& HEAVY FRIENDS - BBC IN CONCERT 1971

1. John Peel introduction
2. Blind Badger
3. Neo-Caliban Grides
4. Out Bloody Rageous (excerpt)/Eamonn Andrews/All White/Kings and Queens/Teeth/Pigling Bland/10.30 Returns to the Bedroom
5. Slightly All The Time (excerpt)/Noisette

Recorded: March 11th, 1971 at Paris Theatre, London
Released: 1993/2005

Elton Dean: alto sax, saxello (2-5)
Mike Ratledge: electric piano, organ (2-5)
Hugh Hopper: bass guitar (3-5)
Robert Wyatt: drums, voice (3-5)

with heavy friends:
Mark Charig: cornet (2, 4)
Phil Howard: drums (2, 3)
Neville Whitehead: bass (2)
Roy Babbington: bass (4)
Paul Nieman: trombone (4)
Ronnie Scott: tenor sax (4)
and
John Peel: introduction (1)


first cd-edition - lesser tracks (Windsong, 1993)


This is a live session recorded for the BBC at London's Paris Theatre on March 11th 1971. John Peel introduced the concert as being by "Soft Machine and Heavy Friends". This is a unique recording in that, for this BBC session, the band augmented and fragmented and performed with other great jazz musicians, including Ronnie Scott on tenor sax. It actually begins with the Elton Dean Group (which a year later evolved into ‘Just Us’) - Dean, Mark Charig, Neville Whitehead and Phil Howard - plus Mike Ratledge on electric piano. Then Dean, Ratledge and Howard are joined by Hugh Hopper and Robert Wyatt. The 30-minute plus medley is by the regular Dean-Ratledge-Hopper-Wyatt quartet. For the last three numbers within the medley, Soft Machine is augmented by Ronnie Scott on tenor sax, Mark Charig on cornet, Paul Nieman on trombone and Roy Babbington on bass. A very strong performance that features some of the most jazz-oriented music Soft Machine ever produced. The final track is a previously unreleased recording of ‘Slightly All The Time/Noisette’, which was performed by the Soft Machine quartet as an encore to this concert. The accompanying 12 page colour booklet includes brief notes from Robert Wyatt, Hugh Hopper and Elton Dean, who all recall their own memories of this recording. Also featured in the booklet are further extensive liner notes and band photographs.

* text from Hux website
“It’s gonna be a kind of long continuous piece with a great number of people coming and going. Basically, what is going to happen I think is we gonna start with ‘Blind Badger’ with the Elton Dean Quintet and when that’s over we have ‘Neo Caliban Grides’ which is the Soft Machine plus Phil Howard on drums and then we have just the Soft Machine by themselves as a quartet with guests”, is about the introduction of John Peel. He is one of the two people heard here which makes Robert Wyatt happy. The other one is Ronnie Scott on track four ‘I can’t think of a happier moment as a drummer than accompanying Ronnie on his solo on this.” Ronnie wasn’t that pleased, during rehearsals he asked “Can’t we play a blues? Or Sweet Sue?” Soft Machine and heavy friends is indeed a heavy show, with lots of anger and energetic flows. On one side there is the Elton Dean group, with Phil Howard as powerhouse drummer. Both Elton and Phil would like to play free styles, long improvisations not that structured. On the second side we have Hugh Hopper and Mike Ratledge, composers for most Soft Machine material, mostly structured with room to stand out or improvise. In the third camp is Robert Wyatt, confronted with more and more difficult pieces to play, more jazz, no singing and often thinking of leaving the band. Strange things happen on stage in this setting. The concert starts with free form jazz from Elton. It is almost the same band which would play on Elton’s first solo-album. Mike gives a helping hand on piano, but the true stars of this piece are Elton and Phil; ‘the Dynamic Duo’ as they were named by Hugh and Mike. Then there is a change in personal and Soft Machine, the quartet, completed with Phil Howard performs. It is the only performance with both Phil and Robert on drums. A great piece, performed with an unknown strength. Phil leaves and other friends come in: Mark Charig, Roy Babbington, Paul Nieman and Ronnie Scott. An expanded Soft Machine wasn’t new; remember the septet in the period before Third. By now Fourth had been released already, with both Mark and Roy guesting. The double bass setting is explored live this time. The performance, over thirty minutes long, is tight, aggressive and very well performed. All solos stand out, which makes this a remarkable set. Maybe Soft Machine should have been expanded on other occasions as well. There is even an encore: Slightly all the Time/Noisette, which is also performed with fire. Heavy indeed; the name of the record is well chosen!

Paul Lemmens © 2014