amount of musical inspiration to fill the artistic landscape properly. And oh, how well this last requisite is met, brilliantly ? no way that this "Volume Two" shouldn't be a lovely piece of art-rock. Well, the album's first half is occupied by the "Rivmic Melodies" sequence, starting with the laid back 'Pataphysical Introduction 1' and the first recitation of the British alphabet in a concise form. The parody of British mannerist solemnity is clear in these two segued prologues, before the stunning 7/4 excursion of 'Hibou, Anemone and Bear' brings a more serious elaboration of artistic solemnity. After the closing drum solo and a backwards recitation of the British alphabet (again, in concise form), comes a series of brief sung pieces that sound as if they were pop snippets refashioned in an avant-garde jazz framework. The playful mood of 'Hulloder' and 'Dada Was Here' is succeeded by the languid mystery of 'Thank You Pierrot Lunaire' and 'Have You Ever Bean Green?', before the last 'Pataphysical Introduction' opens the gates for the free-jazz chaos on 5/4 of 'Out of Tunes'. The combination of these three minds through this lack of structure culminates Side 1 with solid tightness. 'As Long As He Lies Perfectly Still' starts Side 2: it is a semi-slow homage to SM alumnus Kevin Ayers, followed by a SM oddity, a pastoral ballad featuring acoustic guitar and a soft organ emulating the harpsichord. Both tracks are patently lyrical, which means that the listener is treated with a moment of relaxation sandwiched between the aforementioned 'Rivmic Melodies' and the other suite, 'Esther's Nose Job', which occupies the album's final 11 minutes. Dominantly written by Ratledge, it captures the band's refreshing jazzy interests at its hottest point. The duo of Wyatt and Hopper duo convincingly handles the frantic rhythm schemes and variations, while Ratledge completes the dynamics with his solid keyboard input. Of course, one has to mention once again the importance of Hopper's powerful bass when it comes to the right fruition of the musical ideas. Right from second one there is climax working on ? the sung section entitled 'Pig' lightens things up a bit, but when things get instrumental again, the fire returns to its higher flames, eventually leading to the incendiary momentum developed in '10.30 Returns to the Bedroom'. This is a great ending to a great album: it deserved no less.

[I respectfully dedicate this review to the memory of the recently departed Hugh Hopper].

Review by friso
4 stars The Soft Machine - Volume Two (1969)

After the great 'Third' I had the opportunity to order a vinyl reissue of the second Soft Machine album, which was originally released in the spring of progressive music, '69. In this year a lot of progressive bands were yet in preparation for their first releases and the psychedelic music was near it's demise. Soft Machine combined the psychedelic sound with progressive songwriting, accessible and gentle vocals of mister Wyatt and a lot of noisy soundscapes.

Throughout the album, which has only short tracks, their seems to be no direction and I think the record was intended to be mysterious and in-logical. One the listener accepts this strange concept a world of spacey music opens. The lyrics are fictional and funny at times and remind us of the artistic freedom of the psychedelic movement. Some drum-solo's are really innovative. The recording isn't perfect, but somehow their very much sound on this album. The recording is intensive!

Whilst most of the songs have that Canterbury jazzy rhythms and some odd time signatures, Dedicated To You But You Weren't Listening stands out as a fantastic progressive song with great acoustic guitar playing of Hugh Hopper. The dreamy vocals of Wyatt had been a blessing during all other tracks on the album, but on this track his moody vocals really touch me.

Conclusion. During the first spins I though of this album as being very confusing, but it turned out to be a great album in the end. There weren't that much great records in '69, but this is one of them for sure! Four happy stars. Recommended to fans of Canterbury, eclectic prog and psychedelic music. Fans of sympho prog might find this to be too chaotic.

Review by snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Soft Machine Vol.2 is the album from Canterbury legacy, but there are quite different opinions about it. I believe I understand both sides who think this release is masterpiece and those who think this album is nice, but just average recording of great band.

Personally, I prefer Soft Machine's debut and fantastic Third both. Vol. 2 is musically connected with band's debut with 17 (!) short compositions of psychedelic pop, r'n'b and rock, often with relaxed jazz arrangements. I really enjoy that great combination of free-jazz and almost pop tunes under heavy psychedelic gravy. But it still works for me as transition to band's great Third, where they really found their signature jazz fusion sound.

Robert Wyatt's vocals are all excellent, building very surrealistic atmosphere. In all, this album is excellent atmosphere, which often just leaves musical content a bit in shade. So - if atmosphere is more important for you - you possibly will love this album, but fans of more complex musicianship should look for the genius of Third.

My rating is 3+ there.

Review by ZowieZiggy
2 stars For lots of reviewers, this sophomore « Soft Machine » is a logical continuation of the music developed on their debut. I have to say that I don't endorse this conclusion.

First of all, Kevin Ayers has left the band. Second, the lineup is almost cut by half in comparison. BUT: this album is at least somewhat oriented towards the Canterbury style (much more than its predecessor ("Hibou, Anemone and Bear") and fully deserves its inclusion under this category.

To tell the truth, this is their only album related to the genre (as far as I am concerned). And third: the great psychedelic substance of the debut is almost gone. All these items are leading me to next consideration: this is a rather average work.

What I don't like at all (or understand) is the dramatically short numbers that are featured on this album: figure out! Seventeen songs for a mere thirty three minutes! You do the math but fourteen songs clock at less or equal to 2'30"!

The freshness and innovation mood of their debut is quite alien here. Some fine jazzy feel for the second true song (the sixth one actually available) from this offering. I have known better. My gut feeling is that several tracks are just pure improvisation and that the band must have been quite under "substances" to have performed this.

What I want to say with this is that some of these songs are quite difficult to appreciate. Each of these very short pieces does not make a lot of sense as far as I am concerned. Sorry Antoine. You were the one that raised my interest in this band and since this time of the year reminds me very of you (my French friend) I decided to post my reviews about one of your most beloved band. But we differ in taste as you often mailed to me. So, it is.

Experimental and noisy is what I will retain from this musical experience. The psychedelic adventure is also behind. What's left is an average album which I rate with two stars. Sorry Febus: this is how I feel.

Review by zravkapt
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars One of the great early prog albums and one of the best releases from 1969, period. This is probably the second 'Canterbury' album after Caravan's debut. Only drummer/vocalist Robert Wyatt and keyboardist Mike Ratledge remain from the original line up. Daevid Allen had already left before the debut album and formed Gong by this point; bassist/vocalist Kevin Ayers left after the first album to start his solo career. Ayers' replacement was the more jazz-inclined Hugh Hopper. Along with him came a strong jazz influence which would only get stronger with each album.

One of the things you notice right away on this album is that the bass is often put through a fuzz-box. Ratledge also modifies his organ with fuzz-box and a wah-wah pedal. It was his idea to fuzz up Hopper's bass. At this point, it was mostly guitarists who used effects. After this album came out you would hear many keyboardists and bassists alter the sound of their instruments. Volume 2 was recorded after the band had toured the US with Jimi Hendrix. Andy Summers was the guitarist on that tour; he would later go on to join The Police.

The music here is mostly psych rock mixed with jazz-rock. There is an avant-garde element as well. On "Dedicated To You But You Weren't Listening" there is even a folk influence. If having a classical/symphonic influence in your prog is a prerequisite, you will be disappointed. However, you will find a little bit of a classical/symphonic influence in the songs "Have You Ever Bean Green?" and "As Long As He Lies Perfectly Still". The songs here range in length from 10 seconds to 6 minutes. The bulk of the album is made up of the two suites "Rivmic Melodies"(all of side one) and "Esther's Nose Job"(side two after the first two songs).

The album begins with an announcement from Wyatt before he recites the alphabet. "Hibou, Anemone And Bear" is one of the best songs here. It starts with fuzz bass, jazzy snare and piano before the saxes appear. Then some fuzzy organ. Later just bass and Wyatt's vocals. Some drums and organ join in. Later more saxes. Ends with cymbals and tom-toms. Wyatt then recites the alphabet backwards. In "Hulloder", Wyatt sings about how he wishes he was a black man who worked for the FBI or CIA.

"Dada Was Here" is another highlight. Wyatt sings in Spanish here. This might seem like novelty until you learn that in the early 1960s Robert lived on the Spanish island of Majorca. That island is mentioned later in the lyrics of "As Long As He Lies Perfectly Still". The music of "Dada" is mostly piano, bass and drums. I love the fuzz bass and the snare rim sound during the 'chorus'. In "Have You Ever Bean Green?", Wyatt thanks Noel, Mitch and Jim(aka The Jimi Hendrix Experience) for "our exposure to the crowd". "Out Of Tunes" is aptly titled because it has some of the most noisy avant-jazzy bits on the album.

"As Long As He Lies Perfectly Still" is yet another highlight. It has both piano and organ. The latter has a nice wah sound to it. I like the line: "heaven on earth or is it the moon". "Dedicated To You But You Weren't Listening" is a folky song with just acoustic guitar and Wyatt's voice. Hearing an acoustic guitar on a Soft Machine album is a very rare treat indeed. Some nice organ at the beginning of "Fire Engine Passing With Bells Clanging" before it gets more noisy and dissonant. "Pig" starts with some great piano and an almost metal sounding fuzz bass. This song has funny lyrics about how virgins are boring.

"Orange Skin Food" has repetative, hypnotic saxes and bass line. Also some crazy wah organ soloing. "10:30 Returns To The Bedroom" begins with electric piano and fuzz bass. When the drums come in the music is almost metal sounding. Bass gets a cleaner tone with organ. Drum roll and then a drum solo. Wah bass and guitar-like organ before some scat singing. Then an almost symphonic sounding organ while the bass noodles.

This album is a classic. If you don't like this, you have no soul. Well, maybe not, but you can't deny the influence this album had on the Canterbury Scene. One of Softs best and most consistent albums. One thing here that is sadly lacking in most prog is a sense of humour. Music in 1969 rarely got better than this. 5 stars.

Review by Warthur
5 stars The first album from the best-remembered Soft Machine Lineup of Wyatt, Ratledge, and Hugh Hopper (with Brian Hopper guesting on sax), Volume Two is the sound of a Soft Machine that has toured with Hendrix, mastered its sound, lost Kevin Ayers and received some timely advice from Frank Zappa. Including two epics - Rivmic Melodies, which takes up the entire first side, and the mostly-instrumental Esther's Nose Job - and incorporating a heavy dose of jazz into their sound, the Softs defined their own unique variety of fusion just at the same time as the likes of Miles Davis and Frank Zappa were also making their own headroads into the nascent fusion genre.

The loss of Ayers leaves Wyatt as the sole vocalist, and - as well as slipping in thanks to the Jimi Hendrix Experience in Have You Ever Bean Green and wishing good luck to Kevin Ayers in As Long As He Lies Perfectly Still - this album sees an expansion of his use of his voice as an instrument as varied and interesting as his drums, his ethereal wails providing a unique texture. Between his drum attack, Ratledge's fat organ and Hopper's meaty, growling bass playing, the classic Softs sound was realised. It's no surprise that this album represents the start of the Softs' career that is best represented by live recordings and bootlegs, since the structures they created provide fertile ground for improvisation - as well as being sufficiently complex to reward both repeated performance and repeated listening.

On Third, a similar approach would be taken, though Wyatt's vocal contributions would be more curtailed; it's on Volume Two that the classic-era Softs were at their most harmonious and united in their approach. I think it's their true classic.

Review by baz91
4 stars Soft Machine's first two albums are usually lumped together, as they are both the main albums where Robert Wyatt's presence can be felt, mainly through his insane lyrics, but also in the psychedelic structure of the music. However, whilst the band's debut was a brilliant album, 'Volume Two' was merely good. For starters, this album is 8 minutes shorter than the first one, clocking in at just 33˝ minutes in total. Despite it's brevity, however, the band give a lot to chew on.

The first side of the record is actually just one long continuous track, Rivmic Melodies, which lasts about 17 minutes. This track is split into 10 different sections, some of which mirror earlier sections. Despite being well written and interesting in places, this track fails to grab me as it doesn't feel cohesive. Reciting the alphabet near the beginning just makes this piece feel silly. It's not that this is a bad piece, but it's not my cup of tea.

Side 2 has a couple of interlude songs followed by an extended piece called Esther's Nose Job. The first of these interlude songs is As Long As He Lies Perfectly Still, which actually sounds like an extension of Rivmic Melodies. Again, this track also fails to really grab my attention.

The second short song is Dedicated To You But You Weren't Listening, a solo track by Robert Wyatt. This song encapsulates what I love about Wyatt and his ability to take a lovely song and make it bizarre and insane. Why Hopper and Ratledge ever wanted to forget about lyrics altogether when they had Wyatt on board is a mystery to me. This is a brilliant yet brief track.

The standout track for me, however, is Esther's Nose Job an 11-minute piece which is a precursor of 'Third' and the instrumental direction the band would take in years to come. The first two minutes of the song are dominated by a lot of instrumental 'crashing', followed by a theme on the organ which is repeated at various points in the song. There are just 3 verses, with great lyrics about wanting to be naked, which are finished in under a minute. Afterwards, the band set off on a brilliant 7/8 instrumental journey, which includes some tempo changes, Wyatt using Jon Anderson-esque wordless vocals, a drum solo and more uses of the ominous theme heard near the beginning of the song. This is a surprisingly brilliant song to rock out, mainly due to Wyatt's amazing skill on the drums. 7/8 might just be my favourite time signature, and I'd use this piece to justify my decision any day.

With 'The Soft Machine', I could listen to the whole album in one go without getting bored, but unfortunately with 'Volume Two' I've had no such luxury. Still, just as with the first album, this record is a creative powerhouse of psychedelic and jazzy bliss. I'd snap up anything with Wyatt's name on it and so should you!

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Avant-jazz and quasi-psychedelic improvisation may describe this 33 minute journey.

Soft Machine's second album is a delightful flight of whimsy featuring some of the more humorous tracks of the band beginning with a montage of non stop jazzy mayhem "Rivmic Melodies". It begins with a psychobabble intro, the alphabet and then working towards some absolutely incredible jazz infested psych prog. It really takes off on the longest track, 6 minutes worth, called 'Hibou, Anemone and Bear' with huge dollops of keyboards and woodwind. The band were at the height of creativity with the likes of Hugh Hopper on bass, alto sax, Mike Ratledge on keyboards, flute, Robert Wyatt on drums, vocals, and guest Brian Hopper on tenor & soprano sax. It is a sheer delight when Wyatt moves into his trademark singing, surely one of the all time most original vocalists in prog history. I had heard him on solo albums before this and once he started crooning with rollercoaster melodies it was like an old friend entered the room. It is interesting to note that my first Soft Machine experience was "Third", a double album with 4 massive improvisational epics, and it was all too much for me. Sometimes we may dive in too deep before we learn to swim. I am glad I tried other Soft Machine as they are truly masterful on these early albums.

The music changes dramatically and some tracks are only seconds long which is okay because they are snippets of a seamless track that merges together on side one. 'Dada Was Here' is the next decent length track and Wyatt is sensational on echoing vocals and drums. The harmonies are quite endearing too, along with an off beat feel in the music. The cadence is broken often by slight pauses as though band members are waiting for the next instrument to chime in. There is a genuine sense of appeal here because the music has a compelling vivacity.

The way the songs keep up an exuberant non stop verve is a master stroke on behalf of the musicians. One does not have time to think about a specific track as they keep coming at lightning speed, some 10 seconds, or over a minute, and others 2 minutes 30 such as the manic chaotic 'Out Of Tunes'. The band suffer a multiple progressive disorder on this track and it's a thrilling theme park ride, with flutes twisting and turning and drums crashing while Wyatt uses his vocals like a howling wind.

