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

2019-11-07
Glenn Smith RIP – Glenn Smith, founder, mandolinist, and primary composer of the DeLand, Florida based prog / fusion band Magnatar, passed away on October 18th 2019 at the age of 68, after a brief illness.  » Read more

2019-11-04
Dino Brassea RIP – Word reaches us of the passing of Dino Brassea, who sang and played flute in Cast for many years. By our count, Brassea appeared on 11 Cast albums between 1994 and 2002. He also released music as a solo artist. » Read more

2019-10-06
Ginger Baker RIP – Legendary English drummer Ginger Baker has died at the age of 80. After coming to fame with Cream in the 60s alongside Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce, he became one of the most recognized and influential drummers of the rock era. On September 25, his family announced that he was critically ill, and on October 6 his death was confirmed. » Read more

2019-08-20
Alex's Hand Seeks Spa Treatment – American / European band Alex's Hand has a new album in the works called Hungarian Spa, which looks to be their biggest and best yet, featuring a large roster of guest musicians. They're seeking funding to take the project on the road, and are looking for help from the crowd of wisdom. » Read more

2019-06-05
Legendary Co-Founder of The 13th Floor Elevators Passes Away at Age 71 – Sadly, Roky Erickson passed away on May 31, 2019. Known as the father of psychedelic music and co-founder of the ground breaking 13th Floor Elevators, Roky had a profound influence on music from the 60s to today. Plagued by his own personal demons, Roky had a difficult life and is now free of these burdens. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

RandomK(e) - Waiting – It's probably most accurate to call RandomK(e) a Beijing-based band than a Chinese one, as all the members are foreigners living there. Since their start in 2004, the foursome has been one of the acts...  (2010) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues