Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Rare Soft Machine TV Broadcast From 1973 Released

When you are a smaller blogsite you don't always get full access to a new release. So though there is a new CD/DVD release of Soft Machine's 1973 NDR Television Broadcast (Rune 305/306), I received a download of the audio CD only, and that's fine. There's apparently a DVD in this package with additional music but I will not be reviewing that part since I did not get it.

What I can tell you about the release is that the CD runs a generous 79 minutes and contains excellent audio sound. It's the band right after Hugh Hopper had left it, with Roy Babbington taking his place. Gary Boyle plays guitar on a good number of the pieces, and he sounds McLaughlinesque. Karl Jenkins does his usual good job on reeds and then of course there's the distinctive presence of John Marshall on drums and Mike Ratledge on keys.

It's typically very good Softs, running through the repertoire of the time, doing some odd numbers here and there, getting in some free jamming.

I could take some space rehearsing why the Soft Machine was an important group of its era. OK then. They did not play standard formulaic fusion as it had pretty much been codified by 1973. Their compositions had more of a jazz-rock edge to them. They utilized minimalistic cycles and psychedelic soundscaping in ways nobody else did at that point. Their originals were quite well-crafted. They had a certain amount of the free, avant element going for them.

The presence of Gary Boyle on guitar gives this set a different cast (if you'll pardon the pun) and the quality of the sound and energy of the performances put this in the category of "worth checking out by diehard fans of the band as well as those who are not completists but have in some way fallen under the spell of the band and its legacy."

This one is not essential, but it is nice to hear.

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