The psychedelic flavour is well and truly ingrained in the album by the end of side one and the only place to go is to a free form jazz piece, and they do on side two beginning with 'As Long As He Lies Perfectly Still'. This one almost feels like a song but still features off kilter musical figures and shapes. The guitar is a phased sound and it is undoubtedly one of the best Soft Machine tracks I have heard.

'Dedicated To You But You Weren't Listening' is another SM favourite and is an acoustic dominated Wyatt quasi-ballad. It feels like his solo material to come but the time sig is quirky enough to fit in with the rest of the experimental works. The weirdness returns in earnest with "Esther's Nose Job" which is broken into a series of musical anecdotes. 'Fire Engine Passing With Bells Clanging', which is really a collage of instruments competing for some semblance of recognised notes and failing. This segues straight to 'Pig' slogged over with a prog time sig that misses beats and is over before it has time to develop segueing into a bizarre jazz fusion in 'Orange Skin Food'. In less than two minutes we are over this hurdle lunging headlong into 'A Door Opens And Closes'. This short piece is a fuzz guitar and crackling percussion with brass blasts and Wyatt returns with vocal intonations. The ending is a longer song '10.30 Returns To The Bedroom' and features Wyatt freaking out on a drum solo and the Hammond hammer downs fizz with a fervor that ends this on a high point.

The conclusion can only be that this is one of the great early Soft Machine albums and is the place to start; then perhaps move on to "Third" where the band indulge in endless forays of improvisation with unreasonable running times. The band are stunning virtuosos on any album and are indispensable as progenitors of the emerging progressive scene.

Review by Sinusoid
4 stars In the overall sense, VOLUME TWO is a marked improvement over the first Soft Machine album. The band sounds more tightly stitched and definitely more confident. The sound here is fuller, which is a plus considering the debut had a few production issues. While the whimsy of Kevin Ayers is no longer here, the late Hugh Hopper brings a nice, fuzzy, warm tone that further propels the group towards jazz fusion. If you're like me and looking at this in retrospect, VOLUME TWO is quite a halfway point between the debut and THIRD.

Part of what makes this album cohesive is that most of the tracks belong to either ''Rivmic Melodies'' (the entire A side of the record) or ''Esther's Nose Job'' (the last five tracks of the B side). Soft Machine are at least attempting to give somewhat of a unified connective-ness to this record, although it ends up functioning very similarly to Frank Zappa's ABSOLUTELY FREE album where the tracks are all laid out distinctly, but form a pageant/suite/epic. ''Esther's Nose Job'' most closely resembles an epic with distinct sections as the parts there flow very well into each other. There's a bit of jaggedness in trying to call ''Rivmic Melodies'' an epic; I mean, the tune goes from a goofy alphabet recitation to straight up fusion in ''Hibou, Anenome and Bear'' (the highlight track) and ultimately ends with avant-gardery in ''Out of Tunes''. ''Rivmic Melodies'' reminds me more of the second side of the third Chicago album.

Still, this volume of Soft Machine's catalog is worth checking out. It sounds like Mike Ratelidge gained a lot more confidence in the writing department, and Wyatt became a better singer almost overnight. Plus, the soft ''Dedicated to You?'' is a nice break from the action in the right spot.

Review by siLLy puPPy
5 stars OK. Call me a SOFT MACHINE slut for giving their first two albums 5 stars but damn! I really love these guys and a belated introduction to their musical output hasn't dampened my enthusiasm to their sound one bit. In fact it may have enhanced it. I, like countless others, weren't around at the time of these releases to comprehend their musical meisterhood and it seems like many a music fan of the era didn't get to appreciate their ingenious jazz-fusion whimsy at the time of its release. SOFT MACHINE continued their evolution on VOLUME TWO by ratcheting up all the unusualness of their first album and keeping just enough of the familiar poppiness to give a musical structure to embellish upon. The whimsical glee exerts itself full throttle on the first track with their childlike playfulness meets their adult contemplative spirituality on "Pataphysical Introduction." You know you are in for something special right away.

