SOFT MACHINE — Third (review)

SOFT MACHINE — Third album cover Album · 1970 · Jazz Related Rock Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
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.
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