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The Soft Machine

Canterbury Scene

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The Soft Machine Third album cover
4.20 | 1161 ratings | 109 reviews | 51% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1970

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Facelift (18:54) *
2. Slightly All the Time (18:14) :
- Slightly All the Time
- Noisette
- Backwards
- Slightly All the Time (reprise)
3. Moon in June (19:18)
4. Out-Bloody-Rageous (19:17)

Total Time 75:43

* Recorded live 1970 at Fairfield Hall, Croydon (January 4) and Mothers Club, Birmingham (January 11)

Bonus CD from 2007 remaster - 1970 live tracks:
1. Out-Bloody-Rageous (11:54)
2. Facelift (11:22)
3. Esther's Nose Job (15:39) :
- Pig
- Orange Skin Food
- A Door Opens and Closes
- Pigling Bland
- 10:30 Returns to the Bedroom

Total Time 38:55

Line-up / Musicians

- Mike Ratledge / Lowrey organ, piano, Hohner pianet
- Elton Dean / alto saxophone, saxello
- Hugh Hopper / bass
- Robert Wyatt / drums, vocals & piano & Hammond & bass (3)

- Lyn Dobson / flute & soprano saxophone (1)
- Nick Evans / trombone (2,4)
- Jimmy Hastings / flute & bass clarinet (2,4)
- Rab Spall / electric violin (3)

Releases information

ArtWork: John Hays (design)

2LP Columbia Records (1970)

CD Columbia Records - BGOCD180 (1993)
CD Columbia Records - 610575-2 (2002 - digipak)
2CD Sony BMG - 82876872932 (2007) Remaster + bonus disc (Promenade Concert, London, 1970)

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
Edit this entry


THE SOFT MACHINE Third ratings distribution

(1161 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(51%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(30%)
Good, but non-essential (13%)
Collectors/fans only (5%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

THE SOFT MACHINE Third reviews

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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
5 stars (third of a series of eleven)

The masterpiece (or meisterwerk) from this band and the first one to start the slow but implacable and mercyless progression/transformation of a psychadelic caterpillar into a superb fusion butterfly. Only four tracks (one per side as this was a double vinyl) but what tracks they are.

Only one track with vocals (Moon In June.... from memory) but they are wordless as Wyatt has learned to use his incredible voice as another instrument. The Out Bloody Rageous tune is my fave on here and Facelift is the first real influence of Hopper in this group. Slightlly All The Time is also a gem. The band is becoming much a reed (or brass) oriented Jazz-rock as Elton Dean joins as official member and for a few weeks ,"ex- Keith Tippet Group" Charig and Evans had joined too but this was not to last. Please not that all these reed players were extremely active on the prog scene also playing in Crimson albums as well as in Centipde's lone album Septober Energy (which should deserve inclusion on this site). However Charig and Evans will come back for later albums as guests. The four tracks are full of very successful improvisation but the structure is definitely progressive.

If you are looking to indulge in a Canterbury-styled album, this astounding album is much recommended but maybe not the most representative of that musical current: you might want to try Hatfield & the North.

Review by loserboy
4 stars ... And speaking of classic albums ladies and gentlemen please say hello the Softies Third. Not unlike the SOFT MACHINE, "Third" contains their aggressive free form jazz rock prog improvisational with a highly mature degree of composition and structure. "Third" features the classic SOFT MACHINE line up with Wyatt, Ratledge, Hooper and Dean. This album has always freaked me out with just the right amount of electronic organ and keyboards, sax, bass and drum interplay. Essentially "Third" is 4 tracks all containing extended exploratory jams and musical landscapes. This is fantastic progressive rock music and for the slightly more daring out there, this is a necessity all the way around.
Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
1 stars Turds

So what's all the fuss about then? I have to admit up front that trad jazz (along with rap) is about the only type of music I just do not like.

I first heard this album in the early 70's and thought it was dreadful. My tastes have "matured" somewhat since then, so I bought the album on CD thinking that I must have missed something way back then. Unfortunately, I hadn't, it's still dreadful.

Setting aside "Moon in June" for the moment, there is nothing remotely musical here. All there is rambling free form jazz, with no form or structure. It's hard to tell at times whether any of the band are actually capable of playing their instruments, so disjointed is the overall sound. "Moon in June" does have suggestions of a tune. It would be an exaggeration to call it the best track, it's not really good enough to warrant such an accolade, but it is better than the others.

Soft Machine are usually branded as part of the Canterbury sound, but to do so is a gross insult to the likes of Caravan and Camel.

Review by Philo
4 stars This is excellent and its an album that has a good feel to it with clever arrangements that take the songs on bizarre journeys never make it simply relentless or mundane. The work outs are amazing and those insane solos always do it for me, very unique and real nice jazz influence on this lp. At first it sounds like it could be a bit dodgy, the recording is not the best, but "Facelift" was recorded live, the limits of live recording come through here, and is culled from 2 gigs but is more or less seem-less, and builds up a nice texture of avante garde layers before bursting forth with a blend or heavy rhythm and jazz lines. The second track "Slightly All The Time" changes the pattern for the moment but again is another acheivment and very memorable and though this album is made up of 4 pieces taking a side of the double album, there is so much quality and diversity in the work it almost seems short, though by no means is this exactly accessable

The only track that annoys me at times is "Moon In June" which is too long to listen to that voice, its simply inprovised lyric and make some sense of it though very idiosyncratic of Wyatt as his later work with Matching Mole as we´ll as his solo work would testify but "Out- Bloody-Rageous" more than makes up for it, a dreamlike droning intro and outtro but the main content is sublime and again there is smooth change of pace later on in the piece,very aptly titled.

Review by hdfisch
4 stars Edited 10/6/2005!

After listening I don't know exactly how many times to their highly praised third release I'm able to find at least half of it quite enjoyable. Still I've got to say I find "Facelift" rather dreadful and not really a great piece of music. My favourites are "Slightly all the time" and " Moon in June" despite Robert Wyatt's unique vocals which I'm not really a big fan of usually, but here they're fitting quite nicely I've to say. The very psychedelic track "Out-bloody-rageous" is a good one as well, at least the middle part since I just find the electronic intro and outro parts just too long and dragging. With half of its running time it would have become a great track. " Moon in June" offers in its instrumental part a great typical Canterbury feeling and all musicians are presenting an excellent performance. As a summary I'd like to say SOFT MACHINE's "Third" is certainly an essential album in the Canterbury category and although I don't like all of the four very long tracks and it's not my favourite album by them (that's "Bundles") I still consider it worth a 4 star rating. Usually I'm programming tracks 2 and 3 on my player and I'm getting an excellent single album with 37 minutes after all.

Review by Trotsky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This double album was a pretty dramatic departure from the psychedelia-drenched quirky pop that populated the first two albums. With four tracks each weighing in at least 18 mins long (Tales Of Topographic Oceans, anyone?) the new line-up of Ratledge, Wyatt, Hopper and Dean (plus four friends including Canterbury stalwart Jimmy Hastings) ventured out to make challenging music that can both infruriate and exhilarate.

Penned by Hugh Hopper, the album's starter Facelift is an edited live song (from two different live performances a week apart, mind!) that requires a lot of patience. It starts off with heavy organ feedback dominating a sparse aural soundscape that features violin and an assortment of brass instruments making fleeting non-melodic contributions. After nearly five minutes of this, Hopper's bass line kicks in and from then on we are treated to high quality free-form jazz-rock. Ratledge's organ is probably my favourite instrument here, although Hastings weighs in with some distinctive flute playing at around the 11-minute mark.

Slightly All The Time is more structured jazz-fusion with a big band feel that reminds me of the kind of work Zappa would soon emulate with the Waka Jawaka and The Grand Wazoo albums. Featuring multiple brass instruments, it's a fine generally laid-back song that breaks into a livelier tempo at around the 6 minute-mark and goes on to about four different sections without ever changing the mood, even though by the end of the piece the band is pretty much racing along. Replete with all those odd-time signatures (I read somewhere that they include 7/8, 11/4 and 15/16) that were a particular hallmark of Ratledge's songwriting, this one's a real winner.

The third track Moon In June is written by Robert Wyatt and it shows! I'll admit it took me a long time to get into his high-pitced vocal style (and I had to turn to Matching Mole and a solo album first) but I now really enjoy his singing on this most idiosyncratic of songs. Apparently Wyatt took a few segments from unfinished songs and stuck it all together, but I really like the end product, which veers from avant-garde to jazz to blues in just the first six minutes before a lovely piano/electric piano interlude takes the song into the next part of the song. Wyatt's lyrics at this point are ...

"Just before we go on to the next part of our song/Let's all make sure we've got the time/Music-making still performs the normal functions/Background noise for people scheming, seducing, revolting and teaching/That's all right by me, don't think that I'm complaining/After all, it's only leisure time, isn't it?"

Not everyone's cup of tea, but I love it! Around about the 10-minute mark, the song goes into overdrive courtesy of Ratledge's distorted fuzz-organ and some sizzling sax (presumbaly from Dean) before eventually fading out with a Rab Spall violin extravaganza.

And then there's Out-Bloody-Rageous which often gets the nod as the best song on this album. It emerges from a rippling, murky, backwards-effect laden keyboard intro to become a lively fusion piece, with Ratledge (the song's composer) and Dean once again to the fore. Around the 10:30 mark it all becomes a whole lot more delicate and beautiful, but no less compelling with Wyatt's scintillating drum work playing a great role in holding it all together. The almost customary repeat of the original motive then closes the curtains on what must have been a mind-boggling album way back in 1970.

As far as I'm concerned, despite the worthy contributions of his cohorts ... this album is Ratledge's magnum opus ... the work by which his outstanding playing and writing skills should be judged. A word of caution, though ... this is one of those "acquired taste" affairs ... I was really disappointed when I first got this album and it was a good couple of years before I put it on for fun. Nowadays I'm a convert, but I can easily see why this is one of those great polarizing albums of progressive rock. ... 74% on the MPV scale

Review by 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.
Review by philippe
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Third" and best album by Soft Machine, in equality with "Fourth". As usual, we assist to a perfect mixture between psychedelic and progressive jazz rock. The instrumental tune which opens the album features an organ / bass "drone" with storming, blasting brass, modulated electric keyboard zoom. A very psychedelic atmosphere prevails all along this soundscape. The track also contains very progressive sax arrangements. After this experimental, weird jazzy prelude, the second track delivers a more traditional prog jazz mixture with delicious vintage Hammond Organ parts and melodic sax. After a quite tranquil and technical long introduction, the music melts down into a cloudy climate with highlighted moments (flute/ sax duels, later electric organ patterns & solo). "Moon in June" delivers a freaky out progressive work with precious bass/ organ solos, syncopated jazz sections. The only problem are the vocals, there are utterly horrible and flat. Despite this painful element, this album is an original prog / jazz rock experience mainly for its instrumental colourful interludes.
Review by belz
4 stars 4.2/5.0

At first I was a bit like Bob McBeath when listening to this album: " So what's all the fuss about then?" I read so much great things about this band and in particular this album yet I was disappointed and it seemed to me there was not much rythm and that the songs were boring. It took two months before I decided to listen to this band again.

Then, later, after discovering other Canterbury's groups, I decided to give it a try again and was amazed how subtle and intelligent this music is. It clearly is soft music as the nsameo f the band is, but the rythm is hypnotic and the jazz parts in "Slightly all the time", in particular, are amazing. "Moon in June" has great keyboards at some point, but there could have been more Canterbury keyboards in this song (and the other song).

This is a great addition to any progressive music collecting, particularly if you like Camel, Caravan, Gong and jazz music.

Review by Bj-1
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars A milestone in the canterbury movement and set the standard for the genres unique sound for the next few years. A great display of texture, composition and superb musicianship, providing a myriad of moods at the same time. This is also an essential item for any progressive music lover, and especially for those into psychedelia and fusion. It's difficult to point out a particular highlight here though "Slightly all the Time" holds a special place in my heart as it was my introduction to this album and band, and probably the steadiest instrumental on here. The Robert Wyatt penned "Moon in June" actually defines the canterbury sound alone, being both chaming and challenging on the ear, also being the only track with vocals. Definitely a standout. The rest is is a rollercoaster of moods, from very tense to extremely relaxing and delicate. Soft Machine would further experiment with this direction on their next album but they never quite managed to get the same "magic" as they did here. Essential.
Review by Australian
3 stars "Third" is an all round epic album with every song running for 18 minutes or over and being majority instrumental. There are vast arrays of instruments used on "Third" which range from the lowliest Flute to Saxophones and Guitars. The most prominent instrument through out the whole album is the Saxophone, but it in no way dominates the music. There is a lot of that crazy Canterbury organ sound in Third and each song seems to have a very strange introduction (excluding Moon in June), usually involving the organ.

The opening song "Facelift" has a odd beginning which consists of that crazy organ synthesizer punctuated by other queer sounding instruments. After about five minutes some of the wind and brass instruments come in and the song really stars. Facelift is apparently recorded live and the sound quality is excellent!" Facelift" isn't initially appealing to the listener, but the songs grows it's self on you.

The next song, "Slightly All the Time" gets started a lot faster than its predecessor and it is an all round more lively and interesting song. The saxophone and flute lines in the song are tremendously enjoyable. To me, Slightly All the Time seems to have more content than "Facelift" and it is a very enjoyable song in full.

"Moon in June" is the only song on "Third" that has any vocals on it, and unlike the other songs on the album it starts immediately. "Moon in June" is a more melodic song than the rest of the album and the vocals is a very enjoyable part of the album as the rest is vocal deprived.

The closer to the album is another 19 minute instrumental epic and it is very like the rest of "Third." "Out-Bloody Rageous" has an large amounts of strange sounding synthesizers which have a long solo section starting around the seventh minutes. There is a certain pattern to the entire album, it goes intro, Woodwinds and brass sections and then strange synthesizers. The pattern usually repeats through the entire album.