There had been a few personal changes from Volume One to VOLUME TWO. Robert Wyatt was still in charge of drum duties and lead vocals. Mike Ratledge stayed on board for as keyboardist, but on this release bassist Kevin Ayers was out and Hugh Hopper who guested on the first album was now in. This time around Hugh's brother Brian Hopper guested on the sax (both soprano and tenor.) This album is really two long tracks but because of the advise of Frank Zappa the band broke those two longer tracks into many because of the fact one could reap more royalties that way. The album is actually very short clocking in at just over a half an hour but there is so much going on in that time that it actually feels longer to me.

VOLUME TWO is the logical evolution from "Volume One." Instead of just jettisoning the psychedelic pop leaning template that had begun before their first album and still utilized on the debut, the band keeps this as a template and simply expands the avant-garde and jazz-fusion tendencies developed on their debut. The result is another superbly excellent album that is short but sweet. The jazz factor is ratcheted up quite a few notches but the underlying flow of the album remains comparable to the debut. As with the previous album this is a grower. No SOFT MACHINE album unleashes its secrets easily. One must listen attentively to let the magic unfold at his or her own time. For me personally, I find this an excellent successor to the debut and a logical bridge between the debut and the even more jazz infused developments of "Third." Yeah, the only totally unoriginal thing about this band is that they could have been more creative in naming their albums!

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Gone are founding members DAEVID ALLEN and Kevin AYERS. The remaining members decide to produce an album as a trio with Robert WYATT on drums and vocals, Mike RATLEDGE on keyboards and flute, Hugh HOPPER on bass and alto sax, and special guest, Hugh's brother, Brian HOPPER on soprano and tenor saxes. What unveils is a masterpiece of supremely melodic and humorous exercises and experiments in modern and psychedelic jazz pop. I find the album eminently enjoyable to this day--one of my favorite start-to-finish 'adventures' in music listening. Each song is interesting for its experimental nature as well as for its lyrical content and instrumental performances. Robert is quite a talented drummer, Mike a wonderfully melodic piano and keyboard player, and the Hopper boys add quite a bit of colour and harmonic beauty. I don't really want to go through each of the seventeen songs, nor do I want to name my favorite or the "five star" songs as to my ears and mind the album is one continuous play experience, but if you really twist my arm I'd go out there to say that "Dada Was Here" is a wonderful composite example of all of the best qualities of this album--with the additional highlight of having Robert singing in Spanish! and that Side One is more engaging and more melodic than the more experimental and more instrumental Side Two--and yet I find the jazzier experimentations fascinating!
Review by ALotOfBottle
4 stars EDIT on 30.08.17: This is a dated review. This album has really grown on me and now I love it by bits. I will edit this review soon to express how much I do. Now, enjoy my old-ish review that, as time proved, I wrote wayyy to quickly. After a succes of their debut, Soft Machine setteld in the United States after playing support for Jimi Hendrix. Robert Wyatt stayed in New York producing his solo material with Jimi Hendrix on bass guitar, which was released on an album "'68" in 2013. Kevin Ayers could not stand the tension of touring, so he left the band recommending Hugh Hopper as a replacement. In 1969, the band reformed and recorded "Volume Two".

To start out, I could never really like this album. After a fantastic debut, Soft Machine produced material which was sort of a let-down (I'm talking about this album in particular, because "Third" was a really solid effort). The case with this one, I think is similar to Rick Wakeman's solo albums. It does have a true potential lying in great musicians, but for most part its sound is a big overload of ideas thrown here and there. The tracks like "A Concise British Alphabet" or "Pataphysycal Introduction" are interesting with a sense of humour typical of Soft Machine, but these kinds of ideas are all over the place. The thing is, "Volume Two" lacks a climax that is hard to achieve. Some albums do not need a climax, that's true. Nonetheless, the music quickly becomes a collection of short comedy sketches that don't contribute to a reasonable whole with just a few extended jams (which indeed are interesting). However, this album does feature some neat moments like "Hibou Anemone and Bear" which is undeniably Soft Machine's classic, signature sound, or "10:30 Returns To the Bedroom".

