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Valentin Cenuse <firstname.lastname@example.org> (23.08.2000)
You surprise me a lot, Mr. Starostin. From your reviews (many of which are very interesting and I congratulate you for such a huge work) you seem to be a very cultivated person.From the part of so cultivated a man I expect a real good taste. Soft Machine are not Sex Pistols!!!! Nevertheless I listen to Pistols,sometimes. They aren't so bad after all as I thought once, when I was younger and I prefered only the music from 67 to let's say 73. "My way" sung by Sid Vicious is not so bad, for example. And we must not forget that the punk movement has a merit;it inspired many industrial bands. Michael Gira from Swans recognised once that he was in the punk movement at first. And Swans are among the best bands in this world. Industrial music is now the most intersting music and I hope it will be for a long time.The old rock as well as the blues couldn't survive for ever. It was too limited. It was very monotonous. All that could be said had been said. But let me return to Soft Machine that I consider among the most serious bands in the world. They have a very hermetic and heavy sound. Especially THE THIRD which for me is in the "first ten records top" of all time. The sound here is sometimes heavier than heavy metal. It is incredible how no one defends the most intellectual band of England. I can't understand how bands like Yes, Genesis, Jethro Tull, ELP etc. which in my humble opinion are so boring and stupid, so anti music, are overrated by so many people. Anyway Soft Machine together with Pink Floyd (only for the their first 6 records;the rest is crap), King Crimson, Van Der Graaf, Quatermass were the spear head of prog and art rock in England. And of course the marvellous German bands who influenced a lot of younger musicians in industrial. SOFT MACHINE deserves a maximum rating. It's just an opinion.
jeffrey b.good <email@example.com> (06.10.2000)
Hey, George, jazz-rock is'nt bad music! If you can listen to Hot Rats, get Machavishnu Orchestra's Visions of the emeralds beyond (on of their two masterpieces, that were recorded together with Jean-Luc Ponty), Miles Davis's double Bitches Brew (first listen to "Miles runs the voodoo down" - maybe you'll find something interest) and also Weather Report's Heavy Weather. As for Soft Machine, Third isn't so terrible as you describe it. [Hey, I thought my review of Third was rather favourable, but I guess Einstein was right - G.S.]
György Makranczy <firstname.lastname@example.org> (01.12.2002)
I just found your pages, searching for something about Soft Machine. I am not saying that Soft Machine is my favourite band, but it is certainly one of the UNIQUE faces on the palette of rock music. Nobody else did what they did! And here comes what I see as a major problem with the reviews. When we are talking about the MUSICALLY most important contributions, it's usually not with the famous names!
Soft Machine is not Easy Listening. I see things now quite differently from how I encountered these records the first time as a child. The other important thing about the Softs, is that some of their greatest stuff was only released very recently. If you want proof of this statement, check out Noisette!
There are a few really groundbreaking albums, like:
Pete Brown and his Battered Ornaments - A Meal...
CMU - Open Spaces
Jan Dukes de Grey - Mice And Rats...
Comus - First Utterance
just an example of what I mean, there are many others!
Chris <email@example.com> (22.05.2001)
The Soft Machine's first album is fantastic! I first heard it when I was into speed. Now that I'm back into acid, beer and pot It sounds far out and trippy as ever!!
roAE <firstname.lastname@example.org> (23.05.2001)
In your listing of Soft Machine VOl. 1 you have some facts confused. Robert Wyatt does all the singing.
No, he doesn't
louise bélanger <email@example.com> (26.02.2003)
I'm positive that Wyatt sings every song on Volume 1 except for "Why are We Sleeping". Ayers has written "Lullabye Letter", "We did it again" and "Why are we Sleeping".
Jon Gray <firstname.lastname@example.org> (22.04.2003)
Right on for this one. I agree totally with what you have to say. I love the transition between 'Why are we sleeping's? introduction and that first big cymbal crash into the march--nice stuff. 11/15
sakal <email@example.com> (11.06.2006)
'Hullo Der' where Wyatt expresses his wishes to be a big man in the FBI ('or the CIA')
No he does not, you twit: he says;
If I were black and I lived here (USA) I'd want to be............... But as I'm not, and of course I dont, I don't....
How's that for a 30 year memory?
BTW have you noticed "Thankyou Jim, for our exposure........." They were touring the US with Hendrix.
