Soft Machine

Queen of the Moon

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A two-CD bootleg of both live and radio performances from 1967-68 by the Soft Machine should, in theory, hold at least some interest for fans of the band, particularly as they didn't record all that much in their first two years. But it doesn't speak well of this set's sound quality, to say the least, when you put on Disc Two and you're not entirely sure whether you already heard the same music when you played Disc One. Yes, the fidelity really is that bad, sounding for the most part, without exaggeration, like it was recorded with a portable machine by someone in the audience. It's not quite the next best thing to being there; it's more like the next best thing to having been next door when the band was playing. It's a pity, because they do sound like they're playing well, concentrating on material from the first album, and their pre-first album demos, though often you can't make out the vocals at all. Some of this material appears on another Soft Machine bootleg, Middle Earth, and some of it doesn't, most notably a few live recordings from Holland in December 1967, and from Davenport, Iowa in August 1968. The package is devalued further, however, by the appearance of the three December 1967 BBC tracks in vastly superior sound quality -- excellent fidelity, in fact -- on the legitimate compilation BBC Radio 1967-1971. What's on Queen of the Moon can't be listened to for pleasure; it's only of interest to scholars who might want some idea of what they sounded like in their early live days, and even that "some idea" is mighty fuzzy here.