September 3, 2022

Can anything be said about Soft Machine that hasn’t already be said? This super cool, legendary band is another of those amazing Canterbury scene outfits that have given so much to the world of music. The band was formed in 1966 by a team of musicians to die for with Robert Wyatt on drums and vocals, Kevin Ayers on guitar, bass and vocals, Daevid Allen on guitar and Mike Ratledge on organ. The mere mention of these names raises anticipation and excitement levels as these pioneers effectively invented a whole new sub section of rock music. Never a band to stand still, Soft Machine led the way in psychedelic, experimental and progressive rock through to jazz fusion but quality and thought provoking music was always the outcome regardless of the musicians involved at the time or, indeed, their chosen genre. The list of musicians that have been involved is as eclectic as the original starting line up and the one key factor that all have adhered to is that it is the name of Soft Machine that is the overriding priority.

This remarkable CD and video captures the band in France and Holland early in 1970 as a quintet and just before the recording of the album Third with Elton Dean on alto sax and saxello, Lyn Dobson on soprano and tenor sax, flute, harmonica and vocals, Hugh Hopper on bass, Mike Ratledge on Hohner Pianet and Lowrey Holiday Deluxe organ with Robert Wyatt on drums and vocals and the performance is every bit as exemplary and eclectic as the line-up would lead you to believe. The material on CD 1 was recorded at Théâtre de la Musique, Paris, France on 2nd March 1970 with CD 2 featuring the entire concert recording from the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, The Netherlands on 17th January, 1970. The sets are quite different and show just how the band delighted in improvisation with the sound quality being exceptional for a recording from over 50-years ago.

The band is on great form and you will be delighted by hearing this awesome team in full flow and with so much energy being pumped into the performance. There is also a bonus DVD which features highlights from CD 1 which was shown on the French TV programme Pop 2 and is, apparently, the earliest footage of the band that is commercially available and also the only video footage (known to exist) of the short-lived quintet line-up of the band which only existed between January and March 1970. The DVD was not made available but a 7-minute snippet shows a remarkably clean, fresh and vibrant colour recording with a crisp and clear sound. The DVD also features an audio bonus of the entire Paris concert which is an audience recording which, again, I have not heard and suspect that the quality will be to the standard of these CDs but it is still going to be very interesting as an archive source.

Soft Machine were real rock pioneers and the live environment really showcased the band at its very best and most ‘progressive’ and this CD/DVD is highly recommended to all fans of the Canterbury scene and those wondering what all the fuss was about will see and hear just about where it all began.

Facelift

CD1 – Théâtre de la Musique, Paris, France

  1. Eamonn Andrews (9:42)
  2. Mousetrap (3:56)
  3. Noisette (0:36)
  4. Backwards (4:03)
  5. Mousetrap (reprise) (0:24)
  6. Out-Bloody-Rageous (15:11)
  7. Facelift (18:34)
  8. Slightly All The Time (6:40)
  9. Moon In June/vocal improvisation (3:19)
  10. Esther’s Nose Job/Pigling Bland (8:49)

CD2 – Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

  1. Facelift (9:57)
  2. Moon In June (6:27)
  3. 12/8 Theme (10:52)
  4. Drum solo (0:48)
  5. Esther’s Nose Job/Pigling Bland (16:31)

DVD/NTSC – all regions – Théâtre de la Musique, Paris, France

  1. Eamonn Andrews (9:57)
  2. Backwards (3:46)
  3. Mousetrap (reprise) (0:24)
  4. Out-Bloody-Rageous (16:02)
  5. Facelift (19:17)
  6. Vocal improvisation (3:01)
  7. Esther’s Nose Job/Pigling Bland (9:27)