Matching Mole = Machine Molle
Poor Wyatt broke his back soon after.
Ben Dominici <firstname.lastname@example.org> (27.08.2006)
1st Soft Machine album I ever bought, and it took me awhile to get into it, seeing as I was not too familiar with prog at the time, aside from Pink Floyd, Procol Harum, and the first King Crimson album. But once I got into it, I was lovestruck. Being a former drummer, I can really appriciate how difficult it is to sing and play drums simultaneously(?), and Robert Wyatt does both with startling complexity and success. The whole band is tight, and the songs have that fine balance between catchy and experimental.
In fact, the album as a whole is a fine balance itself, between pyche and prog. In fact the early Soft Machine and the bands I listed above (along with The Nice, whom I discovered fairly recently) are, in my opinion, the best, most unique and successful examples of prog ever. I liked prog when it was still in its larva stage: just a jazz/classical music-influenced extention of pychedelia. It's not surprise that what I consider to be among the first prog albums are also among the best: This album, King Crimson's "In the Court Of The Crimson King", Procol Harum's "Whiter Shade Of Pale", The Nice's "Thoughts Of Emerlist Davjack" and The Moody Blues' "Days of Future Passed" (not much into them, but "Days" is a pretty good albums), which were all released before 1970. Note: I'm not sure if Pink Floyd's "Piper At The Gates Of Dawn" counts as prog. I always considered it very experimental psychedelia. Either way, I consider it to be better than any other prog or pyche album. RIP SYD BARRETT.
Anyway, back to "Volume One". This is definately the best example (except for maybe "Volume Two") of a "medley" album I've ever heard. Supposedly, with both Volumes 1 & 2, they would usually just play the whole album through when they'd give a live performance. Wish I could have seen that. Sadly, bassist Kevin Ayers left the band after this album, and Robert Wyatt left the band after the fourth album. Not to knock Mike Ratelege, but they were just as much a part of the soul of the group as he was.
There is a great double disc collection of the band's BBC sessions from 1967 to 1971 that I highly recommend. The first disc is mostly comprised of the material on the first three albums, with some even earlier, and it is essential for anyone who digs those albums. Not so crazy about the second disc, but it's still a great buy. I also highly recommend both of Robert Wyatt's and Kevin Ayers' solo material (although I've only heard the latter's first four albums). Different than The Soft Machine, but very good music indeed.
Give this amazing debut a try! "Why Are We Sleeping?", "Save Yourself", "Hope For Happiness" and "Why Am I So Short?" are all great songs, and "So Boot If At All" is an aweome band. Jimi Hendrix chose this band to be his opening act on his first major tour with The Experience. This album explains why.
Jon Gray <email@example.com> (19.10.2002)
Hugh Hopper takes what is good from a lot of jazz players and contorts it through his own particular English sensibilities into a really invigorating sound. The weirdness and eclectic nature of Ratledge's composition, Wyatt's fleighty singing and drum hooliganism and Hopper's fuzzed out virtuosity makes this one truly incredible record. Is it eminently listenable or attractive? Not really. But on to the important personal thing that struck me: the fuzz organ is pure genius. The sound of that sinuous little buzzy chainsaw organ never fails to turn something on in my head. As far as the bass end, I fell in love with fuzz bass before this with SATFS records, but this really takes it as far within the idiom of psychedleic music as is possible. That, and Robert Wyatt's lyrics are, ah, refreshing, to say the least. This album brings a smile to my face every time I listen to it. The last track is fabulous: Wyatt's final declaration of the main theme is genius in the context of the fuzz organ. Great stuff! I'd up its overall rating a little myself, but its mostly due to subjective feelings, I'm afraid.
holott <firstname.lastname@example.org> (27.03.2003)
Hello, It was in late 69, I was hooked on Radio Caroline (legendary offshore radio station broadcasting). Then I heard Volume Two. I still do. It just completed my own private Trinity at this time : The Beatles, Hendrix and Soft machine. A+
Ben Dominici <email@example.com> (27.08.2006)
Awesome! This is easily one of the craziest prog albums ever. Very experimental, without being "ambient" of "free-jazzy" or sacrificing catchy, interesting songs for jamming. I'm almost tempted to say that this is even better than Volume One, but they're pretty different, so I can't really compare them. I actually have the CD pressing with both albums, and that really accentuates the diffence. Of course, Kevin Ayers isn't on this one, but he didn't write or sing much of the tunes on Volume One, so this shift can't be completely attributed to his absence.