1. Facelift (Hopper)(3/5) 2. Slightly all the time (3/5) 3. Moon in June (4/5) 4. Out-bloody-rageous (3.5/5) Total = 14 Divided by 4 (number of songs) =3.375 = 3 stars Good but non essential

"Third" is in summary one of the best Canterbury albums I've ever heard. It is a very good album and experimental.I think any real prog fan will appreciate "Third" and I recommend it to prog fans across the board, although I'm sure many people will not like it at first. A high three stars. (edited version)

Review by clarke2001
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Soft Machine's "Third" is got heavy emphasis on jazz, and the crew is augmented with brass section. Although they are all skillful musicians, this album is just not on the same level as their first two albums. Brief but effective psychedelic tunes are gone and replaced by long jazz pieces sometimes almost in a free form. The album is produced better then it predecessors (although far from perfect) but the lovely buzzing bass & organ sounds are gone.

This huge 2-record album contains four sidelong tracks. Wyatt is blessing us with his charming vocals only once, in "Moon In June" with its funny lyrics and daring complexity. That track is probably the best on the album. The rest of the tracks are instrumentals, clocking between 18 and 20 minutes and they are not bad, but they are not very remarkable neither.

Opening "Facelift" utilises free-form/avantgarde/chaotic opening on organ and it's full of scary noises that really remind me of face lifting. Intro is a bit too long, but when the brass section stars with quirky line, tings get much better,but until the end, for next 10 minutes, track becomes boring and too repetitive. Good idea, but not developed enough.

The same problem persists in tracks "Slightly All The Time" and "Out-Bloody-Rageous". You can find some fine movements here and there, even the touch of meditative electronics, but ideas are just not developed good enough to catch the listener's attention during the whole tune.

This album is sort of a dead end, magic and humour from the first two albums are gone, and it's not mature enough to be a statement of the new style. The band will have to wait for Mr. Holdsworth to find a new ground, but they will never be so charming again.

Overall, it's not bad, there are some excellent moments and you can give it a try, but be very, very cautious.

Rating: Slightly less than 3,5 stars.

Review by Raff
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars After a long hiatus from reviewing, I have decided to try my hand at it again - and for my long-overdue, 100th review I have chosen an album which is considered both a classic and a controversial, overrated release. As a matter of fact, even though I am a confirmed lover of the Canterbury sound, I have to admit Soft Machine are far from being my favourites. Indeed, they sometimes sound too convoluted and contrived for their own good, and their particular brand of rambling, free-form jazz-rock is not everyone's cup of tea - as some of the earlier reviews on this page show quite clearly.

However, I must also admit to having a certain weakness for this album. Its four, almost 20-minute-long tracks (originally released as the four sides of a double album) possess atmosphere in spades, although they don't always make for easy listening material. Heavy on woodwind instruments, notably Elton Dean's distinctive sax, they are also a wonderful showcase for Mike Ratledge's keyboard skills. One of prog's unsung heroes, Ratledge is a master of his instrument, and his trademark organ sound is what gives this album its quality as an almost-classic.

If I say that at least three of the four tracks sound more or less alike, it may look like a condescending, if not outright negative remark. In fact, the only track with a real identity of its own is Robert Wyatt's vocal tour de force, "Moon in June", which was the last vocal track ever recorded by the band. Wyatt's vocals have never done much for me, as they are very much an acquired taste - while the man's prowess as a drummer is never in question, his understated, sophisticated style melding seamlessly with Hugh Hopper's intricate bass lines. However, "Moon in June", though it goes on a bit too long, is undoubtedly a charming, haunting piece, with Wyatt's high-pitched vocals sounding at times more like another instrument than a human voice.

The three instrumentals are somewhat similar in both structure and sound, the band's earlier psychedelic leanings shading into an improvisational take on jazz-rock which is not as rich and well-rounded as fellow Canterburians' Hatfield and the North or National Health, but more on the sprawling, relaxed side of things. The amount of eerie noises, especially on opener "Facelift", would make The Mars Volta proud - though, strange as it may seem, they do not detract from the overall experience, but rather add to the album's quirky charm. My personal favourite, though, is closer "Out-bloody-rageous", with a stunning organ solo in its central section bookended by haunting, liquid noises.

Though by no means an easy listen, "Third" is definitely a grower, and a truly progressive offering from a band that seems to have often privileged quantity of output over quality. Even if it is not really 5-star material, it is nevertheless highly recommended to anyone willing to explore prog in all its different incarnations.

Review by Mellotron Storm
5 stars Hard to believe this is the same band who released their first two albums full of Psychedelic and often poppy tunes. It still blows my mind when I think of what they created here. This is without a doubt one of the greatest recordings of all time. Interesting that they brought in some guests here, it's not something they had done in the past or would do in the future. Again it just seems like everything about this album is special. Very cool that Jimmy Hastings is one of the guests here playing flute and bass clarinet. This was originally released in 1970 as a double album with 4 side long suites.

The first song "Facelift" was composed by Hopper and recorded live. The fuzz is killer early as Ratledge rips it up. It's quite experimental until it picks up after 7 minutes. Check out the horns. A change 10 1/2 minutes in with repetitive sounds before the sax comes in. Love when the flute takes over a minute later with that dark atmosphere. Very Krautrock-like. It picks up after 13 minutes and the sax returns.This is trippy stuff. "Slightly All The Time" is a Ratledge tune and is in stark contrast to the first track. Instead of being intense it's a laid back and beautiful song with some gorgeous sax melodies. It starts out with Hopper's bass before those beautiful sax melodies come in with a full sound. The tempo picks up around 6 minutes then the flute replaces the sax. Just gorgeous. Clarinet after 8 1/2 minutes as the sax plays on. It settles after 12 minutes then picks back up after 16 minutes with sax and bass leading while Wyatt keeps busy.

"Moon In June" is a Wyatt track and he also sings on it. It all sounds so good early on then we get some fuzz before 9 1/2 minutes. Sax follows as the bass throbs. It's chaotic after 13 minutes with lots of fuzz too. The organ pulses then the guest violin makes some noise after 16 minutes. "Out- Bloody-Rageous" is a Ratledge tune that is very psychedelic and spacey for 5 minutes as layers of organ sounds flood in. The song then kicks in. Fuzz organ a minute later. Sax before 9 1/2 minutes then a spacey calm follows. Piano takes over 10 1/2 minutes in then the horns join in. They're jamming until a calm arrives before 16 minutes. Keyboards end it in a spacey manner.

This is one of those one-of-a-kind recordings that has stood the test of time. One of the greatest albums ever made.

Review by Modrigue
5 stars A masterpiece of progressive jazz/rock

From start to end, this album is an absolute killer. Every single second is just excellent, the listener cannot lose his attention on the music. Last one with Robert Wyatt, "Third" is by far SOFT MACHINE's best offering. With four pieces of approximately 20 minutes each, mainly instrumental, the musicians push back the frontiers of space modal jazz rock far beyond.

The record opens with the live song "Facelift" and its crazy sonic experimental deflagrations. A disturbing atmosphere takes place to let the energetic and catchy jazzy theme suddenly explode. The ambiance changes at the middle of the track to become calmer and more mysterious. This section shows echoes of JOHN COLTRANE's playing. "Slightly All The Time" is a soft and slow evolving piece of modal jazz. It has sometimes faster moments which will take you to the heights.

The second half of the song is more tormented and spacey. Then comes the best side of the disc. First, the only track with vocals, "Moon In June". Robert Wyatt's psychedelic and soft voice is just magic and fits perfectly to the melancholic and enchanting music. Just listen and relax. The number of changes of musical directions is just amazing! The second part of the song displays an unbeatable combo of powerful jazz rock. Terrifying! "Out-Bloody-Rageous" concludes magnificently the album by making it enter definitely into the legend. The tune starts and finishes delicately with an ethereal aquatic electronic ambiance taking the listener to the clouds during nearly 5 minutes. The rest just features top-notch and very inspired modal jazz with talented musicians at their best.

Less psychedelic, more jazz and progressive oriented than their two first releases, "Third" is an exemplary tour de force and a milestone in its genre. This is the record that got me into jazz rock and I could simply not get enough of it. There are very few albums which can match this one.

You will not see the time pass. Strongly recommended to everyone!

Review by VanderGraafKommandöh
5 stars After releasing two excellent albums, Soft Machine had yet another lineup change. Elton Dean was brought in on saxophone and saxello (and later piano) and thus, the bands creative energy was altered somewhat. Their sound also changed to an almost unrecognisable one, turning almost completely to a jazz sound, rather than the quirky, Dadaist-lyric infused former band they originally were. However, if you are familiar with their first two releases, do not be put off, as this album contains one of the greatest Canterbury tracks of all time (although musically quite removed from their earlier sound), "Moon In June". The rest of the album however may not be enjoyable if you are not keen on jazz rock (think of Nucleus as an example).

For me though, this is one of my favourite albums of all time, even with its minor flaws. The musicianship is astounding throughout and even though it may not be immediately apparent, the compositions are also excellent.

Now onto the music itself:

"Facelift" on Third, consists of very clever "cut and paste" work by Hugh Hopper, as the track actually joins parts of two live performances together. The first live excerpt was taken from the Fairfield Hall, Croydon gig of 4th January 1970, whilst the other excerpt was taken from the Mother's Club, Birmingham gig of 11th January 1970. Both live performances also featured Lyn Dobson on flute. Not only does Hugh Hopper manage to successfully cut and paste it all together, he also manipulates the music towards the end of the track, by reversing it. It is all cleverly done, but unfortunately, the original live recordings are not to studio recording quality, so even on the remastered version, you can hear a tape hum and crowd talking as the track begins. This of course is not too disturbing for me and I cannot imagine the track any other way. As for the playing, well this is of course excellent and Wyatt's drumming cannot be faulted (you have to remember he was not that keen that Soft Machine were heading in a jazz direction) and the rest of the band simply shine as well. No other version of Facelift quite sounds like this and so experimentally, it is quite an achievement.

"Slightly All the Time" (and the rest of the album) was recorded in the studio but from listening to it, you could not tell, as the band are in fine form here. Hopper's bass playing here is the key, whilst Ratledge also adds nice sedate Lowery splashes, as you would expect, adding an additional wonderful and unique solo. Wyatt here does not have much to do, but he again cannot be faulted. However, it is Elton Dean who really shines here on his alto sax and saxello. The second of his two solos really is very typically Elton at his best, especially as he has picked up his saxello here. Also present, is Nick Evans on trombone and Jimmy Hastings on bass clarinet who, much like Wyatt, does not have much to do but adds an interesting underlying melancholly. The way the whole band interact together is just wonderful, as they play off each other fantastically, especially Mike Ratledge, whose nimble fingers and acute hearing makes his playing almost match Elton Dean's saxophone playing note-for-note.

"Moon In June" is the crux of this album. A sublime piece in three-parts written by Robert Wyatt and almost exclusively performed by him. This would, as it happens, be the last "vocals" (Wyatt would continue his scatting at live concerts) you would ever hear by Soft Machine and would lead to Wyatt leaving the band after Fourth, as Wyatt wanted to focus more on vocals and less on drumming. The lyrics are also typically Wyatt and Canterburian, being, as always, quirky, odd and almost unfathomable; musically, it is also the most experimental and progressive track on the album, barely being jazz at all. Infact, it almost sounds like proto-Matching Mole at times, yet the fact it sounds like nothing else on the LP, does not detract from the rest of the tracks. I also do not miss the lack of Elton Dean's presence on here at all, as this is purely Wyatt's self-indulgence, playing drums, piano, organ, as well as supplying vocals. Hugh Hopper and Mike Ratledge perform on the final part of Moon In June which is actually around the halfway point, as some very distinctive fuzz bass and organ appear quite fantastically from nowhere. This therefore means that it is Wyatt himself that plays the wonderful bass solo that can be heard a 1/4 of the way through. Another typical Wyatt trait occurs on "Moon In June": the track turns into something much more sinister, after a melancholic start. Ratledge plays at his darkest here and I am very glad we all got the opportunity to hear it, as I do not always think he fully fulfilled his potential in Soft Machine. The ending is dark, minimalistic and encroaches on you unexpectedly. Rab Spall's violin sounds like it has been put through a washing machine (due to tape looping), yet it cuts the atmosphere completely into something acute and disturbing, darker even than on Wyatt's Rock Bottom album. Also present is Wyatt singing words from two separate Kevin Ayers songs "Singing a Song in the Morning" and "Hat Song", which are barely audible over bass, organ and violin.

"Out-Bloody-Rageous" (the finest use of tmesis in a song title!) builds up very slowly and very quietly... it is a track that fools the listener at first, it is almost musique concrete and Hopper has been playing with loops and reels again here, as you can hear a sped-up backwards organ and piano. This is just the 4-piece, with no added instruments and when the actual music starts, it is an organ-orientated tour-de-force (Ratledge wrote the track, as might be expected). This is the weakest track on the album for me, mostly due to the return of the musique concrete ambient soundscape a few times but is not a weak tune by any means. After the second brief reprise of the ambience, Elton Dean plays a delightful solo full of passion, this is a highlight of the cut for me and he could play all night and I would never get bored of it.

Reviewing an album such as Third is very difficult, because the album has 4 lengthy tracks, with many different sections, so actually hearing the music is essential in the appreciation of the overall quality of this groundbreaking album of 1970.

Third is not perfect and has its flaws, the biggest for me being the sound quality, which even on the remaster, is not excellent. It does not really detract from my overall opinion of the album though and I still rate it extremely highly.

So for me, this album is 4.8 out of 5 stars and an essential album for lovers of groundbreaking jazz rock and minimilism.

Review by thellama73
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars At the risk of being unpopular, I must confess that this album does very little for me. To begin with, I generally dislike jazz, but I like long free form experiments a lá Krautrock, so I thought I might enjoy this. However, it sounds like a mostly incoherent mess to my ears. Sure, there are moments of beauty, like the beginning of Out Bloody Rageous, but they are few and far between. The vocals, although rare, are quite bad and every time they come in I find myself wishing for their absence. The mastering job doesn't help either. I understand that it has been remastered, but the version I have sounds like it is playing on a twenty year old tape deck in a closet. Normally, I am not bothered by sound quality issues, but this is so glaring that it is hard to overlook. Maybe I should just stop trying to enjoy Canterbury or Jazz-Rock albums. :)
Review by febus
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam

What a difference a year makes!! It's very hard to believe that THIRD is following VOLUME TWO as there are barely any similarities between the band's first two releases and this then-double LP. Yes, this is the same trio RATLEDGE/HOPPER/ WYATT but SOFT MACHINE has expanded in the meantime to a .....septet adding no less than 4 horns indicating clearly which way the band intends to go. At the time of this recording, only ELTO DEAN on sax was left from this quartet and was added as a definitive new member of the band.

