SOFT HEAP / SOFT HEAD
Classic Fusion • United Kingdom

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Soft Heap was a Canterbury scene supergroup founded in January 1978. The name references Soft Machine while "Heap" comes from the first letters of the band's founders: Hugh Hopper (bass), Elton Dean (saxophone), Alan Gowen (keyboards) and Pip Pyle (drums). Hopper and Dean had worked together in Soft Machine, while Gowen and Pyle had worked together in National Health. The band went on tour in 1978, but with Pyle busy with National Health, Dave Sheen replaced him and the name was changed to Soft Head. Rogue Element, a live album from the Soft Head tour, was released in 1978, but the original Soft Heap line-up reconvened in October 1978 to record Soft Heap (released 1979). John Greaves (also from National Health) replaced Hopper in 1979-80, while 1981 saw a new line-up of Dean, Pyle, Greaves and Mark Hewins on guitar following Gowen's death that year. The new line-up toured intermittently through the read more...
Thanks to silent way for the addition and snobb for the updates

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SOFT HEAP / SOFT HEAD Discography

SOFT HEAP / SOFT HEAD albums / top albums

.. Album Cover 3.96 | 4 ratings
Soft Heap
Classic Fusion 1979

SOFT HEAP / SOFT HEAD EPs & splits

SOFT HEAP / SOFT HEAD live albums

.. Album Cover 4.40 | 5 ratings
Rogue Element (as Soft Head)
Classic Fusion 1978
.. Album Cover 3.50 | 2 ratings
A Veritable Centaur
Classic Fusion 1995
.. Album Cover 4.00 | 1 ratings
Al Dente
Classic Fusion 2008

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SOFT HEAP / SOFT HEAD Reviews

SOFT HEAP / SOFT HEAD Rogue Element (as Soft Head)

Live album · 1978 · Classic Fusion
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
snobb
Excellent live release of short-lived Canterbury all-stars band Soft Heap. Originally band's drummer was Pip Pyle, but he couldn't make it for the tour in France, so Dave Sheen was hired (and band's name was slightly changed from Soft Heap to Soft Head because of this).

Soft Heap was founded by ex-Soft Machine founders Elton Dean and Hugh Hopper, the other half were two known Canterbury musicians Alan Gowen and Pip Pyle.Relatively less known Dave Sheen on this release is absolutely adequate change for Pip Pyle though.

Band's music has its roots on classic Soft Machine sound, mixing psychedelic rock/pop with jazz improvs, Gowen added great composed melodic elements to the sound. Originally Soft Heap released only one studio album,a bit eclectic one, but full of excellent Dean's sax improvs, strong melodic component and even brass arrangements on some compositions. Possibly the only weak point of studio release was its a bit chaotic mix of genres and slightly too lazy dynamics.

This live version doesn't have such problems at all! Music is a bit faster and much more energetic, all quite different elements are melted in one balanced sound and as a result you have one of the most adventurous, beautiful and experimental electric jazz album, recorded in late 70-s.

Cuneiform re-released this album on CD in 1996 with two strong bonus tracks, what made the album even better.

SOFT HEAP / SOFT HEAD Soft Heap

Album · 1979 · Classic Fusion
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
snobb
Soft Heap is obviously Soft Machine-influenced Elton Dean's project (or just alternative version of post-classic Soft Machine, choose what you like more)with another original SM-founding member bassist Hugh Hopper on board. Another half of Soft Heap comes from Hatfield and North fame: Alan Gowen on keyboards and drummer Pip Pyle.

After his departure from Soft Machine Elton Dean played in few projects (incl.Carla Bley's band), but there he returned to old vision of jazz-rock improv band in Canterbury scene tradition, with psychedelic roots and experimentalism.

Soft Heap recorded only one studio album, it's difficult to imagine,what would be their direction in future, but this release is great illustration what could be the different direction for Soft Machine (if Elton Dean and Hugh Hopper would be in charge of it).

Musically album is very eclectic and very unusual at the same time: comparing with post-Dean Soft Machine complex,fast and technical jazz fusion direction, this album's music is real Canterbury sound. Elton Dean's sax is one in front of the sound, but every musician has space for improvisation. Music is mostly interplays,as on earlier Soft Machine's albums, but all album doesn't sound nostalgic or vintage at all. Compositions varies from free-jazz mid-tempo,almost lazy slightly psychedelic to almost big band-like brassy sound (with a help of guest brass section -Mark Charig on cornet and trumpet and Radu Malfatti on trombone). Possibly, this eclecticism doesn't work positively in all moments, changes from free-jazz influenced composition to melodic,full of lyrical nostalgia sax-led pop-jazz song aren't always natural.

But most important thing - in late 70-s this album is rare example of innovative and original jazz fusion, radically different from dominating technically complex fast and energetic,but emotionless and often faceless one. All musicians are equal partners in this music,full of personality and strange but attractive combination of past and future.

It's a pity we don't have much legacy from this original and very talented project, but few live albums besides of this only studio one demonstrate even better side of musicians playing their music live with even bigger improvisational freedom.

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