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miércoles, 22 de febrero de 2017

Soft Machine - Softs (1976)


Que loco que luego de hablar por años de ellos, nunca hemos traído nada de Soft Machine al blog cabezòn, y el Mago Alberto abre la brecha para solucionar este error. Otro de esos discos que no tienen términos medios, o lo vas a amar (lo más probable, sobretodo la Princesa Vicky) o lo vas a aborrecer. Seguro van a ir apareciendo otras enormes obras de arte de este eterno y legendario super grupo, y empezamos con el noveno álbum de estudio de un grupo que hizo escuela.

Artista: Soft Machine
Álbum: Softs
Año: 1976
Género: Escena Canterbury / Jazz rock
Duración: 45:13
Nacionalidad: Inglaterra


Lista de Temas:
1. Aubade
2. The Tale of Taliesin
3. Ban-Ban Caliban
4. Song of Aeolus
5. Out of Season
6. Second Bundle
7. Kayoo
8. The Camden Tandem
9. Nexus
10. One Over the Eight
11. Etika

Alineación:
- John Etheridge / acoustic & electric guitars
- Karl Jenkins / piano, electric piano, pianette, String & Mini-Moog synthesizers, orchestration
- Alan Wakeman / soprano & tenor saxes
- Roy Babbington / bass guitar
- John Marshall / drums, percussion
With:
Mike Ratledge / synthesizer (3, 4)



La legendaria aventura de Soft Machine se inició en 1966, en la mitad de una década llena de excitación cultural. En Inglaterra, la escena underground se presentaba como una verdadera jungla poblada por pequeños y grandes genios, por personas excéntricas y poetas, escritores y músicos dotados de un gran ardor creativo. Durante estos años tomó cuerpo el estilo musical definido como "Escena Canterbury". Las innovaciones musicales del grupo en sus quince años de actividad siguen siendo memorables. Aún es fundamental el trabajo desarrollado por los músicos que se alternaron en el grupo y que, a través de carreras en solitario o con la formación de nuevas bandas han sabido suscitar el interés y la admiración de las nuevas generaciones.
Aquí, el comentario del Mago Alberto sobre este disco:


Dentro de las mutaciones que sufrió Soft Machine, esta formación fue quizás una de las mejores sin sus integrantes originales, básicamente, sin Wyatt y Hopper, este disco no tiene desperdicio, y aunque dentro de la enorme discografía de los SM no está muy bien valorado, es una obra de excelencia, por lo instrumental, por lo climático, por las estructuras musicales, por los efectos, por los solos. Los cabezones/as que conocen el género saben perfectamente de que se trata.
Esta es una versión japonesa, remasterizada que le pone un broche de oro a un muy buen disco, "The Tale of Taliesin" es otra gema que compone esta obra.
Mirando la enorme cantidad de grupos que se han posteado en el blog, los Soft Machine no deberían no estar. Así que es bueno darle cabida a un grupo por demás under e importante del espectro mundial.
Y que bueno comenzar por este disco que al que no lo escuchó, seguro lo va a sorprender. Recomiendo en particular el video adjunto con la versión de "The Tale".
Mago Alberto



Vamos con más comentarios de terceros...

Este disco fue el cierre ideal para la carrera de esta fenomenal banda de jazz, rock y fusion que influencio y maravillo a publico, critica y musicos por igual.
En "Softs", Mike Ratledge es el unico nexo presente que queda con los origenes del grupo, sin embargo el disco se sostiene muy bien asimismo como producto musical y el resultado final es delicioso, con una decena de temas instrumentales muy bien logrados y que al estar casi hilados uno atras del otro, forman una obra toda, unica y casi sin fisuras.Ratledge contribuye con los sintetizadores solo en dos temas,"Song of Aeolus" y "Ban-Ban Caliban".
En el resto del disco el tecladista es Karl Jenkins. Es muy posible que "Softs" sea visto casi como un trabajo mas de la "Jenkins' band" que uno de Soft Machine, ya que este compuso 7 de los 11 temas del disco, haciendo de este, el medio para sus propias ambiciones artisticas.
Aun asi, este album tiene todos los finos elementos esteticos en lo musical que cualquiera de los publicado por Soft Machine. Jenkins tenia su propia vision particular de lo que queria para la banda, pero sin embargo mantiene elementos del estilo de Soft Machine que hace emerger "a piacere" segun le parece.Aqui podemos escuchar, de esta manera, una comunion entre la belleza y el minimalismo con simples pero memorables temas que ocasionalmente pueden llegar a agradar bastante al oido de los amantes de la buena musica instrumental elaborada.No faltan tampoco en esta produccion los finos trazos llenos de buen gusto que nos entrega la guitarra de John Etheridge. Con este y el nuevo saxofonista Alan Wakeman, Jenkins logra conjugar por momentos una belleza musical increible, consistente y envidiable. Jenkins, asombra adueniandose de "Softs" en una forma soberbia usando un arsenal de teclados impresionante para darle a la musica diferentes y cambiantes estados de animos.
Por momentos, es justo decirlo, el disco se vuelve progresivo como el que mas y por momentos muy jazzero y con mucho feeling. Por su parte, Roy Babbington (bajo) y John Marshall (bateria) generan una base solida e ideal para que Jenkins y los otros 2 se muevan sin problemas. A veces en "Softs" se busca satisfacer al fan tipico
del sonido de Canterbury y del jazz-fusion con piezas adorables como "Song of Aeolus" o en el delicioso tema inicial "Audabe" con un formidable duo entre el saxo tenor de Wakeman y la guitarra de Etheridge, quienes generan una hermosa melodia intimista. En otros, muy especialmente en el cierre del disco, Etheridge con su guitarra genera sonidos muy sensibles que incluso lo acercan al folk ("Etka"). Los pasajes dramaticos y grandiosos del disco se escuchan con gran atencion en ese gran tema llamado "The Tale of Taliesin", mientras que "Out of Season" es un hermoso y delicado tema quequeda inevitablemente grabado a fuego en la consciencia del oyente...ahh, que placer!!!!, aca si que no alcanzan las palabras...mas delicioso que una torta de chocolate rellena."Ban-Ban Caliban" es otra historia, un tema con mucho groove y ritmica improvizacion en clave de jazz-fusion.
En resumen, este disco es bastante accessible y se deja escuchar sin demasiadas complicaciones al mismo tiempo que da un casi orgasmico placer.
Ademas y para no olvidar, es casi el legado final de una banda, cuyo nombre es una marca registrada de del buen gusto musical: Soft Machine.
Emiliano M. Acevedo

