ALIVE & WELL - RECORDED IN PARIS

  1. White Kite
  2. Eos
  3. Odds Bullets and Blades - Part 1
  4. Odds Bullets and Blades - Part 2
  5. Song of the Sunbird
  6. Puffin
  7. Huffin
  8. Number Three
  9. The Nodder
10. Surrounding Silence
11. Soft Space

2010 cd remaster:
DISC ONE - original album
  1. White Kite
  2. Eos
  3. Odds Bullets and Blades - Part 1
  4. Odds Bullets and Blades - Part 2
  5. Song of the Sunbird
  6. Puffin
  7. Huffin
  8. Number Three
  9. The Nodder
10. Surrounding Silence
11. Soft Space

DISC TWO - unreleased and bonus tracks
   1. K's Riff
   2. The Nodder
   3. Two Down
   4. The Spraunce
   5. Song of Aeolus
   6. Sideburn
   7. The Tale of Taliesin
   8. Organic Matter/One over the Eight
and extra special bonus the: 1978 single:
   9. Soft Space - part one (edited version)
 10. Soft Space - part two (disco version)

Recorded: 6–9 July, 1977 at Théâtre Le Palace, Paris, France, except 11 (original album and disc 1 & 9, 10 disc 2, which are studio recordings; recorded 1977 at Advision Studios, London, where other parts of the live album were remixed also.
Released: april, 1978

John Marshall: drums, percussion
Karl Jenkins: keyboards, piano
John Etheridge: guitars
Rick Sanders: violin
Steve Cook: bass
with:
Mike Ratledge: synthesizer and programming on 11 (disc 1) and 9-10 (disc 2)

 
7" vinyl single versions of Soft Space (april 1978)


first cd-version (1990)

The Soft Machine Alive & Well - Recorded in Paris album cover
2010 cd-version


deluxe Japanese cd-version (2012)


steve-rick-john-karl-john


john etheridge
Alive & Well was Soft Machine's last official album. Although the optimistic name on the album, things didn't get well in that period. There was little money and their music seemed to come from another time and age. Remember in 1978 punk was raving all around and the heydays of jazz-rock lay in the past as well. Older fans had banned the new sounding group long ago and there were few new fans around. Soft Machine had changed from a group in the front of musical development into a group in the margins of it. Still, if you listen now, their music is indeed vibrant and alive and the band sounds tight and organized. Almost as usual, there were new members in the line-up: Roy Babbington had left to earn some money at last and was replaced by Steve Cook (Gilgamesh, Seventh Wave). Alan Wakeman, who left after six months, was replaced by violinist Rick Sanders. The violin wasn´t new in the group, former guitarist Allan Holdsworth had played the violin on stage as well. Again most tracks on this record were written by Karl Jenkins; composition was his main goal now and he left his solo spaces to guitar and violin. The original album starts with ‘White Kite’, a fluid, minimalistic based track which builds up towards a guitar burst in the second track: ‘Eos’. But not for long, the music turns into a rather funky ‘Odds, Bullets and Blades - part 1’. ‘Part 2 is not more of the same, in contrary, that part moves into to the heavier jazz-rock territories and contains a flashing guitar solo. Time for peace and romance with the keyboard driven ‘Song of the Sunbird’. ‘Puffin’ again has a heavy rock guitar while ‘Huffin’ sounds more like Odds etc. part 2 and has some beautiful and wild violin passages. ‘Number Three’ (counting has always been a good job in this band) is an acoustic guitar solo in all kinds of styles. The ‘Nodder’ sounds familiar , it is Soft Machine's most complete track with room for everyone to stand out. ‘Surrounding Silence gives Ric Sander's space to give a solo and he does that with an eastern tocuh. ‘Soft Space’ is an absolute failure. How dare they! This is not Soft Machine anymore, no it’s Giorgio Moroder getting ready for a new Donna Summer hit. Hearing this one way back in `78, I was really shocked and I thought it is time to say goodbye to this band. Harvest even released the f…. thing on a single. Soft Machine goes disco, hey, Donna you wonna? Now I can dance to it, but still, it has nothing to do with Soft Machine´s music. Even worse, I thought in ’78, was the fact that former Soft Machine keyboardist Mike Ratledge helped out programming the synths on this stupid little song.
In 2010 Esoteric records re-released Alive & Well on cd, and added a bonus disc with new and extra tracks. Great! The extra disc takes off with ‘K´s Riff’, a heavy sounding track with violin additions and a fine guitar solo. John Etheridge is at his best here. The ‘Nodder’ is another version, another day, of the track on disc 1. ‘Two Down’ is a blowing session with guitar and drums only, hunter and the hunted. We’ve heard that sound before. The ‘Spraunce’ has a ‘Brand X’ (the jazz-rock band) feel to it (not that strange since Brand X - bassist Percy Jones stepped in on bass now and then), it was written by Steve Cook and Peter Lemer. As expected, Steve gives a (great) violin solo. ‘Song of Aeolus’ also appeared on ‘Softs’ and is an open, easy track and again with a lively guitar solo. ‘Sideburn’ is a drum solo in a way only John could do it. Great and thanks again! ‘Tale of Taliesin’ and ‘Organic Matter/One over the Eight’ can both be found on ‘Softs’. Performed live, Tale is a furious track with burning guitar solo. The live part ends with a track in rock. Altogether a great show with fine music and stunning solos, especially from John Etheridge who proved to be the strongest player throughout these discs. As with disc one, disc two ends with disco dance, Soft Space, edited for single release and the backside in disco version (I’m a dancing fool). After all, Soft Machine indeed was alive and well. But not for long....

Paul Lemmens © 2010/2014