Like Volume One, this is also a "medley album". But with the material getting more complex, it seems more like a suite than a medley. None of it is weak, though the improv stuff "Out Of Tunes" and "Fire Engine" aren't nearly as good as the actual "songs"(?). I agree with George on that one. However, "Hibou, Anemone And Bear", "Hulloder", "Dada Was Here", and "Dedicated To You But You Weren't Listening" are my favorite sections. The end of the album (from "Pig" to "10:30 Returns To The Bedroom") which is mostly intrumental, and repeats similar varations on similar themes is one of the greatest "finalies" on a rock record. Listen if you dare.
One last thing. The Soft Machine are one of my favorite bands, but that's really just based on their first two albums. The "Third" album is okay, but it doesn't even come close to the first two, in my opinion. And after, "Third", their music just got worse and worse. I sorta agree with George about jazz-rock. It's a good idea in theory, but I just haven't heard too many successful examples of it, and yes, I've listened to many of the so-called "classics" of this genre. Frank Zappa probably came the closest to perfecting it, but even his true attempts at jazz-rock aren't really among his best work. Besides, Zappa was really in a category all by himself, so I actually feel kinda weird calling any of his stuff jazz-rock. Anyway, "Third" is worth hearing, but way overrated. The first two are where it's at.
Valentin Cenuse <firstname.lastname@example.org> (26.08.2000)
Third is perhaps the most professional record ever recorded. The four suites are not monotonous at all. Perhaps the beginning of the last one is a bit monotonous but the rest is all right. Mike Ratledge's electronic devices are marvelous for that period. He is really very good at creating atmospherics.
I think the best suite is 'Facelift'. Indeed the lengthy five-minute intro, with creepy organ bursts and gloomy feedback slowly advancing on the listener, is terrific.
The second suite is also exceptional. Especially that obsessive electric piano.The whole record has an incredible force. It's like the matter in a neutronic star. As for the comparison with Eno;
No Pussyfooting is really crap. How boring! I have never succeeded to listen to any of his records without falling asleep. The most forceless, monotonous, boring music. No atmospherics at all. Once a reporter asked Throbbing Gristle if they liked Eno. Here is what they answered:
«No, he's a wimp. He wants to be an art college teacher and be respected for writing learned books... boring».
Devo told me that when Eno produced them, he wanted to do a Devo record but he tried to use them to make a product of his own liking and he wanted to teach them everything.
«Yes, he's boring. It's a shame because he has some good ideas. In his interviews, every now and then, he says something very intelligent and exciting, but he never does them. He can't actually produce them. He can think about them and that's why he tries to make other groups do things for him. And that's just a bad situation both for the group and himself. He rang us up. He was the first person to ring us up and try and get us to make a record, but we told him to fuck off. At first we said O.K. we'll play you one of our tapes. Then we were very paranoid that he'd try and copy it, so we said we'd only play it to him with us there. And he kept saying, O.K., next week, etc. Then he'd ring up and say he couldn't make it, so in the end I just said: look, we're not interested in messing about, we didn't want you to get in touch anyway, so just fuck off. We don't need you».
I liked that a lot.
Anyway Eno can't be put in the same class with Soft Machine.
Third in my opinion deserves the third postion after Tago Mago and Ummagumma in the top of the best progressive records of all time. So the rating should be maximum.
Francesco Bergamo <email@example.com> (06.02.2001)
Just few words about Valentin Cenuse's e-mail. Well, for me too third is one of the gratest prog albums, but I think Valentin understood nothing of Brian Eno's work; this can be the only reason for hating him so much. In no pussyfooting he did what Soft Machine never thought about: exploring suound's qualities, what became the spectralists' way of intending music. In fact, Eno was very interested in what probably Valentin doesn't know: contemporary (but also classic) music. He surely referred to Satie, Cage, Boulez... I would like (friendly, of course!) to suggest to who are only interested at the "prog" side of Eno (if this is possible... i don't think so!) to listen CAREFULLY to Another green world. Objectively it is an album far more "professional" and surely more expressive than third or even tago mago, which howevewr I love too!
