SEVEN

  1. Nettle Bed
  2. Carol Ann
  3. Day's Eye
  4. Bone Fire
  5. Tarabos
  6. D.I.S. 
  7. Snodland
  8. Penny Hitch
  9. Block
10. Down the Road
11. The German Lesson
12. The French Lesson


Recorded: July 1973 at CBS Studios, London
Released: late 1973 (Europe), early 1974 (US)

Roy Babbington: bass guitar, double bass
Mike Ratledge: organ, synthesizer and electric piano
Karl Jenkins: oboe, baritone & soprano saxes, recorder and electric piano
John Marshall: drums and percussion

US-lp-version - no gatefold (1974)


first cd-version (1993)


official press-kit photo of the 'new' band:
karl-roy (with impressive six string bass)-mike-john


the lp of the year ('Six' Album) has a serious challenge...
Seven is the last numbered Soft Machine album, the first with 'new' bass player - Roy Babbington - and also the last 'classical' sounding album. In a certain way it is a transitional album. After Six, bass player Hugh Hopper left to search (and find) other challenges. He had enough of the more and more written music and felt uncertain about his own playing. He also thought the band had grown too serious and lacked the fun of the earlier years. That fun can be found on Hugh’s first solo-album: ‘1984’. Roy had played with the Machine before and he was willing to take Hugh’s place. Roy is a very good bass player. To show off he plays the electric six string bass. Not a common instrument in 1973, not even in the jazz rock scene. The six string bass has a lighter sound, more guitar-like if you wish. Soft Machine once again was looking for new sounds. No the deep and heavy bass sound of Hugh. Even Mike’s attitude changed: he bought a synthesizer and liked to sound of it very much; enough to use it on the record. Karl Jenkins, keyboard- and winds player, had become the bands main composer. Karl, a gifted composer, guided the band more and more into a thematic approach, more complex music, more written out and even more into the mainstream of music. Gone were the free-jazz outings, the fun (as Hugh noticed). In a way Seven became his first 'master'-piece. Most tracks are from his pen and have the Jenkins'-mark. Listen to this music; it could be for a movie; sometimes stunning beautiful, sometimes even a little bit boring. Karl was sharpening his pen already for his very successful future Adieumus-project. Seven is not only transitional but one could call it 'light'. Once you listened to it, it doesn't left lots of memories or impressions. Not that the album is a bad one, it has its moments, but they are too few. ‘Nettle Bed’ the opening track. It starts with a new sound, not new, but new to the sound of Soft Machine: Mike's synthesizer. He started using this more and more in favour of his old and screaming Lowrey organ. Mike too needed new sounds! He lays down a short, but typical and recognizable Ratledge solo. Carol Ann is the first movie theme like composition. It is a tranquil and harmonic piece. Time to fell in love! Although the bigger part of the album is composed by Jenkins, next are three Ratledge compositions: ‘Day's Eye’, ‘Bone Fire’ and ‘Tarabos. Together they are just above seven (!) minutes long, or should I say: short. Ratledge has his style and these compositions are strongly influenced by his, now somewhat retarded sound. Mike uses his famous Lowrey organ to give a fine solo in ‘Day’s Eye’, but we heard that sound before. The rather short ’Bone Fire’ has lots of time changes and is over before you know it. It leads into a new oboe and synthesizer dominated track. A new sound, yes, but a new approach? No. With ‘D.I.S.’ it is cow bells and percussion time; John Marshall in the mountain alps. ‘Snodland’ takes us back to the sound of Fifth with electric piano and spatial sounds. ‘Penny Hitch’ is what you might call classical Soft Machine track; baritone sax, oboe, electric piano and a slow meandering theme. Here is that screaming sound again! ‘Down the Road’ is even slower and doesn't impress a lot until Roy bows his double bass strings and gives us some surprising sounds. The album ends with a Soft Machine classroom: the German and the French lesson are to be learned. But the repetitive sound patterns which are dripping all over us could more accurate be mentioned as the ‘American lesson’ with a big thank you: Terry! Riley that is. For a lot of people and cultures ‘seven’ or ‘7’ is a lucky or holy number. It wasn’t Soft Machine’s lucky record. As said before, Seven is a lightweight album, it has its good moments, but too few to impress. Looking back, their lucky number wasn’t a number! Strange? What could have been ‘eight’ was released under a real name: ‘Bundles’ and that is a hell of an album.

Paul Lemmens © 2012/2014