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BBC - RADIO 1967 - 1971

The Soft Machine

Canterbury Scene

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The Soft Machine BBC - Radio 1967 - 1971 album cover
4.07 | 41 ratings | 9 reviews | 39% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Live, released in 2003

Songs / Tracks Listing

CD1: (66:45)
1. Clarence in Wonderland (2:57)
2. We Know What You Mean (3:11)
3. Certain Kind (3:38)
4. Hope for Happiness (4:37)
5. Strangest Scene Recorded (aka Lullaby Letter) (4:55)
6. Facelift / Mousetrap / Noisette / Backwards / Mousetrap Reprise (11:54)
7. The Moon in June (13:02)
8. Instant Pussy (3:19)
9. Slightly All the Time / Out Bloody Rageous / Eamonn Andrews (19:12)

CD2: (60:51)
1. Virtually (9:58)
2. Fletcher's Blemish (12:11)
3. Neo-Caliban Grides (7:34)
4. Dedicated to You But You Weren't Listening (2:46)
5. Eamonn Andrews / All White (7:11)
6. Mousetrap / Noisette / Backwards / Mousetrap Reprise / Esther's Nose Job (21:11)

Total Time: 127:36

Line-up / Musicians

- Kevin Ayers / bass, guitar, voice (tracks 1-5 CD1)
- Robert Wyatt / drums, voice
- Mike Ratledge / keyboards
- Hugh Hopper / bass (tracks 6-9 CD1, CD2)
- Brian Hopper saxophone, flute (track 6 CD1)
- Elton Dean / axophone (track 9 CD1, CD2)
- Marc Charig / trumpet (track 6 CD2)
- Lyn Dobson / saxophone, flute (track 6 CD2)
- Nick Evans / trombone (track 6 CD2)

Releases information

2CD Hux Records HUX 037 (2003 UK)

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to The Bearded Bard for the last updates
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THE SOFT MACHINE BBC - Radio 1967 - 1971 ratings distribution

(41 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(39%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(41%)
Good, but non-essential (15%)
Collectors/fans only (2%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

THE SOFT MACHINE BBC - Radio 1967 - 1971 reviews

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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Alucard
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Ineresting topic : which group version is the most appreciated. Genesis with or without Gabriel; Marillion with or without Fish ; or in this case Soft Machine wirh or without R.Wyatt. I prefer myself (Sorry Andy!) the early Soft machine wich is represented here on the first CD. The quality is for this time quiet good, as in general the BBC recordings, and gives a good idea, what they sounded live in the late sixties.I especially like the moon in june and instant pussy versions.In general the music is more chaotic and funny live, but then this depends largely on your sense of humour and apparently the rest of the group wasn't too kean either on Wyatts idea of a pop-group! The second CD presents recordings of the bigger Soft Machine (with M.Charig,L.Dobson andN.Evans) who played on 3, but to my Knowledge no other live recordings of this combination existe.
Review by Sean Trane
3 stars 3,5 stars really!!

In just two double discs Hux records will release the numerous radio sessions done for the BBC, this one ranging from the Halcyon days of 67 - where the Machine was still a psychedelic caterpillar - until 71 with the most classic line-up including Dean, Hopper, Wyatt and Ratledge. These are just the studio radio sessions but there are two others BBC live concerts available also and as usual with BBC archives the sound is pristine and the interest of them is invaluable.

On disc 1, the first five tracks are due to the line-up that recorded the debut album with Kevin Ayers singing and playing bass and this is maybe the best sounding live recording from that period. With Hope For Happiness and Strangest Scene as showcase for their dynamic qualities, that session may just be the most interesting of all the ones on the two double discs set. The next session is one of the definitive ones showing on how the tracks from Volume 2 have evolved to lead into the famous and seminal Third album. Four tracks from that album are meddled into one suite while the second track from the session is a first version (pre-album) of Moon In June where Wyatt recommends Ayers, Caravan Pink Floyd and thanks the BBC and its orchestra while singing. Du grand art, monsieur!!! This session is also invaluable because those tracks are much more often played as a foursome (with Elton Dean), but more rarely as a trio.

Then comes a strange UFO in the name of Instant Pussy (that should be more at home on a Matching Mole record although it does not sound anything like the latter MM version) that was strangely separated from the rest of the session, which closes the second disc. This anti-chronological order is due to Robert Wyatt, but it is the only one of a kind on this release! Then we jump to the mid 70 session the now classic quartet doing a medley of tracks that are present on the Third album.

Disc 2 starts with an early 71 session the band presenting the rather cold fusion (sometimes right into free jazz thanks to Elton dean's influences) of their album 4, this one not being quite interesting as there are tons of other recordings available on those tracks, although maybe not of this caliber! The next session of the same year but in June and also being of lesser interest if you have any live BBC recordings or anything on Cuneiform records. Do not get me wrong, these two sessions are absolutely essential to the unconditional fan, but again if one is of that category he will already own one or two live version of these tracks. Another strange "gift" on here is another Wyatt vocal improve playing with echoes but this is messy and like the Instant Pussy does not really belong here!

Finally comes the session from late 69 and another invaluable one as this is a rare version of the Machine as a septet before recording the third album. The lengthy medley produced here is an interesting version the machine sounding a bit like a jazzier Chicago Transit Authority with a four-man brass session as they had stripped the Keith Tippett Group from most of its collaborators, but Charig and Evans leaving relatively quickly and Dobson hanging around for just a while longer!

Apart from the two odd choices Monsieur Wyatt chose to include (I would tend to say ill- advisedly as they sort of ruin a bit the record), we have another superb Hux record release that is essential to Soft Machineheads. And apart from the parti-pris (anti-jazz rock attitude) of the liner notes from some writer, the presentation and luxurious booklet make this release hard to resist

Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars I'm not sure where to even start with a recording such as this. Basically it's a compilation of live tracks recorded at the BBC from 1967 to 1971. You could call this the "Wyatt Years" as well I suppose. I first became interested in this when reading a discussion of this band where several long time SOFT MACHINE fans rated this in their top five.That was all I needed to hear, I knew I had to check this out for myself.The sound quality is excellent and just about all of the music here can't be found anywhere else. So really this is a must for SOFTS fans. Some great pictures to enjoy as well, especially seeing Wyatt and Ratlede in 1967 looking so young. Wyatt has short blonde hair and I didn't even recognize him, Ratledge has shorter that usual hair and no sunglasses or moustache.

Cd One starts off with five tracks that feature Wyatt, Ratledge and Ayers.These songs are from 1967 and Ayers and Wyatt share the vocal duties while Ayers strums his guitar and Ratledge stays relatively in the background. Fans of thier first album will appreciate this a lot. Then we get "Facelift / Mousetrap / Noisette / Backwards / Moustrap Reprise" and a very different sound with Wyatt, Ratledge and the Hopper brothers from 1969. Man this is so good and perhaps my favourite track.The fuzzed out bass from Hugh is so deep and growly around 9 1/2 minutes. Just a killer instrumental display. The next track "Moon In June" is from the same session but minus Brian Hopper. Check out the made up lyrics here from Wyatt, this is so good. He even mentions CARAVAN and PINK FLOYD. "Instant Pussy" is from 1969 and is Wyatt all by himself doing a very different version of the future MATCHING MOLE tune. Wyatt, Ratledge, Hopper and Elton Dean for the first time from 1970 do "Slightly All The Time / Out Bloody Rageous / Eamonn Andrews". And yes this is classic SOFT MACHINE. The sax, the fuzz it's all so good.

Disc Two begins with the same lineup but this is 1971 and the song is "Virtually". Dean just wails on that sax at times. Fuzz bass too on this one. The next four tracks are from 1971 and again feature Wyatt, Ratledge, Hopper and Dean doing "Fletcher's Blemish", "Neo-Caliban Grides", "Dedicated To You But You Weren't Listening" and "Eamonn Andrews / All White".The final track features the septet of Wyatt, Ratledge, Hopper, Dean, Dobson, Evans and Charig doing "Mousetrap / Noisette / Backwards / Mousetrap Reprise / Esther's Nose Job". Obviously the horns are more prominant and at times dissonant. Lots of fuzz as usual.

Easily 4 stars and for the true SOFT MACHINE fan who can't get enough.

Review by Man With Hat
COLLABORATOR Jazz-Rock/Fusion/Canterbury Team
4 stars A wonderful live overview of the Robert Wyatt years.

If I had one consistent gripe with The Soft Machine it is the sound quality of their records. Live records especially tend to fluctuate between pretty nice and bloody awful (especially of the Wyatt years). Whether it be Elton's reeds, or Wyatt's drums or vocals, or terrible bootlegged-esque sound in general, there are few releases that are of great quality. (Thankfully, over the more recent years plenty of well recorded concerts have been released, but that's secondary to this review.) However, there is probably no institution better at recording music than the BBC. Always pristine sound quality, which usually brings out the best in the discs. This set is no exception. There were a couple of times I was honestly shocked to hear how well these sets were recorded, particularly on disc two. Aside from the astounding sound quality, this set collects all of the BBC recordings Soft Machine performed while Mr. Wyatt was still a member of the band, from their earliest days of a psychedelic-dada-pop-rock band to a free- rock/avant-jazz-rock band, and any steps in between.

Unfortunately the album starts off with the weakest set, IMHO. 1967 Ayers, Wyatt, Rateledge in full hippy mode. The problem is, for me, this feels a bit timid and weak compared to other versions of the songs (from The Soft Machine, for tracks 3-5). Perhaps it was just the constraints of the situation, or this was one of their earlier gigs, but for me, they sound like they were holding back for some reason. However, this is easily the most rich in sound this line up would produce (at least live), which gives this a bit more importance. Up next, is the trio of Hopper, Wyatt, and Rateledge (joined by Hugh's brother on track 6) giving an excellent performance of Facelift followed by the famous Mousetrap medley. The Moon In June amps up the historical importance with the full trio playing Wyatt's piece. Some fun new (improved?) lyrics highlight a fun early version of this song. Instant Pussy is an interesting addition, as it's Wyatt solo on Piano, voice, and cowbell, and it's nothing even close to the Matching Mole song of the same name. Finally, we get the "classic" quartet with Dean in the mix for a well done performance of Slightly All The Time/Out-Bloody-Rageous/Eamonn Andrews.

Disc two, picks things up where disc one left off. This set, Virtually and Fletcher's Blemish, are the highlights. Loud and heavy as anything from the era, blasting away into free-rock- jazz (not jazz-rock!) territories with sheer reckless abandon (sometimes disregarding rock and jazz altogether). I must say, this shows off Wyatt's powerful drumming better than anything on either disc. True classics IMO. Neo-Caliban Grides continues in a similar fashion, but not as incendiary, for better or worse. Some more harmless vocal/effects/clicking playing around by Wyatt for Dedicated To You...a quick track, which for me, is more interesting than the previous Wyatt experiment. Eamonn Andrews/All White follow. Interesting to hear Wyatt perform this tune as he would have left by the time this was recorded in studio. Finally, comes a very powerful performance of the sadly sort lived septet version of Soft Machine performing the Mousetrap Medley and Esther's Nose Job. Again, historically important, excellently played, and different enough to justify inclusion.

All in all, this is an excellent collection to represent the early years of Soft Machine. It's great to hear how the band evolved in such a short time. (Can't think of too many other bands that started off playing something like We Know What You Mean and wind up playing something like Fletcher's Blemish not too far in the future.) Even with the slightly lackluster performance of the opening quintet and the two Wyatt experiments this is some killer stuff. I would generally not recommend albums that weren't Third to begin the Soft's journey, but this CD would make a good introduction to the band for the uninitiated, giving a taste of everything the Softs could bring to the table. (As a side note: As Sean pointed out in his review, the liner notes are a bit...unprofessional and for me, absolutely laughable at times. But, you're not buying this for the liner notes.) For Machine fans, especially of the Wyatt years, this is essential. For the rest of the community, this is an excellent addition to your collection. A very strong 4 stars. Recommended.

