Soft Machine — Third
(BGO BGOCD 180, 1970/1993, CD)
by Peter Thelen, Published 1994-10-01For those not familiar with Soft Machine, this is probably the best place to start; this marks the major turning point in the band's career, a shift from a more song-oriented style, through a phase of intense experimentalism (for rock, at least), and on to an overall jazzier — and humorless sound. Soft Machine would never be the same again. After the second album, recorded as a trio of Hugh Hopper (bass), Mike Ratledge (organ) and Robert Wyatt (drums, vocals), the band decided to open the band up to new members with fresh ideas. As a result, Soft Machine briefly became an eight-piece with the addition of Elton Dean (alto sax, saxello), Lyn Dobson (flute, soprano sax), Nick Evans (trombone), Jimmy Hastings (flute, bass clarinet), and Rab Spall (violin) — in short, all of the Keith Tippett band at that point in time, minus Tippett. The album, originally a 2LP set, contains exactly four songs — one per side. The first, "Facelift,” was pieced together from two concert recordings in early 1970 featuring the full lineup, and is easily one of the most decidedly innovative pieces the band ever did, second only to "Moon in June,” an expanded version of a Robert Wyatt song which cuts, half way through, into a highly experimental piece for group and tape that defies descriptions. The remaining two sides, "Slightly All the Time" and "Out Bloody Rageous,” feature a subset of the full eight-piece lineup, and move in the jazzier directions that the band would follow on all subsequent albums. A domestic version of Third was released about four years ago on Columbia, which — like its vinyl counterpart, had absolutely dreadful sound quality. This new version on BGO corrects many of those problems, and seems to have better stereo separation as well. I've A-B'd it with the Columbia disc, and the improvements are immediately apparent.
Phil Miller RIP – Sad word reaches us today of the passing of another of the great musicians of the Canterbury Scene — guitarist Phil Miller. His distinctive sound added greatly to Matching Mole, Hatfield and the North, and National Health, and he also contributed to albums by Caravan, Dave Stewart $amp; Barbara Gaskin, and many others. He was 68. » Read more
Moonjune to Distribute Tony Levin's Back Catalog – It has been announced that Moonjune will now handle distribution for Tony Levin's catalog of releases. These great albums will now be a bit easier to get hold of, so check out the site and see what you're missing. The veteran of King Crimson and Stick Men worked with a host of great players on these albums, and we've reviewed most of them over the course of the years. » Read more
Bandcamp Shines Light on Niches We Like – Bandcamp has developed into one of the best places to discover new music, and even a lot of old music is showing up there. In addition, their staff has been producing periodic articles spotlighting some interesting stylistic areas. On 20 September, they published one called "The New Face of Prog Rock" which bears checking out. » Read more
Holger Czukay RIP – Holger Czukay, a musical experimentalist without boundaries who has been involved with expanding the sound palette of rock music since the late 60s, has died at the age of 79. After studying with Karlheinz Stockhausen in the early 60s, he became fascinated with the possibilities of rock music, and was a co-founder of the pioneering group Can. He leaves behind an impressive body of work both as musician and producer. » Read more
John Abercrombie RIP – Another of the greats of jazz guitar has left us. John Abercrombie plied his way through a beautiful series of albums on the ECM label as well as bringing his talent to bear on albums by many of jazz's greatest artists. From his early work in the group Dreams to Gateway and outstanding work with Billy Cobham, Jack DeJohnette, Kenny Wheeler, and many more to his own trios and quartets, he brought a unique instrumental voice to the world. » Read more