Soft Machine — Switzerland 1974
(Cuneiform Rune 395/396, 1974/2015, CD+DVD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2015-04-12
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.
Larry Coryell RIP – One of the greats of jazz guitar has left us at the age of 73. Larry Coryell was one of the founding figures of jazz fusion, but produced a significant body of work the bridged many styles. His group Eleventh House provided a unique take on the combination of jazz and rock that was distinct from contemporaries such as Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return to Forever, and Weather Report. » Read more
John Wetton RIP – After a long battle with colon cancer, singer and bassist John Wetton has died at the age of 67. As an integral member of such bands as King Crimson, UK, and Asia, his was one of the distinctive voices in progressive rock, lending a human touch to often difficult music. » Read more
Seaprog Announces First Artists for 2017 – The organizers of the Seaprog Festival in Seattle have announced the first set of confirmed performers for the 2017 festival. The best known names are Cabezas de Cera and Jack o' the Clock, but a host of other bands are featured, mostly from the Northwest. The festival will take place June 2-4, 2017. » Read more
Acoustic Festival of Britain 2017 Announces Eclectic Lineup – The Acoustic Festival of Britain has been going since 2006, and this year's event sees a number of outstanding artists on the bill. Fairport Convention, Tir na nOg, and Martin Turner are some of the artists we've covered, and there are many more, including The Men They Couldn't Hang, Howard Jones, Chantel McGregor, and many more. The festival runs June 2-4, 2017 at Uttoxeter Racecourse in Staffordshire. » Read more
Carmen - Fandangos in Space & Dancing on a Cold Wind – Do you like Jethro Tull? Curved Air? Flamenco dancing? Did you ever wish for a combination of the three? Your wish has come true, and its name is Carmen! And if you don't think they could pull off... (1994) » Read more