|"SOMEWHERE IN SOHO"
1. Slightly All The Time
3. Eamonn Andrews
7. Mousetrap (reprise)
8. Hibou Anemone & Bear
2. Moon In June
3. Esther's Nose Job
4. Pigling Bland
6. Esther's Nose Job (reprise)
Recorded: between the 20th -25th of April 1970, at Ronnie Scotts, London
Mike Ratledge: Lowrey organ, electric piano
Hugh Hopper: bass guitar
Elton Dean: alto sax and saxello
Robert Wyatt: drums and voice
Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club, lp-version (Vinyl Lovers, 2011)
Soft Machine grew out of a meeting between two former members of the legendary Canterbury band The Wilde Flowers (Robert Wyatt and Kevin Ayers) An Australian beatnik (Daevid Allen) and an Oxford University student (Mike Ratledge) in 1966. Once the band had got together courtesy of a financial benefactor who agreed to finance the band they contacted William Burroughs to ask his permission to use the name The Soft Machine. Burroughs agreed and the band was in business. Along with other bands including Pink Floyd Soft Machine were at the vanguard of the new London Underground music scene and regularly played gigs at celebrated clubs like UFO and more famously at the launch of the International Times magazine at the Roundhouse. The band were signed to Polydor records and recorded a single which featured a track called Feelin'Reelin' Squeelin' which featured the talents of Jimi Hendrix who was a Soft Machine fan. The single however was unrepresentative of the bands sound, which leaned heavily on free form improvisation. Following a gig in St. Tropez the band returned to England however Daevid Allen was refused entry to the country due to visa problems and the band were forced to carry on as a trio. Allen stayed in France and went on to form Gong while the remaining members of Soft Machine went on to tour America supporting Jimi Hendrix where during a short break in the tour the band recorded their debut album which was released by Probe records in America. Following the tour Kevin Ayers left the band and took up residence in Ibiza.
The band recruited Hugh Hopper as their new bassist and made another album entitled Soft Machine 2. By the time of the bands third and fourth albums (Soft Machine Third and Soft Machine Fourth) the band had moved into a jazz-fusion direction.
The recordings on this album stem from a residency at the world famous Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in 1970 and feature the generally accepted classic line up of Soft Machine which at the time featured Mike Ratledge, Hugh Hopper and Robert Wyatt. The band also featured Elton Dean on Sax who was a survivor from an earlier line up of the band, which featured a brass section. This album recorded between the 20th and 25th of April 1970 will be a welcome addition to this legendary bands catalogue and will give long time fans the opportunity to really hear this exciting and near legendary performance from Soft Machine at a time when they were really pushing the boundaries of music.
The double CD has been re mastered for this release to present the best possible sound quality and also contains sleeve notes written by Brian Hopper.
* text from previous Voiceprint site
| This recording is one of the first
with Soft Machine as a quartet; it is also a special one, because the
band played for five days in a row in one place! Ronnie Scott was (and
is) a famous place to perform, not an everyday hall, but a renowned
jazz-club. Soft Machine had played at Ronnie’s before; supporting none
other than pianist Thelonious Monk. Performing at Ronnie Scott’s made
one thing perfectly clear: Soft Machine had developed to a jazz band;
the early pop ambitions were gone. They left Ronnie and his public
perplexed by playing very, very loud. It was a usual thing to do, but
not common in small jazz venues. As Brian Hopper in the liner notes
states: “The decibel level was undeniably higher than everything
previously heard in the club”. Because of their gear the band was
booked opposite guitarist John Williams and singer-songwriter Loudon
Wainwright, because they only had to carry a guitar on and off stage.
Wainwright had a warm relationship with the band and in a humorous way
entitled the concert “Soft & Wainwright & the Loud Machine”. Two of
the five sessions played in the week were released on this two-cd set.
The playlist is common, compared to the Backwards, Noisette and
Facelift cd’s. The booklet doesn’t mention who recorded the concerts,
but the sound quality is good, not excellent. The music played is
almost the complete set which would later on appear on Third. But,
because of the fact the band performed the whole week, the challenge
was to keep the music fresh and vibrant. That’s why “It made us really
stretch our repertoire and push ourselves into areas of freedom where
we wouldn’t normally need to go”, as Mike Ratledge quotes in the
booklet. The band played with verve and passion. All solos are fine,
as is Hugh’s bass playing. Robert doesn’t sing at all but his
‘Cymbalism’ is a kind of play garden with sound. Most tracks are
rather short, even the Third-tracks; Slightly all the Time and
Out-Bloody-Rageous, together with Eamonn Andrews which are all around
ten minutes long. Longest track is Facelift; about twenty minutes,
lp-side length. Esther has a firm position in the set list and Fifth
‘Pigling Bland’ is present as well. The extract of the Soho sessions
give us a fine view of a new born Soft Machine. Pity is that the
pictures in the booklet have nothing to to with this band; most
pictures are from the era before Soft Machine; the Wilde Flowers...
Paul Lemmens © 2014