SOFT MACHINE — The Peel Sessions (review)

SOFT MACHINE — The Peel Sessions album cover Live album · 1990 · Fusion Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
snobb
Besides of 13 studio albums (few of them are Soft Machine albums by the name only),there are plenty of archival live releases and compilations of previously unreleased broadcasts flowed the market.Some of them are really valuable,another just interesting and many - of very average value (usually bad sound quality and not very original material).

For everyone interested in Soft Machine legacy and ready to start listening their archival releases it's important to know where to start. I expect "The Peel Sessions" is one of great entrances.

The album contains previously unreleased recordings from BBC John Peel radio (Top Gear)broadcasts archives with quite acceptable sound quality and really interesting materials recorded. Compilation's opener is great "Moon In June", recorded at 10/6/1969. The musicians play as Wyatt/Hopper/Ratledge trio with Wyatt singing lyrics,specially prepared for this recording.Thirteen minutes long psychedelic pop composition with Wyatt's vocals mixed in front of the mix.

Next two compositions were recorded for another Top Gear broadcast at 10/11/1969 and are very interesting: besides of classic Soft Machine trio,on these recordings participates Keith Tippett's brass section (Elton Dean - alto sax,Nick Evans - trombone,Mark Charig - cornet,Lyn Dobson - soprano sax).Both them sound very unique - closer to brass free jazz combo,but with rock heaviness added. Excellent sax free jazz improvs on these compositions are between the best you can find on any Soft Machine's album at all!

Fourth (and last on disc 1) composition was recorded by Soft Machine as quartet with Elton Dean as band's member. Dean's soloing there is excellent - he has much more freedom and space for improvs than on any studio release.

Disc 2 opener Facelift comes from the same 1969 session as Moon In June.Virtually was recorded at 15/12/1970 by Soft Machine as quartet,Neo-Caliban Grides and Dedicated To You, But You Weren't Listening both were recorded by same line-up,but later (1/6/1971).Rest Drop and As If were recorded at 15/11/1971 by quartet,but with Phil Howard instead of Robert Wyatt on drums.

It's great that even compositions ,played without additional collaborators (as trio or quartet) are seriously different from their studio versions and generally are much more free-jazz influenced,improv-based, often with excellent Dean's and Ratledge soloing. In all,big part of album sounds as live recording of free jazz with some pre-composed material!

Album's recordings cover best band's period and are recorded in great atmosphere of John Peel broadcast sessions. Music sounds really inspired, material comes from band's best compositions, and two songs with free jazz brass section are really delicious.

One between band's best albums beside of few studio works of the same (classic) period.
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