En Softs el grupo continuó en la línea de un jazz-rock que seguramente podía ser más “asequible” a un público más amplio.
De hecho, como citaba Carlos Romeo en la biografía del grupo, participaron en grandes festivales al aire libre en el año 1975 como Reading o muy cerquita de aquí, en la misma Marbella, cosa que tengo entendida no eran muy proclives a hacer.
En estos conciertos interpretaban temas del ya grabado Bundles y algunos que formarían parte posteriormente del disco que nos ocupa, como “Song of Aeolus”, “Out of season” o “Ban-Ban Caliban”, tema este último con el que abrieron el concierto de Marbella.
Un cambio importante con respecto al Bundles fue la incorporación de John Etheridge en sustitución de Alan Holdsworth, que prefirió irse con Tony Williams y su New Lifetime, a pesar de decir que estaba muy bien con la Máquina, pero parece ser que por entonces Holdsworth era lo que se dice un “culillo de mal asiento”.
Etheridge era un guitarrista muy rápido y hábil, con experiencia en otros grupos, y en mi opinión no tenía nada que envidiar a su antecesor.
Claro que no menos importante fue la “desaparición” de Mike Ratledge como miembro oficial, el único componente que quedaba de la formación original del grupo.
¿Agotamiento de ideas por parte de Mike?, posiblemente fuera esa la razón de que dejara el grupo, o que la dirección tomada no le satisfacía, el caso es que dejó un hueco más que difícil de llenar.
Bien, pues vamos al disco.
Comienza con:
Aubade:
Preciosa introducción con un fondo de guitarra acústica y un bonito tema interpretado por el saxo soprano, cortito pero abriendo boca para lo que viene después.
Lo comparo, en el fondo, claro, no en la forma, con el “Horizons” de Génesis.
The Tale of Taliesin:
En la misma tonalidad de “Aubade” empieza un piano acústico con un discurso continuo al que se van añadiendo el bajo, los teclados y la percusión hasta que la guitarra interpreta el primer tema que se repite dos veces, el piano da unas notas y entran los sintetizadores ayudando de fondo, de nuevo la guitarra repite el mismo tema por otras dos veces y al mismo tiempo el sintetizador dobla a la guitarra como una segunda voz.
Entonces cambia el ritmo y la tonalidad y sobre una base llevada por el bajo y la batería (¡qué trabajo el de Marshall!), la guitarra se lanza a una carrera endiablada con unos fraseos rapidísimos, subidas y bajadas tremendas que duran un buen rato hasta que de nuevo entran los teclados en la tonalidad anterior con ritmo lento pero con el cambio en el orden de las notas, la guitarra mientras tanto, repite una y otra vez la misma frase hasta que el tema empieza a perderse, comienza un sonsonete de un sintetizador que va sonando en los dos canales del estereo alternativamente (un efecto muy de la época) cada vez con más volumen y se funde con…
Ban-Ban Caliban:
El sintetizador de Ratledge sigue sonando cambiando de canal continuamente hasta que entran la batería, el bajo y la guitarra marcando un ritmo continuo sobre el que los saxos soprano y tenor interpretan un tema que recuerda en algún momento a “The floating World” del Bundles, mientras tanto, la base rítmica sigue marcando el ritmo de forma inalterable y entonces entra el saxo soprano en un largo solo más que interesante.
Un fraseo largo y rápido del saxo precede a un pequeño riff de piano, que introduce un cambio de tonalidad en el que entra en juego la guitarra con un largo solo muy similar al del tema anterior donde Etheridge vuelve a demostrar que sabe de qué va esto; resaltar también el gran trabajo de Marshall y Babbington en esta parte del tema donde la banda suena por decirlo así, muy “rockera”, casi como un “power trio”
El mismo riff de piano vuelve a introducir el regreso a la primera parte, donde los saxos repiten de nuevo el tema inicial.
El corte termina con los mismos efectos de sintetizador que se acaban fundiendo con un efecto de viento y que da entrada al siguiente corte…
Song of Aeolus:
El efecto de viento (era evidente, “La canción de Eolo” dios del viento) da paso a un fondo “etéreo y planeador” de sintetizador de cuerdas y piano acústico que se mantienen durante toda la duración del tema, sobre ese fondo la guitarra interpreta el tema central con diversas variaciones a lo largo del corte.
“La canción de Eolo” termina perdiéndose poco a poco y quedando solamente el sonido del viento imitado por el sintetizador.
La cara 2 del vinilo se abría con:
Out of season:
Comienza el corte con una base del piano acústico al que se añade a su vez la guitarra acústica interpretando el tema y este se repite entrando el piano eléctrico y la guitarra eléctrica, esta última en un registro más agudo pero tocando el mismo tema que la acústica.
La batería marca la entrada de las cuerdas sintetizadas mientras la guitarra y los pianos siguen tocando el mismo tema que se repite de nuevo con la base rítmica de la batería y el bajo.
Viene un nuevo cambio en la instrumentación, Marshall utiliza repiques de los platillos y el tema baja en intensidad hasta que vuelve al piano acústico y la guitarra acústica.
El corte termina fundiéndose con un fondo de sintetizador y sin solución de continuidad pasa a…
Second bundle:
Consiste en sonidos de sintetizador que sugieren una atmósfera planeadora (lo he vuelto a decir), muy similar a las “Lessons” con las que se cerraba el Seven, aquí Jenkins se limita a realizar fraseos con los sintetizadores que recorren de un lado a otro los canales del estéreo.
Kayoo:
Tema para el lucimiento de Marshall, el típico solo al que nos tenía acostumbrados de trabajos anteriores, en este caso menos “cencerros” que en el Seven, en total unos 3 minutos y pico en los que Marshall se explaya.
El tema termina con un rapidísimo redoble que da paso a…
The Candem Tandem:
Etheridge y Marshall se lanzan a una vorágine de sonidos potentes “rivalizando” a ver cual de los dos es más rápido y contundente, el tema es corto pero toda una declaración de intenciones.
El tema me recuerda bastante por la estructura, al comienzo de “Quadrant 4” que hacen Cobham y Bolin en el Spectrum.
Nexus:
Tema que es eso, un nexo entre el Tandem y el siguiente tema, entra la guitarra con un tema corto que repite un par de veces con la base del piano y los sintetizadores de Jenkins.
One over the eight:
Comienza con un redoble de la caja y la batería empieza a marcar un ritmo al que se añaden el bajo, el piano eléctrico y la guitarra.
Es entonces cuando entra el saxo tenor que va a llevar prácticamente todo el peso solista.
Viene entonces un riff de guitarra que se repite y sobre él el saxo sigue haciendo “dibujos”, mientras la base rítmica sigue igual marcando un ritmo muy funky (¡oh cielos!) .
Bruscamente se interrumpe el tema y la guitarra hace un rapidísimo punteo, cambia la tonalidad y entonces comienza un verdadero guirigay con todos los instrumentos tocando al máximo casi por su cuenta pero con la misma nota básica y dentro de un orden, faltaría más…
El tema se va perdiendo poco a poco bajando de volumen…
El disco termina con:
Etika:
Tema cortito, (lo bueno si breve…) en el que Eteheridge se luce con la guitarra acústica, a la que le saca un bonito sonido.
A lo largo del mismo se va doblando a sí mismo varias veces.
El tema se encuentra muy en la línea de aquellos que hacían entre otros, McLaughlin, Coryell, etc., en los 70, de hecho me recuerda a alguno de los que vienen en el My goal’s beyond de McLaughlin.
Bueno pues así termina el disco.
¿Qué comentarios se me ocurren?
Pues a mí me da la impresión de un trabajo hecho a trozos, quiero decir, hay que pensar que la grabación del mismo se hizo en plena época de “convulsiones” en el seno del grupo, Etheridge había llegado hacía poco y parecía que con la sustitución de Holdsworth volvía la estabilidad, de hecho los cinco participaron en varios conciertos, y como he dicho al principio, varios temas ya los venían interpretando cuando aun tocaba Holdsworth, sin embargo Ratledge lo había dejado cuando se terminó de grabar, aunque había participado en las primeras sesiones.
Wakeman me da la impresión que salvo “Ban-Ban…” y “One over the eight” no hizo mucho (el saxo soprano de Aubade me suena más a Jenkins).
Aun así la cara A completa y el Out of season me parecen una buena razón para considerar un buen disco al Softs.
Un pero en mi opinión: Jenkins abusa de las “orquestaciones”.
Así y todo, Softs sigue y seguirá siendo un disco que está entre mis referentes del jazz-rock de los 70.
Los “puristas”, dicho sea sin segundas intenciones, faltaría más, quizás piensen que este es un disco “menor” dentro de la historia del grupo, y entiendo que se pueda pensar de esa manera, sobre todo después de haber conocido “Third” o “Fourth”, pero también es cierto que la fórmula casi se agotó, y lo mismo que Ratledge apenas aportaba ya, Jenkins había tomado las riendas de la composición, cambiando la concepción del grupo a algo menos "complicado", quiero decir, menos cancha a la improvisación, música algo más fácil de digerir, lo que quizás lo hizo ser más atractivo a un sector más amplio.
Y ya está.
ProzaKc Blues

