British Tour 75
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British Tour '75
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Recorded originally for a live radio broadcast at Nottingham University in October 1975, and at over 78 minutes, this amazing, previously un-released live recording, captures the band touring Britain between the releases of the 1975 album Bundles and Softs in 1976. The set list includes fifteen tracks containing numbers from both these albums plus three new numbers comprising over 30 minutes of previously un-recorded material. MLP. 2005.
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Given a choice between this October '75 show and the January one captured on "Floating World Live", many fans might choose the other simply because guitar legend Allan Holdsworth played on that one. For my money however, this show is considerably better.
Holdsworth is a blindingly fast and technically brilliant player. But with Soft Machine he seemed rather overbearing and one-dimensional. His effect on the band seemed to be to inspire the other members to compete with him, which to my mind made the music suffer. To me, the January show with Holdsworth was little more than a long string of amphetamine solos from all members, with little sympathy for the actual music.
What a difference 9 months made! On this disc, replacement guitarist John Etheridge showed that he was perfectly capable of Holdsworth-style pyrotechnics, but he chose not to do these every chance he got. Instead he exercised some artistic restraint and economy. The whole band now sounded more relaxed, and the music was allowed to breathe. There was more depth, texture and subtlety; due largely to the keyboard interplay between Mike Ratledge and Karl Jenkins.
Of course there are still solos galore. Be warned that both of the 1975 shows suffer from the interminably long drum solos of John Marshall. The guy was simply not so good or innovative to warrant this indulgence; even tolerant 70s audiences must've been checking their watches and strolling to the loo.
I mean, I know that Soft Machine was started by Daevid Allen in the late 60s and that he left and they became the most revered jazz rock act in Canterbury's prog rock scene of the early to mid 70s, and that lineup changes caused the band to keep going but in name only til the early 80s. And I know that the 2 albums, based on song selection, seem to cover the tour that must have been the one that supported their studio album, Bundles.
Well the rest is conjecture on my part. I'm gonna say that this performance occurred quite a few months after the performance(s) on the Floating World cd. There are several shared songs on the discs, and on this cd, the band sounds more confident to improvise and expand on the grooves. I am not sure which versions are more true to the studio versions, though, because I have not yet purchased Bundles.
This is the better live cd, but a rabid Soft Machine enthusiast should find it worthwhile to own this cd and Floating World, or at least stream that one on the subscription sites on which it is available, This cd is not available on such sites.
I think bundles is one of the greatest fusion albums of all times and softs is not all that bad either. There is really not much more to say about this set other than it is a must for the fans of these two albums.