SWITZERLAND 74

CD
  1. Hazard Profile
  2. The Floating World
  3. Ealing Comedy
  4. Bundles
  5. Land of the Bag Snake
  6. Joint
  7. The Man Who Waved at Trains
  8. Peff
  9. The Man Who Waved at Trains (reprise)
10. LBO
11. Riff II
12. Lefty
13. Penny Hitch

DVD
  1. Hazard Profile
  2. The Floating World
  3. Ealing Comedy
  4. Bundles
  5. Land of the Bag Snake
  6. Joint
  7. The Man Who Waved at Trains
  8. Peff
  9. The Man Who Waved at Trains (reprise)
10. LBO
11. Riff II
12. Lefty
13. Penny Hitch

Recorded: July, 4th 1974 at Montreux Jazz Festival, Montreux, Switzerland
Released: 2015

Mike Ratledge: keyboards
Roy Babbington: bass
John Marshall: drums
Karl Jenkins: keyboards, winds
Allan Holdsworth: guitars




One of the most critically acclaimed, far-reaching and influential avant rock & jazz bands ever was Soft Machine, named after a novel by William Burroughs. They were one of the very first groups to bring together jazz and rock, and fuse them into a single, creative music. But unlike the other pioneers of `jazz/rock`, all of whom (Nucleus, Miles Davis, Tony Williams Lifetime, etc.) had made their reputation as jazzers first, Soft Machine began as a psychedelic rock band, playing the 'underground club' circuit alongside their friends Pink Floyd.

Throughout the band’s lifetime, its lineup would continually evolve, reflecting the metamorphosis in the band’s sound from pop and rock to groundbreaking experiments with electric jazz. The band released its studio albums on major labels, and played numerous shows both at home and abroad. Until they disbanded in the late 1970s, Soft Machine created groundbreaking and provocative music that stretched the outer limits of rock and of jazz.

In 1974, the group added a guitarist for the first time since their very earliest days. And not just 'a' guitarist but the now-legendary guitarist ALLAN HOLDSWORTH, who made his initial reputation during his relatively short-lived tenure (barely 15 months) with the group.

Also in the group at this time were ROY BABBINGTON (electric bass), KARL JENKINS (oboe, soprano sax, electric piano), JOHN MARSHALL (drums) and MIKE RATLEDGE (electric piano, organ, synthesizer).

On July 4, 1974, the group played the Montreux Jazz Festival on a bill that featured a number of well-known jazz/rock outfits. Now, for the first time ever, these audio and video recordings have been licensed from the Montreux Jazz Festival and issued in this CD / DVD set, which features the earliest performance footage of Allan Holdsworth on the marketplace.

* text from Cuneiform website

After the release of ‘Seven’ Soft Machine toured Europe and started playing a new composition ‘Hazard Profile’ (you can hear this early version on CD – HUX Records : BBC Radio 1971-1974)  At the end of the tour they decided to change the sound of the band by adding another musician. John Marshall told his bandmates he really would love to have a guitar player and by coincidence Allan Holdsworth was free. Their first gigs were in December 1973 and everybody was very enthusiastic. Karl started rewriting his compositions and also adding new ones. In January they were sort of sparkling fresh and reborn. Just on time for a heavy tour schedule, which brought the band through Italy, Germany and even North America as a support band. Than back home again for some rest and a new tour in the UK and one in Switzerland which they never made because of airplane problems. In June there was a recording session for the BBC; the only session there with Allan in the band. They performed North Point, the Man Who Waved at Trains and Plain Bob (later to be renamed again as Hazard Profile, the former name of the composition). That session, which is actually the very first released performance with Allan,  can be found on cd as well on HUX Records: BBC Radio 1971-1974. July saw the band making another attempt to play in Switzerland, this time for the famous Montreux Jazz Festival. The Montreux festival was always recorded and filmed; mostly it was brought live on Swiss/French Television. Tapes of Soft Machines performance have been circulating around for years. The (illegal?) DVD can be bought on various websites and Ebay and the show has been on YouTube for years. Now Cuneiform in cooperation with Eagle Rock (DVD) brought both, music and film, together in one place: Switzerland, 1974. They did their very best to improve the sound quality, but still there is some heavy distortion on The Man Who Waved at Trains and Peff. The first surprise, playing the disc, is the thick, fat bass sound, which I like very much. Mostly Soft Machines sound is very thin. Hazard Profile sounds almost as on Bundles, it’s structure and guitar solo was well crafted, but by looking back now, not that surprising anymore. Sometimes Allan goes too fast for his own fingers and is lost in his own solo. The track has both soprano sax and Lowrey organ solos, which aren’t the highlight of this track, but also never intended as such. The Floating World has Allan singing (!). The public is shouting and yelling, maybe of approval or dismay., I can’t make out what it is. But lucky for us, the listeners, they are left in silence after Roy Babbington shows off his bass solo. According to him it is a fusion solo and kind of an homage to former bass player Hugh Hopper. It turns out that Roy taps his pedals very well indeed.  Bundles and Land of the Bag Snake are played with verve and ease all together. Joint is a drum-synthesizer battle. John wins. In Italy there was a swimming pool near the hotel the band once stayed in. Every time the train passed someone stood up and started waving. John saw it happening and thus delivered the excellent title. Mostly it is superb track; the band starts its waving, but in Peff is lost in sound-recording-problems. Not their fault, but nevertheless disturbing. The train passes with bells clanging… Johns second (Joint being his first) drum solo. Nice solo, not because of his skills but because he breaks it in two parts, one of them being a part with gongs and bells and percussion. After a very short Riff the show is over. The band returns on stage for a group improvisation: Lefty.  A little bit old-school Machine, with Lowrey and minimalistic accents. More old school in the final track: Penny Hitch, the only track from their previous album. The guitar solo gives it another dimension. The speaker thanks everyone and specially John Marshall, who had been at the festival before, five years ago, with Nucleus. He. John that is, had made a lasting impression, not so Karl Jenkins, who had been there with Nucleus also. Never mind. It is nice to have the show both on CD and DVD now. Although the concert is filmed from either the left or the right side of the stage. After the concert the band returned home and almost straight into the studio to record ‘Bundles’ which would be released almost a year later.

Paul Lemmens © 2015