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Soft Machine: Alive In Paris 1970

Nic Jones By

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Soft Machine

Alive In Paris 1970

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This could just as well be titled Very Much Alive In Paris since the DVD captures for posterity a couple of Soft Machine performances first broadcast on French television's POP 2 program on March 2, 1970. It features the short-lived five-piece incarnation of the group that comprised Lyn Dobson on soprano sax, flute, vocal and harmonica in addition to the potent quartet of Elton Dean, Mike Ratledge, Hugh Hopper and Robert Wyatt. As such, it has that moment-in-time feel for a number of reasons, not the least which is the potent, iconoclastic music actually being deemed worthy of televisual exposure.

The enduring impression that this group never played the same set the same way twice is evident from the git-go here, with "Facelift" living up to its title in the way that Dean and Dobson duet with the melody without actually fully stating it before the familiar theme emerges properly.

It should be noted at this point that there's little visual fireworks on the disc, which demonstrates, more than anything else, how the program was filmed at a time when it was assumed that the music was more than sufficiently eloquent in itself. Thus the camera focuses exclusively on Wyatt during his vocal extemporisation and on Dean for much of his saxello solo on "Eamonn Andrews," one of a number of moments that show the group had a special grasp of dynamics, resolving the age-old issue of tension and release with aplomb. Dobson's flute solo on "Backwards/Mousetrap Reprise" makes a similar point, with the rhythm section of Ratledge, Hopper and Wyatt evidencing more than mere power and volume.

"Out-Bloody-Rageous" rounds proceedings off in fine fashion, the tumbling line of its theme nicely negotiated in unison by Dean and Dobson and, as with numerous other examples of this group's music in circulation, the result overall is as strong a case as any for the joys of creative tension.

Tracks: Facelift, Esther's Nose Job, Eamonn Andrews/Backwards/Mousetrap, Out-Bloody-Rageous.

Personnel: Lyn Dobson: soprano sax, flute, voice, harmonica; Elton Dean: alto sax, saxello; Mike Ratledge: organ, pianet; Hugh Hopper: bass; Robert Wyatt: drums, vocals.

Production Notes: 62 minutes. Recorded March 2, 1970 at Theatre de la Musique, Paris, France. Extras: None.


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