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Softs Import, Original recording remastered

4.5 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Import, Original recording remastered, July 13, 2010
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Editorial Reviews

Esoteric Recordings are pleased to announce the long overdue release of the re-mastered edition of the classic 1976 album 'Softs' by the celebrated Jazz and Rock group Soft Machine. The album was the band s second for EMI s Harvest label and featured a line-up of Mike Ratledge (keyboards), Karl Jenkins (Oboe, Piano, Soprano Sax), John Marshall (Drums), Roy Babbington (Bass) and new member John Etheridge (Guitar), along with Saxophonist Alan Wakeman. An accessible collection featuring John Etheridge s considerable guitar playing talents and would also be the final album to feature founder member Mike Ratledge. Unavailable on CD for nearly 15 years, this reissue has been re-mastered from the original tapes and fully restores the original artwork.

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  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

Product Details

  • Audio CD (July 13, 2010)
  • Imported ed. edition
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Import, Original recording remastered
  • Label: ESOTERIC
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #19,514 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
There were primarily two albums from Soft Machine that really interested me: "Bundles" from 1975, and "Softs" from 1976. Despite the departure of Allan Holdsworth and Mike Ratledge after "Bundles", the quality of the compositions and playing on "Softs" continues to impress as much as its predecessor. Both albums are 4-1/2 stars.

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")
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Even though this album has been out for a while (and has been reviewed), it's worth bringing to people's attention who might've missed it the first time.

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.
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Format: 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.
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