Yann Rousseau <firstname.lastname@example.org> (10.04.2001)
In trying to find informations about King crimson, Zappa (etc), I found your site and...Woow, what a stuff !!
I enjoyed reviewing albums that i already have, to compare with my point of view. I enjoyed the others groups/albums reviews too, that's to say those i didn't know, and you probably had an influence on me when i decided to buy.... Soft Machine Albums.
I'm keen on Rock and jazz-rock, and lots of friends told me about the Soft Machine.
I bought the three first albums, and i red again your critic. After few listenings, I really like these albums, even if they are really different.
Then my question is :
On the third song of the album Third, You say that you don't like the jazz style that appears in the song after the first first minuste. It's too complex, etc etc.
I really felt in love on one part of the song (beginning on the 10th minute, and 2 or 3 minutes long). There is a pure jazz-rock moment where violin (i think it is violin) goes into a long flow, with terrific rythm. Do you see what moment ?
I'd like to ask you if you liked this part of the song, or if you were totally indifferent to it.
In my opinion there can be in this part or the song a perfect example of differences between "true-rock" and "jazz-rock" lovers. That's why I'd like to have your opinion about it. If you like zappa sound, or King Crimson "weirdness", I can't believe you dislike this part of the song.
This was the question I wanted to ask you, because one of my "hobbies" is to understand why people like a specific kind of music and not another one. And between old 60's rock and jazz-rock, there is a lot of good stuff to work on.
Thanks for your GREAT page, I think I'll do mine with my own stuff. It's very useful for music lovers who want to find some new stuff.
Yann, from Paris, who had a heart attack when listening to Soft Machine. It's your fault !
Jon Gray <email@example.com> (22.04.2003)
Well first off I read Francesco Bergamo's comment, and the whole Eno business, and it is a bunch of nonsense, perhaps not surprisingly. If there's anyone who gets respect for all the wrong reasons, it is Brian Eno. Or maybe Pierre Boulez. Eno has wrecked more albums than I care to think about, his sense of melody and chord construction is very, very poor--shockingly poor. To put him up with Satie is just ignorant--Eno may have listened to him, but seeing that Eno can't read music, most of classical music's constructions are forever closed to him (as is obvious from his feeble compositional skill). That said, Eno has some fabulous talents in setting instrumental pieces, and while his vocal treatments are almost always disappointing, they are an acceptable price to pay. Now let's talk about Soft Machine! This album is good in parts, but the parts comprise a very small amount of time for a double-album, and overall this is an uneven and disappointing work. 'Moon in June' is hideous here compared to its recording on the BBC--anyone who likes Volume 2 should track down the BBC recording of 'Moon in June', because it really shows the prowess of the band and the compositional integrity of the track, which is hardly displayed on this version. 'Facelift' is pretty interesting, it is definitely Crimsonian as George indicates. Slightly all the time has a good premise but is extended past what its few themes can allow. 'Outbloodyrageous' is very interesting and my favorite bit on here. The piano and the organ loops are fascinating, and must have been an extraordinary amount of work cutting and piecing tape together. Comparing it with Eno makes little sense, since these techniques have an origin in Syd Barrett of all people as well as various other delay pioneers in rock, not to mention the various Darmstadt experimentors (note to Francesco, Boulez was the worst choice you could have made of these) from nearly two decades earlier. This track has more changes, less obligatory solos and therefore more fun, so it is the finest of the instrumental pieces here. not much to say, but disappointing compared to volume two. A 9, more than likely.
b.dobben <firstname.lastname@example.org> (12.06.2003)
A little comment on composers who were influential on -especially - the intro of 'Out-Bloody-Rageous'. Ever heard of Minimal Music?? The Softs met Terry Riley in Paris even before recording Third. Riley was and is - along with Lamonte Young, Steve Reich and the much too famous Philip Glass - one of the pioneers of this genre, which has his roots in Indian Raga and Gamelan music. These guys rejected the Darmstadt School (Boulez and Stockhausen) and were more influenced by John Cage and his forerunner - indeed - Eric Satie. The repetitive elements in the music of for instance Pink Floyd, Brian Eno, Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze and Ashra all come from that area. I am a little surprised George, that someone who hates dissonance and atonal music, likes the intro of 'Facelift'. I like it too but I really prefer much more the last two parts of 'Virtuall'y (from the "disastrous" Fourth-album). There you have some real gloomy organ work!! People who like the 'Out-Bloody-Rageous' intro should check out the Terry Riley album "A rainbow in curved air".
