Exposé Online banner

Soft Machine — Switzerland 1974
(Cuneiform Rune 395/396, 1974/2015, CD+DVD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2015-04-12

Switzerland 1974 Cover art

When Bundles came out in 1975, many fans were no doubt surprised to find a guitar in the mix, the first time since Kevin Ayers left the band when a guitar had figured in Soft Machine’s sound. Maybe some fans even thought it was a betrayal of sorts from the band’s identity. But bands, not fans, are the ones who decide their own identities. And while Allan Holdsworth’s tenure with the band was short, guitars would figure prominently from then on. Holdsworth may be a somewhat divisive figure, with many acknowledging his stature as one of the great innovators, technicians, or whatever, and this stature seems to have fueled a backlash against him (aided somewhat by the varying quality of his later solo work). The short-lived Soft Machine lineup that featured Holdsworth is given a big boost by this archival release, and it shows a band firing on all cylinders, and a guitarist who easily dispels any doubts about the value of his presence. “Hazard Profile” is particularly well done, including a wild Holdsworth solo, some great Mike Ratledge fuzz organ, and a piano interlude from Karl Jenkins, making for 16:46 of pure jazz-rock heaven. Roy Babbington steps up for an outstanding fuzz/no-fuzz bass solo on “Ealing Comedy,” which develops out of “The Floating World.” All the players have their time to step to the forefront, and the whole set flows smoothly from one title to the next.

This release comes with a DVD of the full performance, a professional multi-camera production without any effects or fooling around. The quality is comparable to any TV production of the era. Some of the thoughts that come to mind watching it are: John Marshall is a really outstanding drummer — not that this was unknown, but it seems he’s often overlooked when lists of great drummers are compiled; Roy Babbington was a worthy replacement for Hugh Hopper; Holdsworth tears it up on an SG, with a grittier sound than he’s known for with his signature Carvins; there really was something special about the keyboards available in the mid-70s — between them, Ratledge and Jenkins use a couple of Rhodes electric pianos, a Hohner Pianet, a Yamaha grand piano, a Lowrey organ, and an AKS synthesizer, and it all sounds warm and alive. And the final thought: that audience was one lucky bunch of people to see this performance, and we’re fortunate it’s now available on DVD. This is an essential for any fan of adventurous jazz or the Canterbury scene.


Filed under: New releases, 2015 releases, 1974 recordings

Related artist(s): Soft Machine, Allan Holdsworth, John Marshall

More info
http://cuneiformrecords.bandcamp.com/album/switzerland-1974

Latest news

2020-09-09
Simeon Coxe RIP – Simeon Coxe, best known for his experimental electronics in the band Silver Apples, has died at the age of 82. The band's 1968 debut album set the stage for both German electronic music and experimental punk music a decade later. Coxe died on September 8 from pulmonary fibrosis. » Read more

2020-09-05
Gary Peacock RIP – Legendary bassist Gary Peacock, veteran of many recordings and performances with Paul Bley, George Russell, Roland Kirk, Bill Evans, Tony Williams, and many more. » Read more

2020-07-22
Tim Smith RIP – Tim Smith, leader of the eccentric band Cardiacs, has died at the age of 59 after many years of health problems. Cardiacs was known for intense and complicated music that combined punk energy with the rhythmic and harmonic sophistication of progressive rock. » Read more

2020-07-12
Judy Dyble RIP – Singer-songwriter Judy Dyble, who was a founding member of Fairport Convention and one of the distinctive voices of the 60s folk revival in Britain, has died at the age of 71. Her passing came at the end of a long illness, though which she continued to work. » Read more

2020-07-06
Ennio Morricone RIP – Famed composer Ennio Morricone has died at the age of 91. The creator of scores for more than 500 movies, some of his works have become the most recognizable sounds in the history of cinema. His soundtracks for Sergio Leone's Westerns made from 1964 to 1971, are iconic landmarks in film music, but he also composed for dramas, comedies, and other genres. He won the Academy Award for Best Original Score in 2016 for The Hateful Eight. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Discipline - Push & Profit – Discipline are a young five-piece band from Detroit, Michigan, whose instrumentation includes the usual bass / drums / keys / guitars with the fifth and front man doing vocals/violin/keys/guitar....  (1994) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues