1. The Floating World
  2. Bundles
  3. Land Of The Bag Snake
  4. Ealing Comedy
  5. The Man Who Waived At Trains
  6. Peff
  7. North Point
  8. Hazard Profile (Part One)
  9. J.S.M.
10. Riff III
11. Song Of Aeolus
12. Penny Hitch (Coda)

Recorded: January, 29th 1975, at the Post-Aula, Bremen-Horn, Germany
Released: 2006

Allan Holdsworth: electric guitar, violin
Mike Ratledge: Fender Rhodes, Lowrey organ, synth.
Karl Jenkins: oboe, soprano sax, recorder, electric & accoustic piano
Roy Babbington: 6-string electric bass
John Marshall: drums, percussion

Japanese cd-version (Strange Days Records, 2006)

This CD marks the first release of a live performance by Soft Machine's Bundles line-up featuring Allan Holdsworth on guitar. This concert, recorded for Radio Bremen in January 1975, consists of most of the Bundles material, which hadn't yet come out although in the can since the previous summer, plus a couple of band improvs and solo showcases for Mike Ratledge, Roy Babbington and John Marshall. That era of Soft Machine was unique in that, taking the band's long established tradition of continuous change to an extreme, when Holdsworth joined all the previous repertoire was abandoned, literally at once, in favour of brand new material written by Karl Jenkins and, to a lesser extent, Mike Ratledge. This made the new Soft Machine even more difficult to compare with its predecessors, and gave the band a well-deserved chance for critical reappraisal. At long last, reviewers stopped bemoaning the loss of the band's father figures to judge the new line-up on its own merits. As a consequence, positive reviews again began to pour in, and 1974-75 was to prove Soft Machine's second golden age in many respects.
"By the release of Bundles in 1975, Mike Ratledge was Soft Machine’s only original member. With relative newcomer Karl Jenkins‚ with his increasingly dominant compositional role, there was little tying them to the classic line-up that released albums like Third. But it was guitarist Allan Holdsworth, appearing virtually out of nowhere with a revolutionary melodic and harmonic approach--who placed this Softs incarnation on equal footing with earlier line-ups. Recorded for German Radio Bremen months before Bundles was released, Floating World Live is a powerful live performance that, despite Holdsworth’s dominating presence, provides plenty of space for all - proof that they were far looser and interactive in concert than Bundles suggests. An exciting 75-minute set, Floating World Live demonstrates just how well-formed Holdsworth was this early in his career, and proves that critics writing this incarnation off as nothing more than riff-heavy fusion couldn't be more mistaken."
JOHN KELMAN (Senior Editor AllAboutJazz.com)

"Classic Allan Holdsworth, in one of his best performances ever, monster bass and fuzz-bass lines by Roy Babbington, psycho analog synths and an incredible polyrhythmic drumming by John Marshall! Think of a jazz-rock jam band excuting killer riffs, atop attractive Canterbury-style overtones... Soft Machine fans will rejoice!"
GLENN ASTARITA (contributor to Downbeat, Radio Direct X, JazzReview.com & E-Jazz Times)

* texts from MoonJune-website
Maybe it was the concert in Hamburg with guitarist Gary Boyle that opened the ears of the then current line-up of Soft Machine. Maybe it was the old approach to their music, which wasn’t that vivid and sparkling anymore. They needed someone to stir up their music and found the right person: Allan Holdsworth. The fabulous guitar player brought his skills and injected the necessary fuel. Recording sessions for a new album took place in July 1974, but the record was released almost a year from that. In the meantime the band toured and so, with Floating World Live, we meet them – audio wise – in January 1975; two month before Bundles would be released. On the program none of the old and familiar compositions and just one composition from their previous album, but only new compositions! You can hear, in the way the band plays, that they like the new material and like to play it live as well. On the previous site I wrote that I even liked this album better than Bundles itself, because this concert is played with such passion and power. The set starts with The Floating World with minimal piano patterns and a sound, which has some resemblance with the sound of the recorder. At the end the tension is built up by John Marshall and his percussion section drenched in echo. Allan stirs things up with his first fast-as-lightning guitar solo in Bundles. He calms down a little bit as he approaches The Land of the Bag Snake, but in fact it is one long solo. Ealing Comedy is Roy’s bass solo time, sometimes he plays it as a guitar, and lucky for us he also uses the old familiar fuzz pedal. He plays a very harmonic bass solo, which sounds great, but isn’t that hard to do with a six string bass. The Man Who Waived at Trains seemed to have a violin and he plays it beautiful. Of course this is Allan. He doesn’t play it on the record, which would have been great I think. I liked the Bundles version of this composition already, but this one is even better. In Peff Karl blows his first solo on oboe, it doesn’t end as dramatically as on the album. By adding Allan to the line-up Karls place has become somewhat less important. Mike Ratledge had added a synthesizer to his equipment, so he could change his ever-the-same-sounding Lowrey sound, and now toys with it in North Point. Halfway the concert the Bundles album opener begins, Hazard Profile, but here we only are treated with part one. J.S.M. is a long drum and percussion solo - give the drummer some - but mostly they are too long and a little bit boring; even John, although a great drummer, can’t catch the attention for the full ten minutes. Riff III is almost a funky track, but around 1975 or so, that was the common approach in jazz-rock. It is enough to get Allan speeded up again. Song of Aeolus was not recorded for Bundles, but appeared one album later, on Softs. Played well on that one, but this is the better one I must admit. Endgame sounds like a group-improvisation on a firm rhythmic base. Penny Hitch slows everyone down, even the audience and then the concert is over. A great concert from a great band. Soft Machine, phase four, was a strong and lively band with enough potential. But as always with Soft Machine, after new approaches and changes someone would leave the band: Allan Holdsworth got an offer he couldn’t refuse and left. Leaving the band behind with some great concerts, a new album and a suggestion for his replacement.

Paul Lemmens © 2014