SOFT MACHINE — Third (review)

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