arnulff <email@example.com> (22.06.2003)
I bought Third as my first SM LP in 1992, advised by a friend who had been knowing about them for a long time because of his brother. In this period, I was beginning to listen to older music than before (In older, I mean from the seventies...) but the first time I listenned this LP, I didn't understand anything. During months, the LP stayed quite with the other CDs I don't listen a lot... The second time I listen to it, I was coming back from 2 weeks of army, and had blew on a skunk stick just before, enjoying my fresh liberty... It has been a musical schock. 2 months later, I was considering this LP as the best I never listen... After all that, i discovered the whole Canterburry world, with Caravan, Gong, Hatfield & The North... and Third is still a reference, a sound that has never been imitated... Thank U Misters Ratledge, Wyatt, Hopper ...!
sorry 4 my typically french English ...
Keith Hart <Keith_Hart@cbc.ca> (29.01.2004)
So many comments. It's remarkable to me how an album, albeit a DOUBLE-ALBUM can strike such an impassioned chord in so many people and yet present such absolute counter-attacks on almost any kind of conventionality. But where courage + technical brilliance + pure compositional invention gather under the same pool of light the results are singular. "Facelift" provides so many intriguing "sounds" that the ear is struck with new collisions unimagined. "Moon in June" is Wyatt's opus within the prog-suite stakes. It also guides the album to a plain that suggests a pop smoothness after the intrumental chaos and structured noodly theme of the previous two instrumental tracks. But where it takes you is the most satisfying surprise on the album. The musical display met with a musical roughness is extraordinary. The last track is also an incredible forray into grand original composition with it's hypnotic somnabulist opening pattern that portends to nothing one could imagine. Pure invention. The second track dumbs things down only a little bit and is by no means a needle-leap. If any album is a grandly realised focussed one-of-a-kind treasure this one is. It blew many minds at the time. If you listen to the excellent Hatfield and the North lp's you can see how it opened up the field of composition - and - execution providing the widest trip and no promise of return.
Erik Kennes <firstname.lastname@example.org> (18.10.2000)
When reading your reviews, I realize how difficult it is to judge an album and a band. It often depends on what points of reference you have. Your points of reference seem to be in rock and "experimental" rock, you always compare with other types of music from the same period. When comparing with all jazz and rockjazz albums, one realizes that Soft Machine had created a unique soundscape and especially feeling in this area of music making. I do love, I'm fond of the meditative melancholy overtly present in third and fourth. I've been listening to these albums countless times, and every time the richness and subtleness of rhythms and compositions overwhelms me. Fourth is not as accomplished as third, but it gives a perfect and original synthesis of jazz and rock in a unique dark brown mood and texture. Compared to these two albums, the following "swing" much more, and come a little nearer to more conventional jazzrock, the rythmic textures are less interwoven. I like fifth and sixth for sure, but the atmosphere of the albums lacks more and more this intimate warmth of fourth and third. Their Seven album is the one I think is very cold in atmosphere and mood. Softs becomes hollow music, formalistic. The content of the music seems richest in third and fourth. But their reference point obviously is jazz.
Well, there is no way really to judge an album. Musicians want to achieve the most accurate expression, and I guess they're happy when somebody feels or even understands their music.
b.dobben <email@example.com> (30.03.2003)
Well George, the whole crowd of brass players is probably the main reason why you hate this album. I wonder if Allan Holdsworth would have played exactly the same notes on guitar as Elton Dean does on alto sax and saxello on these pieces - wouldn't you have liked the music much more? You just don't like horns (certainly not in a dominant role). I certainly do and Dean & Skidmore are excellent players. Everyone knows what he (or she) likes and you don't have to be John Coltrane (or Charlie Parker, the two best saxophonists ever!! - who the hell is Bobby Keyes anyway) to pull off some great solo's. I prefer Dean much more than so many clones of Coltrane. You also probably don't read much reviews of modern jazz, otherwise you wouldn't make such a generalistic caricature about the entire jazzpress. Every modern jazz record suffers from complete emotional and stylistic blandness??? (George's blemish!!) Come on. In other reviews you stated that you don't consider yourself as a jazz-connaisseur, so there you are. Fourth certainly is not a masterpiece but especially 'Teeth' and 'Kings and Queens' are far beyond generic fusion with great frivolous drumming by Robert Wyatt (better than the more stiffled and restrained stuff he did on most parts of Third).
Andrew Wrench <firstname.lastname@example.org> (25.05.2003)
I'd like to concur with the penultimate paragraph about the educational value of Fifth, and Soft Machine in general. The way I got to Soft Machine was via a friend who had heard the 25 seconds of "Love makes sweet music" on The history and the mystery of planet Gong. He went out and bought the first Softs album which coincidentally had just be re-released. On hearing that I became intrigued so I looked out for their material. At that time Soft Machine albums were difficult to get hold of, and relatively expensive. The first one I saw in my local record collectors shop was fifth, so it was the first Soft Machine album I bought.
At that time (around 1990) I was mainly into thrash metal, i.e. Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax etc, but I had been gradually accumulating Deep Purple and Frank Zappa albums. Ignoring the guitars, there are certain similarities between DP, FZ and SM - long numbers and an emphasis on musicianship.
As I listened to fifth quite a lot, it certainly opened my eyes to other possibilities in music, not immediately a jazz direction, but towards ambient house.
Various of your reviews and correspondents reference Eno but his work was also somewhat obscure at that time. Rather less obscure was the Orb. Now I actually have no idea whether Dr Alex Patterson had listened to Soft Machine (although "why is 6 scared of 7" on the B side of the "a huge ever growing pulsating brain that rules the world from the centre of the ultraworld" ep is a very SM title) but once again the music is structurally similar, or at the very least easy to grasp.
Dull autobiographical details (almost) over, the reason why Soft Machine are important, and Fifth, along with Third and the debut album are important - perhaps more than you credit - is that they collectively stand at the crossroads of so many genres. It would be possible for someone getting into music now to come from a dance, jazz, rock, punk, prog, or even folk direction, to all or any of the other genres via the Soft Machine. For instance follow these short steps, i.e. Linkin Park (or i.e. Massive Attack) - Prodigy - Orbital - Orb - (Eno) - Soft Machine, or Iron Maiden - Hawkwind - Gong - Soft Machine , or Bob Dylan - Roy Harper - Caravan - Soft Machine (I actually got into Caravan at the same time as SM without knowing there was any connection when I borrowed a tape mistakenly thinking it was Camel - last dull autobiographical detail) etc. etc. I suspect it is unlikely that someone would come from being a jazz fan and reach these other areas, mainly because the other stuff is so accessible. However I think there is an argument to be made that Soft Machine are as important as the Stone Roses when it comes to breaking down genre barriers, although they have impacted less people by several orders of magnitude.
Of course after a while Fifth did broaden my horizons into the more experimental forms of jazz. It is absolutely the direct cause of me ever buying anything by Eberhard Weber, and probably one of only two or three ways, the others being hearing/buying Kind of Blue, and Zappa, that a rock fan will find jazz. Whilst writing this I listened to Primal Screams Screamadelica, Orb's A huge ever ...... ep, and Lost Horizons by Lemon Jelly. They all have partial elements which could have been taken straight from Fifth. In fact I would urge anybody who likes SM to check out the Lemon Jelly record. And vice versa. Finally the best way to listen to Fifth is when tired, very late at night, in the dark, and with no noise interference such as traffic or wind/rain whatsoever. In these circumstances Drop et al are a pleasure to listen to.
Remote <email@example.com> (20.03.2004)
While I agree with the rating you've given this record, it should be put in context.
I was lucky enough to catch the band with Phil Howard on drums (late 1971) and it really rocked.
The sad thing about 5 is that, along with Vol.2 and Third, it could have been one of their best records. Ypu have to listen to the 1971 BBC radio recordings (the only other recording that featured Howard) to get some idea of how this band sounded.
The track "As If" on the BBC sessions is about 1000 times better than the version that ended up on 5 (Phil Howard doesn't appear on side 2 of the record) the session is a bit untogether, you get the impresion that this new material for the band, but Howard (apart from a dodgy start) is incredible.
After Wyatt's departure, Howard was the perfect drummer for the softs. They had moved on, compositionally, from the disasterous and pompous Fourth. Ratledge's compositions for 5 show a greater maturity- less tendancy to overwrite- a lot of the material is very minimal (modal jams on a bass riff). This stuff sounds great, so long as you divert attention from the repetition. If you compare the two versions of "As If", you find that you are not really aware of the riff in the Howard version (eleven-eight time signature with Howard creating wild cross-rhythm's over the top). The John Marshall take on the same tune (the one on 5) is uninspired in comparison, and the bass-line just seems to go on and on.
John Marshall was ( is ) a great drummer. But he wasn't the right drummer at this time, and he ushered in the dreaded Jenkins.
Howard's reward for all this great playing? He got the sack, and apart from the occassional stint with Elton Dean, was never heard about again.
My own feeling is that Ratledge should have left the band, rather than sacking Howard. In recent interviews Ratledge has said that he started to loose interest after Third. And by 5 he was definately the weakest link. The fuzz-tone organ, which had once been exciting, was now just a brand- the Ratledge brand. Trouble is, Rolf Harris had, if my memory serves, had just introduced the "Stylophone" which sounded remarkably similar.
Why not listen to Miles Davis' In A Silent Way, Bitches Brew, Live Evil, etc (anything between '68-'75) for pre-cursors to and huge influences on Soft Machine - Miles' stuff from then went from abstract ambience (Silent Way) to freaked-out bad-acid Sly Stone-Hendrix madness, often with the ENTIRE band playing thru wah wah pedals (including trumpet) live. And then you won't have to keep saying you know nothing about jazz...!
some of your notes concerning 'Riff' and 'Riff II' (on Six album) seems no correct : "The live record seems, for the most part, to be improvised; the only track taken from an earlier album is 'All White' from Fifth, but even that one is performed quite differently from the original, obviously, to accommodate Jenkins' playing style. The most memorable tune, of course, is 'Riff' (and 'Riff II', its reprise at the end), if only because, well, it's indeed a riff, and a good one at that. On 'Riff', Hopper gets to shine, for once, holding that gruesome, yet stately and majestic, riff down and being aided by Ratledge who almost turns it to 'goth'; on 'Riff II', it's Jenkins who gets to be riffing on his oboe"
What do you think about? I listened this tracks and "Riff II" at the end of the track 2 - after a long solo of drums - ends perfectly the live part of the CD but it's just a repetitive composition of Jenkins played on keyboard by Mike Ratledge and not Jenkins oboe's riff ? The beginning of 'Riff' - after 'All White' and 'Between' - is on the 13 th minute of track 1? It's difficult for me to find the beginning of each compositions of this track of about19 minutes ; so, I'm not too sure you' re wrong, but... What do you think about?
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Jon Gray <firstname.lastname@example.org> (25.10.2002)
Eh. It's probably a personal thing, but I look on "Hazard Profile" and the like as just totally devoid of any rock energy. Granted one can admire Holdsworth and take him for the finger-flashin' man that he is, he's quite talented, but it hasn't any soul to it. The production especially sounds so canned and inhuman, it makes the album totally unlistenable. I honestly prefer the whacked out jazzisms of Third to this lacklustre dirge-fest.
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Mariusz Lubka <email@example.com> (25.06.2003)
If you really love Soft Machines's Soft Machine, Volume Two, Third or Fourth (I do) you really shouldn't bother yourself on Land of Cockayne. Why? Because it's not Soft Machine at all :-( The ressurected band has nothing to show. The album is boring from the begining to the end. God only knows why they released it (was it money, wasn't it?). The album isn't disaster as music, but it is disaster as the Soft Machine's work!
Christiane COULOMB <firstname.lastname@example.org> (02.11.2005)
I Want to defend Land of cockayne! It is a very good album, deep inspired, played with reserve, musical.
Of course, it is no longer music from the beginning, but there is a great sound, good inspiration (thank you Karl!), high flying improvisation, well-thought arrangements, excellent compositions, and mature interpretation...
Those men who dont feel it are surely "hollow" or perhaps intolerant. Since the eihties, I rather the last album of Soft!
The form is no very important in music! The feeling has to be placed above everythings.
And the last point : You can feel in the audition of that album, the whole life of GIANT musicians as Bruce, Holdsworth, or Marshall... rESPECT!