I only can imagine the facial expressions of some of the old SOFT MACHINE sound fans when they got this double album when it was released. I don't know of too many bands that so drastically changed their sound from one album to another. They left behind all the fun silliness, the wild psychedelism, weird lyrics , good humor to become a very serious jazz/rock/avant guardist band with very long uncompromising structured suites ( at least for some of them).

Where a lot of bands would have drown commercially with such a move, SOFT MACHINE would succeed and become one of the prog giant of the time with a very strong dedicated following. This is amazing as THIRD is a very,very challenging album, sometimes weird and definitely not very accessible, even for an advanced prog connoisseur. No one in the band was trying to hit the charts with THIRD. But the times were right for such a release in this burgeonning prog scene, especially in old Europe in countries such as England, Belgium, Holland and mostly France where they were considered as a leader of the prog scene as much as PINK FLOYD for instance.

By now MIKE RATLEDGE the keyboardist has taken control of the band, decided to go in a more jazz oriented way. He is responsible for the writing of 2 of the 4 suites that comprise this album. Also his organ playing all over the album is what makes also THIRD a stand-out; His organ is sounding absolutely sublime, haunting, i don't even know how he does to sound like that as i haven't heard anyone else doing the same thing.This is one of the magical aspect of THIRD as much is the Fuzz box bass from HUGH HOPPER who play lead most of the time adding rich unique textures to the music.

The role of ROBERT WYATT has been reduced to being a mere drummer (albeit always recognizable with his unmistaken very drums style)on the 2 RATLEDGE tracks and the HOPPER one...with no vocals at all. He is still the composer of one of the 4 sides of THIRD with one of my all time favorite tune , the beautiful MOON IN JUNE the only vocal piece, but what a piece. This is no longer like a funny silly ditty from the first two albums, but a well composed beautifully haunting memorable piece of music with the most gorgeous athmosphere only WYATT can create with its unique vocals. It is helped also a lot by the wonderful mysterious sound of the organ ,first played by WYATT himself, then helped by a great RATLEDGE solo and of course this rumbling fuzz HOPPER bass that add another layer of mystical beauty to the song. One of the most bewitching song i know, such a magnificent athmosphere, so unique no one else would be able to copy.

SOFT MACHINE was definitely not looking to please the masses with THIRD. How can you explain the decision to open the album with FACELIFT from HUGH HOPPER, one of the most challenging tune you will ever hear! Even from a prog stand, this is not easy listening, as many prog lovers have been turned off by FACELIFT. If you like challenge and new horizons in your prog, look nofurther: FACELIFT and THIRD are waiting for you, first to experience for sure, then hopefully you like them but this is not a guarantee!!!

FACELIFT is a live rendition of two different parts that have nothing in common being put together in a cut and paste style. The intro is very, very hard to get into with a lot of noise, distortions all over the place until an invasion of horns enter the scene helped by a powerful HOPPER. It took me many years back then to get into FACELIFT as i was listening only to the other 3 sides of THIRD. But little by little, with patience, i ''got '' it and now love this piece with its wonderful RATLEDGE organ solo and the no less great flute solo from JIMMY HASTINGS.

The 2 RATLEDGE suites are a little bit more ''easy '' to get in ( i said a little bit more!!!), especially OUT-BLOODY-RAGEOUS which starts and ends with tape loops of organ well in the style of avant-guardist musician TERRY RILEY. A vey spacey experience until the piano enters the frame and ELTON DEAN sax plays the main -great- theme followed by a -rageous-organ solo from MIKE until things quiet down very nicely for the second part of the suite with tranquil piano , then again the amazing sound of this gorgeous organ and ELTON DEAN horning nicely and emotionally all over.

The other RATLEDGE tune SLIGHTLY ALL THE TIME is a more delicate suite with different parts with some of sublime beauty like the inserted little HOPPER piece ''NOISETTE''. Some MILES DAVIS influences , especially from the 60s quintet, can be heard throughout, but it remains definitely a SOFT MACHINE affair with again the magic sound of this incredible organ, a delicate electric piano sounding in the background. The themes are played by the saxes of ELTON DEAN and LYN DOBSON ,but the hero is JIMMY HASTINGS who as a guest plays magical flute that adds another dimension to this great piece. The last part OF SLIGHTLY ALL THE TIME, named later BACKWARDS will even be covered by CARAVAN in their album FOR GIRLS WHO GROW PLUMP. BACKWARDS is the perfect example of the mesmerizing organ playing from M. RATLEDGE. A piece of utter beauty.

THIRD is one of the most amazing album ever released. It was well beyond its time opening the doors to plenty of other bands which would assume the continuity of the Canterbury sound. SOFT MACHINE was the pioneer and went no one else were before. THIRD would be their last great album as in the future other personal changes and lack of magical inspirations like on this album would dilute the quality of their next releases.

THIRD is an album of wild experimentations, utter sheer beauty, delicate sound landscapes and scary instrumentations exceptional musicianship and creativity, uncompromising stance......and with all that it was quite a successful commercial album and their concerts at this time were well patronized and often sold out!! The MIKE RATLEDGE CROWNING achievement ...with a little help of his friends HUGH and ROBERT! There is nothing similar to THIRD,an absolutely unique experience, of course not for every one taste , but an unforgettable treasure when you get into it. Just dare!! I am not allowed to give 6 stars, so will be...


Review by Flucktrot
2 stars Lots of jazz noodling, simple chord progressions and extended instrumentals; in other words, not much really good music.

Apparently it was becoming acceptable in 1970 to release double albums of primarily improv playing, given Miles Davis' Bitches Brew the previous year and other similar releases. I'm glad that trend did not continue. Third features only four songs, but each of these "songs" is basically three or four extremely simple melodies (in some cases, the more appropriate term would be "freakout" or "groove") repeated for about five minutes with lots of sax and fuzz organ noodling placed on top. I won't even call these jams, because that insinuates some kind of virtuosity or meaningful progression: the feature instruments really play neither of these most of the time. Some of these grooves are certainly enjoyable, such as the distored middle section of Facelift, the up-tempo section of Moon in June about two-thirds through, and most of Slightly All the Time, but there doesn't seem to be much thought put into transitions and progression of the pieces.

As with most double albums, there's just too much filler and padding. Unfortunately, with Third we are forced to be patient to be rewarded with the truly enjoyable parts. There are many times when I'm just not that patient, and instead put on Nine Feet Undergroud by Caravan, which to my ears is everything that Soft Machine is trying to do with Third, except just much better all around. There is some four-star material, but simply not enough to earn a four-star rating.

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Third is the ( yes you´re right) third album from The Soft Machine. One of the most influential Canterbury scene bands. I really enjoy their two first albums which have the whimsical Canterbury vocal style and the soft jazz/ rock style ( and a shot of psychadelia) that characterizes that style. This third album is pretty far from that style though to my great disappointment. Soft Machine have changed into a jamming jazz/ rock combo with the emphasis on jazz. Now I ain´t that big a fan of jazz music unless it´s incorporated into rock and it´s the rock music that is the dominant part and I must say that I´m very biased towards this album. There is a great influence from Miles Davis Bitches Brew album here that can´t be denied even though The Soft Machine is of course still rooted in Canterbury.

The album consists of four tracks which are all very long ( 18 - 19 minutes). Facelift starts the album and it´s the worst song here IMO. Lots of noisy organ sounds start the song. This intolerable noise lasts for a lot of minutes before some real music kicks in. Besides the enjoyable jazz themes which are primarely played by the brass section this song consists of endless be-bop/ free jazz soloing that I can´t stand. For me Facelift is a really bad start to Third. I almost stopped listening after that song. Slightly all the Time is a bit more moderate jazz/ rock but I´m still not enjoying myself much.

Moon in June is clearly the best song on Third. First of all it has vocals from Robert Wyatt and it has a much more dark and psychadelic mood. There are many great parts in this song ( just listen to Hugh Hopper´s bass playing. It´s really great) but also some annoying parts. Overall it´s a great song though. Out-Bloody-Rageous is allright but again too jazzy for me.

The musicianship is outstanding and one of the things I do enjoy when listening to Third. Robert Wyatt is an adventurous drummer, and the same can be said about bassist Hugh Hopper and keyboardist Mike Ratledge. To explore new ground is the key sentence on Third. Both structurelly and style wise. There are lots of different brass players on the album and they all play a big part in the new sound of The Soft Machine.

The production is very good.

Over 70 minutes of music is a lot to swallow and it has taken me some time to get through Third. I think it´s a very inaccessible album, but it has grown a little on me since my initial listening session. It will probably never be my favorite Soft Machine album ( that spot is reserved for Volume 2) but I know that it will grow even more on me if I keep listening. It started out as a 2 star album for me, but since I can hear potential and it has grown a bit on me I will rate it 3 stars. I´m a bit undecided though so I might up- or downgrade Third in the future.

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Soft Machine are experimental pioneers that fuse jazz with all sorts of styles to inject their own blend of progressive rock. Highly recommended by a certain magazine as one of the top 40 prog albums, I decided to invest in this album. 'Third' is the third album for the band of course and it features 4 tracks of considerable length that originally took up the entire side of the vinyl double album. A challenge at first to listen to, the music tends to develop and even changes with every listen. Admittedly, you have to be in the mood for this and you have to have infinite patience as the music moves unremorsefully from the whispered minimalism of a single instrument to the huge sound of sax, drums, guitars and keyboards, among others. When Soft Machine hit their stride they are excellent to listen to. But the album is a disappointment if you are expecting a style similar to Caravan, Camel and Renaissance - THE best Canterbury music on the planet.

Robert Wyatt has a chance to shine with his vocals on 'Moon in June' the sleeper of the album and perhaps one of the highlights of Soft Machine. Indeed the track is found on most 'best of SM' compilations. Wyatt does a terrific vocal on this album, as good as his solo efforts on 'Comicopera' in fact, recorded many years later. 'Moon in June' is simply brilliant on every level.

The lyrics are actually Wyatt's improvisations, as if his voice was just another instrument, and are worth looking at in detail: Here is what I can make out of the lyrics.

MOON IN JUNE On a dilemma between what I need and what I just want Between your thighs I feel a sensation How long can I resist the temptation I've got my bird, you've got your man So who else do we need, really Now I'm here, I may as well put my other hand in yours While we decide how far to go and if we've got time to do it now And if it's half as good for you as it is for me Then you won't mind if we lie down for a while, just for a while Till all the thing I want is need I want you more than ever now We're on the floor, and you want more, and I feel almost sure That cos now we've agreed, that we got what we need Then all the thing is needs are wanting I realized when I saw you last We've been together now and then From time to time just here and there Now I know how it feels from my hair to my heels To have you on the horns of my dilemma (spoken) Oh, Wait a minute (I always think he makes a mistake here....) Over, Up, Over, Up, Down Living can be lovely, here in New York State oh, but I wish that I were home and I wish I were home again back home again, home again There are places and people that I'm so glad to have seen Oh, but I miss the trees, and I wish that I were home again The sun shines here all summer Its nice cause you can get quite brown, Oh, but I miss the rain, tickytackyticky And I wish that I were home again, Living is easy here in New York State oh, but I wish that I were home again, Just before we go on to the next part of our song Let's all make sure we've got the time, Musicmaking still performs the normal functions background noise for people scheming, seducing, revolting and teaching That's all right by me, don't think that I'm complaining After all, it's only leisure time, isn't it Now I love your eyes, She's learning to hate, but it's just too late for me It was the same with her love, It just wasn't enough for me But before this feeling dies, Remember how distance can tell lies You can almost see her eyes, is it me she despises or you You're awfully nice to me and I'm sure you can see what her game is She sees you in her place, just as if it's a race And you're winning, and you're winning She just can't undertsand that for me everything's just beginning until I get more homesick So before this feeling dies, remember how distance tells us lies. Singing a song in the morning, Singing it again at night Don't really know what I'm singing about, But it makes me feel all right

For this track alone, I have to award the album 3 stars. It is outstanding prog rock.

All these lyrics are improvised would you believe? And they are fun to listen to and work so well with the music it is quite stunning. 'Moon in June' is so good it causes one to wonder why the rest of the album does not measure up. Instead we have three instrumentals that are interesting, even fascinating on the first listen, but on subsequent listens they are hard to fathom, mind numbing and none of them stick in the memory banks because they offer mere improvisations. I can't remember any of these tracks and yet have played it a number of times. I know I liked Out Bloody Rageous at first but its free jazz form is once again more a curiosity than a proper song. I find it frustrating that the band seemed intent on mere improvisation for improvisation's sake and have somehow managed to sacrifice form for innovation. I love innovation, that is why King Crimson are one of my favourites of all time, however Soft Machine haven't got the same appeal because they lack structure, and are therefore very inaccessible, unless you are prepared for a free jazz festival.

Soft Machine took risks and I can understand what they were trying to achieve as pioneers of the craft, however it is not really listenable music for the same reasons that they are trying to be innovative. It is one thing to think outside the box, but the box should at least be at least entertaining at some level. Music should have more to offer than mere experimentation. So the music tends to suffer in terms of structure, perhaps this is the point of course, but it doesn't make the music any more endearing, in fact quite the opposite. I find myself resisting their style of music because it feels long-winded and does not go anywhere. Indeeed some of it is outright repetitious. In their day, this was ground breaking, to produce an album of double length with only one song on each side. If they had included lyrics perhaps the tracks would have felt more like songs than an orchestration. Other albums that were double with one song to each side include the excellent 'Tales from Topographic Oceans' by Yes, and they really excelled in their craft, it is such a complex album, it never becomes dull and repetitious. But SM's 'Third' was over ambitious and inaccessible.

If you love jazz fusion, and orchestral works, Third is perhaps the album for you. I can see how it would appeal a fan of that type of genre. Unfortunately, as much as I wanted to I just could not get into this album, and I have been turned off listening to any more Soft Machine as a result. Pioneers, yes, Enjoyable music, no.

Review by MovingPictures07
5 stars Brilliance. Easily Soft Machine's finest moment and a balance between their jazz and progressive/Canterbury leanings.

