SOFT MACHINE — Third

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4.64 | 55 ratings | 7 reviews
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Album · 1970

Tracklist

A Facelift
B.a Slightly All The Time
B.b Noisette
B.c Slightly All The Time
C Moon In June
D Out-Bloody-Rageous

Bonus disc (2007 Sony CD):
1. Out-Bloody-Rageous (11:57)
2. Facelift (11:23)
3. Esther's Nose Job (15:38)

Total Time: 38:58

Line-up/Musicians

Bass – Hugh Hopper
Drums, Vocals – Robert Wyatt
Flute, Clarinet [Bass] – Jimmy Hastings
Flute, Saxophone [Soprano] – Lyn Dobson
Organ, Piano – Mike Ratledge
Saxophone [Alto, Saxello] – Elton Dean
Trombone – Nick Evans
Violin – Rab Spall

About this release

CBS – S 64080 (UK)

Thanks to snobb, js for the updates

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SOFT MACHINE THIRD reviews

Specialists/collaborators reviews

Abraxas
Who said that the British couldn't play great jazz as the Americans?

Man, this is a unique jazz gem yet to be heard by most jazz fans. Ok, probably most wouldn't dig it, but who cares? The Soft Machine's third release is one of a kind in the entire world, released in a time where 'jazz fusion' was at its early stage, this band seemed to be ahead of most contemporary jazz rockers. Surely Miles Davis was jealous of what this band made contemporary to the man's jazz rock experiments.

At times so fine and British-jazzy, at others so chaotic, sometimes dreamy as a German electronic band, yes, this is freaky jazz (rock?). Before I enter in details, I'd like to state that the overall production is rather weak but being 1970 not many had great productions either, so take that in mind. However, after all, this is majestic twisted jazz, who needs great production anyway? Ok, Miles Davis needed one.

First composition, 'Facelift', is the one that is most inclined towards free jazz and avant-garde out of the four big compositions. It has a lot of dissonancy and experimental bits, though with repeated listens you will get the whole thing better, but I got to admit that I usually skip this. Probably the only composition of the album that seems to be affected by the raw and dusty production, though that's mainly cause it was recorded live. Mind you, when I'm in the mood for it, it's like listening to an extremely powerful and noisy rock jam which really rocks. It does evoke a bit the prog rock trend with a flute solo, among other things. Recommended mainly to fans of Henry Cow and The Mothers of Invention's most avant moments, and maybe some free jazz.

Second composition, 'Slightly All the Time', announces The Machine's future albums (Fourth and Fifth), being heavily based on jazz with great saxophone playing courtesy of Elton Dean plus a great rhythm section, including a bass line that is similar to 'Tout de Suite' by Davis. The composition evolves a lot, from gentle paces to faster ones, from beautiful melodies and moods to more ferocious ones. Definitely an amazing construction, the first masterpiece on the album.

Third composition is 'Moon in June', a composition that has a huge fan base and I, after repeated listens, became to be part of it. It's the only track featuring vocals; these are from the one and only Robert Wyatt, the drummer of the band. A tad bit melancholic and psychedelic at first, but in the very middle of the tune it all becomes another Soft Machine rockin' jazzy jam with a solid performance of overlooked keyboard master, Mike Ratledge. The ending is pretty much noise, featuring backward playing and a noisy violin, but since already from the beginning the track seems to be very schizophrenic in mood, it fits really well. Odd at first, but very rewarding after various listens, it's undoubtedely Wyatt's vocal section that is the most enjoyable and unique.

Fourth composition, 'Out Bloody Rageous', is yet another incredible tune that is more akin to 'Slightly All the Time' in the jazzier aspect. But the highlight of this tune is not actually the jazzy playing, if not the five minute spacey intro which is pure bliss. Of course, the overall playing of the rest of the band in the rest of the composition is fantastic, great bass work and especially superb woodwind playing, as well as a really fine keyboard solo from Mike Ratledge. One of the band's greatest achievements.

