1. Plain Tiffs
2. All White
3. Slightly All The time
4. Drop
5. M.C.
6. Out-Bloody-Rageous
1. Facelift
2. And Sevens
3. As If
4. LBO
5. Pigling Bland
6. At Sixes

Recorded: May 2nd, 1972 at Olympia, Paris
Released: 2008

Elton Dean:  saxello, alto sax, rhodes piano 
Hugh Hopper: bass
John Marshall: drums
Mike Ratledge: electric piano, organ

"Live in France" - first cd release (One Way Records, 1995)

Another (unused) front (Cuneiform)

The Soft Machine line-up of Elton Dean, Hugh Hopper, John Marshall and Mike Ratledge lasted under half a year and recorded just one half of an album (side two of "5"). Live in Paris is a rare recording of this quartet during that lineup’s final days; Dean left Soft Machine later that month. It is also a special, rare example of a Soft Machine concert recorded and released in its entirety. Live in Paris shows Soft Machine playing in top form. As Aymeric Leroy points out in the liner notes, the music illustrates main composers Ratledge and Hopper's shift in compositional style…towards looser and more minimalistic themes." The tracklisting consists of works from "Third" and "5" in often significantly different versions, as well as several piece not recorded elsewhere. This excellent quality release is taken from the less than 2 dozen shows performed by this version of the band, and shows that despite such a short life, that this version of the quartet definitely had their own style and sound.

* text from Cuneiform website
After Phil Howard was told he wasn’t Soft Machine’s drummer anymore, there were two problems. One of them was Elton, who lost his musical pal and because of that realised that he seemed not to be so important as Mike and Hugh, since they had made that decision. The other one was the planned recording session for a new album, for which half was finished already. Soft Machine needed a new drummer urgently. On the very night John Marshall heard that the band he was playing in – Jack Bruce’s – stopped, Sean Murphy – Soft Machine’s manager at that time – met John and told him that Soft Machine needed a new drummer: “maybe he was interested?” John was, and soon he was invited to play at a rehearsal. He arrived in a strange atmosphere; Elton was thinking about his place in the band and Mike and Hugh were thinking about how they could finish their new record. John, a very good drummer, both in rock and jazz styles, but also a drummer with volcanic explosions, fitted like a glove. He could play the written scores and sometimes very difficult themes, but could also flow with the improvisational side. As Mike Ratledge remembered: “It’s nice to have someone who takes notice of the score”. But maybe that quote made more clear about his thinking than John’s approach. With John in the line-up the band restarted recording sessions for Fifth in February 1972. As written elsewhere on this site, that album ended in two split halves; one side with Phil, one side with John as drummer. Starting in March, two small tours had to be done with the new quartet. One of the places visited was Olympia in Paris. ‘Live in Paris’, this two cd-set, is the complete concert. The set-list is remarkable: compositions from the Third album, as well from the soon to be released Fifth album; nothing from Fourth. They had skipped compositions from that album already when Phil was the drummer, but even with a more structured drummer they didn’t choose to play that complex material. The Paris concert starts with Plain Tiffs, a typical Elton Dean composition with more free aspects. All White is played tighter than before, with a new heavy bass sound from Hugh and a clear and more rock based layer from John, while Elton plays a long saxello solo. In Slightly all the Time new and old visions meet. Drop Is free at first, but halfway becomes more straight. M.C. does it without drummer and has a light and fluid touch. Out-Bloody-Rageous is more organised, more like the actual version on Third. The concert part two starts with a long Facelift, which begins with Fender Rhodes piano and bass; it is the longest track and has free as well thematic parts. ‘And Sevens’ is a new composition, but better one could speak of a live group-improvisation. It develops in a more rock-orientated sound than the jazzier sound the band had with Phil in the line-up. The beautiful As If has lost its lazy late night jazz feeling and is played more aggressive; in my opinion that isn’t an improvement, but you can’t have everything, can you? John shows his abilities in LBO, after which Pigling Bland is played and that one also is changed in favour of the rhythmic approach. For an encore the band plays ‘At Sixes’; another group improvisation. You can hear that there had been an enormous musical growth, but it wasn’t enough for Elton; at the end of the tour he quit the band. That makes this record a special one, since it is the last recording with Elton playing. Once again, there was a vacancy for a new musician.

Paul Lemmens © 2014