Softs Import, Original recording remastered
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Critics of this album often compare it to elevator music or light jazz. Listen up: forced to suffer through endless hours of listening to Muzak as a security guard during my summer job in my college days (the late 70's), I feel supremely qualified to quash that hideous "light jazz" accusation! (Don't get me humming the clarinet version of "Penny Lane" again! Aarrgh!!!)
To be sure, this is not the aggressive, "Look what I can do" jazz/rock fusion of Mahavishnu Orchestra, U.K., some Brand X, or other contemporaries of the band. There is a dreamier atmosphere that pervades "Bundles" and "Softs"; but that background is supplemented with catchy bass riffs, searing and soaring guitar solos, great drumming, and interesting melodies interspersed with some great jamming. Actually, if you combined the pre-Brand X "Marscape" album with Camel's "The Snow Goose", you'd have a pretty good idea of the sound of "Softs".
I realize I'm kind of reviewing both albums here, but "Bundles" and "Softs" really are kindred albums that bookend a unique phase of Soft Machine. They share a similar feel and scope between them, while still managing to differentiate themselves with new melodies and perspectives.
These are very good, interesting, entertaining and - dare I say - ESSENTIAL albums for the serious progressive rock/jazz fusion aficionado.
I value interesting music that is played and recorded well. This cd's rating was based on:
Music quality = 8.9/10; Performance = 9/10; Production = 8.5/10; CD length = 8/10.
Overall score weighted on my proprietary scale = 8.8 ("4-1/2 stars")
One disc 45 minutes in length approximately. The remastered sound is improved from earlier releases-clean, open, and crisp without sounding harsh. The 10 page booklet lists song titles, and band members (Roy Babbington-bass, John Etheridge-guitars, Karl Jenkins-keyboards, John Marshall-drums, Alan Wakeman-saxophones, and Mike Ratledge-synthesizer on "Ban-Ban Caliban" and "Song Of Aeolus". There's also a short synopsis of the band during the time surrounding this album, including insight from band members. There are color photos of the band members throughout the booklet.
This album, released in 1976, shows a band that had changed fairly radically from its earlier stage as a very progressive/sometimes tongue in cheek English group that used the talents of Robert Wyatt as drummer/vocalist, along with several musicians that defined the very sound of the band. From the first album through "Three", and maybe a bit beyond ("5TH" OR "6TH"), the band's sound was easily recognizable, yet not so easily defined.
This album and "Bundles" marked a real change in the bands direction. Gone were the organ/keyboard emphasis of earlier days-the guitar was becoming the dominant instrument. With the addition (he replaced Allan Holdsworth) of guitarist John Etheridge (on "Softs ") the band had a player who could step out front and solo until next Tuesday if needed. Along with Babbington's more rock orientated bass work (replacing the wonderful Hugh Hopper), and the intuitive drumming of John Marshall, the group took on a different sound-jazz rock.Read more ›
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Never really paid any attention to this group and do not really care for the earlier soft machine which is keyboard driven and little guitar. Read morePublished on March 12, 2014 by Davidramsey
First of all, know what I really like about the Bundles album cover? That it's deceiving. It shows an old man in a field releasing a bird from a box and calmly watching it fly... Read morePublished on April 26, 2011 by Bryan
Excellent! from start to finish a must for lovers of all good music ! this remastered version is certainly worth the money. Buy this now .Published on December 9, 2010 by mark c
this is soft machine's ninth release. more personel changes with the adding of john etheridge (replacing allan holdsworth) and alan wakeman (rick's brother) on saxophones. Read morePublished on September 4, 2010 by Joseph L. Kolb
One of my favorite Soft Machine albums. If you enjoy Return to Forever, Weather Report, or Herbie Hancock's 70s material, add this to your collection. You'll be glad you did.Published on September 4, 2010 by Mr.Smith
This is probably the album including Bundles and Two were Soft Machine actally sounds like there doing this for jaming and grooving. Read morePublished on May 30, 2005 by R.Cittern
i think this is a great cd. to compare this line-up with the original of 20 some years ago is foolish. soft machine has evolved over the years and made numerous flawless releases. Read morePublished on May 6, 2005 by Joseph L. Kolb
too intelligent just superb performances by these musicians. jazz rock prog fusion or what on earth have they come up with this album.BRILLIANT!!!!Published on March 19, 2004 by shadowmaster
This is the first album that I listened to the Soft Machine on radio in my high school age in 1976. I recorded the radio program in a cassete tape and repeated listening it. Read morePublished on June 2, 2001 by KirK