1. I Should've Known
  2. We Know What You Mean
  3. I'm so Low *
  4. Clarence in Wonderland
  5. Hope for Happiness
  6. I Should've Known
  7. We Know What You Mean
  8. She's Gone
  9. Save Yourself
10. Lullaby Letter
11. I Should've Known
12. A Certain Kind
13. Clarence in Wonderland
14. May I (instrumental variant) **
15. We Know What You Mean
16. Hope for Happiness

* I'm so Low is Jet Propelled Photograph (as on Jet Propelled Photographs)
** May I is the same as Bossa Nova Express (as on Middle Earth Masters)

Recorded: tracks 1, 3 - April 1967 at De Lane Lea Studios, London; tracks 2, 11 - September, 22nd 1967, at Vitus Studio, Bussum (Netherlands); tracks 4, 5, 7, 12 - December 5th, 1967 at BBC Radio Studios, London; track 6, 8 -  June 1967 at Sound Techniques, Chelsea; tracks 9, 10, 13 to 16 - November, 10th, 1967 at Middle Earth, London; track 14 - unknown
Released: 2001

Robert Wyatt: drums, voice
Mike Ratledge: organ, piano
Kevin Ayers: bass, guitar, voice
Daevid Allen: guitar, voice (tracks 1,3,6,8)

Volume One & Two on a two-cd set; slightly improved sound and booklet (Retroworld, 2014)

Daevid - Robert - Kevin on a busy stage

These are new unreleased and very rare sessions and live tapes from Soft Machine circa 1967/1968. Volume 1 contains 6 tracks recorded at the Middle Earth and Speakeasy clubs and various other tracks, some of which appear to be demos of material found on Soft Machine Volume One, Jet Propelled Photographs (not the same sessions ) and tracks which later appeared on Kevin Ayers solo albums.
Robert Wyatt and Mike Ratledge (formerly of the Wilde Flowers), along with Kevin Ayers and Deavid Allen had formed a band called Mister Head which was later to become Soft Machine. The musicians along with Brian and Hugh Hopper, were to become the core of the Canterbury Music Scene. In 1967 Soft Machine became established on London's growing psychedelic club scene and their distinctive style was emerging having been influenced by modern jazz, R&B and twentieth century European music. The repertoire in that year consisted mainly of original songs written for the Wilde Flowers by Hugh Hopper, Brian Hopper and Kevin Ayers . Many of these songs can be heard on this album and in some cases there is more than one version included to show both the musical development of the band and also to contrast their greater emotional intensity in which they imbued their live performances. The source material was by and large from recordings taken in unfavourable conditions with basic equipment designed for private use but due to the huge Soft Machine following and the rarity of professionally made recordings during this period it is worth overcoming the shortcomings of the sound quality. The daring blending of musical forms and the energy which combine to yield to sounds not heard of in other bands of this era will make this a must for fans of the Canterbury Music Scene.

* text from former Voiceprint website
Soft Machine Turns On, Volume One is a compilation disc containing new and unknown recordings, at least 2001. The quality is lo-fi, because the recordings were not meant to be released at all, but were just for personal use. The disc had little or none digital audio restoration. Probably only the tapes were dusted off, a little bit mangled and equalized. Some tracks sound well enough, others have the sound of bootleg quality. On this volume; Volume One, the tracks are shuffled in a peculiar way, thus mixing live and studio recordings. Why is not clear, it would have been more logical, at least in my humble opinion to have the different parts at one place. The studio recordings were recorded in ‘various UK and European studios’ as is mentioned in the booklet. On the famous Discogs site there are more specific details and after studying them I most agree with those ‘facts’. Tracks 1 and 3; ‘I Should Have Known’ and ’I’m so Low’ were recorded at the Gomelsky sessions, but this are different tracks. Mostly there were more takes of one song needed, but weren’t used after all. Why ‘I’m so Low’ has another name here; the song is known as ‘Jet Propelled Photograph’, I don’t know why this is either. Maybe this was the original name and is changed later on? Same goes for ‘May I’, which is renamed ‘Bossa Nova Express’ on the cd ‘Middle Earth Masters’. It adds, once again, some more mystery to this band. The two tracks from Bussum, the Netherlands, were actually recorded for the Dutch VPRO TV program ‘Hoepla’. ‘We Know What You Mean’ was named ‘Soon, Soon, Soon’ on other – illegal - discs, probably they didn’t know the right name for the song. ‘She’s Gone’ has a beautiful piano intro; but the piano sounds if it was recorded in a saloon. The song has sudden changes and differs from the final version. The BBC recordings later on appeared on various BBC discs, with, of course, a far better sound. Considering the fact that most tracks were released in a better sound quality, it makes this disc somewhat obsolete and for real fans only. At the time it was released it had more potential becoming a disc with added value. But if you like Brian Hopper’s little story, you have to buy both Volumes; you’ll receive some nice, old pictures with it.

Paul Lemmens © 2014