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LIVE REVIEWS

Soft Machine at the Beachland Ballroom

Read "Soft Machine at the Beachland Ballroom" reviewed by Matt Hooke

Soft Machine Beachland BallroomCleveland, OH October 18, 2018 A disco ball may have been spinning at the Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland Ohio, but this was no dance party. Instead, Soft Machine brought their brand of progressive jazz-rock to the venue with the energy of a band a fraction of its age. The band came to the Ballroom as part of an international tour celebrating the release of Hidden Details (Moonjune), the band's first ...

ALBUM REVIEWS

Soft Machine: Hidden Details

Read "Hidden Details" reviewed by Mike Jurkovic

From leading the psychedelic '60s charge with Pink Floyd to a more experimental, free rock/jazz stratagem that incorporated whatever sound caught its collective musical ear, Soft Machine included, over the course of nearly two decades, a colorful cast of eccentrics, like guitarists Allan Holdsworth and Andy Summers, drummer/vocalist Robert Wyatt, bassist Hugh Hopper, and fuzz organist maestro Mike Ratledge. Nearly four decades later, Soft Machine still makes a far ranging, far flung sound like no other. Most aware ...

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Soft Machine: Hidden Details

Read "Hidden Details" reviewed by John Kelman

Following a series of releases for Moonjune Records under the moniker Soft Machine Legacy, beginning with 2005's Live in Zaandam and concluding, most recently, with 2013's Burden of Proof, this quartet consisting largely of members from the classic Canterbury group Soft Machine has finally decided to drop the “Legacy" and go it with the original name alone. And why not? For a group that began in the mid-'60s and, over the next 15 years or so, released eleven ...

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Soft Machine: Switzerland 1974

Read "Switzerland 1974" reviewed by Glenn Astarita

Much has been written about this vastly influential and time-honored jazz fusion unit that skirted the avant-garde spectrum, especially when saxophone great Elton Dean was in the band, in addition to its psychedelic persuasions during the 60s. This 1974 live concert in Switzerland, features soon-to-be guitar god Allan Holdsworth's entry into the band's lineup. At this time, keyboardist Mike Ratledge loomed as the only founding member of the unit. These historic performances are supplemented by the concert footage DVD, underscored ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

Switzerland 1974

Read "Switzerland 1974" reviewed by John Kelman

Thank goodness for Cuneiform Records. Beyond releasing cutting edge new music from now-longstanding groups like The Claudia Quintet and relative newcomers like Norway's Pixel, the intrepid American label continues to unearth, restore and release wonderful archival finds like S.O.S.' Looking for the Next One (2013), and the equally impressive Flashpoint: NDR Jazz Workshop-April '69 (2011), from one of the group's reed players, John Surman. Perhaps its most important work on the archival front has, however, been in sourcing live music ...

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Soft Machine: Tales of Taliesin: The EMI Years Anthology 1975-1981

Read "Tales of Taliesin: The EMI Years Anthology 1975-1981" reviewed by John Kelman

With the release of Bundles (Harvest, 1975), Soft Machine moved more definitively into the riff-based fusion territory that keyboardist/reed man Karl Jenkins had begun pushing the band since his arrival on Six (Sony, 1973). With reeds becoming increasingly less dominant, and the group's only remaining founding member, keyboardist Mike Ratledge, relegated to a backline position, this incarnation--distanced completely from the minimalist-informed, free jazz-centric, but still high volume and rock-edged classic quartet that recorded albums like the seminal Third (Sony, 1970)--truly ...

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Soft Machine: Alive & Well: Recorded in Paris

Read "Alive & Well: Recorded in Paris" reviewed by John Kelman

Despite the controversy that plagued the ever-shifting musical persona of Soft Machine during its 15-year run, the benefits of time and hindsight have largely proven the value of every incarnation--albeit best assessed independently, rather than as part of a single continuum. 1978's Alive & Well: Recorded in Paris was the last of a three-record run on Harvest, and saw Soft Machine leave all vestiges of its roots behind, as its last remaining founder, keyboardist Mike Ratledge, finally disappeared entirely, by ...

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Soft Machine: NDR Jazz Workshop –Hamburg, Germany 1973

Read "NDR Jazz Workshop –Hamburg, Germany 1973" reviewed by Nic Jones

By May, 1973, Soft Machine was well on its way from being a truly remarkable outfit to being a comparatively anonymous fusion band. This CD and DVD set goes to show this, but at least the music is played with the kind of fire that wasn't apparent on their studio albums of the time. While the rhythm section--bassist Roy Babbington and drummer John Marshall--was a lot more “correct" than its predecessors, the pair does inject a kind ...

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Soft Machine: Softs

Read "Softs" reviewed by John Kelman

The last several years have seen the bulk of legendary British group Soft Machine's original recordings reissued: some available after years out-of-print; all receiving sonic upgrades as definitive as they'll likely ever get. Still, Esoteric Recordings' Mark Powell gave all the love he could to Sony's reissue of the group's classic Third (1970), but its marginal improvement only proves the limitations of even the best ears and the most advanced studio technology, when substandard sound is committed to tape, even ...

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Soft Machine: Land of Cockayne

Read "Land of Cockayne" reviewed by John Kelman

Three years after Alive & Well: Recorded in Paris (Harvest, 1978), Britain's Soft Machine suddenly resurfaced momentarily with Land of Cockayne. Given the experimental nature of its glory days and a latter-day fusion masterpiece in Bundles (Esoteric, 1975), it's understandable why Cockayne has historically been considered Soft Machine's dullest moment. But time heals all wounds, and Esoteric's remaster reveals an album stronger than it seemed at a time when it was impossible not to draw comparisons with the Soft Machine ...

ALBUM REVIEWS

Soft Machine: Bundles

Read "Bundles" reviewed by John Kelman

If the recent discovery of NDR Jazz Workshop (Cuneiform, 2010) demonstrated that the once considered “transitional" 1973 line-up of British psychedelia-cum-electric-avant- jazzers Soft Machine was, indeed, a fine enough standalone unit, then Esoteric's near- concurrent reissue of 1975's Bundles proves that the addition of guitarist Allan Holdsworth lit one serious fire beneath that same group. Back in print and a tremendous improvement over the previous See for Miles CD, it's a chance to revisit an album that fired an important ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

Soft Machine: NDR Jazz Workshop - Hamburg, Germany May 17, 1973

Read "Soft Machine: NDR Jazz Workshop - Hamburg, Germany May 17, 1973" reviewed by John Kelman

Every year it seems that more archive material is unearthed from Soft Machine, the legendary British group that began life in Dadaist psychedelia, but wound down as a powerhouse, chops-centric, fusion outfit at the end of the 1970s, with stops in more complex writing and free jazz territory along the way. As influenced by minimalist composers such as Terry Riley as it was by trumpeter Miles Davis' electric jazz proclivities, the majority of live material issued during the noughties has ...