1. Facelift- My favorite Soft Machine track and one of my favorite tracks that I've ever heard. This is very experimental but it works extremely well. The opening is pure genius; I love it so much. It really shows you what Ratledge could do with his keyboards and question what music is. After the crazy facelifting intro, the song then travels more in jazz territory. It is amazing, to say the least. The whole band is perfect and the song works so well. The title of this song really does fit... Flawless. 10+/10

2. Slightly All The Time- Great track and amazing playing as usual. This is my least favorite on here if I had to pick, but that doesn't say much. There is a free jazz feel to this one, except with usual Soft Machine qualities to it. 8/10

3. Moon in June- Wyatt's track. This is where you hear the Canterbury influence, and it works! He actually did all of the instruments himself for the first 9 minutes or so until other members decided to join in and help him with it. It's so refreshing to hear Wyatt drumming here because he's one of my favorites and his drumming unfortunately isn't recorded near as much as I'd like. Great mood here, the composition is unique and extremely well-crafted. 9/10

4. Out-Bloody-Rageous- Wow.... I wish I had written those keyboard parts. That is absolutely beautiful. Those parts alone make the track, but the jazz here also is of note. Great playing all around as usual and the interesting production of the album continues. I absolutely love this one. 10/10

A groundbreaking piece of history that your collection shouldn't go without. However, be warned, if you do not like jazz or can't stand experimental keyboards and production, you might not attach to this one right away.

Review by crimson87
5 stars Bitches Brew meets Krautrock meets Canterbury!

Mind-blow-ing: 1- Producing allucinatory effects.

2- Intensely affecting the mind or emotions

Now , when it comes to this record I think both definitions are suitable. During 75 minutes your mind will be affected by long improvs , sonic exprimentation and supreme mucisianship. As we know , Vol 2 had already shocked our minds with a 35 min run of psychedelia and Dadaism.But is anyone would have told me that the band was going to evolve like this I would not believe it on a hundred years!!

By this time the Soft Machine added sax virtuoso Elton Dean that placed the band's sound on a new level he would be a permenent member of the Machine for several albums. As a four man unit - the band was strong as ever.

This double album starts with Facelift , actually a live version that got several treatment on the studio. After a couple of minutes of Ratledge's magic a full blown jazzy sound emerges... No! it's not jazz it's more like a tribal chant that will guide you to sonic extasy!! This track is esencially a tape collage (as many tracks from Bitches Brew) and a sudden change comes at the 9 minute mark when a flute improv by guest member Jimmy Hastings ( Pye's brother) starts. When you think nothing more will happen , there it comes the tribal chant again and grabs you by the balls to give the song a proper ending.

Slighty all the time I hear this album second number I can't do anything but stare in numbness being totally allienated by Hugh Hopper's basslines and , mostly Elton's Dean sax riffs one after another. I don't know where I could find saxophone moments like this in prog (Yes I know there's Starless) the brilliance of this track can only be compared to Coltrane's Giant Steps or Miles's Blue in Green. I will do justice to this track by saying is a modern jazz standard.

As I dissgression , a friend of mine was listening to this record while having a fix (lights out , insence candles on in order to create a proper ambience) And he got in awe when he saw that the basslines moved the smoke back and forth!! As high as he was , he may be right. Hugh's fuzz bass is one of the most unique sounds in progressive rock. Moreover , it can seriously damage your speakers if they are not good enough.

At the beggining the second LP we can hear the last song by the band that featured lyrics Moon in June. This tune is THE Canterbury scene official anthem more or less. Oddly enough Robert Wyatt improvises the vocal part and on the first half of the song he plays all the instruments , on the second half we can hear more improvising but this time mostly by guest mucisian Rab Spall with the violin. Moon in June combines both aspects of the band , on one side there are the whimsical (but not less beautiful) lyrics and vocals , while on the other there is the jazzier side of the band the one that will get more prominent as time goes by.

The masterpiece closes with a Ratledge track called Out Bloody Rageous. There is a heavy psychadelic feeling on the first 5 minutes thanks to his exprimentations with the Lowry and Hammond organs (not to say the lots of tape loops) After that the tracks changes into a jazzy mood much like Facelift , which is not bad by any means.

There is a point with this album yhat is very important and that is sound quality. It is even bad by 1970's standards. Raw and dissorted.However it feels like the band wanted to keep it that way to show that Third was mainly an experimental record. For that reason , many remasters were done in order to polish the sound. But let me tell you that I take my old CD edition over anything else ( OK not the LP perhaps) it keeps an old vintage feel which i love.

If you are new to the Canterbury Scene , probably Third is not the best place to go since is not the most representative record of the movement. It's advisable to get to the Land of Grey and Pink or to spend some time on the Rotter's Club for a start.

Review by Queen By-Tor
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Jazz from somewhere wonderful

There are a lot of albums in the progressive scene that utilize jazz music, there's even an entire subgenre dedicated to the mix! But even with all of the albums to emerge from the Canterbury or Jazz rock scenes, Third is still one of the most solid, the most mesmerizing, and the most impressive. This is one of those albums that can simply captivate you and leave you in a state of bliss as the table turns round and round. As with other ambitious prog albums of the day this one is very ambitious and takes many listens to finally click, and with 4 songs on 4 sides this is hardly surprising. Still, it's one of the most rewarding albums out there, and well worth getting into.

Of the 4 compositions none of them are weak, but some stand out above the others. Most notable of the whole bunch is the zoned out and totally bass-driven Slightly All The Time, which for children of the '90s almost sounds like it could have been the inspiration for the soundtrack to SimCity in its groove, but at 19-minutes manages to develop enough themes and go through enough movements to be truly impressive. The other standout among the bunch is the fan-favorite, Moon In June, a gorgeous tune that happens to be the only one on the album to contain vocals. This one comes off as more of a traditional prog epic thanks to its structure as opposed to free-flowing jazz as the rest of the tracks are, but is still just as impressive with its subtle keyboards and upbeat melodies.

The other two songs on the album are just as good, if more inaccessible than the other two. The album opener Facelift gets things of to a very thick start as it goes through 5-minutes of cacophony before actually starting with some smooth saxophone which develops as the rest of the song moves along. Out-Bloody-Rageous is a challenging and smooth piece which develops somewhat more like Slightly All The Time but still manages to stay unique with its own personality and becomes a little bit more 'cynical' in sound than its brothers for some reason, but still manages to maintain the album-wide sound.

All in all this is a tough record to get into but ultimately highly rewarding. Certainly essential, this is one of those 'key-records' that everyone who has a progressive music collection should hear. All you need to know is that it's jazz funneled into a progressive outlet and expressed though excellent musicians. 5-stars out of 5 and sublimely perfect from start to finish.

Review by Dobermensch
2 stars After much deliberation Soft Machine decided on the highly imaginatively entitled "Third" as the name for this album. I guess they couldn't be arsed. God!, I find this one really annoying. I listened to it in bed the other night and had to turn it off. Even at low volume the production values of this one are terrible. It sounds like it was recorded directly onto a Woolworths 1979 blank cassette! What were they thinking on? I mean, Soft Machine had quite a name for themselves back then. Surely Columbia Records must have heard this and demanded a re-think.

The whole album sounds like it was recorded in one take with no overdubs - and is completely humourless. At no point are listeners in any danger of hearing any semblance of a tune. What makes it even more annoying is the fact that it could have been pretty good - given a decent producer and studio, because, beneath the mud and blurriness there's something original trying to punch it's way out of this thick bag of custard. Damn, damn, damn.

Review by Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The Soft Machine's third release is chock full of creativity even if it isn't something I turn to frequently.

"Facelift" The epic album begins with a volley of weird noises and an array of seemingly random sounds. It's really chaotic, and of course nothing I particularly care to subject myself to. After about five minutes, though, those sounds morph into something completely different, an instrumental full of elements of jazz and brass instruments. Robert Wyatt's drumming is subdued, held back in the mix and muffled, which I find compliments the sound really well. Hugh Hopper's bass locks into funky groove for most of the piece and pushes the music along. There's some odd backmasking at the end of the piece, which makes me think of what The Mars Volta would be doing on Frances the Mute.

"Slightly All the Time" The beautiful harmonies and Hopper's thudding bass give way to light drumming and perfect saxophone playing that reminds me of "Cannonball Adderly" and John Coltrane on Miles Davis's Kind of Blue every time. The sudden rhythm change almost six minutes in that opens the door to the lovely flute always catches me by surprise, and is a welcome shift in direction. The next segment has the piano hammering out chords in a 9/4 time signature as the saxophone returns. The loudest and strangest face of the piece eventually gives way to a sultrier jazz sound with a cool rhythm section, an almost "breathing" organ, and a mournful sax over all of it. The last few minutes suddenly pick things up, Hopper leading the way with his exquisite bass grooves.

"Moon in June" Wyatt uses his angelic voice on this lengthy song only, sounding great right from the start. Sometimes a little grit slips in, adding texture to his performance. The organ is another brilliant aspect of this song, carrying the chords along throughout most of the piece. Wyatt's drumming is likewise fantastic, full of nuances to fill out the sound. The fuzzy bass during the main instrumental section adds another dimension to an already very intriguing song. A more chaotic section builds until a quite respite of satisfying music. The most unconventional part of the song is the end, with choppy organ, wild electric violin, and some strange engineering- the bass sounds like it's being sonically manipulated, being dragged down and back up again. It's a purely hypnotic ending.

"Out-Bloody-Rageous" The beginning of this fourth and final track is a gorgeous blend of keyboard sounds that work around each other like a myriad of colorful butterflies dancing in the spring breeze. The jazz basis doesn't remain gone for long, though, as an upbeat bass and drum pattern enter, over which a brass theme plays. Hopper gets a short bass solo, but soon the music is cut abruptly, as a flowing, atmospheric section hails a more classical sounding piano piece, which welcomes back the other instruments that eventually play in a steady 5/8 time signature. Odder time signatures follow as the piece evolves. The flighty and whimsical electronic sounds that began this piece end it.

Review by tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars This is dedicated to two gentlemen who have recently passed away, one was a musician and the other his audience in solo form. "febus" was a much-admired reviewer/commentator/friend within PA who deeply loved and cherished his Soft Machine (a band that had a HUGE following in France). I had this in vinyl and cassette (remember those, kids?) and well, when I heard of Hugh Hopper passing I was a tad blue, went into a used CD shop (soon to be a distant memory) and what was sitting there, front and center? This album! I bought it ASAP, out of respect and opportunity.

This is a seminal landmark, vastly experimental at a time when experimenting with sex, drugs and rock n roll was the credo by which many wanted to live. The music inside has been well documented, so I will keep to a more impressionistic review , trying to capture the underlying ferocity of inspiration that gilded this recording from the opening "Facelift" groove to the "Return to the Bedroom" finale. The philosophy of this band was to boldly step beyond existing rock conventions and sonically abuse their instruments = a wildly distorted organ, a fuzzed almost nuclear bass and the choppiest polyrhythmic drumming ever! Decorating this mass of sound would be odd sax, deranged flute and weird strings. They called this osmosis of jazz, rock and prog, "Canterbury" (yeah, location, location, location). It remains as vital today as it was then, proving how much rock music has regressed in recent times. This is not easy listening, requiring patience, open-mindedness and a special mood to truly enjoy its ultimate message, that of a freedom of expression devoid of any strict conventions.

In Memoriam to Antoine aka "febus", here is his final paragraph from his stellar review: "THIRD is an album of wild experimentations, utter sheer beauty, delicate sound landscapes and scary instrumentations exceptional musicianship and creativity, uncompromising stance......and with all that it was quite a successful commercial album and their concerts at this time were well patronized and often sold out!! The MIKE RATLEDGE CROWNING achievement ...with a little help of his friends HUGH and ROBERT! There is nothing similar to THIRD, an absolutely unique experience, of course not for every one taste, but an unforgettable treasure when you get into it. Just dare!"

5 Hopping Anthonies

Review by Kazuhiro
4 stars They continued and the history of Softs might not have continued if their debuts were not evaluated in the United States. Softs dares the tour in the United States and has chosen the road of dissolution at once. Probe Label that puts the debut album on the market takes out the story of the re-formation of the band to Wyatt. Kevin Ayers never returned though Wyatt that was the return to Britain was contacted to the member of the band. And, Softs newly produces "Volume2" on Hugh Hopper. And, after doing the recording session for On Air of BBC at the same time, they unite the tour in the home country. This flow becomes one step to this album.

The state is obviously revolutionized and has advanced for "Third" though tried the approach from psychedelic by Softs till then. The idea of the masterpiece of the tune and the advancement of the technology of the performance remarkably appear to it. And, the influence that the existence of Hugh Hopper had on the band is large and the composition and the arrangement of the tune cause the proceed of Jazz Rock. They are recording "Third" in the studio on January, 1970. Section of wind instrument of Lyn Dobson-Nick Evans-Jimmy Hastings in addition to member of main of Ratledge-Hopper-Wyatt-Dean. And, it is composed of eight person organization with Rad Spall of Violinist. The element of pop and psychedelic that they were doing obviously shifts to the element of Jazz. It was the first time that Vinyl was two classes for them. And, even guest's member was a measurable figure in Canterbury Scene.

The album starts from "Facelift" that Hugh Hopper composed. The sound that Ratledge begins to spin distorts and creates the world ..subtle and profound.. mysterious. The rhythm changes into the element with the complexity and the tohubohu it shifts gradually. And, the whole ascends to heaven in the fantasy by the flute of Jimmy. It recalls the feeling of Miles Davis a little. It faces the following tune as the tohubohu continues as it is.

"Slightly All The Time" has the melody to feel the frame of Softs really. The element of Jazz considerably has and the composition of the tune has strongly had the element connected with "Fifth" with "Fourth". The rhythm of Wyatt has the relations the melody and between of Dean in the very sensuality. Softs is really one of the most important bands in Canterbury. The arrangement of the wind instrument is also splendid each other. And, the melody of moving Ratledge will wrap the listener while keeping early Passage. The melody rushes into the climax. This melody appears in the last tune collected to album "For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night" of Caravan. The name of Ratledge is done in tunes of the fact deflecting and credit is done.

