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Soft Machine: Live At The Baked Potato

Chris M. Slawecki By

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Soft Machine: Live At The Baked Potato
European progressive jazz-rock ensemble Soft Machine seems to have run through more lives than even the luckiest tomcat. They've been first-rate musicians at every incarnation, and it's heartening to hear John Etheridge (guitar), John Marshall (drums), Roy Babbington (bass) and relative newcomer Theo Travis (piano, flute, saxophone) sound so vibrant as well as accomplished on Live at the Baked Potato.

Baked Potato is a souvenir, recorded at Los Angeles' legendary musical hotspot, from the ensemble's 2019 tour of North America in support of Hidden Details, the first album released under the band's original Soft Machine name in nearly forty years. This tour also celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of their first North American tour, and (believe it or not) was Soft Machine's first Los Angeles appearance since they opened for Jimi Hendrix at the Hollywood Bowl in September 1968!

Baked features beautifully tranquil passages and glorious moments of ecstatic electric freakouts. "Broken Hill" immediately brings that picture precisely into focus, melancholy and with deep blues shimmering off of Etheridge's long, twisting and turning, lines. "The Man Who Waved at Trains" similarly paints a curious and lonely- sounding portrait, while Travis' saxophone and Etheridge's guitar clasp hands and climb toward the sun in a beautiful, reflective duet that might genuinely catch your "Heart Off Guard."

"Hazard Profile Pt. 1" swings from Babbington's and Marshall's slow-rolling and monstruous 4/4 groove and the grungy fulcrum of Etheridge's psychedelic guitar, more hard-edged rock than jazz for sure. "Tales of Taliesin" erupts into a duet between guitar and drums, freeing Etheridge to rocket like fireworks into the stratospheric sound of his Soft Machine guitar predecessor Allan Holdsworth. His guitar duking it out with Marshall's drums make this rave-up well worth its wild ride. (Close your eyes while listening to these two tunes and you can almost feel yourself hurtling back into the 1970s.)

Soft Machine finish their Baked Potato with the title track of the Hidden Details studio album they were touring to support. Marshall's sharp punctuation insistently kicks the saxophone further out until Travis drops out completely, leaving the remaining trio to stir up a sweet and funky space jam that nicely sets up Etheridge to keep firing hot metal until he had no bullets left in his guitar slinger holster.

Track Listing

Out-Bloody-Intro; Out-Bloody-Rageous; Sideburn; Hazard Profile; Kings And Queens; The Tale Of Taliesin; Heart Off Guard; Broken Hill; Fourteen Hour Dream; The Man Who Waved At Trains; Life On Bridges; Hidden Details.

Personnel

John Etheridge: guitar; Theo Travis: saxophone, tenor; Roy Babbington: bass, electric; John Marshall: drums.

Theo Travis plays tenor saxophone (4, 11, 12), soprano saxophone (2, 7), flute (5, 9, 10) and Fender Rhodes (1, 6).

Album information

Title: Live At The Baked Potato | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Dyad

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