I want to give this album 3 stars, as it does have a potential, could be a nice work and it showcases good musicianship. A lack of flavor lets it down. I wouldn't recommend this album to anyone, because I wouldn't be honest. Sorry, Soft Machine. Much better things were to come! However, this is definitely recommended for a Canterbury scene fan. Even if you won't like it, this is an essential Canterbury album.

Review by A Crimson Mellotron
4 stars 'Volume Two' is the second album released by Canterbury-native Soft Machine (or The Soft Machine, as they were billed at the time of the album's release). This record was released almost a year after their debut one, more specifically in September of '69. Stylistically very similar to their first album, 'Volume Two' is very psychedelic, very humorous, very extravagant and unusual, quirky, frantic, and compelling. This time, however, to the trio of Mike Ratledge, Hugh Hopper and Robert Wyatt, and additional musician is added and this is, of course, the brother of Hugh Hopper - Brian Hopper on soprano and tenor saxophone, adding for the first time to their psychedelic sound a flavor of jazz.

This happens to be the band's shortest album, with a total length of 33 minutes, but also their most fragmented one with its seventeen tracks. As on the previous album, the songs on each of the two sides seem to form larger, longer pieces, beautifully named 'Rivmic Melodies' and 'Esther's Nose Job', respectively for sides one and two.

For me, there has always been almost nothing separating 'Volume Two' from 'Volume One'; these two records really sound like the two halves of a big psychedelic, jazzy, mad album (Almost like the one that will come next - 'Third' but this is another story). Very 60s and very English, I consider 'Volume Two' one of the essential Soft Machine releases. The witty song titles, the multiple references sprinkled across the album, the memorable melodies, and the moments of insane experimentation with instrumental passages are all prerogatives for a very strong Canterbury Scene album!

Review by Dapper~Blueberries
3 stars After I listened to their first album, I was pretty interested in more Soft Machine. How will this Canterbury band improve on the sound they established in their first album. So I listened to Volume 2 to see how they'll do it. Did they improve the things that were wrong with the first record? I wanted to find out.

The album starts with an introduction. A prelude of sorts, introducing the album and introducing the next song, A Concise British Alphabet Pt 1. Immediately I recognized one thing. I looked at how long the album took to finish and it being 33 minutes worried me a bit. While the intro was pretty fun, I didn't really dig the alphabet song. After that we get to our really real song, Hibou Amenone and Bear. Immediately I noticed the loud and overdriven guitar. The more the song went on the more it gotten like a jazz band creating an awesome chase theme. It's very cool. After that we got another alphabet. Nothing to wright home about. Than we got Hulloder, a fun little track. Than we have Dada Was Here. A very hypnotic yet very loud and bassy song with a very sweet yet sorta somber sounding piano. Thank You Pierrot Lunaire to Pataphysical Introduction Pt 2 are nothing to really note worthy, though it definitely seems like they improved on the shorter tracks that were kinda dull and unnecessary on the first LP which is actually pretty cool. Always love bands improving what was a problem in their last LP and making it work. The end of side 1 is Out Of Tunes. It is a mess of a song but it definitely is a pretty good closer. It is kinda creepy in some points and it definitely feels like the band going crazy on their instruments. Very nice.