The tune faces the third. "Moon In June" can been announced even by the session of BBC before this album is produced. It has a more mysterious element in this Version though live had a little rough element. Version announced in BBC is collected to "Triple Echo" back. The fast and slow of the melody and the rhythm has a sweet, painful flow. The song of Wyatt has the individuality thought only for him to be able to put. The organ of Ratledge promotes it to the melody before long chaotically. This tune was made and Softs never never made the tune to which lyrics adhered at the end. It might have been a result of the thought of Dada of Wyatt having the ditch a little with the band.

The tune that decorates the end of the album is "Out-Bloody-Rageous". A cool melody is performed from Intro with a similar element to "Facelift" in early Passage. The time that they had transfered the register to CBS was really time of the revolution for Softs. It is true that they were important people in Canterbury. Ad-Rib of cool Ratledge suddenly changes into inter play like Coltrane.

The performance and knowledge have greatly advanced to Softs by this album. However, it was time when it began to dye the band to the color of Hopper and the thought of Wyatt established the route besides Softs little by little. It is a very important work for ..some work since album.. Canterbury. Anyway, it is a progressive album.

Review by snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Welcome to the Strange and Magic World of Soft Machine! This, third, album is near classic, but in fact is album in transition. If two first band albums were kind of psychodelic pop songs, there we have very different sound. Album ( originally - double LP) consists of just 4 songs,what means that that each song took one LP side. Only one song contains vocal ( of very specific Robert Wyatt voice), all others are fully instrumental.

First album composition is complex psychodelic piece without structure and with some avantgarde elements. To be honest, for me it's a weakest album song, with roots somewhere in earlier band period.

Other three songs are all excellent jazz-rock fusion gem! Well balanced mid-tempo compositions with complex drums and filled with sax solos are fantastic pieces of serious rock based jazz fusion. All them have structure and rhythmic textures, all are deep and fresh at the same time. Differently with usual jazz-fusion ( as RTF or Mahavishu Orchestra), that music is coming not from jazz roots, but from psychodelic and symphonic rock roots. It's rare balance between very intelligent rock ( without pose, without overdrive,etc) and best jazz of it's time.

Of course, the band's line-up is in it's top-point, with added great session brass section.

As often, Canterbury Scene there is more social and geografical name, not musical style. As for me, speaking about Canterbury sound I am waiting for some folk-psychodelic rock with jazz elements in the vein of early Gong ( which in fact, was French band established by Australian beatnik). Here you have different sound, less "hippie" atmosphere, more jazz-rock and fusion oriented sound.

Whenever Soft Machine has few different musical periods in their history, I can recommend their "third" album as perfect example combining both some early psychodelic roots with jazz- rock fusion of highest level. Really great album!

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Quite an album to get into. I had a first try at it when I was 17, I was into jazz-rock at the time but I must have been expecting the immediacy of Mahavishnu. So it didn't work out and I put it aside.

But thanks to prog archives one is constantly reminded that even with an album collection of more then 1500 units, one still doesn't know anything about music. (Frustrating site this is :-) So, going by some recent reviews here I dug this one up again and now it works just perfectly. Even at the first listen I was finding myself pleasantly nodding along with it.

In following Miles Davis' earlier experiments, this album must have been groundbreaking in the rock scene. Listening to Out-Bloody-Rageous I can hear Magma and Gong just around the corner. The playing is very tight and focused. The mood is very intense, the music is devoid of needless noodling and has plenty of space to breathe.

Excellent stuff. Candidate for a 5 star if I get to return to it more frequently. In the meantime I'll probably need to check out some of their other albums.

Review by friso
5 stars The Soft Machine - Third (1970)

An introvert masterpiece...

1. Facelift (18:54) 2. Slightly All The Time (18:14) 3. Moon In June (19:18) 4. Out-Bloody-Rageous (19:17)

Such an ambitious design: a double lp with four tracks clocking 18-19 minutes each. Furthermore the pieces were written by different members of the band. Facelift was written by Hugh Hopper and is product of two live recordings mixed into one long track. This track has an avant-garde opening-section and is therefore not the right place to start when you buy this album. Slightly all the Time is jazz-rock session written by Make Ratlegde and also the last track ambient/electronic/jazzy Out-Bloody-Rageous was written by him. The third piece was written by Robert Wyatt and has a very recognizable sound for the Canterbury rock movement.

The recording quality. There has been a lot of discussion about the recording quality of this album, some find it to be bad, others admire it's focussed feel. IMHO the quality of the recording is different on the four tracks. The live recordings of Facelift are great during the avant-garde beginning, but are messy during the jazz-rock moments. Slightly all the time has an introvert jazz sound and could have used some treble on the notes of the wind sections, but is still very nice to listen to. The recording of Moon in June (by Wyatt) is very good in my opinion. The sound of track fits the compositions and makes this an essential Canterbury recording. The sound effect are done perfect. The final track sound as good as the second track of the album.

The great think about Soft Machine's third is the diversity of the album and it's appeal to listen to the different sides on different moments of the day. One gets an ambient/jazz piece with tape manipulations to start or end the day, one of the finest Canterbury tracks of Wyatt to space out in the evening, a jazz rock piece you can listen to all the time (even as background music) and an avant-garde piece for the heavy experiences you might like to have when your girlfriend isn't around. I don't think this record was meant to be listened to as one piece, which is good, because I don't like to listen to double lp's with songs that sound the same.

I can recommend this record fully to people who also like jazz and fusion, and I can recommend Robert Wyatt's Moon in June (side three) to everyone interested in the progressive genre. Canterbury fans will find enough to like and people who are into electronics and tape manipulations will find an early ambitious track on side four. For me this is a perfect double album: It's like having four short records. There always at least one track I'm in the mood for.

Conclusion. A classic Canterbury/progressive/jazz-rock record with an introvert sound, but with very much fresh ideas and a great concept. People like me, who can enjoy all moments of this diverse offering will never want to loose this record again. It has become a standard for measuring other Canterbury and fusion albums. It motivated me to get some more Soft Machine right away! Four stars in general, but if you like all styles mentioned you can add another star yourself.

* Edited *

This record has grown very well on me. I now understand this is one of the biggest masterpieces of the progressive genre. Five stars is therefore the least I can do.

Review by stefro
5 stars Undoubtedly Soft Machine's masterpiece, THIRD(1970) saw the group move further away from their psychedelic-pop roots and deep into instrumental, jazz-fusion territory. Eschewing vocals(apart from some brief 'la-la-la'-ing), THIRD was a radical departure for this most radical of groups, with the album featuring just four, lengthy tracks that showcased the group's dynamic interplay and their willingness to experiment and push the boundaries of rock, pop and jazz as far as they could. For the recording of THIRD, the line-up had settled down to a five-piece, with Robert Wyatt(drums, percussion, vocals), Hugh Hopper(bass), Mike Ratledge(organ, piano), Elton Dean(sax) and Lyn Dobson(sax, flute) augmented by guest musicians Nick Evans(trombone), Rab Spall(electric violin) and Jimmy Hastings(flute, clarinet). Despite tensions with the group - Wyatt wanted to maintain a more 'pop' outlook; the rest were jazz freaks - the old cliche of 'conflict-sparks-creativity' spurred the musicians on. Ths eclectic, scattershot and sometimes wittily humourous songs of the group's previous two albums, THE SOFT MACHINE(1968) and VOLUME 2(1969) gave way to a scintillating, late-night fusion odyssey filled with breathtaking musicianship and ethereal soundscapes. All evidence of the group's poppier past had been wiped away, this move influenced no doubt by the furious jazz-rock experiments of Miles Davis and his ground-breaking 1969 album BITCHES BREW As a result, THIRD would bring Soft Machine into line with the new fusion movement that had sprung up during the late 1960's, and, from 1970 onwards the band wandered deeper and deeper into an almost avant-garde jazz style, playing their gigs not at the usual 'rock' venues but at prestigious places such as the Royal Albert Hall. Soft Machines first two albums were wonderful amalgamations of late-sixties psych-pop, jazz edges and canterbury-style rock. However, with THIRD, the band created an awesome double-album that let the music speak for itself. Each piece, whether it be the opening track 'Facelift'(which was recorded live at the Fairfield Hall, Croydon), the album's strongest track 'Slightly All The Time' or the album-closer 'Out-Bloody-Rageous', resonates with a beautifully-crafted sound-and-style that uniquely merges the worlds of rock and jazz. Soft Machines reputation was built on immaculate musicianship, and in chasing the jazz ahead of the rock allowed themselves the full scope of their own impressive abilities. As both a jazz-fusion album and a progressive rock piece THIRD is, simply put, a genuine masterpiece.
Review by The Sleepwalker
4 stars Four sides, four pieces, that always is a risky formula. On Soft Machine's Third this works out quite nicely actually. Four experimental compositions, all somewhat different from each other yet all driven by dissonance, jazzy improvisations and an overall intense and powerful feel. Third is not an easy thing to digest, but perhaps it's worth the try.

"Facelift" opens the album, being probably the most dissonant and menacing piece on the album. Crushing distorted organ, brooding saxophone soloing and an incredibly fierce sound. Just like all other pieces on the album, there are several radical changes in the music after some time has passed, preventing the music from getting dull. Still, you can expect intense improvisational soloing that could last for quite a while. This is in particular evident on the jazzy "Slightly All The Time", a piece driven by intense saxophone solos and a thick bass sound, that smashes you down on the floor and holds you in its grip.

Whereas all other pieces are completely instrumental, "Moon In June" features Robert Wyatt's excellent vocals. Despite being somewhat harsh and rough the first half of the song also features some soothing melodies and an overall benign mood. However, a sudden change near the 10 minute mark turns the piece into a dissonant beast in the vein of "Facelift", with menacing distorted bass and electric violin. Closing the album is "Out-Bloody-Rageous", which again is a jazzy piece more so than a dissonant piece. The first 5 minutes of it is backwards noise, likeable, but not for more than a minute or so. However, as soon as the main theme comes in "Out-Bloody-Rageous" proves to be a wonderful piece, though it never quite reaches the heights of the other compositions, and tends to drag a bit more than those.

Though Third tends to drag at times, it is a very daring and unique release. Be aware that Third might not be an easy ride, with all its improvisation and dissonance, but if you aren't scared away by such things, it might work out very well for you.

Review by frippism
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars I studied jazz for quite a few years, and I had enough. I hated jazz. In my honest opinion, Soft Machine created for me the ideal jazz album. Eratic, interesting, confusing, intense, again interesting, melodical (but still enough interesting free jazz improv aspects to be still allowed to be called at least fusion). Absolutely beautiful in certain parts and absolutely mind blowing in others, this is a work of art.

Let's start with "Facelift"- Wow. Well I should probably say more. The beginning has Ratledge playing the creepiest sounding keyboards (I honestly don't know what he exactly plays but it's fantastic) I have ever heard. The piece slowly builds up to the main melody and then to pretty much about 13 minutes of insane solos. The ending is particularly good, with a very strong use of tape loops (I assume as being courtesy of the amazing bassist Hugh Hopper). Now without a doubt the jazziest piece from all the four is "Slightly All Time" Which consists of the a fairly known jazz structure, more or less. The song goes through several rhythm changes (yes that's the name of a famous jazz standard) and through several different parts before reaching another fantastic ending. Overall the jazziest piece, but still very very good and very groundbreaking.

The second record starts with the wonderful "Moon In June", which has the incredible Robert Wyatt singing. This is a beautiful song, with a very melodic first half, while the second is this furious and very dissonant soloing. I don't know what happens but the song just explodes to into this insane free jazz fiesta. I don't what this album has with endings, but I find that all four pieces have absolutely perfect endings. The insane electric violin at the end of "Moon in June" is one of the most amazing things I have ever heard. Beautiful yet very weird (in a good way of course), I honestly don't understand how they thought of such a brilliant thing to end the piece with. Possibly my favorite song from the whole record is "Out-Bloody-Rageous". The song starts from this absolutely incredible use of tape loops. I have never heard such a beautiful build up to a song. Absolutely genius. The beginning has a very ambient/electronic feel to it, which I personally love. The piece progresses into the fantastic main melody. And later into a very nice piano interlude by Ratledge. I have to say that this ending here takes the cake, as the piece returs to the tape loop beginning to give the album as a whole a "closing" of sorts.

Overall this is a masterpiece. I can put this record amongst my top 3 favorite records ever. Probably not for everyone (just like anything else), especially for the some who really dislike jazz just from hearing the word. But I suggest this record to all, and this record should definitely be given a proper chance and much attention to be fully appreciated.

Review by zravkapt
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A double-album with only four tracks, years before Tangerine Dream and Yes did the same thing. This is the last Softs album featuring vocals(unless you count "Over 'n Above" on Land Of Cockayne). The sound here is pretty awful, so badly recorded that this is a prime example of "you can't polish a turd". Even Vol. 2 and Fourth sound much better. Oh well, a shame because this album has some of the best music the Machine ever made. Ratledge, Wyatt and Hopper are here joined by guest musicians; the only one who will stay for the next album is saxophonist Elton Dean. I don't know if he is *officially* a member here, but he was until Karl Jenkins joined.

"Slightly All The Time" is the most trad jazz thing here and my least favourite. This track is not far removed from what Miles Davis was doing at the same time, only Davis was doing it better. "Facelift" was mostly recorded live but still sounds as bad as the studio stuff. There is a part here which sounds similar to a section in "21st Century Schizoid Man" but I doubt it's deliberate plagiarism. Lots of distorted organ and fuzz-bass here. Dean's avant-jazz leanings are most noticeable on this song. If this was a single album with just the second record, I would be tempted to give this 5 stars. "Moon In June" and "Out-Bloody-Rageous" are two of the best things Softs ever did.

"Moon In June" is a Wyatt piece where he sings and plays most of the instruments himself. Hopper and Ratledge came in near the end and you can hear a violin that gets sped-up and slowed down for the remainder of the track. Trippy! The first half of "Moon" is just drums, vocals, organ and electric piano. This sounds very different to anything Wyatt did on his first solo album the same year, End Of An Ear(ha!). That album also *sounds* better than Third. "Out-Bloody-Rageous" is also different to the first two songs. Beginning with a Terry Riley-inspired backwards electric piano loop, it then goes into a jazz-rock section before calming down with some nice piano. The backwards loops came back later. Superb.

