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SOFT MACHINE - Bundles cover
3.61 | 22 ratings | 3 reviews
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Album · 1975

Filed under Fusion


Hazard Profile
A1.a Hazard Profile Part One
A1.b Part Two (Toccatina)
A1.c Part Three
A1.d Part Four
A1.e Part Five
A2 Gone Sailing
B1 Bundles
B2 Land Of The Bag Snake
B3 The Man Who Waved At Trains
B4 Peff
B5 Four Gongs Two Drums
B6 The Floating World


- Roy Babbington /Bass
- John Marshall /Drums, Percussion
- Allan Holdsworth /Guitar
- Karl Jenkins /Oboe, Piano, Saxophone
- Mike Ratledge / Organ, Electric Piano, Synthesizer
- Ray Warleigh / Flute [Alto And Bass] (track B6)

About this release

Harvest – SHSP 4044 (UK)

Thanks to snobb for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

Allan Holdsworth's Soft Machine

With the inclusion of a guitarist, and not any, if not the one and only Allan Holdsworth, The Soft Machine could fully develop and deliver the jazz rock style that was featured on both previous albums, Six and Seven. While Allan was the key-factor to produce this, the other ''sections'' of the bands still offer quite a lot:

The 'rhythm section' compromised by John Marshall and Roy Babbington had already showed their capability as a team on Seven, so in Bundles they continue being relentless, Roy with his persistent bass lines and John with his variety of delicate jazz fills and rapid powerful ones.

The 'keyboard section' formed by founding member Mike Ratledge and Nucleus' keyboardist, Karl Jenkins, had also showed their capability as a team already since Six, adding lots of jazzy runs as well as some spacey stuff. However, what is highly surprising in this album, is that the keyboards are pretty much in the background, it's shocking in comparison to the complete keyboard driven Seven.

The 'solo section' while mainly being compromised by recently arrived Allan Holdsworth, being the main performer on Bundles delivering plenty of solos full of originality and energy, though not his finest I've got to admit, there's still the ocassional solo spot for either Karl's sax/oboe, Mike's synths and John's drum kit. John playing a drum solo on the tune 'Four Gongs Two Drums'.

As for the music, the trend of relating each track with the following is also present here, so again expect a flawless flow making some unrelated(by name) tunes be related forming one big great piece and that's the case from 'Bundles' up to 'Four Gongs Two Drums' making one related big piece of 14 minutes. The other standout is obviously the 19 minute splitted piece called 'Hazard Profile' which showcases all the characteristics from the stated sections.

Bundles in its essence features the line-up Soft Machine had been waiting for since Six, which is the reason why the album is so darn good and the reason why it overshadows the, similar in style, antecessors. While definitely not being in the style of the albums that made Soft Machine a popular Canterbury band, those were Third and both Volumes, Bundles shows us once again that this band is capable of playing diferrent varieties of jazz forms and still play them at full steam with all of the Machine's originality, this doesn't sound like Mahavishnu Orchestra or Retrun to Forever. This is Soft Machine's jazz rock masterpiece.
Competent and well balanced,but too safe previous Soft Machine's album (Seven) was a serious sign of reaching the dangerous zone: band really was in need of new ideas and new blood.

First Soft Machine's studio album,didn't tagged by number,but name,is significant moment in band's history. In fact, newcomer and still not very well known guitarist Alan Holdsworth bring what they needed - new energy and new direction. Seriously transformed during last few years ,band was a supporting team around sax player Karl Jenkins groove-oriented soloing fusion band vision. Alan Holdswordth rock-edged guitar sound changed priorities very drastically: Bundles is album of great soloing guitarist with plenty of space (and some really excellent passages) for last founding member still on board - keyboardist Mike Ratledge.

For sure, Soft Machine with Bundles is far not the same band as Soft Machine with their debut or Third, but at least they found new energy and new direction, and they recorded another strong (if different) album.Holdsworth demonstrates great guitar playing (even excellent - as for time of album's release),John Marshall's drumming is possibly his best till now, Holdsworth's rock-oriented sound is really much closer to Marshall drumming style,than previous band's direction. Mike Ratledge sounds really inspired again, besides of Holdsworth he is a hero of the release!

It's only pity Holdsworth left the band few months after the release of Bundles,leaving the band in transition faze once again.

Members reviews

I find this album rather a disappointment after Six and Seven, two albums in which the band established a new sound for itself - still with its own unique personality, but more carefully positioned in a fusion context with heavier leanings towards jazz than rock. Bundles continues to provide technically competent fusion, and provides an early platform for the talents of Allan Holdsworth, but what gets to me is just how unimaginative and middle-of-the-road it is. Play a snippet of it out of context and all but the most dedicated fusion fans will struggle to guess which band is playing. Is it Passport? Brand X? It can't be Return To Forever, or Mahavishnu Orchestra, or Weather Report, or one of Miles Davis' mid-70s groups, those all have a far more unique and vibrant sound.

The fact is that whilst the music on Bundles ticks all the genre boxes and is competently performed, there's no enthusiasm, no verve, no personality to it. It's the sound of a band going through the motions, in other words. This would be Mike Ratledge's last album as a full member of the band, though it's clear on here that his heart really isn't in it any more anyway - he contributes only a tiny snippet of music in terms of compositions, and as for performance he's barely a presence in the band's sound any more. Allan Holdsworth's guitar playing is decent but doesn't really capture the imagination here. And as for drummer John Marshall - well, all I'll say about his performance is that the Robert Wyatt era never yielded a drum solo as predictable, cliched and tedious as Four Gongs Two Drums.

I won't go as low as one star on this one because it doesn't have any absolutely fatal flaws which make it a chore to listen to. But at the same time, it has absolutely nothing to make it memorable once you've listen to it. Bundles is a disposable album of disposable music, made by a once-essential band which at this point in its existence had, sadly, become disposable itself. I honestly consider it to be greatly overrated, possibly because it's the last Softs album with Mike Ratledge as a band member, and the last one before the long drawn-out death of the band, which would see increasingly unsuccessful attempts to revive its fortunes and convince the listening public that the band was a) still alive and b) still worth listening to.

I can understand this perspective. Certainly, at its best, Bundles is miles better than the great majority of the post-Ratledge material the band produced. But at its worst, Bundles makes it abundantly clear that the rot had already well and truly set in. I said that it's the sound of a band going through the motions - perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it's the sound of a dead band walking.

Ratings only

  • MoogHead
  • Phrank
  • lunarston
  • St Tree Fun
  • KK58
  • Lynx33
  • yair0103
  • smartpatrol
  • bytor2112
  • historian9
  • ocasalif
  • Chrysostome
  • trinidadx13
  • joe
  • darkprinceofjazz
  • Croteau
  • Nightfly
  • Sean Trane
  • richby

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