No further comments other than my recommendation: Highly recommended if you're a jazz and fusion fan looking for something completely fresh, this may blow your mind, beware.

Yes, four different and mind-blowing compositions, which three of them I consider completely timeless, making as a whole a masterpiece, one of the various peaks of British rock/jazz, and definitely the Softs most creative effort.

Third is The Soft Machine's unique jazz style masterpiece, previously they released a psychedelic jazzy rock masterpiece (Vol. 2), and in future years they would release a fusion masterpiece (Bundles). What an amazing band.
snobb
Soft Machine's discography began with self-tittled album (1968),recorded by pop/rock psychedelic trio with some love to jazz (it's hardly to count single,recorded with Daevid Allen as real beginning of their discography; this rare release is available on one of latest CD compilations though). Vol.2 was recorded already as quartet with new guitarist/bassist Hugh Hopper and first in band's history sax player Brian Hopper on board. This release didn't change much in a musical direction, but pop-orientation of the debut slightly changed to a bit more jazzy sound.

Their third album with new sax player Elton Dean (and reeds player Lyn Dobson on one track)was a real revolution in band's sound - they radically turned to free form heavily improvised jazz melted with rock, one of the greatest European jazz fusion masterpiece was born!

Soft Machine from very beginning were very experimental band,always searching on new forms and sounds.Elton Dean(who played with Keith Tippett very experimental free jazz before coming to Soft Machine)possibly was the person who bring that new free jazz component band was ready to adapt in their new sound.

The album was released at that great and strange time, when such release of four compositions on double LP was only possible. Even more - album's opener is free form improv (almost 19 minutes long),recorded live! This composition ("Facelift")is the only recordings where you can hear their short-time saxophonist/flautist Lyn Dobson (playing besides of Elton Dean on alto sax). "Facelift" was blended in studio from two live recordings adding some tape loops.

Three other songs are pre-composed,with some Wyatt characteristic vocals,time signatures shifting and deep lyrical tunes. But at the same time, there are enough space for every musician improvisation on each of them.On "Slightly All The Time" (including pieces from ""Backwards" and "Noisette",other Soft Machine compositions)guest players Nick Evans and Jimmy Hastings added plenty of reeds improvs over the sound, but Elton Dean's sax soloing is really recognizable and important to whole musical atmosphere. "Moon In June" is the only real vocals song,and Wyatt's jazzy vocals of very specific timbre would build this song a cult following later.

Album's closer "Out-Bloody-Rageous" is Mike Ratledge fused organ's driven composition,combining minimalist elements with organ passages and finishing with beautiful Dean sax soloing over the organ and bass repetitive interplay sound.

One of the biggest problem with this excellent recording for years was its sound quality. Even first re-release on CD didn't improve it much. Happily on 2007 remastered re-release sound is warmer and not so muddy,as on all previous vinyl and CD releases. It's still far from great, but the difference is really positive. This re-release is completed with bonus CD (live recordings of "Out-Bloody-Rageous," "Facelift," and a medley from Volume Two). It doesn't add much, but are pleasant addition for band's fans. Main advance is really a better sound - if possible go for this edition.

In all - one of the best experimental jazz fusion release from early 70-s and without doubts the best Soft Machine album ever.

Members reviews

Modrigue
A masterpiece of progressive jazz/rock

From start to end, this album is an absolute killer. Every single second is just excellent, the listener cannot lose his attention on the music. Last one with Robert Wyatt, "Third" is by far SOFT MACHINE's best offering. With four pieces of approximately 20 minutes each, mainly instrumental, the musicians push back the frontiers of space modal jazz rock far beyond.

The record opens with the live song "Facelift" and its crazy sonic experimental deflagrations. A disturbing atmosphere takes place to let the energetic and catchy jazzy theme suddenly explode. The ambiance changes at the middle of the track to become calmer and more mysterious. This section shows echoes of JOHN COLTRANE's playing. "Slightly All The Time" is a soft and slow evolving piece of modal jazz. It has sometimes faster moments which will take you to the heights.

The second half of the song is more tormented and spacey. Then comes the best side of the disc. First, the only track with vocals, "Moon In June". Robert Wyatt's psychedelic and soft voice is just magic and fits perfectly to the melancholic and enchanting music. Just listen and relax. The number of changes of musical directions is just amazing! The second part of the song displays an unbeatable combo of powerful jazz rock. Terrifying! "Out-Bloody-Rageous" concludes magnificently the album by making it enter definitely into the legend. The tune starts and finishes delicately with an ethereal aquatic electronic ambiance taking the listener to the clouds during nearly 5 minutes. The rest just features top-notch and very inspired modal jazz with talented musicians at their best.

Less psychedelic, more jazz and progressive oriented than their two first releases, "Third" is an exemplary tour de force and a milestone in its genre. This is the record that got me into jazz rock and I could simply not get enough of it. There are very few albums which can match this one.

You will not see the time pass. Strongly recommended to everyone!
siLLy puPPy
So intent was SOFT MACHINE to evolve at the speed of light into new musical territory that in only a few short years since they founded as a psychedelic pop band and then virtually establishing what would eventually be called the Canterbury Scene in the musical world that by the time they got to their THIRD album so they had practically abandoned all that had come before and dove head first into the world of free jazz and avant-garde psychedelia with only tidbits of rock still to be found throughout this sprawling and ambitious undertaking. Despite the gaudily ugly packaging and the horribly generic album titles, the music is some of the most complex and sophisticated that 1970 had to offer. SOFT MACHINE was simply ahead of the pack by first creating the Canterbury Scene of rock music well before any other takers would continue down that path but they also jumped into the seas of super complex jazz-fusion which can be heard on this bizarre and transitory classic.

THIRD has a much broader spectrum of sound than anything attempted by the band before. Still on board are Robert Wyatt on drums and vocals on the sole vocal track “Moon In June,” Hugh Hopper on bass and Mike Ratledge on various keyboards but we also get Lyn Dobson on sax and flute, Jimmy Hastings (brother of Pye) on flute and bass clarinet, Rab Spall on violin and Nick Evans on trombone. The result of this expanded musical lineup is a big fat jazzy sounding album that is predominantly jazz in nature but has just enough rock and psychedelic influences to keep it firmly in the unusually experimental section on your shelf. The four tracks almost hit the 20 minute mark each but they often seem like they contain several tracks that combine to make a larger track.

“Facelift” is a live recording on the album and it starts out with very trippy sounding intro before getting into jazz-fusion territory. “Slightly All The Time” seems like a pure jazz piece in the beginning but really rocks out at the end. “Moon In June” is the only track to feature vocals and the last one of SOFT MACHINE to ever contain them. I personally think at least one track on an this mostly instrumental album adds a human touch to the bizarre soundscapes created. “Out-Bloody-Rageous” is evenly divided into four parts with the first being psychedelic, the second being jazzy, the third being keyboard oriented and the last part extremely trippy. This is simply a brilliant album from beginning to end but certainly not an easy one to digest. This one requires being well versed in both progressive rock and jazz to really enjoy. It takes many more listens than the average album to fully fall for. I certainly didn't warm up to it at first but eventually after many persistent and attentive attempts it has in the long run paid off handsomely.