The jazz influences start to show up on Vol. 2, get expanded on here, but it is the next two albums were they go flow blown avant-jazz-rock. This is one of Soft Machine's best albums and a good place to start for the more jazz-inclined. I think Vol. 2 is a better place to start with Softs for most and a great introduction to the Canterbury scene in general. Because of the sound/production and "Slightly" I can't give this more than 4 stars.

Review by ZowieZiggy
2 stars My problem with this (double) album is that it is fully jazz oriented. And free or symphonic or traditional (you name it) jazz has never been my cup of tea.

To digest the first track of this offering is rather difficult: improvisation, chaos, noise, cacophony. This is my perception of "Facelift". Not for me at all?Zero star, that's it.

So, I guess that I will be more on the side of Easy Livin's review than most other ones while I see all those very high ratings fot his release. I could cope very well with their debut album, not really with their second one. But the toughest is definitely this "Third" one.

Most of these four tracks are pure jazz mania; mostly in a free form which makes it even more difficult to appreciate. There are some good interplay (flute / keys) during "Slightly All The Time" that saves the bill. But I can't be laudatory about this work only for these few minutes of bearable music (sorry Antoine).

A section of this song is also very repetitive: the piano riff being rather boring after a while but it ends up in a quieter and symphonic jazzy part which is much more catchy and elegant.

The third song is really very good. Finally! Melodic vocals, excellent keyboards which are relayed with a superb bass play and a complex drumming. This is Canterbury at its best IMHHO. "Moon In June" is by far my favorite song of this offering: of course, the jazzy mood is not absent but it is closer to "Caravan" style or even "Camel" at times. This is the (only) highlight of this album.

The frenzy of the second part is absolutely delightful. After the first two tracks (but especially the first one), I wasn't expecting such a great track to be honest. It is a solid rating "increaser" in this case. The last track of this album is of no great savour to my taste and draws the whole work down to two stars.

Review by The Quiet One
5 stars Who said that the British couldn't play great jazz as the Americans?

Man, this is a psychedelic jazz gem yet to be heard by most jazz fans. Ok, probably most wouldn't dig it, but who cares? The Soft Machine's third release is one of a kind in the entire world and while it doesn't deliver spine-chilling moments as 'I Get Up, I Get Down' or climaxes as 'Apocalypse in 9/8', all of the classic Prog bands wished they could have made intense atmospheres and floating soundscapes as the ones featured on Third. Surely Miles Davis was also jealous of what this band made contemporary to the man's jazz rock experiments.

At times so fine and British-jazzy, at others so chaotic, sometimes dreamy as hell, yes, this is freaky jazz (rock?) bliss. Before I enter in details, I'd like to state that the overall production is rather weak but being 1970 not many had great productions either, so take that in mind. However, after all, this is majestic twisted jazz, who needs great production anyway?

First composition, 'Facelift', is the one that is most inclined towards free jazz and avant-garde out of the four huge compositions. It has a lot of dissonancy and experimental bits, though with repeated listens you will capture a bit of sense of the whole thing, but I got to admit that I usually skip this nowadays. Probably the only composition of the album that seems to be affected by the raw and dusty production, though it was recorded live. Mind you, when I'm in the mood for it, it's like listening to an extremely powerful and noisy rock jam which really rocks. But I probably don't get it hehe, if you're a fan of the freakier stuff of Henry Cow and The Mothers of Invention's most avant moments, and maybe some free jazz, you will get a better kick out of this than me.

Second composition, 'Slightly All the Time', announces The Machine's future albums (Fourth and Fifth), being heavily based on jazz with great saxophone playing courtesy of Elton Dean plus a great rhythm section. The composition evolves a lot, from gentle paces to faster ones, from beautiful melodies and moods to more ferocious ones. Definitely an amazing track.

Third composition is 'Moon in June', a composition that has a huge fan base and I, after repeated listens, became to be part of it. It's the only track featuring vocals; these are from the one and only Robert Wyatt, the drummer of the band. A tad bit melancholic and psychedelic at first, but in the very middle of the tune it all becomes another Soft Machine rockin' jazzy jam with a solid performance of overlooked keyboard master, Mike Ratledge. The ending is pretty much noise, featuring backward playing and a noisy violin, but since already from the beginning the track seems to be very schizophrenic in mood, it fits really well. Odd at first, but very rewarding after various listens.

Fourth composition, 'Out Bloody Rageous', is yet another incredible tune that is more akin to 'Slightly All the Time' in the jazzier aspect. But the highlight of this tune is not actually the jazzy playing, if not the five minute spacey intro which is pure bliss. Of course, the overall playing of the rest of the band in the rest of the composition is fantastic, great bass work and especially superb brass work, as well as a really fine keyboard solo courtesy of Mike Ratledge. Surely my favourite composition from the album.

No further comments other than my recommendation: Highly recommended if you're a jazz and fusion fan looking for something completely fresh, this may blow your mind, beware. For Prog fans in general, this is not an easy ride, if you're keen to delve through the Canterbury Scene you might better check Caravan or National Health, but for those of you more adventurous Prog fans who dare to listen to different kinds of music that one usually listens to, do me a favour and purchase Third.

5 stars: despite the initial track which I'm not completely fond of, the other three tracks complement the album in the greatest way, so I can't really make this a 4 stars album. This is The Soft Machine's unique jazz style masterpiece, previously they released a psychedelic jazz masterpiece, and in future years they would release a fusion masterpiece. What an amazing band.

Review by Sinusoid
4 stars Sometimes, things just need a few bats-at before you're finally able to understand; this Soft Machine album is one of those things. Although listed in the Cantebury section of the archives, THIRD leans moreso in the jazz-fusion direction. This is rough for those that are expecting soft, delicate melodies only to wind up with crazy freeform, halfway avant jazzy structures.

The wild card is Mike Ratledge's Lowrey organ through a fuzzbox which is what might lead you to believe that gnats went loose in the studio. ''Facelift'' is where this instrument is used to its fullest potential. The lineup and sound remind me of the jazz-rockers Nucleus minus Ian Carr (trumpet) and Chris Spedding (guitar).

THIRD is equidistant from Zappa's careful compositions, Davis's more embryonic approach and avant-garde free jazz. ''Facelift'' sounds like a live cut to these ears that has fair amounts of random doodling and Ratledge soloing. Only ''Out-Bloody-Rageous'' continues the freeform- ity, but also injects copius amounts of psychedelia and sax-heavy fusion.

THIRD also gets some notoriety for being one of the those albums to have four tracks across four vinyl sides (this is before Yes tried that tactic). The playing and idealising can lead to great ideas like the psych workout of the last track or the first half of ''Slightly All the Time''. Conversely, there is a fair amount of padding like the middle of ''Moon in June''.

It's one of the fusion classic albums along with albums like HOT RATS and BITCHES BREW. The only Cantebury moment here is the beginning of ''Moon in June'' featuring Robert Wyatt singing (rather beautifully). If long fusion excursions drive you nuts, you might want to skip this album. As for me, I'm actually going to give in to objectivity and not make the same rating mistake as I did on BITCHES BREW.

Review by thehallway
3 stars The Canterbury Scene has always been a vague genre, focusing more on the home-towns of bands than their actual music! The Soft Machine are of course, jazz fusion, with perhaps one Canterbury-esque member in Robert Wyatt (after all, he writes the whimsical lyrics). Therefore their labelling is fairly misleading, although it hardly matters in the case of Third, an album so widely praised that it will be difficult for any prog fan to ignore it. How ironic though, that it is taking me quite a while to actually start this review; it takes Soft Machine quite a while to start their album!

'Facelift' suffers from the overuse of psychedelic, dissonant burbling noises that so heavily populate early Pink Floyd albums. The first 5 minutes of the first track on an album is probably the most crucial point where you will gain or lose listeners... Well, having paid money for this album, I sat through it. The rest of the song is nothing more than an okay piece of jazz rock; probably better suited to being around 10 minutes than 18. 'Slightly All The Time' is an improvement, in the vein of Miles Davis fusion but perhaps a little less varied. This piece would be worthy of its length if there were some variation (I adore electric piano but even I become sick of it after this song... it doesn't even take a solo!). The drums and rhythms are the most interesting parts of side one and two.

Wyatt delivers his vocal piece 'Moon in June' on side three, characterised by Hammond chords and tongue-in-cheek lyrics. This too, turns into a jam, but is a good song and a bit more structured than 'Facelift'. I wouldn't go as far as to call it succinct though! The best part of this album is its finale, 'Out-bloody-rageous', which has the best improvisation, the best structure and dynamics, and a cool intro/coda reminiscent of Terry Riley's minimalism. The themes are catchy, the drums remain interesting and the soloing doesn't go on for an age. In this sense, the tracks on Third increase in quality chronologically in my opinion.

I'm afraid it isn't five star worthy to me, but Third is worth coming back to as the pieces get better with repeated listenings. Hopper is a great bass player and Wyatt is certainly underrated in the drum department. But one of the more attractive elements of this album (and something that will probably increase my taste for it in the future) is that it has more to offer than just jazz fusion. There are plenty of odd time-signatures, interesting chord progressions and changes of mood, as well as some crazy studio effects. Overall it is rather tackily constructed, with some moments that drag on, but the album's strong points kind of balance this out. Cleaner production and some editing would have created a Canterbury beast!

Review by colorofmoney91
5 stars Third by Soft Machine is one of my favorite jazz-fusion albums of all time. Though by a band with roots firmly planted in the Canterbury scene, I consider this particular album to be extremely strong jazz fusion.

"Facelift" starts off abrasive and noisy with bleak electronic that would immediately shut most people off to this album and band for good. But wait, it gets much better! Though I find this noise to be interesting, more interesting droney instrumentation soon follows. Okay, maybe not accessible at all. If you're looking for anything accessible, you can safely skip the rest of this review and start looking for other music to listen to. However, if you're looking for some fantastic jazz-fusion jamming a-la-Miles Davis then this is where you want to be, for sure. The following passages of this track contain some of the bouncy Canterbury feel of songs by Caravan, it is strongly topped with heavy jazz sax barking and funky bass jives. A beautiful jazz flute solo enters eventually and really sets the mood for the latter half of the track, which sounds like the softer parts of Miles Davis' Bitches Brew or In A Silent Way. The bass leads a fantastic groove the whole way through during another wild sax improvisation.

"Slightly All The Time" is my personal favorite track of the album, following a much more subdued sound with another fantastic bass line while the sax improvises over lightly. One thing that I never usually comment on is drumming, because I don't know much about percussion at all, bu the drums on this track always sound absolutely perfect to me. The track picks up pace a bit near the center, but it still equally as soothing as before, only this time with beautiful flute improv fluttering in the scene. Shortly the track become dark and adopts an almost creepy sound, giving of the feel of an abandoned castle. Very atmospheric for jazz fusion. The last passage is mostly beautiful smooth jazz fusion that evolves to end the song in hard fusion sax mode.

"Moon in June" is my least favorite on the album because of the inclusion of vocals, but it still manages to be quite beautiful. I consider the vocals on this track to be very juvenile, but the music that backs the vocals is great and would definitely stand better on their own, and there is even a fantastic guitar improv during in between one of the vocal verses. When the vocals take a break, the keys take over in an absolutely beautiful passage right before heavy guitars introduce a racey guitar improv solo backed by more funky bass and staccato keys. The track ends in bizarre avant sounds.

I'm not going to bother outlining the last track, because this is jazz fusion and I'm sure you get the point. The last track isn't much different than the other tracks present on this album, needless to say that it also is fantastic and very beautiful.

Most jazz fusion fans with a love for Miles Davis' electric era will find a lot to love here, but this music is slightly more progressive in structure than work by Davis. I highly recommend this to my fellow jazzy proggers.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Just hearing Soft Machine for the first time (never even heard of "Canterbury Scene" until joining PA!) What an awesome song is "Slightly All the Time"! (9/10) I can see where their influences come from (Miles) and who was influenced by them (Magma, Brian Auger, Caravan, Traffic, Gong, Rotter's Club, Brainbox, Focus, Supertramp, and so many others). And so much of "Moon in June" (8/10) sounds/feels like early RPI music--as well as Focus and early Supertramp. So melodic, emotional, and theatric--as well as bluesy. While I became used to "Facelift" (7/10) after a few listenings, it doesn't have quite the same warmth and exploratory freshness as the others. "Out-Bloody-Rageous" (9/10) has some awesome experimental keyboard work serving as intro, outro, and foundation to the up-tempo jam in the mid-section. My favorite section is that which starts with the return to solo keyboards at the very middle of the song (Synth & then piano). The song then builds on a more-traditional jazz motif--MILES DAVIS/JOHN COLTRANE- like--and then builds into an all-out jam--with kind of a "Love Supreme" feel to it. Beautiful! The outro sounds so much like future CAMEL! I love all the tempo and melody changes in this music. Great performances on each of the instruments. I can see why so many consider this an essential album--but I fear it is as much for its historic influence as it is the legacy of its four songs.

I'm inclined to give this only 4 stars as it is definitely, IMHO, an excellent addition to any prog lover's music collection and perhaps not essential for its songs, but I do believe it is 'essential' for true music lovers for the understanding and appreciation of the history of this, our beloved 'progressive rock.'

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars This is where the Soft Machine found their voice. And it happened by getting rid of the vocals. Sure, there is one song where Robert Wyatt gets to sing, but it's the instrumentals that really shine on this album.

The album is made up of four album-side long tracks. Three of the four are excellent works of jazz/rock fusion. The other, Moon In June, is performed mostly by Wyatt. It's not bad, but doesn't compare to the other three songs.

Facelift, spliced together from two different live performance, opens with some spacy psychedelic noises. At this point, the novice listener is unaware that the album will soon morph into a great work of fusion, powered by Mike Ratledge's keyboards and Elton Dean's sax.

Slightly All The Time sounds great as well. I especially like how trombonist Nick Evans wails away during his solo. Out-Bloody-Rageous is my favorite on the album, with some sections of backward organ passages. Some of the sections don't quite fit together, but that doesn't spoil the enjoyment.

Review by baz91
5 stars Warning: This album is not easy to digest!