Y por supuesto los comentarios en inglés que hay varios y si bien a casi todos les gustó, no hay quien no diga que el disco es una bosta. Es que los gustos personales son como el culo, cada uno tiene el suyo y con él hace lo que quiere
(ninth in a serie of eleven)
Holdsworth is replaced by Etheridge ( no ! not the dyke) from Darryl Way's Wolf and as Ratledge is bowing out (it had become foreseeable by listening well to Bundles), should this still be called Soft Machine after this one? Ratledge still contributes synth works on two or three tracks. Please note that Alan Wakeman holds no relationship (at least none clearly announced) to the keyboardist with the star-sprinkled cape. Although the surprise of Bundles is gone , this is still a good album though, and the progression is quite impressive . One can say that even with no original members , Soft Machine managed to keep its musical aesthetics quite clear until the last album (Cockayne) when they should've called it a day . Ban Ban Caliban is really impressive with its 9 min+ lenght and full energy. As usual Marshall blesses us with yet another drum solo on side 2. A clear relation is alluded to the previous album when you come to the second track of side 2 called Second Bundle.
This album is just as good as the previous Bundles and is yet another high point in Soft Machine's lenghthy career ( Vol1&2, third , 6, Bundles, and this one). Much recommended. However with each new album after this one , they will sound a bit more mainstream Jazz-rock.
Sean Trane

Whether this collection of well schooled musicians should have been flying under the name Soft Machine at this stage is debatable. The music bears no resemblance to the early Avant Garde semi jazz noise created by Elton Dean, Hugh Hopper, Mike Ratledge and Robert Wyatt and most prominent on their most known album Third. Of this unique quartet only Ratledge survives to make it to Softs and only features on two cuts and even then as a special guest. As the Soft Machine developed each new musician entering the ranks became more technical and the Softs became a very disciplined outfit. But with that discipline came sacrifices. The loose free form jams and originality of the earlier music was now redundant. Instead the music became more tightly structured and the music condensed into shorter more accessible formats. Softs is a good album, a good incidental album with a more focused and forgiving production than what had graced the Bundles album. Alan Holdsworth has been replaced by John Etheridge on guitar but the difference if minimal but equal in flair yet with very little passion. Personally I prefer Soft Machine without guitar and miss the wild soloing by Elton Dean jamming and riffing along with Ratledge. Not a true Soft Machine album but the Karl Jenkins led group made a decent enough album in Softs which could be best described as Acid Muzak with a solid progression.
Philip Bourke

