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Soft Machine: Grides (1970)

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Soft Machine: Grides How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

These Cuneiform people have a sense of what music grabbed people at a crucial point in the development of jazz and rock. Their sixth rare Soft Machine set is a thing of primal, noisy wonder, forged at a time when the fusion was "nuclear —causing sonic explosions. This version of the group—with the late Elton Dean on saxophones and electric piano, Hugh Hopper on bass, Mike Ratledge on keyboards and Robert Wyatt on drums—was the quintessential British group of its kind, one that took what was in the air in the late '60s and early '70s and ran it through its own set of aural processors to create a powerful new blast of invention.

Grides, recorded in Amsterdam in 1970, raucously demonstrates this group in concert. It's relentless music and the sax and keyboard often start to sound the same. Try "Virtually, a tune that became one of the group's staples. Dean goose-honks over pounding rhythm and organ and keyboard wails of Ratledge. Everyone gets a shot at taking this music somewhere new and even when it quiets down it still feels as if it's rocketing forward. Wyatt is a volcanic drummer and his every accent is packed with a punch.

The records that Soft Machine made for CBS during this period were the studio takes of the live versions done in concerts like this. "Out-Bloody-Rageous is Ratledge's own paean to "madness and finds the group introducing another pulsating excursion with a slow funk groove that is overwhelmed almost immediately. The composer's fuzz organ takes off and makes us laugh with its audacious licks that keep coming.

Interestingly, the album title is a shortened version of Dean's "Neo-Caliban Grides, which he described as "raucous sounds from wild demonic mythical tribes. For this concert of course, and for many like it, Soft Machine was one of those tribes.

The concert is complemented by a twenty-minute studio performance—the only known Soft Machine on DVD. After hearing the concert, it almost seems static watching a studio performance, but the music still feels vital and new.


Track Listing: CD: Facelift; Virtually; Out-Bloody-Rageous; Neo-Caliban Grides; Teeth; Slightly All the Time; Eamonn Andrews; Esther's Nose Job; Slightly All The Time/Noisette. DVD: Neo-Caliban Grides; Out-Bloody-Rageous; Robert Wyatt's Vocal Improvisation; Eamonn Andrews; All White.

Personnel: Elton Dean: alto saxophone, saxello, electric piano; Hugh Hopper: bass; Mike Ratledge: electric piano, organ; Robert Wyatt: drums, vocals.

Record Label: Cuneiform Records

Style: Beyond Jazz


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