I should also mention that is well worth tracking down the 2007 remastered version for not only do you get superb sound quality but a bonus disc from a concert at The Royal Albert Hall for BBC Radio Three in 1970. There are three tracks: “Out-Bloody-Rageous,” “Facelift” and the previously unreleased “Esther's Nose Job.” This is simply one of those albums where words fail to convey the many moods and dynamisms employed in these works. It is a must hear to understand for it is unlike anything that came before and since as far as I am aware. Classic.
smartpatrol
After a few weeks of putting it off, I listened to Third, my first Soft Machine album. These guys have taken jazz fusion and canterbury, fused them together, and contorted, twisted, and bent them into this wild hot pot of psychedellic jazz (I'm getting very creative on the adjetives this time). The 80 minutes that I spent with the album were very exciting and interesting. My only grief with the album is the third track, "Moon in June", the only song on album with vocals, which are delivered by the band's drummer, Robert Wyatt. Now, he has a fine voice, and I enjoyed his preformance, however, it completely threw me off. It just seemed out of place. But, anyway, great album. If you like jazz fusion and/or psychedellic rock, I'd give it a listen. 3/5
Warthur
The culmination of a positive frenzy of jazz-rock experimentation, lineup shuffling and musical growth since the release of Volume Two sees the Softs put out one of the most ambitious albums the then-young prog scene had seen to date: a double album consisting of just four side-long tracks, well before either Yes or Tangerine Dream would produce such things themselves. And what tracks! With their unique brand of free jazz-influenced fusion shot through with lingering psych proclivities, the Softs make sure that despite the album consisting of nothing but epic track after epic track, it's never dull.

A true highlight of the album for Robert Wyatt fans is Moon In June, the sole track featuring his vocals (Wyatt being kept strictly concentrating on his drums on the other tracks). A true labour of love on Wyatt's part (early demos date back to 1968, and fragments of it were originally songs on the band's 1967 demo recordings with Daevid Allen), the track infamously was a cause of great conflict in the band - the other members were extremely reluctant to contribute to it, so to a large extent it's a multi-tracked Wyatt solo performance. And, of course, outside of Moon In June Wyatt's vocals were pretty much exterminated from the band's sound by this point - which I would decry as a criminal waste of the man's talents, except I'm not sure they'd add a whole lot to the other three tracks on Third. Capturing the Soft Machine just as Wyatt and the rest of the band were beginning the process of parting ways but before Wyatt's important contributions to the band were completely squelched, Third is the third in a winning streak of albums. Later studio releases from the band would be much more of a mixed bag.
Sleepwalker
Four sides, four pieces, that always is a risky formula. On Soft Machine's Third this works out quite nicely actually. Four experimental compositions, all somewhat different from each other yet all driven by dissonance, jazzy improvisations and an overall intense and powerful feel. Third is not an easy thing to digest, but perhaps it's worth the try.

"Facelift" opens the album, being probably the most dissonant and menacing piece on the album. Crushing distorted organ, brooding saxophone soloing and an incredibly fierce sound. Just like all other pieces on the album, there are several radical changes in the music after some time has passed, preventing the music from getting dull. Still, you can expect intense improvisational soloing that could last for quite a while. This is in particular evident on the jazzy "Slightly All The Time", a piece driven by intense saxophone solos and a thick bass sound, that smashes you down on the floor and holds you in its grip.

Whereas all other pieces are completely instrumental, "Moon In June" features Robert Wyatt's excellent vocals. Despite being somewhat harsh and rough the first half of the song also features some soothing melodies and an overall benign mood. However, a sudden change near the 10 minute mark turns the piece into a dissonant beast in the vein of "Facelift", with menacing distorted bass and electric violin. Closing the album is "Out-Bloody-Rageous", which again is a jazzy piece more so than a dissonant piece. The first 5 minutes of it is backwards noise, likeable, but not for more than a minute or so. However, as soon as the main theme comes in "Out-Bloody-Rageous" proves to be a wonderful piece, though it never quite reaches the heights of the other compositions, and tends to drag a bit more than those.

Though Third tends to drag at times, it is a very daring and unique release. Be aware that Third might not be an easy ride, with all its improvisation and dissonance, but if you aren't scared away by such things, it might work out very well for you.

Ratings only

  • Phrank
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