This album by THE SOFT MACHINE sounds really completely different from all the ones they did before. And I fully understand that early hardcore fans might be disappointed by it. Like on "Bundles" already the experimental and psychedelic character of their music has disappeared here mostly making place for a really well done jazz fusion which is fully enjoyable. Although I like as well quite a lot of their previous stuff in the meantime, I still have to say this one and the even better "Bundles" are the only albums by them I can enjoy on their whole. As an example Marshall's drum solo in Track "Kayoo", the only compositions done by him alone on here is just amazing and despite it starts to be a wee more adventurous in the next track with a slightly demented guitar solo, it's still a rather easy and nice listen. "Nexus" is a very short keyboard piece and with "One Over The Eight" they're finding their way back into real great jazz rock with an amazing saxophone playing and the rest of the musicians entering, just awesome, I'm missing words to describe it, just incredibly good music. Last one "Etka" , an Etheridge composition is a wonderful acoustic guitar piece.
Some people may say Jenkins' SOFT MACHINE was not worth any more to carry this name. I might agree to that speaking about later albums like "Rubber Riff" and "Land of Cockayne", but this one and the predecessor "Bundles" were really excellent! Highly recommended for any jazz fusion fan!
Dieter Fischer

This album represents the best of the post-Wyatt days. Karl Jenkins plays the main role as composer and plays keyboards with a little help from Mike Ratledge, who now appears as a guest musician on two tracks (Song of Aeolus and Ban-Ban Caliban). This album evokes a certain emotional intensity and builds upon each theme as each piece progresses. Now, on to the review.
The album starts out with Aubade, a short intro featuring sax and guitar, the sax being played by Alan Wakeman, whom I am assuming has no relation to Rick Wakeman. It sets of the mood nicely. Next comes The Tale of Taliesin, which builds with intensity as the piece goes on. John Ethridge presents himself as a stunning guitarist. This piece bridges with Ban-Ban Caliban a furioso of sorts and is full of lots of energy. Side one closes with Song of Aeolus.
Side two starts out with Out of Season, and while many people find this track boring and repetitive, I love it. The piano melody is so simple, but soon is enhanced by Etheridge's wonderful acoustic guitar. This wonderful piece bridges into Second Bundle, a cool synth piece similar to pieces like the French and German Lessons off of Seven. Next comes the ever-famous Marshall drum solo. It starts out being a bit noodley and avant-garde, but is still an interesting track to listen to. The Camden Tandem is a short featured duet between Marshall and Etheridge, which ends just as Nexus, another short Jenkin's composition begins. One Over the Eight harkens back to the sound of some of the members ex-band, Nucleus. All the players on the album get a chance to play in this funky, up-tempo piece. Alan Wakeman's sax is excellent here. After that flourish comes a simple acoustic guitar tune played by the underrated John Etheridge. It's a nice way to close an outstanding album.
This album really deserves five stars. Karl Jenkin's compoitional skills here are just as evident as those with Nucleus. I highly recommend this album. It's definitely the best of the post-Wyatt years and is highly underrated. 4.5 / 5 stars
Meurglys

WOW! What an excellent album. When I bought this album in 1982, I though that I would get a music that is soft as the album tells. But in fact, the music is quite heavy and complex. I would say that this album has inspired (and probably influenced) Ozric Tentacles because in some segments I can get the nuance similar with the music of Ozric Tentacles.
The album kicks off with an ambient music which features John Etheridge's acoustic guitar fills accompanying Alan Wakeman's soprano saxes in "Aubade" followed almost seamlessly with second track "The Tale of Taliesin" through a nice piano solo (by Karl Jenkins) that later (with the entrance of drumming) brings to a floating music with piano as rhythm section accompanying electric guitar solo. The music turns into a fast tempo style with powerful guitar solo and dynamic drumming by John Marshall. It reminds me to the music of Colosseum II. Wow man .. I love this part and I'm lucky that this part takes relatively long guitar solo with solid bass lines by Roy Babbington. "Ban-Ban Caliban" follows with great synthesizer work by guest musician "Mike Ratledge" with a style that reminds me to Ozric Tentacles. Soprano saxes augment the music and give a richer texture. During soprano sax solo improvisation the music is performed in relatively fast tempo. It's really an enjoyable music that any Canterbury or jazz rock fusion fans would enjoy very much. The changes in style and tempo happen nicely - for example when the solo improvisation changes from soprano sax to electric guitar, the transition happens wonderfully. Drum work is awesome. This kind of music reminds me also to artists like Billy Cobham, Jean Luc Ponty (especially "Enigmatic Ocean" album), The Flock, Mahavishnu Orchestra and also Return To Forever. The music then turns slower with "Song of Aeolus" where guitar is taking the lead melody role in slow tempo style.
With Side 2 the band offers another stream of good composition where it opens with soft piano touch in "Out of Season" combined nicely with acoustic guitar. It serves like a musical break after enjoying hard-edge music in fast tempo. The guitar changes to electric and plays a role as lead melody with piano as rhythm section. also contains excellent drum solo in "Kayoo" which reminds me of Billy Cobham's drum solo. I do enjoy John Marshall drum work - it's dynamic and produces excellent sounds.
It's a highly recommended album - an excellent addition to any prog music collection. If you like jazz rock fusion or Canterbury, this album is yours. Keep on proggin' ..!
Gatot Widayanto

