Soft Machine

BBC Radio 1 Live in Concert

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This live set features the Soft Machine on BBC Radio with host John Peel from a March 1971 broadcast on his legendary In Concert series. This show's uniqueness is immediately evident by the horn-driven ten-piece band with Hugh Hopper (bass), Mike Ratledge (keyboards), Robert Wyatt (drums), Elton Dean (sax), Marc Charig (cornet), Ronnie Scott (tenor sax), Roy Babbington (double bass), Paul Nieman (trombone), Phil Howard (drums), and Neville Whitehead (bass). The combo bears more of a sonic resemblance to the type of stuff that Miles Davis was concurrently doing than to anything even remotely associated with earlier Soft Machine sides. The avant-garde jazz they fully embraced beginning with Third (1970) has translated into one of the most alternately skillful and aggressive of the numerous lineups that the Softs would endure. Despite its sheer size, the band adeptly steers through jazzier numbers such as "Teeth," the driving free-form sizzle of "Neo Caliban Grides," and the opening "Blind Badger." The latter two performances are cut from the same inspired cloth as heard on Dean's highly recommended solo debut, Just Us (1971). The double bass, sax, and percussion innately combine on the uninhibited and well-jammed "Out-Bloody-Rageous," especially Ratledge's sublime electric piano runs as they dart in and out of the spring-loaded rhythm and brass-filled punctuations. Seasoned listeners should make haste in securing both this disc and the companion volume, BBC Radio 1 Live, Vol. 2 (1994). Anyone looking for a good place to start should direct their efforts toward locating Third and Fourth by the Soft Machine, as well as the previously mentioned and thoroughly excellent Just Us from Elton Dean.

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