However, once you do, you will almost certainly be 'full-up'. What I'm trying to get at, is that this expansive double album of avant-garde, psychedelic, prog-jazz music is an absolute masterpiece that I have yet to get tired of.

Firstly, a little history of how I came to buy this album. From listening to the likes of Yes, Rush, Gentle Giant etc, I knew buying and listening to a Soft Machine album was going to be a big step, as the group seemed remarkably 'un-progressive' from what I'd heard. I'd never been a huge fan of jazz, but the reputation of this group within prog circles had kept me intrigued, and when I saw 'Third' for a low price, I thought I should at least give it a shot in the name of prog. Since then, it has been one of the most rewarding albums I've ever purchased.

If you hadn't listened to any Soft Machine before, those bold letters spelling THIRD on the front look extremely intimidating. You have absolutely no idea what to expect from an album like this. Of course, the four sides of vinyl each have one long track, in the same manner of Yes's 'Tales From Topographic Oceans' (although here, I must stress, the similarities end).

The first of these is Facelift, a 'live' track, where I've put inverted commas to signify that this is actually a montage of two different live versions, where the tapes were cut and pasted together. After a few listenings, the cuts become quite easy to notice, especially when the band seem to get really quiet or really loud all of a sudden, or all the instrument noises change dramatically. This track is probably the most difficult to get into of the lot, mainly because of the experimental keyboard intro from Ratledge. After screeching away for 5 minutes, the music gets underway, and there are some amazing themes, and I personally love the opening melody, which is reprised near the end. On the latest CD version, a bonus live disc is included with an alternate version of Facelift, which gives you an idea of what this track would have actually sounded like in concert.

Side 2 brings us to Slightly All The Time, which is a no-bull[&*!#] jazz work out, and a sublime one at that. The fuzzy bass sound brings with it a warmth that will relax you as you listen to some brilliant music. I remember on the first listen, having already been nonplussed by Facelift, then listening to this track at the same level of indifference. That was until something caught my ear... that riff... it sounded similar to something I'd heard before... it was exactly the same as what I'd heard before... it was from Caravan's A Hunting We Shall Go suite! I couldn't believe what I was hearing! Being a Caravan fan, I relished this treat of a recording, and in fact, I think it's the little things that helped me to enjoy the album in its entirity. Whenever I need a good jazz song to relax to, I will turn to Slightly All The Time, as it is truly a wonderful piece of art.

I'd read before that Soft Machine had done away with all vocals in their music quite early in their career, so I was very pleasantly surprised when I heard Wyatt's voice ringing out at the beginning of Moon In June. I was also surprised at how long the lyrics lasted. I was expecting there to be extremely few lyrics, but Wyatt sings almost continually for about 9 minutes, with the remaining 10 minutes devoted to an intense instrumental section. This is definitely the best track of the lot, and is extremely similar to the material heard in the previous two albums. The lyrics are full of meaning and emotion, and the music grabs hold of you and really makes you listen. The best part of the song (and indeed of the album), is the 3 minute section that starts at around 10 minutes in. These 3 minutes are so fiercely intense, and yet somehow restrained, and the whole section never fails to give me goosebumps. The final 4 minutes of the song is devoted to a repetitive experimental drone, which includes a recording of a violin played at different speeds. Whilst it would be easy to argue that the drone is there to bring the song to 19 minutes, I actually think it's wonderful, as it gives you some time to work out what the hell you've just been listening to. This track truly blows my mind, and it'd be worth buying the album just to hear it!

The final side houses Out-Bloody-Rageous which is halfway between Facelift and Slightly All The Time. The song begins with a 5 minute ambient intro, which seems to last an eternity. After this, hot semi-improvisational jazz erupts seemingly from nowhere. The final ten minutes of the song seem darker in nature, but are nonetheless entertaining. Probably my least favourite of the four songs, but still a worthy listen.

After I'd heard this album for the first time, I recall bugging my friend loads to try and get him to try it. I wasn't really sure why I was doing this, as I didn't really like it that much at that point, but I just knew it was a really striking album. Eventually it grew on me, and I realised it was a fully fledged masterpiece, and undoubtedly worthy of 5 stars. With this album, Soft Machine opened my eyes (or indeed my ears) to a whole new kind of music and listening experience, one that I previously thought I personally could never enjoy. Even if you're not into jazz, you should give this album a go, and maybe you'll understand it too.

Review by Warthur
5 stars The culmination of a positive frenzy of jazz-rock experimentation, lineup shuffling and musical growth since the release of Volume Two sees the Softs put out one of the most ambitious albums the then-young prog scene had seen to date: a double album consisting of just four side-long tracks, well before either Yes or Tangerine Dream would produce such things themselves. And what tracks! With their unique brand of free jazz-influenced fusion shot through with lingering psych proclivities, the Softs make sure that despite the album consisting of nothing but epic track after epic track, it's never dull.

A true highlight of the album for Robert Wyatt fans is Moon In June, the sole track featuring his vocals (Wyatt being kept strictly concentrating on his drums on the other tracks). A true labour of love on Wyatt's part (early demos date back to 1968, and fragments of it were originally songs on the band's 1967 demo recordings with Daevid Allen), the track infamously was a cause of great conflict in the band - the other members were extremely reluctant to contribute to it, so to a large extent it's a multi-tracked Wyatt solo performance. And, of course, outside of Moon In June Wyatt's vocals were pretty much exterminated from the band's sound by this point - which I would decry as a criminal waste of the man's talents, except I'm not sure they'd add a whole lot to the other three tracks on Third. Capturing the Soft Machine just as Wyatt and the rest of the band were beginning the process of parting ways but before Wyatt's important contributions to the band were completely squelched, Third is the third in a winning streak of albums. Later studio releases from the band would be much more of a mixed bag.

Review by Prog Sothoth
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This album contains plenty of building blocks to form a masterpiece, but somehow I can't stack them together properly. I'm trying to create a sleek racing car out of Lego blocks but wind up with an outhouse on wheels. Things start off fine, but I lose my way as I'm putting those little red bricks together. By the end I can only look at my abomination of a vehicle and think "When did I go wrong?"

One of the cooler aspects of various Canterbury scene groups is that they don't seem to take themselves too seriously. If you tell some serious jazz-head that your favorite jazz tune is called "Out-Bloody-Rageous", that person might think you're either some tool mocking him or a general nitwit who thinks the most important jazz album is Queen's Jazz. The one song with lyrics offer thought provoking musings like:

"On a dilemma between what I need and what I just want

Between your thighs I feel a sensation

How long can I resist the temptation?

I've got my bird, you've got your man

So who else do we need, really?"

That's the spirit! I love that attitude. The musicianship is pretty much top notch as well. Some great saxophone solos can be found in "Slightly All The Time" and there's lots of gorgeous keyboard work, especially within "Out-Bloody-Rageous". Guitars and bass are given some stellar moments to shine on "Moon In June", and there's some cool avant-garde experimentation to boot, particularly early on in "Facelift". I even dig the album cover with its funky font that screams 1970. So what's my deal?

This stuff gets tiring. It's four monster-length tracks that certainly do some wild things, but often meander about as if the band were trying to decide what to do next. As a result, I get lulled, and then something cool peps me up again, but I start feeling the lethary again and so on. I actually lose interest in "Facelift" when it becomes an actual song; I find the opening weirdness more entertaining. "Slightly All The Time" is better, a pretty nice fusion track with good solos, but it's actually the least adventurous of the lot, and that aspect sort of wears me out after awhile since jazz is not my forte by any means. "Moon In June" possesses the Canterbury prog rock sound complete with soft vocals, but it feels stretched out and padded, as if the need for this tune to be an LP side-long excursion took precedence over qualities that would have benefited the song. "Out-Bloody-Rageous" is probably my favorite of the four, since I love how the song weaves and branches from atmospheric landscapes to fusion feral-ness and back again. It's still a little long, but I can live without any cuts in time length to this number.

It was a quite an ambitious effort, and remains regarded by many as their greatest work. I think it's just not my style. Maybe one day I will figure out all these Lego blocks lying around to construct a metaphorical image of how great Third is. Maybe I'll follow the wisdom of "Moon In June" instead and focus on birds instead of blocks. I can say this, if you're into jazz/rock fusion and don't mind a little trippiness, you need to hear this if you haven't already. For someone like me who likes a TON of trippiness and a TON of rock but has a hard time dealing with 20 minute jazz tracks, it's a bit of a different story.

Review by HolyMoly
5 stars Like the mighty Chicago, this band titled each of its releases after which sequentially numbered release it was. So this was their third album. Unlike Chicago, though, they decided to can the numbered-album schtick after "Seven", whereas Chicago are still working their way headlong towards triple digits. The first two Softs albums were psychedelic rock with heavy experimental and slightly jazzy overtones. With this album, they were at least as much a jazz band as a rock band, but the synthesis they came up with nevertheless bore little resemblance to the Miles Davis/Bitches Brew school of Fusion. With its use of tape loops, organ and bass fuzz/distortion, and fairly free sections, this could almost be called avant garde along the lines of Frank Zappa.

Double album, with one 18-19 minute song on each side. Daunting, yes. But read on:

SIDE ONE: "Facelift" (by Hugh Hopper) - the most aggressive of the four sides. Built on a solid 7/4 riff with a good contrapuntal melody. Opens with some really ugly organ noises that almost put Keith Emerson to shame. Edited together from a couple of live performances, with some interesting tape effects along the way.

SIDE TWO: "Slightly All the Time" (by Mike Ratledge, but incorporating themes by Hugh Hopper) - the most conventionally jazzy of the four sides. This time the main section is in 11/8 time (take that, Hopper!), and has some nice ensemble unison horn work, including some fluid solos by Elton Dean (sax) and Lyn Dobson (flute). Then about halfway through it shifts to another song entirely (actually listed as "Mousetrap" on live recordings from this period), then a lyrical section (known as "Backwards", and also covered by Caravan!) before the abrupt conclusion.

SIDE THREE: "Moon in June" (by Robert Wyatt) - The most conventionally rock piece of the four sides, and THE ONLY ONE WITH VOCALS. This one actually has tons of vocals (by Wyatt), stringing together song ideas dating back to 1967 (demos of these are now on the market), while accompanying himself on drums, bass, and a gentle organ with a wah-wah effect. It's a wonderfully meandering piece that seems to embody the idea of "British Whimsy". It picks up steam about halfway through, when Hopper and Ratledge join in for a frenzied instrumental jam, then concluding on a lengthy (about the last 5 minutes) drone with tape effects, as trippy as it gets man.

SIDE FOUR: "Out-Bloody Rageous" (by Mike Ratledge) - the most "progressive" of the four sides (?). This one takes tape loops to a new level, opening and closing on an organ-driven tape loop that drives one to disorientation before an upbeat, brisk jazz theme comes in, showcasing the horn section again with a very Chicago-like jazz-rock melody. An unaccompanied piano solo comes in, mutating into a moody, murky section anchored by a bass ostinato in 5/8 and more wah-organ, with Elton Dean blowing freely on top. Then another tape loop section, even more frenzied than before, closes the album and fades out on a dizzying note.

I try to reserve "5" ratings for the true greats, and I can't think of any reason why this album shouldn't get that honor. A landmark recording, one without which the entirety of progressive rock just wouldn't be the same.

Review by siLLy puPPy
5 stars So intent was SOFT MACHINE to evolve at the speed of light into new musical territory that in only a few short years since they founded as a psychedelic pop band and then virtually establishing what would eventually be called the Canterbury Scene in the musical world that by the time they got to their THIRD album so they had practically abandoned all that had come before and dove head first into the world of free jazz and avant-garde psychedelia with only tidbits of rock still to be found throughout this sprawling and ambitious undertaking. Despite the gaudily ugly packaging and the horribly generic album titles, the music is some of the most complex and sophisticated that 1970 had to offer. SOFT MACHINE was simply ahead of the pack by first creating the Canterbury Scene of rock music well before any other takers would continue down that path but they also jumped into the seas of super complex jazz-fusion which can be heard on this bizarre and transitory classic.

THIRD has a much broader spectrum of sound than anything attempted by the band before. Still on board are Robert Wyatt on drums and vocals on the sole vocal track "Moon In June," Hugh Hopper on bass and Mike Ratledge on various keyboards but we also get Lyn Dobson on sax and flute, Jimmy Hastings (brother of Pye) on flute and bass clarinet, Rab Spall on violin and Nick Evans on trombone. The result of this expanded musical lineup is a big fat jazzy sounding album that is predominantly jazz in nature but has just enough rock and psychedelic influences to keep it firmly in the unusually experimental section on your shelf. The four tracks almost hit the 20 minute mark each but they often seem like they contain several tracks that combine to make a larger track.

"Facelift" is a live recording on the album and it starts out with very trippy sounding intro before getting into jazz-fusion territory. "Slightly All The Time" seems like a pure jazz piece in the beginning but really rocks out at the end. "Moon In June" is the only track to feature vocals and the last one of SOFT MACHINE to ever contain them. I personally think at least one track on an this mostly instrumental album adds a human touch to the bizarre soundscapes created. "Out-Bloody-Rageous" is evenly divided into four parts with the first being psychedelic, the second being jazzy, the third being keyboard oriented and the last part extremely trippy. This is simply a brilliant album from beginning to end but certainly not an easy one to digest. This one requires being well versed in both progressive rock and jazz to really enjoy. It takes many more listens than the average album to fully fall for. I certainly didn't warm up to it at first but eventually after many persistent and attentive attempts it has in the long run paid off handsomely.

I should also mention that is well worth tracking down the 2007 remastered version for not only do you get superb sound quality but a bonus disc from a concert at The Royal Albert Hall for BBC Radio Three in 1970. There are three tracks: "Out-Bloody-Rageous," "Facelift" and the previously unreleased "Esther's Nose Job." This is simply one of those albums where words fail to convey the many moods and dynamisms employed in these works. It is a must hear to understand for it is unlike anything that came before and since as far as I am aware. Classic.

Review by 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!

Review by patrickq
3 stars Although it's considered a 'Canterbury Scene' album, Third could adequately described as largely a jazz-prog album with some avant-garde tendencies. If Soft Machine produced this exact album, but were based in West Germany, we'd call it 'Krautrock' and discover connections between Soft Machine and Can or Faust or Brainticket. But more on that in a moment.

