GRIDES

CD
first set:
  1. Facelift 
  2. Vitually         
  3. Out-Bloody-Rageous    
  4. Neo-Caliban Grides         
second set:
  5. Teeth         
  6. Slightly All The Time    
  7. Eamonn Andrews         
  8. Esther's Nose Job         
encore:
  9. Slightly All The Time/Noisette    

DVD
  1. Neo-Caliban Grides         
  2. Out-Bloody-Rageous    
  3. Robert 's vocal improvisation    
  4. Eamonn Andrews         
  5. All White      

Recorded: CD: October 25, 1970 at the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
DVD: March 23, 1971 at Radio Bremen's TV studio,
Bremen, Germany
Released: 2006

Hugh Hopper: electric bass
Elton Dean: alto sax, saxello, el. piano
Mike Ratledge: electric piano, Lowrey organ
Robert Wyatt: drums, vocals


"Soft Machine...certainly rank among the most influencial 'out' rock bands." - Dusted

Soft Machine were one of first and one of the greatest jazz/rock bands of all time. Their importance and influence was especially great in Europe, where they influenced several generations of bands, and their influences can still be heard to this day in bands like Jaga Jazzist and beyond. Grides presents the band recorded live at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam on October 25, 1970, in a high-quality, previously unreleased recording, just a few months after the release of Third and at the peak of their popularity. It showcases them in transition between releases, with the band performing 3 of the four works from Third, as well as some of the earliest recordings of material from the upcoming Fourth, including some very different arrangements to what would eventually end up on that release. In addition, it features the earliest recording of Elton's Neo-Caliban Grides, which has a fairly lengthy composed section that was never heard again. Also included in this set is the first-ever DVD release by Soft Machine! It was recorded at the TV studios of Radio Bremen on the same date (March 23, 1971) as the radio session that Cuneiform released as Virtually, but is a completely different performance. This was the band's final European tour with Robert Wyatt and is a 20 minute set, professionally recorded by a multicamera crew. The audio and video quality is excellent for the time period (over 35 years old now!), as we worked from the original videotape master in the archives of Radio Bremen.

* text from Cuneiform website

1970 was a busy year for Soft Machine and a transitional one. The band needed time to relax and write new tracks for a new album. Both Mike and Hugh started writing; Robert went on tour with old band-mate Kevin Ayers and his Whole World, but also found time to record his first solo-album: The End of an Ear. He needed that, because his musical place in Soft Machine had decreased to a minimum. After the summer the band went on a very small tour in Europe, just playing nine concerts, three of them were in the Netherlands: Eindhoven, Rotterdam and Amsterdam. Only the latter – the last concert of that tour - is worth mentioning because it is the concert which was recorded then and now released as ‘Grides’. I was very happy with this release, because I had this specific concert on tape, but had lost the tape a long time ago. That means the concert had been broadcasted once, because in those days I copied a lot of concerts from radio broadcasting. Looking at the set-list, the band plays the more familiar themes like Esther’s Nose Job, Eamonn Andrews and Facelift, but there are also new ones like Virtually and Teeth, which would be released in the near future on ‘Fourth’, their new album. Virtually was not yet finished and because of that played in another version here. It is interesting to compare this one with the version which would be recorded for Fourth. Elton’s Neo-Caliban Grides also was a new composition, more free than the band was used too, but, as with Virtually, not ready yet. Maybe because of that it wasn’t recorded for fourth and somehow skipped from the list. It was recorded by Elton for his first solo-album, which was simply named: Elton Dean. Teeth, the last new composition, was also ‘in progress’ and therefore not like the version which was released on Fourth as well, but an interesting one also. The small tour also meant a goodbye to Esther’s Nose Job, which was played too long already and after the last concert eliminated from the set-list. Hibou Anemone and Bear, another composition which had grown to a kind of ‘standard’ already had been deleted from the program. By doing that, it was also a final goodbye for Robert’s vocal outings. Soft Machine, under influence of Mike’s preferences for Miles Davis and his electric band, now had turned in an a sort of English counterpart. And that meant: no singing anymore and a more and more frustrated Robert Wyatt. Not at this concert though, everyone was enthusiastic because “In Amsterdam the audience was more responsive to Soft Machine than any other place in Europe” (Michael Watts from Melody Maker and guest on this tour). Facelift is rather short and a kind of ‘warming up’ to Virtually, which is beautiful, played ‘adagio’ (which means slow and sensitive). Out-Bloody-Rageous sounds familiar, but has a new element: Elton plays a second piano as Mike gives his organ solo. That makes the sound palette broader and helped the band’s sound onward. The surprise comes with Neo-Caliban Grides. It has a more free approach, a long bass solo and various fast changing themes. Slightly all the Time is played fast; the band knows how to handle this one. Eamonn is very short and Esther lacks the vocal part, but now has Elton as second piano player. The encore is another Slightly all The Time, but it ends with Noisette and a roaring bass. It was a very good concert; I always treasured it and still do. The extras, the very first DVD, was shot in Germany, but in 1971! Soft Machine often played in Germany for television like the NDR. I watched most of those performances at night, because that shows were in jazz-time, which meant late night! It is actually good to see the band play, although the concert is short, we get a good impression. The PA-system seems obsolete by nowadays terms and looks worn out, but the music is fine. I like Hugh’s bass solo in Neo-Caliban Grides and Robert’s vocal improvisation. It was banned, but now seemed to be back again. Completely new was ‘All White’; it would appear on Fifth in another version. Both the concert and the DVD make Grides an indispensable Soft Machine release!

Paul Lemmens © 2014