SOFT MACHINE — Third (review)

SOFT MACHINE — Third album cover Album · 1970 · Jazz Related Rock Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
So intent was SOFT MACHINE to evolve at the speed of light into new musical territory that in only a few short years since they founded as a psychedelic pop band and then virtually establishing what would eventually be called the Canterbury Scene in the musical world that by the time they got to their THIRD album so they had practically abandoned all that had come before and dove head first into the world of free jazz and avant-garde psychedelia with only tidbits of rock still to be found throughout this sprawling and ambitious undertaking. Despite the gaudily ugly packaging and the horribly generic album titles, the music is some of the most complex and sophisticated that 1970 had to offer. SOFT MACHINE was simply ahead of the pack by first creating the Canterbury Scene of rock music well before any other takers would continue down that path but they also jumped into the seas of super complex jazz-fusion which can be heard on this bizarre and transitory classic.

THIRD has a much broader spectrum of sound than anything attempted by the band before. Still on board are Robert Wyatt on drums and vocals on the sole vocal track “Moon In June,” Hugh Hopper on bass and Mike Ratledge on various keyboards but we also get Lyn Dobson on sax and flute, Jimmy Hastings (brother of Pye) on flute and bass clarinet, Rab Spall on violin and Nick Evans on trombone. The result of this expanded musical lineup is a big fat jazzy sounding album that is predominantly jazz in nature but has just enough rock and psychedelic influences to keep it firmly in the unusually experimental section on your shelf. The four tracks almost hit the 20 minute mark each but they often seem like they contain several tracks that combine to make a larger track.

“Facelift” is a live recording on the album and it starts out with very trippy sounding intro before getting into jazz-fusion territory. “Slightly All The Time” seems like a pure jazz piece in the beginning but really rocks out at the end. “Moon In June” is the only track to feature vocals and the last one of SOFT MACHINE to ever contain them. I personally think at least one track on an this mostly instrumental album adds a human touch to the bizarre soundscapes created. “Out-Bloody-Rageous” is evenly divided into four parts with the first being psychedelic, the second being jazzy, the third being keyboard oriented and the last part extremely trippy. This is simply a brilliant album from beginning to end but certainly not an easy one to digest. This one requires being well versed in both progressive rock and jazz to really enjoy. It takes many more listens than the average album to fully fall for. I certainly didn't warm up to it at first but eventually after many persistent and attentive attempts it has in the long run paid off handsomely.

I should also mention that is well worth tracking down the 2007 remastered version for not only do you get superb sound quality but a bonus disc from a concert at The Royal Albert Hall for BBC Radio Three in 1970. There are three tracks: “Out-Bloody-Rageous,” “Facelift” and the previously unreleased “Esther's Nose Job.” This is simply one of those albums where words fail to convey the many moods and dynamisms employed in these works. It is a must hear to understand for it is unlike anything that came before and since as far as I am aware. Classic.
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