Third is my introduction to Soft Machine, so I have to take at face value the claim that it represents a substantial transition from Volume Two, which they'd released nine months earlier. Nonetheless it's tough to miss the transition between the first and second sides of Third, a double album with one track per side. Side One, 'Facelift,' is a studio-treated live piece recorded in January 1970, while the rest of the album was recorded at IBC studios in London in May and June.

The only difference in personnel between Side One and the remainder of the album is the inclusion of saxophonist / flautist Lyn Dobson; otherwise the core lineup is drummer / vocalist Robert Wyatt, bassist Hugh Hopper, keyboardist Mike Ratledge, and saxophonist Elton Dean. It's not the musicians, or the instrumentation, or even the fact that "Facelift" is (largely) a live recording that separates it from the other tracks. Maybe the best way to say it is that "Facelift" has an entirely different attitude from the rest of the album, and that it's a more experimental and harder attitude than I associate with Canterbury. In fact, I'd say it's akin to a Krautrock attitude. But this dissipates after the nineteen-minute first side; Sides Two ("Slightly All the Time") and Three ("Moon in June") are more like the jazzy and folky prog that I associate with the Canterbury sound. A more experimental approach returns on the final side ("Out-Bloody-Rageous").

The high point, in my opinion, is 'Slightly All the Time,' a jazzy instrumental suite. However, I have to confess an admiration for the studio-as-instrument aspects of 'Out-Bloody-Rageous,' even if that track, from a compositional standpoint, is both drawn-out and unfocused. It's a bit of a cliché, but Third would probably have been a four-star LP had someone like Holger Czukay or Frank Zappa been entrusted with editing it down to a 'single album.'

My last criticism is the relatively low sound quality. I downloaded my copy from, and it's unclear to me which edition I have. Apparently there are some releases of Third on which the sound has been 'cleaned up.' But I have to concur with those who have remarked on the lo-fi sound.

All things considered, Third is a good album. I'm sure Canterbury fans are well aware of this and other albums by Soft Machine and related acts, but anyone interested in jazzy progressive rock or in lighter Krautrock might also want to check this one out.

Review by A Crimson Mellotron
5 stars Soft Machine's third album, wittily named 'Third' was released in June 1970, and it is certainly one of the most radical shifts in style that any band could display at that time (possibly comparable to Deep Purple's from the same year, or King Crimson's perpetually changing sonic perspectives). It is also the first studio record on which there are four full-time band members (excluding, of course, the additional musicians and/or collaborators); and is also the longest record released by them, clocking in at 75 minutes, famously portrayed by the four long tracks taking up one side of the double LP.

Bedazzling, bold, manic, eccentric, and unorthodox, 'Third' is the album that marked the metamorphosis of Soft Machine from a psychedelic Canterbury Scene outfit to an unstoppable jazz monster - described as progressive rock, electronic rock, and jazz, this album is worth hearing every minute with full attention, always eagerly expecting the next grand shift, the next utterly satisfying and bewildering moment; almost like it is a different band, when compared to the pair of albums that came before 'Third', Soft Machine manage to break every bit of expectation, and instill inside the stoked listener a sense of havoc!

To the already-existing line-up of Mike Ratledge, Hugh Hopper, and Robert Wyatt, the listener has to know about the presence of their new member Elton Dean, playing both the alto saxophone and the saxello on three of the four epic tracks. The additional personnel consists of Lyn Dobson (flute, soprano sax), Nick Evans (trombone), Jimmy Hastings (flute, bass clarinet), and Rab Spall (violin).

Kicking off the album is the absolutely hazardous and unsettling instrumental live recording of 'Facelift' - a composition so vigorous and lively, it was further edited with loops and speed changes in the studio. It is so starkly different from everything else they did before, so menacing with the aggressive and protruding saxophone-keyboard interplay; brilliant rhythm sections and strong dependence on the loud-soft effects. Adding to the aforementioned qualities of the composition is the quality of the recording itself, quite harsh, unpolished and hissing; the editing is patchy and imperfection seems to be the fifth element that adds to the vitalité of 'Third'.

On side two, the listener will find 'Slightly All the Time', another very jazzy but more somber track, a sort of a 'patchworked' composition from shorter instrumentals written by Ratledge and Hopper, a very pleasing track.

Side three contains the only vocal composition, 'Moon in June', written by Wyatt; the only song on 'Third' reminiscent of their past psychedelic sound, with lyrics derived from songs from their previous studio recordings, resulting in another very enjoyable experience. This happens to be the only song that does not feature Elton Dean, and the only one that cannot be classified as jazz.

Finally, on side four, there is another mighty instrumental - 'Out-Bloody-Rageous', a very saxophone-oriented composition bookmarked by the slightly exhausting electronic soundscapes and tape loops, composed by Ratledge.

'Third' is one of the 70s albums that leaves the listener in awe and excitement and one of the most impressive achievements of the Canterbury Scene!

Review by Dapper~Blueberries
4 stars The end of the first trilogy of albums by Soft Machine. We came a bit of a long way. The first album showing the band's sound, Volume Two improving on said sound, and now we have the ever beloved Third. An album I heard from many as one of Soft Machine's best albums. I was pretty stoked to hear why. Now after listening to it I can definitely get the love around this record.

Unlike the last 2 records, Third ditches the formula from the last records and goes for 4 side long songs. 4 giants songs each with their own flair. The first song, Facelift is a live song. The first 5 or so minutes shows what this album's sound is. Less traditional jazz and rock combo and more of a experimental sound. The more the song goes on the more rhythmic it gets, but also the more crazy it gets. The ending is this weird sorta reversed but also not soundscape that feels like we are going back in time to the start of the song, however this is only the end. The next song is Slightly All The Time. This song continues the more experimental jazz of Facelift but gives some more streamlined tweaks and nudges to make it stand out and make it better. With that, each section of the song has it's own sorta flair. Really listening to it can be a very nice experience. Next song is Moon In June. To me it's like a step back and goes back Soft Machine's more rock roots, however the song gets progressively more crazy and sorta creepy. Like it went from a cute and fun song to this almost nightmarish jazz hell that Soft Machine put you in. It's kinda scary in some ways. The last song, Out-Bloody-Rageous is like the ultimate closing piece of this album. It does the things from the last songs (minus the vocals on Moon In June.) and perfects them. This to me is the perfect Soft Machine song. It is jazzy, it is hypnotic, it is psychedelic in a way, and it has some amazing horn work. However this album does have some problems. With how long the songs are, I often find myself taking a few breaks or losing my attention with the songs and prioritizing more on other activities than listening. Plus sometimes I feel like the songs are getting a tad old in some areas to where I want that section of the song to end as quick as possible. I know this is a more of a me thing but hey I think it is a fair critic to make for this album. But despite those problems I think the album is really really good. It respects the sound from the last two records but perfects it in these 4 Goliath songs.

I see now why Third is considered one of the best record by the band. It definitely deserves the praise it gets. Is it perfect? No, no album is. But I wouldn't mind seeing and picking up a copy of the album and give it a spin every once in a while. It's a great record, and I can see why people like this and the band so much now.

Latest members reviews

5 stars An absolute reference for the Canterbury sound, and a watershed in Soft Machine's discography, where they decidedly abandon the psychedelic discourse to delve into jazzy rock terrain, heavily influenced by works like Bitches Brew by Miles Davis. It is noted for good that the compositional and in ... (read more)

Report this review (#2936070) | Posted by Ramcocaice | Wednesday, June 28, 2023 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Review #83! I had no hope for this album. At first listen, I had just put it on because I was bored. I do not like The Soft Machine, so this was especially nice. The album begins with 'Facelift', a live track. A kind of avant-garde jazz feel moves through the song. This is a great ex ... (read more)

Report this review (#2905598) | Posted by Boi_da_boi_124 | Saturday, April 8, 2023 | Review Permanlink

3 stars On this album Soft Machine closes their Canterbury Scene shop, never to look back. Facelift opens the album with avant- sounds, this goes on for to long in my opinion on a first listen. Knowing what comes after I think makes it worthwhile so I'm fine with it. Anyways, when the music begins its so ... (read more)

Report this review (#2536460) | Posted by Beautiful Scarlet | Sunday, April 18, 2021 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Thanks to ProgArchives I discovered a lot of great bands! When I started listening to Yes, Jethro Tull and King Crimson as a teenager I also found this site and wrote down the top 100 albums so I wanted to explore all the greats of prog. When I found this album in a secondhand shop I was extremely h ... (read more)

Report this review (#2438255) | Posted by Kelder | Monday, August 17, 2020 | Review Permanlink

5 stars "Third" is musically a stunning, transitional, influential and progressive album by Soft Machine. Not only has it influenced many proggers and to some extent, psychedelic rock fans, it also contains a very good balance between improvisation, emotions, motives and craftmanship. I understand that ... (read more)

Report this review (#2436653) | Posted by sgtpepper | Tuesday, August 11, 2020 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I've read several reviews that underrate this album generally considered "historical". I'm not surprised of that. "Third" is not an easy record. It requires years of training before one guy would have the listening skills to enjoy it. Let me make an example: take whatever easy-listener you know and ... (read more)

Report this review (#2431539) | Posted by BubbaVenice | Thursday, July 23, 2020 | Review Permanlink

2 stars A quote from comedian and musician Bill Bailey: "The thing about playing jazz, you can play any old chord you like. Any old nonsense really - and people go 'yeahhh nice...'. But most of jazz sounds like a surrealist car alarm". Unfortunately for me this just about sums up the first track of thi ... (read more)

Report this review (#2431272) | Posted by bartymj | Wednesday, July 22, 2020 | Review Permanlink

1 stars Ok, I am in the lower amount of fans who enjoy Soft Machine. I do not enjoy this album, I found that this album was very messy, didn't have a solid atmosphere, and it shared elements of First Circle by Pat Methany... and I'm talking about Forward March. I apologize but I was not a fan of this ov ... (read more)

Report this review (#2375610) | Posted by Zoltanxvamos | Wednesday, April 29, 2020 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This is one of my all-time top five albums and certainly my favourite "Prog" item. It consists of four side-long pieces (on the original vinyl) which are each in a distinctive style but share the basic structural approach of having striking melodic themes linked by passages of improvisation. "Fa ... (read more)

Report this review (#1921086) | Posted by Eric_T | Saturday, May 12, 2018 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This album is particularly special. Indeed, for me it ranks up there in the top 10-12 albums of all time. Thinking about it, its greatness should have been unlikely. The members were starting to get along less well. While Ratledge and Hopper wanted to move toward more mathematically-precise jazz-roc ... (read more)

Report this review (#1697011) | Posted by Walkscore | Sunday, February 26, 2017 | Review Permanlink

5 stars It's that time of the year again (June) when I usually reach for this CD. (The old vinyl is still here too, but .my turntable is long gone to Heaven.) So, why this album? Simple. For the track "Moon in June". On the side, it's also a gentle reminder of this excellent band that hasn't received ... (read more)

Report this review (#1196359) | Posted by Anon-E-Mouse | Friday, June 20, 2014 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Easley one of the trickiest records I have in my collection and always makes me feel confused and disorientated. Those who know the genre Canterbury Scene know it stands for long, stretched out jams, weird melodies and that strange fuzzy organ sound. Its almost pop, but at the same time not ev ... (read more)

Report this review (#1160384) | Posted by BatBacon | Friday, April 11, 2014 | Review Permanlink

1 stars This one appeared to be an obvious choice for the first encounter with The Soft Machine's music. It wasn't a good idea I guess but if it's their finest work I don't want to hear their other albums. Facelift is semi amateurish nonsense, a piece of truly sensless cacophony that was recorded partly ... (read more)

Report this review (#1112482) | Posted by LSDisease | Sunday, January 12, 2014 | Review Permanlink

5 stars After a few weeks of putting it off, I listened to Third, my first Soft Machine album. These guys have taken jazz fusion and canterbury, fused them together, and contorted, twisted, and bent them into this wild hot pot of psychedellic jazz (I'm getting very creative on the adjetives this time ... (read more)

Report this review (#779875) | Posted by smartpatrol | Saturday, June 30, 2012 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Soft Machine's Third, Miles Davis' Bitches Brew, Mother of Inventions' Uncle Meat, Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica and Jimi Hendrix' Electric Ladyland all made a doubble record in the timespan of 1969-1970. All these bands influenced each other in one way or another. Jimi Hendrix convin ... (read more)

Report this review (#641505) | Posted by the philosopher | Sunday, February 26, 2012 | Review Permanlink

4 stars If Third was your first introduction to the Canterbury Scene and you have not been exposed to the avant gard, or any of the the late 60's early 70's music of Miles Davis, Likely you will run like hell away from the Canterbury Scene, This is music not typical of that scene, In fact when I think of ... (read more)

Report this review (#510290) | Posted by darkprinceofjazz | Saturday, August 27, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars 'Third' is the first canterbury album I heard and I was surprised over the complexity of the album. I had expected something like 'Camel' ( i've later realised that bands like Caravan and Gong are more typical for the scene). This is a very demanding album with complex rhytms and ... (read more)

Report this review (#510273) | Posted by FlemmingV | Saturday, August 27, 2011 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Intense, dissonant, wonderful, abrasive, laid back, elegant, raw, complex, all in a single package... If Hatfield And The North's Rotter's Club is the most beautiful of all Canterbury records, Matching Mole's debut is the quirkiest, then this is the most complete. Packed with great ideas, splendid ... (read more)

Report this review (#452371) | Posted by JackFloyd | Thursday, May 26, 2011 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Soft Machine's third album should have been titled "Jazz from Space". Soft Machine is one of the seminal bands of the Canterbury scene of jazz-fusion and progressive rock. The album features the trio established on the last album, Volume Two, plus Elton Dean. Lyn Dobson was a member of the band d ... (read more)

Report this review (#357688) | Posted by Wied | Sunday, December 19, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This record only functions when appreciated as a whole. The pieces of music seem to intersect with one another. When these musicians are working as one, and they are on this album, the various tracks seem to blend themselves into one. This kind of feat could only be achieved by musicians of th ... (read more)

Report this review (#349421) | Posted by unarmedman | Friday, December 10, 2010 | Review Permanlink

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