THE MARVEL OF THE JENKINS ERA!
I have a few selected recordings in my music collection that i considerlike my eternal treasures; i can listen to them on a regular basis, even after all those years and the pleasure, the excitement , the emotions i am having are as strong as ever. I never get tired to listening to them always discovering something new. This is like a journey to a wondeful world, another planet where everything is beautiful and nothing bad can happen to me. Just a few albums do the tricks like the self titled album from NOVALIS, WOLF CITY by AMON DUUL2, HAMBURGER CONCERTO from FOCUS or RED by KC and a few more. To this list, i can add this album SOFTS from SOFT MACHINE.Sometimes, it's difficult to explain.
I bought SOFTS back then in 1976 in the LP format of course and it has been a pillar of my collection and still is 31 years later! I saw SOFT MACHINE live in concert in Toulouse, France a few months before this release. The show was sold out (SOFT MACHINE was big in France!) and i witnessed SOFT history as it was one of the last concerts of MIKE RATLEDGE ever ,playing with the new guitarist JOHN ETHERIDGE.
Of course, SOFT MACHINE being SOFT MACHINE, personel changes occured once again with the departure of ALLAN HOLDSWORTH after just one album being replaced by JOHN ETHERIDGE.Also KARL JENKINS gave up the horns and concentratred to play the keyboards. ALAN WAKEMAN was hired to take over tenor and soprano saxes. Most importantly, as widely expected considering its shrinking role in the band, former leader MIKE RATLEDGE left discreetly. He is still present on SOFTS, but only on 2 tracks and the worst is that he is listed as a ......guest!!! MIKE RATLEDGE guesting! in his own band he created and led!!! the rise and fall of a great musician!.
With all these new changes, are we going to have another switch of the musical direction that we have been accustomed to with SOFT MACHINE? Not really as SOFTS bears a lot similarities with BUNDLES. First of all, the change of tha axeman doesn't affect the sound as ETHERIDGE plays-very-similar to ALLAN HODSWORTH. I am sure a lot of listeners wouldn't have noticed the difference if you don't mention the fact that this is not the same guitarist who plays on BUNDLES and SOFTS.
Hey! to keep the traditions intact, we are once again treated to another JENKINS percussion solo KAYOO, but the great part is when JOHN ETHERIDGE enters the fray with THE CAMDEN TANDEM for a furious, frenetic guitar/drums combo battle , kind of amazing for something labelled with the Soft Machine name on it; but that's a very exhilarating experience, especially when the short symphonic (yes , symphonic a la MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA)track NEXUS follows.
You will find every kind of music on this album, but everything blends together as a lot of pieces are bridged together.The album opens with the delicate ambient tune AUBADE played only with an acoustic guitar and a flute; what an enchanting intro it is. SOFT MACHINE playing beautiful romantic music, what happened to this world?
The meat of SOFTS comes next with some of my most beloved tracks ever: THE TALE OF TALIESIN and BAN BAN CALIBAN , 17 mns of joy and beauty. Great piano, fast furious guitar solos with a frenetic rythm section, then a symphonic soundscape to make it grandiose, a great theme and what to say about BAN BAN CALIBAN? maybe the most energetic track ever under a SOFT MACHINE name. Did i say funky? not really in the Detroit Motown style ,i mean but for them it's quite funky.The same goes for ONE OVER THE HEIGHT with this lively dynamic rythm section and a demential sax solo from ALAN WAKEMAN; that's really blowing the horn, believe me!
There is not one letdown on this album as there is so much to say, or better to hear.SOFTS is full of life, full of energy played by fantastic musicians (oh! JOHN ETEHRIDGE! what a force!). This is not uniform as there are so many different soundscapes going from the reflective melancholic ballad to the jazz/rock frenesy of a madman to a symphonic orgy created by these talented artists at their creative peaks. This is music the way i see it, i feel it , music the way it should be played , music for the ages! This is my 100 th review and to celebrate, i cannot give less than 5 stars.
5/5 STARS.
Antoine

Apparently by the time the band entered Abbey Road in the spring of 1976 Mike Ratledge was the last remaining original member of the Machine, and in a reduced capacity at that. He performs on but two tracks. Karl Jenkins seems to be the man in charge of things at this time, writing the lion's share of the material. This album is a controversial title to fans, many of whom see it as somewhat illegitimate but others who name the title as their favorite. I think there are several very good tracks even if the overall album doesn't leave a lasting impression. This is not just a typical jazz rock album by any means-there are clearly portions that sound like quite different. Listen to the gorgeous acoustic guitar on "Aubade" which is the intro to the fabulous "The Tale of Taliesin." Tale features a relaxing, repeating piano backdrop for some gorgeous electric leads patterns that spring forth from John Etheridge. The drumming can get a bit busy in jazzy Bruford fashion leading to a shift halfway through to a harder edge fusion jam. This continues into "Ban-Ban Caliban" with some wicked jamming.really quite tasty. Then things take a turn with "Song of Aeolus" which seduces you: a quiet and gentle keyboard backdrop for sleepy leads and very slow beat. The consistency seems to wane quite a bit in the second half with some space keys attempts, a drum solo, and some wankery that puts the flash over any kind of thoughtful songwriting. So as mentioned, a few very good tracks and the rest a very mixed bag. Probably one for the fans mostly. The French SFM issue features a decent bio from that particular period. 5/10
Jim

Interesting album especially when it lists Mike Ratledge as a guest player. What ! Karl Jenkins has taken on Mike's role completely and so they've added Alan Wakeman to play saxes.The other change is Allan Holdsworth leaving and being replaced by John Etheridge.
"Aubade" is a beautiful track with sax and gentle guitar throughout. "The Tale Of Taliesien" opens with piano. Drums and guitar join in. I don't know why this is so moving for me. Marshall sounds amazing as usual. The tempo picks up after 3 minutes and some ripping guitar follows. It settles back before 5 1/2 minutes. "Ban-Ban Caliban" is spacey to open with what sounds like electronics. Ratledge is responsible for this. Drums then sax comes in. Guitar and drums take the spotlight after 5 minutes. Nice bass from Babbington too. A change after 7 minutes as guitar backs off. Lots going on with all these intricate sounds. "Song Of Aeolus" opens with spacey winds as piano, drums and synths build. Guitar before a minute. The guitar is gorgeous. The wind is back to end it.
"Out Of Season" opens with piano as it slowly builds. Synths, guitar and drums lead. Piano replaces the synths as it winds back down slowly. Cool song. "Second Bundle" is spacey and electronic sounding like the start of "Ban- Ban Caliban". "Kayoo" features percussion sounds with no beat or melody. Eventually this turns into a drum solo. It blends into "The Camden Tandem" as drums continue. The guitar comes in lighting it up. "Nexus" has a nice full sound of piano, drums and guitar. "One Over The Eight" is kind of funky, especially the prominant bass .Sax plays over top. Great sound 2 1/2 minutes in. Big, big finish 4 1/2 minutes in then it settles to end it. "Etika" features intricate acoustic guitar melodies.
While I prefer "Bundles" to this one, i'm very impressed with this album. Easily 4 stars.
John Davie

