Soft Machine

Turns On, Vol. 1

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Turns On is a collection of early Soft Machine recordings sold in two separate volumes. Turns On, Vol. 1 catches the newly formed group in their first studio recordings and live performances in early to mid-1967, all pre-dating the first LP. The lineup on most of the 16 tracks consists of Robert Wyatt, Mike Ratledge, and Kevin Ayers. Daevid Allen appears on four studio recordings. The repertoire draws a lot from the Wilde Flowers' songbook, Ayers, Hugh Hopper and Brian Hopper having written most of the material (Wyatt and Ratledge were only beginning to submit material). Sound quality goes from poor to very weak, but it is still better than on Turns On, Vol. 2 -- while the latter focuses on live material, this one contains more studio demo cuts. This CD is clearly for the die-hard fan: Who else would want three versions of "I Should've Known" and "We Know What You Mean" on the same collection? If some of these repetitions illustrate the quick development of the group, others sound like filler material to push the duration of the CD to its maximum. That being said, fans will appreciate some of these recordings, especially the first "Clarence in Wonderland"; the 13-minute "Hope for Happiness"; and Wyatt's "Lullaby Letter," even though we can hardly hear his voice.

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