SOFT MACHINE — Third (review)

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