There's Pierre Moerlen's Gong and there's Karl Jenkins' Soft Machine
Softs is the successor of Bundles, the first Soft Machine album which featured a guitarist that leads the band and the first Soft Machine album having the Jazz Rock style fully developed. On Softs the one on the guitar duties is a great admirer of previous guitarist, Allan Holdsworth, his name is John Etheridge. While he might barely ring a bell to anybody, he is nonetheless totally capable of fitting Allan's shoes for this record entitled Softs. John Etheridge had already shown he was capable of playing Allan's stuff back on tour in 1975 while promoting Bundles, but not only he achieved that but also added his own trademark sound to the solos making him a very distinguished jazz-rock guitarist and not just an imitator. So in Softs he plays his own style which varies through potent sentimental notes and dazzling solos which in times resembles McLaughlin's fast and intense guitar bites.
The rest of the band is unchanged with the exception of the loss of keyboardist and mastermind, Mike Ratledge, the last remaining founding member of the band. However, it's not an actual loss since the band is still capable of playing wonders without him and the rockin' jazz style of Bundles is not lost without him. Karl Jenkins being now the main composer and keyboardist puts all what he has in this record creating some of Soft Machine's greatest efforts within the jazz rock world, tunes like Ban Ban Caliban, with it's funky style but still well arranged structure shows the entire capabilities of this line-up, even featuring Rick Wakeman's cousin on the sax for a more Soft Machine-esque sound.
Another fantastic composition from this record is The Tale Of Taliesien with it's semi-tenebrous piano intro, it later evolves into a wild ride with Etheridge's consuming guitar and the unstopabble rhythm section compromised by Marshall and Babbington.
Unfortunately, it's mainly the first half of this album that is really excellent, that is up to Out of Season. The second half is rather weak and self-indulgent, beginning with Karl's spacey keyboard solo spot on Second Bundle and then having the usual drum solo by John Marshall on Kayoo and finally there are two solo spots for Etheridge's guitar, The Camden Tandem and Etika, the former featuring John's electrifying bites while the later has his delicate acoustic guitar. Not totally bad, but it's rather annoying to have so many solo tunes for each member since it totally breaks the flow which unlike the three previous albums which featured a stupendous flow from one tune to the other without any pauses nor anything.
So, Softs ends up being an incostintent but still great successor to the masterpiece that Bundles was. Excellent Jazz Rock offering which would have been a masterpiece if it wasn't for the weaker, already stated, second half.
The Quiet One

This review is dedicated to our regretted friend febus, may you rest in prog peace.
Funny thing about the Soft Machine as the fan base is often divided in 2 separate camps, one preferring the Ratledge/Hopper/Wyatt period encompassing Vol 1,2,3,4 and the Jenkins/Babbington/Marshall agglomeration that produced the amazing Bundles and this utter marvel. Truth be said that many love both, as I do. Nevertheless, having seen the Bundles tour live and witnessed the 'Holdsworth experience', I remain partial to this guitar drenched period. My original 1976 vinyl copy of 'Softs' has more holes in it than an Aero chocolate bar and I finally received my CD version (yeah, colder sounding but durable') , so I was looking forward to this review with unhinged trepidation. While Bundles is a jazz-rock jewel in its raw form, this record shows a different side that has not been repeated since, with the inclusion of the revoltingly underrated axeman John Etheridge, some savvy electronics twiddling, even some funkier patterns that are pelvic shake inducing. 'Aubade' is a precious entr'e en matiere , a drop dead gorgeous melody on acoustic guitar and soprano sax (courtesy of Alan Wakeman 'no relation to the Yes/No man ) and the gargantuan guitar plunge 'The Tale of Taliesin' , a sensational Youtube video is available on the Soft machine PA page you should check out. This piece remains within the realm of my all-time favorite guitar tracks, a 7 minute exploration of some Andalusian knight conquering enemy windmills with his Gibson SG , ripping, raging, rattling and then cajoling, undeterred. I remember the comments back then 'Hey man, this cat is faster than Alvin Lee' (who at the time was the speed demon on guitar). This track alone is worth the effort of inclusion in your collection but by no means are the other tracks shabby. Case in point, the delectable 'Ban-Ban Caliban' featuring cameo synthesizer work from former leader Mike Ratledge which is simply unreal, swerving nearly into T Dream zones , sequencers leading the path towards a tight percussion-heavy workout that hints almost at Caravanserai period Santana, the sultry sax carving out heady emotions and then followed by a whiplash Etheridge solo that devastates everything in its passage. But the groove, of my goodness, tight as a Scotsman! The insane Babbington and prolific Marshall are in sync like few rhythm section ever. The best word to describe this osmosis of sound and rhythm is SMOOTH. It segues straight into another colossal winner, the soporific 'Song of Aeolus' which remains my preferred SM track ever. A guitar lullaby par excellence, the obvious restraint is a timeless jewel that defies categorization, crushingly serene and yet poignant. Etheridge makes his axe cry, sob and you can feel the pain within the notes. Such beauty! The moody and meditative 'Out of Season' has a piano intro that maintains the gentleness, very English, sounding almost like a Rick Wakeman piece, Etheridge carving out a nice little solo once again. The dynamics are held in check, pastoral and repetitive. Please note once again the restraint exhibited by the musicians that keeps this highly charged and emotional piece breathing. Stellar! 'Second Bundle' is a short synthesizer quiver that serves as an interlude, in fact the first of a series of smaller pieces, including a Marshall cymbal driven spot ('Kayoo') that blooms into a flat-out speed freak drum solo. Then we have a wee guitar/drum duet penned 'The Camden Tandem' where both Etheridge and Marshall show off their deranged and plenteous skills. Monstrous! 'Nexus ' is less than a minute long and leads into the hilarious 'One Over The Eight' , as fine a Canterbury piece as you will ever hear, with smoky tenor sax, machine-gun drumming, groovy bass and tchakatchaka guitar rhythms. This sounds almost like Didier Malherbe Gong blow-out, though less spacey and way funkier. The Brits certainly have a recipe on jazz-rock that is hard to beat, ballsier, humorous and whimsical. 'Etika' is an Etheridge acoustic piece that tucks this baby to bed, warm beneath the sheets of progressive posterity.
5/5 hard ones
Thomas Szirmay

My ALL-TIME Greatest #5
Starting in 1968 SM released an album practically each and every year until this one in 1976, never repeating twice the same line-up, and culminating on this one with only Mike Ratledge remaining from the original band (and even here with a somewhat limited presence,would leave during recordings).
I wont go to another extended description of this allucinating sucession of musicians/recordings, others have done it already with enough detail, but only underline the much centerpiece role of Karl Jenkins either on composing as well as arranging this album.
Global Appraisal
In fact KJ composed and arranged almost every theme (some in collaboration), all instrumentals, what gives a feeling of continuity and wholeness to a work that can benefit with a un-interrupted listening, functioning well as a giant suite.
This is a masterpiece, really timeless and until this day bearing absolutely no riddles. A sure personal companion for every season of now 40 years, and counting.
Goodies
Musicianship above any reproach, the set working as a tight unit on a delightful continuous rolling of jazz-rock of the highest standard.
Jose Simoes

Just forty years late in making this review and rediscovering this album after having owned the vinyl disc back in the Paleozoic Era, which I wasn't wild on at the time TBH. In retirement I've been catching up with old music that I'd missed. Unlike most, I find much of Soft Machine's much lauded, and more progressive, albums almost unlistenable and their Harvest period much more approachable without ever selling out.
Track by track:
1. Aubade (1:51) - a gentle pastoral guitar / alto sax duet - enjoyable background without being naff
2. The Tale of Taliesin (7:17) - Jenkins's atmospheric and hypnotic keyboard ostinato leads to an exotically tuneful head. This sails along gorgeously for a while before being abruptly interrupted by a brutally-shredded odd time guitar solo section.
Once the listener is beaten into submission the band slows back to the head, leading to a grandiose outro. (At the time of writing there is an outstanding YouTube live clip of this tune with a young Alan Holdsworth playing superbly, as John Etheridge does on this version). At this point they are sounding like an instrumental prog band with fusion influences). My favourite track on the album.
3. Ban-Ban Caliban (9:22) - the other epic-y piece, starting with a stereo-toggled electro synth sequence. This early early part of the the track reminds me of Passport's Ataraxia album - if Jazz Krautrock fusion isn't a category, it probably should be. New saxophonist, Alan Wakeman, soon enters and has his first chance to stretch out on the album, with some fine soprano work.
As the tune progresses the album for the first time sounds like the old Soft Machine of old before a bizarre, jarring change heralds in John Etheridge for another fast, old-time shred-fest duel with the similarly hyperactive Marshall.
Bassist Roy Babbington continues to play selflessly, holding the mayhem together akin to Rick Laird's anchor role on MO's Birds of Fire. Then a return to the "Krautrock fusion" Passport feel leading to the end with added drive and marimba. Excellent.
4. Song of Aeolus (4:31) - slow, atmospheric 6/8 tune in the vein of Jeff Beck's Goodbye Pork Pie Hat cover or John McLaughlin's The Unknown Dissident (which almost certainly took the same inspiration) but with more of a Floydish spaceyness. Luscious, soulful music. Excellent.
5. Out of Season (5:32) - Karl Jenkins loved beautiful, stately, hypnotic piano ostinatos, seemingly inspired by Philip Glass's minimalism. Etheridge joins with a melodic and sophisticated head and the rest of the band work around the ostinato. Nice.
6. Second Bundle (2:37) - starts with more of Karl Jenkins's psychedelic new-agey keys (move over Miquette Garaudy) - enjoyable background music without being naff
7. Kayoo (3:27) - drum solo piece by John Marshall. Musical use of bells and space early gave way to cacophonous shredding. At this length, it would probably work well live but is wasted in the studio IMO (maybe should have been a coda consisting of just the first minute)
8. The Camden Tandem (2:01) - drum duet between the two Johns - Etheridge on guitar and Marshall on drums. I guess it wouldn't be Soft Machine album without at least some fierce harshness. This tune is seemingly inspired by Mahavishnu Orchestra's Noonward Race and, especially so, by King Crimson's Groon (which I much prefer to either).
9. Nexus (0:49) - a lovely grandiose introduction to the next tune. Why did they make it a separate tune? No one knows.
10. One Over the Eight (5:25) - let's get down, baby, it's Funkytime! Well, it started out funky and again reminded me of Ataraxia's edgy moments with a stylish and intelligently-built sax lead. The jam gradually loosens and intensifies until a new bass riff is introduced and, with Wakeman's tenor by now honking, wailing and squawking we're sounding more like the old Soft Machine again before the entire thing falls into a horrid cacophony that thankfully, bot not too soon, shifts into a 6/8 outro. As a drummer, I find that cacophony is far more fun to play than to listen to. Otherwise excellent.
11. Etika (2:21) - during this era it was fashionable to let the guitarist have an acoustic tune for variation. This is that track, arguably better than most, and enough edge to be more than background.
Greta Courtney

At that point , our dear MIKE RATLEDGE is but credited as a guest, playing sinthy on two pieces.It's clear he didln't realy agree the guitar arrival through the previous album ( BUNDLES) I think it's a huge waste for the band as much more that RATLEDGE,JENKINS combination was very fruitful on SIX , but according ETHERIDGE , MIKE was bored with the band and wanted to leave but stayed only because he was asked to. Happily , the music still is very good although, different from early SOFT releases.It's mostly composed by JENKINS and it's much more than a jazzrock virtuosity demontration even,if MARSHALL and ETHERIDGE has to be considered as virtuosos.What we have here are magnificent and colourful landscapes tinged with strong feelings.However , i think this record would have been better with ALAN HOLDWORTH on guitar . TOP PIECES aubade , tale of taliesin , ban ban caliban , song of aeolus , kayou , nexus.With BABBINGTON on bass , that means three ones from NUCLEUS and i did ever listen a single album from this band so sad. 4stars PS i must admit that i'm unable to decide if ESOTERIC remastered is better than my vinyl lp
Jean-Marie Same