Review by snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars One more Soft Machine compilation? With all my love to this excellent band, I really needed time and some researches just to decide if this double album can bring me something valuable. But now, when I know it well and really like it, I can give motivated answer - Yes.Being quite attractive album itself, this release has some really interesting material even for experienced band's fan.

First of all I need to mention, that if you (as myself) already own "The Peel Sessions", you should know that five out of ten above mentioned compilation's compositions are presented on "BBC Radio 1967-1971". It's not strange, this double album is complete BBC sessions from band's early period (there are another BBC Radio recordings compilation, covering the period of 1971-1974). If you didn't listen "The Peel Sessions" till now, you will receive huge pack of highest class live Soft Machine material from their best period.

For those who is not interested to pay for five excellent compositions they already have once again, I need to mention what else is valuable on BBC vaults first compilation. First of all, first five compositions there are unreleased before psychedelic pop songs, coming from Kevin Ayers, Ratledge and Wyatt trio from December 1967!When listen you can easily hear what the band they were just few years before their peak and how influential Ayers was to their music (some songs later were recorded on Ayers solo albums).

Then,we have there minimalistic version of Instant Pussy - this song will be released on Matching Mole album later.Second CD contains long Dean's composition Fletcher's Blemish and Eamonn Andrews/All White medley.Enough new materials to make this album attractive for real Soft Machine's fan. If you don't own "The Peel Sessions", this album is a real bomb for you!

Review by Warthur
5 stars An excellent compilation of Peel Sessions from the Robert Wyatt era of Soft Machine (and a more complete one than the "Peel Sessions" release from 1990). The sessions range from a 1967 one featuring Kevin Ayers, from before the group's debut album even came out, to a session from June of 1971 - recorded a mere month before Wyatt quit over the group's refusal to allow his whimsical musical ideas and his vocal contributions to make a return to the band's sound.

A particularly interesting transition is the one between the first session and the second - from Strangest Scene to Facelift - in which time the group transitioned from Canterburyish psychedelia to fully-fledged fusion. What's even more interesting is that this session took place in June of 1969 - a mere three months after the recording of the Live at the Paradiso 1969 album, which showcases a sound still in line with that of Volume Two. The session makes it clear that the transition from psychedelia to fusion took place extremely suddenly - within the space of three months or so - making it particularly startling how good the 1969 session sounds.

In addition to the scorching live-in-the-studio performances here showcased, there's also a few rarities - for example, a version of Instant Pussy as a solo Wyatt song (the piece would later be reimagined in a free jazz-ish spacey instrumental version by Wyatt's next band, Matching Mole), and an early rendition of Moon in June with modified lyrics praising the BBC's facilities and giving shoutouts to Pink Floyd and Caravan.

As a whole, this double album set is a fine compilation, which will be of interest both to fans of the band and to anyone interested in the group's work - if you want a taster of the full range of the band's sound from the debut to Four, this is a great sampler which, unlike a conventional compilation, won't end up redundant if you go on to buy the original studio albums.

Latest members reviews

5 stars As braindamage has interpreted; this is an essential masterpiece of progressive rock. The beginning of this document finds the band coming to grips with their potential, and the session derived from the first two albums are performed with a minimum of elaboration. Without the impetus of Elton Dean ... (read more)

Report this review (#131449) | Posted by wooty | Thursday, August 2, 2007 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Album of SOFT MACHINE announced in 2003 "BBC Radio 1967-1971". Work that collected all Take of session in "Top Gear" of John peel that is radio program of BBC. The process of musical rapid evolution of SOFT MACHINE is recorded. I cannot suppress the excitement as a fan. Essential: a masterpiec ... (read more)

Report this review (#51928) | Posted by braindamage | Saturday, October 15, 2005 | Review Permanlink

5 stars just listen the last song of the second cd and "waou" so good horn arrangement genius. the second wonderful song of this album is moon in june "waou again" wyatt's voice is so beautiful. a wonderful cd ... (read more)

Report this review (#29823) | Posted by | Saturday, January 1, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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