1. Over 'N' Above
  2. Lotus Groves
  3. Isle of the Blessed
  4. Panoramania
  5. Behind the Crystal Curtain
  6. Palace of Glass
  7. Hot-Biscuit Slim
  8. (Black) Velvet Mountain
  9. Sly Monkey
10. "A Lot Of What You Fancy..."

Recorded: June through July, 1980 at Pye Studios and Riverside Studios
Released: 1981

Karl Jenkins: keyboards, synclavier
John Marshall: drums, percussion
Allan Holdsworth: guitar
Jack Bruce: bass
Ray Warleigh: alto sax, bass flute
Dick Morrissey: tenor sax
Alan Parker: rhythm guitar
John Taylor: fender rhodes
Tony Rivers: backing vocals
Stu Calver: backing vocals
John Perry: backing vocals
Unknown string section conducted by Jenkins

part of the back-cover

first cd-version (1996)

Over N' Above -  a miniature papersleeve replica single.
Issued as a promo by Diskunion Japan, 2013

official presskit photograph


After three years of silence, suddenly Land of Cockayne was released under Soft Machine's banner. Brand ‘Soft Machine’ was a good one in the past, but this last convulsion is in fact nothing more than a first solo attempt from Karl Jenkins. After the than disappointing ‘Alive & Well’ Soft Machine ceased to exist anymore, but Karl had enough material written for a new album. He asked former Soft Machine drummer John Marshall to help out. That’s almost half the Soft Machine. Add two more oldies like Ray Warleigh and Allan Holdsworth and you have some machine started up. Still, why us the name ‘Soft Machine’? Mike Thorne, producer for Alive and Well, liked Soft Machine's music that much that he approached Jenkins with the question to realize a new album. With a small budget Jenkins got his chance to write for an orchestra and practice conducting. It had to be said: he liked it very much. John asked Jack Bruce (Cream) for the bass parts. John and Jack had worked together a long time ago (1969) on John's first album 'Song for a Tailor'. Both Karl and John approached other friends and studio musicians for their help on this special occasion. Even more than the last two albums, Land of Cockayne had little to do with Soft Machine's music from the past. It is not the experimental music, not the free-jazz, not the wild solo’s from Mike, this record is easy to swallow, just like any other smooth jazz record with strings attached to give it an even more fluent style. We enter the Land of plenty with ‘Over and Above’. The track has a mesmerizing and bewitching theme. First time I heard it, my than girlfriend just broke up our relationship, and this track seemed to go on forever and forever, I just couldn’t concentrate enough on it, but it suited perfectly to the mood I was in. It still has some melancholic feel I think. ‘Lotus Grooves’ starts with gongs and sounds a little bit like Weather Report, but then again it's more like a part for a romantic movie with lots of rain pouring down, remember the heart was broken already. It's a fine track. Even more sadness comes with the next one; clouds of violins float all over you. There seems a lot going on, but in the end it is not that impressive though. ‘Panoramania’ is the first track which sparks and necessary at this point! There is a fine Fender Rhodes solo from yet another John (Taylor). Behind the synthesized ‘Crystal Curtain’ there is nothing happening and the curtains are made of thin, see-through material, it's just an intermezzo track to bring you to the minimalistic ‘Palace of Glass’. Most Soft Machine records have influences from Terry Riley and at points driven with repeated patterns. So here we go again. Being in an American mood, it is time for some Streets of San Francisco adaptions: ‘Hot Biscuit Slim’; just another Funky American movie music theme. ‘Velvet Mountain’ is the end of this movies theme with tears coming from Allan's guitar, soaked in violins. ‘Sly Monkey’ has a little bit of Bundle's fame, but maybe that's more Allan's merit. The disc ends with ‘A Lot of what you Fancy’ which is just what it is: a real closing tune. As mentioned before, Land of Cockayne has nothing from the adventurous early Soft Machine records, nothing from neither the experimental jazzy records nor the later jazz-rock (fusion) attempts. It's a slick record which makes you swallow it in one bite, like a light snack. But it has its moments, but probably that has much to do with the mood you're in. If you really would like to know Soft Machine, start at the beginning! Kevin Ayers knew it all along: "It begins with a blessing; it ends with a curse...” (words from Why are we sleeping - Soft Machine Volume One).

Paul Lemmens © 2010/2014