This review is from: Softs (Esoteric 2010 Remaster Audio CD) "Groups exist for the use of musicians" so said drummer Bill Bruford. I think that this statement applies here. Much is made of Mike Ratledge literally fading away from the group during these sessions thus effectively leaving the Soft Machine to a whole bunch of non- original members. This has no trace of the wit and wisdom of the Robert Wyatt years, or the edgy experimentalism of the mid-period band with Hugh Hopper and Elton Dean alongside Ratledge's patent organ soloing.
It does however, continue the shift towards the first class compositional and instrumental intensity delivered on it's predecessor `Bundles'. Keyboard and Reeds man Karl Jenkins is now the driving force, and (Allan Holdsworth recommended) guitarist John Etheridge takes the music to a new intensity and ferocity ably supported by the stunning drumming prowess of John Marshall. There are contrasting slower melodic passages, and time shifts, making this a thoroughly well assembled and captivating suite of compositions.
This album is often seen as the beginning of the end for the Softs, but fresh listening to this beautifully recorded and newly remastered re-issue on Esoteric reveals much to admire and plenty to enjoy in terms of breathtaking musicianship.
In truth the album becomes a little fragmentary towards the end, but the first two thirds of its duration is a tour de force of energy and propulsive Mahavishnu style intensity, contrasted with Jenkins' strong compositional abilities on the softer passages. `The Tale Of Taliesin' and `Ban Ban Caliban' in particular represent British musicianship at it's finest, while `Song Of Aeolus' occupies the melodic territory of the likes of contemporaries Focus and Camel.
Forget the name and the associations of old, and enjoy the fact that the musicians gathered here were at the height of their creativity. Recorded at Abbey Road under the auspices of engineer John Leckie, instrumental music never sounded so good.
Steve Dinsdale

Soft Machine never ever repeat them selves from album to album. That's why this band is both frustrating and fascinating.
Allan Holdsworth left the band after Bundles and in came another Nucleus member; John Etheridge. Mike Ratledge, the only remaining Soft Machine member left halfway through the recording and Karl Jenkins took over the tangents in addition to writing most of the material here. Alan Wakeman took over Karl Jenkins old job.
Gone too is most of the quirky avant-garde jazz Soft Machine pioneered. Softs is more or less a straight jazz-rock album with some added Soft Machine quirkiness. It can also be compared to their previous album Bundles. Both in style and quality wise.
Most of the material on Softs is simply stunning. The songs from The Tale of Taliesien to Kayoo is simply jazz-rock heaven. Excellent guitar solos backed up by outstanding saxophone and keyboards work. Fabelous ! The material changes between lyrically soft jazz to swinging jazz-rock. Everything here is very melodic, but still very Soft Machine. The rest of the album is the normal Soft Machine quirky fare, including a drum solo and an accoustic guitar piece.
By all standards; this is an excellent album. I still miss some of Karl Jenkins flutes and saxophones. Bundles is still a better album than this, but just by some inches. I love this album.
4/5 stars
toroddfuglesteg

Amazing album of this band. We have two forces here, the jazz improvisation and virtuosity in calm parts. In some parts we feel the city movement in day and in another's, the sadness of the night. This band have one of more dizzy guitar player that i now, not so fast to touch scales in this album but quite fast in some parts. You can listen this in Bundles live, a bootleg, I think. Amazing piano ion calm parts that made we dream with good things, and very good to love. It's one of my favourite albun's of Soft Machine and I think that this work are made in a phase more sober of the band. Very good album and essential in a Canterbury Scene fans, specialy in a jazz fusion vein that I think that Soft Machine belong. I give 5 stars and high recpmended.
João Paulo Vieira Rodrigues

With Mike Ratledge only appearing on a couple of tracks - and then only billed as a guest artist - Softs marks the precise moment where Soft Machine's links to its illustrious past were finally severed forever. Though to be fair, the only remaining link was the fact that Mike was present, rather than anything he was playing or contributing - by Mike's own account, Karl Jenkins and others had essentially taken over the songwriting for a while, and his last years in the band were a deeply uncomfortable experience he was glad to put past him.
So, what does Soft Machine sound like without Mike Ratledge? That's a good question, and one which the band show no sign of knowing the answer to. There's a gentle acoustic bit here, a bit of unimaginative rockin' out on electric guitar by John Etheridge over there, and Karl occasionally tinkles on the synthesisers but doesn't seem to come up with anything decisive or compelling to do with them. The album sounds like a technically competent band waiting to receive their marching orders and aimlessly jamming whilst they wait, only to accidentally release the directionless, aimless, pointless guff that results instead of a properly composed album.
Softs, quite simply, is a bunch of guys playing under the name Soft Machine for the sake of being Soft Machine. No creative vision on the part of anyone present is in evidence, and it's shockingly clear that this era of the band was dominated by Karl Jenkins not by design but by default - quite simply, he's prominent enough on the album to be considered by most to be the band leader despite not really bringing anything resembling leadership or direction to the table. Those absolutely devoted to hearing everything the Machine ever produced will probably want this one, but for everyone else there's plenty of alternatives if you want a slight, technically competent fusion album - try, oh, I don't know, anything by any band with any sense of identity or purpose whatsoever.
W. Arthur

As i wrote Repeatedly in many other reviews , regarding jazz - rock fusion in the late 70's , surely, Soft machine were involved , one way or another with other bands & soloist . Apperently some of these releases reaches the highpoints of emerging Classical - jazz rock & put it in a satisfying fusion globe . SOFTS ( 9th of Soft machine , in add to third & banddles ) contributed in this critical change . I like this album ,since i 've get it from Paris in 1977 , the impact cannot be simply told in this review , so , discover by yourselves , proggers , what i meant . Enjoy a mutual aggreement between jazz & rock created by talented team . N.B = highly recommended to all proggers , not ONLY jazz fusion style.
Antoine Kordahi






3 comentarios:

  1. El primer disco que tuve de Soft Machine (todavía anda el vinilo por ahí)allá por el 79 u 80.- Una gran obra donde recuerdo Aubade y La Historia de Taliesin, este último un tema impresionante con un trabajo de guitarra y batería grandioso.- También me viene a la memoria la gracia que me hizo encontrar un músico con el mismo apellido que el 10 del Globo (mi equipo), un excelso y exquisito jugador y un atorrante como dirigente.- En fin... gran disco.-

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  2. Maravilloso, gracias Mago por traer esta joyita al blog!! Adoro el trabajo de John Etheridge, qué gran guitarrista!

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    1. Por algo te nombre en la cabecera del post Princesita, todos sabemos que te gusta esto.

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