After side 1 we got side 2. The first song, As Long As He Lies Perfectly Still is the best song on the album. It still holds true with the sound of the previous sounds but it goes a lot harder. Especially with that sorta metal-ish guitar, even though Metal wasn't really a thing in 1969. The next song, Dedicated To You But You Weren't Listening is a very pretty acoustic and rhythmic song that makes you have a small break after all of the previous songs. Very nice. Fire Engine Passing With Bells Clanging, yeah no this song isn't good and it just feels like Out Of Tunes but not good. I don't know why it is here. The album can definitely go without it. After that mess with got Pig. It reminds me of a ELP song surprisingly enough. It definitely has a vibe that is more sinister and a little more authoritative in it's sound. Orange Skin Food is alright I guess. It is kinda a bit too weird for my taste. The next song, A Door Opens and Closes is a pretty cool, sorta jazzy little tune. Feels like another chase them for a spy movie like Hibou Anemone And Bear but shorter. The last song on the album, 10:30 Returns To The Bedroom is pretty wicked. It feels like the precursor to post metal with the slow moving, very bassy guitar. Though that's only for the first few seconds, after that, it's that same good ol' Soft Machine sound.

So all and all, I thought this album was better than the first. It improved on the sound in some areas and made the shorter songs not feel like useless tracks that don't really hold much. However I still think in some areas it is a little rough and I think it can be kinda nonsensical and dumb sometimes. But overall this album is a pretty good improvement for the band, so I hope to hear what they have in store next time. I bet it'll be good if these songs are of any sign of that.

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Report this review (#241842) | Posted by toroddfuglesteg | Monday, September 28, 2009 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Soft Machine's second album in line is mostly a continuation of the first, with the addition a couple of elements that weren't present in the debut album, while others are gradually eliminated, due to minor line-up changes that slowly changed the way Soft Machine made their sound. There are faintly ... (read more)

Report this review (#200981) | Posted by EMLonergan | Wednesday, January 28, 2009 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Jazzy start to the second release "Voulume two" from Soft Machine, released in 1969, kevin Ayers Is absent, replaced by Hugh Hopper, and Brian Hopper on the horns. The first song pretty much introduces the second song named A Concise British Alphabet #1, which is a bridge to song number three ca ... (read more)

Report this review (#137303) | Posted by Jake E. | Saturday, September 8, 2007 | Review Permanlink

5 stars The second work of SOFT MACHINE announced in 1969 "Volume Two". Kevin Ayers seceded with David Allen. However, their influences resound richly in this work.Moody jazz and destroyed dadaism.Surrealism language experiment and the humorous blues. Repetition and chaos.They invaded each other and a ... (read more)

Report this review (#48951) | Posted by braindamage | Wednesday, September 28, 2005 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I think this delivery by Soft Machine is a seminal album and by far, my favourite SF album, so I readily grant it 5 stars! It is a unique blend of diverging music genres, crowned by Wyatt's goon voice and tremendous drumming, Hopper's fuzz bass and Ratledge's droning organ and classy piano pla ... (read more)

Report this review (#46530) | Posted by | Tuesday, September 13, 2005 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Remember that "No Good Trying" song on Syd Barrett's first solo album "the Madcap Laughs", where the eccentric and manic feel of the tune is augmented by even crazier no-holds-barred drum insanity as well as some distorted soloing instrument to augment Syd's trademark spacey guitar as well as ... (read more)

Report this review (#22010) | Posted by | Friday, February 18, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I actually give this album 4 and a half stars. This album is great, I really like the hypnotic "soundscapes" and the jazz influences, with the freaky structures and lyrics (and titles!) it has got the weirdest songs I've ever heard. I think it's the Softs most psychedelic record, but I prefer ... (read more)

Report this review (#22009) | Posted by Jaap | Thursday, February 10, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This is my favourite SM album and also one of my all-time favourite albums. This album still has the early sound of Soft Machine, but there are also hints of where they were going to on their future albums. There are actually quite a few songs but I think they should be listened as a one piec ... (read more)

Report this review (#22006) | Posted by Lambert | Thursday, June 24, 2004 | Review Permanlink

5 stars A tour-de-force, the only album in which the best of all the (post-Ayers) players seem to come together as one. This is the ultimate SM sound, the album that they had to make in order that all the different elements of SM (before and after) can be traced to one source, probably the album from which ... (read more)

Report this review (#21999) | Posted by | Monday, February 2, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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