Home Forums Robert Wyatt Shipbuilding The most undervalued album by Soft Machine?

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  • #387

    Max_Gate
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    I assume that most of us first heard Robert Wyatt during his tenure with Soft Machine. The consensus is that they peaked with ‘3’, Robert’s penultimate studio appearance. Later Soft Machine albums are over-shadowed, as though his departure after ‘4’ was fatal… But I regard the dark and troubled ‘5’ as a smoldering victory. Phil Howard’s drumming on the opening three tracks is mesmerizing (John Marshall can’t top him), Elton Dean glows on Mike Ratledge’s hot compositions, and I believe this is Soft Machine’s most undervalued release. Which album do you think deserves that description?

    #1344

    zeebras
    Participant

    soft machine volumes 1 and 2 always seem to get short shrift when their discography is discussed – recorded under less than ideal circumstances, not really representative of their sound, etc. but as i’ve mentioned here in past postings, i consider soft machine volume two a desert island disk and robert’s finest hour with the machine. it’s certainly overshadowed by third (which i love almost as much as volume two).
    and speaking of phil howard. . .
    i recently picked up “drop” by soft machine, a live concert from germany with mr howard in the drum chair. on first listen, i really enjoyed it. it’s probably as close to free jazz as soft machine ever got. but on subsequent listenings, the enjoyment level went down. phil howard is relentless in his drumming, he’s just very intense from start to finish. it makes for a somewhat exhausting listen. i can certainly sympathize with messrs. ratledge and hopper and their desire to find a different drummer.

    #1345

    Max_Gate
    Participant

    and speaking of phil howard. . .
    i recently picked up “drop” by soft machine, a live concert from germany with mr howard in the drum chair. on first listen, i really enjoyed it. it’s probably as close to free jazz as soft machine ever got. but on subsequent listenings, the enjoyment level went down. phil howard is relentless in his drumming, he’s just very intense from start to finish. it makes for a somewhat exhausting listen. i can certainly sympathize with messrs. ratledge and hopper and their desire to find a different drummer.

    A good point – I suppose I wanted Soft Machine to head in the direction of free jazz. John Marshall, while a fine drummer (I like his contributions to the recent Soft Works and The Soft Machine Legacy), is not exploratory. Furthermore his influence pointed the way to Karl Jenkins, who oversaw the besmirching of Soft Machine’s reputation.

    #1346

    zeebras
    Participant

    one of the points made in graham bennett’s excellent soft machine bio “out-bloody-rageous”, is that by the time of karl jenkins arrival, hugh hopper is increasingly disenchanted with the machines musical direction. but more telling is that fact that by the end of ratledges tenure, he just had no interest in composing. so what may have appeared as jenkins hijacking soft machine is really the responsibility to come up with new material falling on his shoulders. the live portions of “six’, i think, is worth mentioning as undervalued. and “bundles” i love. but as i’ve said elsewhere, when i think of soft machine, volume two and third immediately spring to mind.

    #1347

    Max_Gate
    Participant

    The decline of Mike Ratledge’s drive to compose was even more debilitating to Soft Machine than the departure of Robert Wyatt. To these ears he was the dominant exploratory force in the formative years. His compositions were sophisticated yet visceral; they challenged band members to take risks yet their architecture ensured that order rather than chaos resulted. If Mike Ratledge was the good oil, then Karl Jenkins was the oil slick.

    #1740

    Hydroscope
    Participant

    @max_gate wrote:

    and speaking of phil howard. . .
    i recently picked up “drop” by soft machine, a live concert from germany with mr howard in the drum chair. on first listen, i really enjoyed it. it’s probably as close to free jazz as soft machine ever got. but on subsequent listenings, the enjoyment level went down. phil howard is relentless in his drumming, he’s just very intense from start to finish. it makes for a somewhat exhausting listen. i can certainly sympathize with messrs. ratledge and hopper and their desire to find a different drummer.

    A good point – I suppose I wanted Soft Machine to head in the direction of free jazz. John Marshall, while a fine drummer (I like his contributions to the recent Soft Works and The Soft Machine Legacy), is not exploratory. Furthermore his influence pointed the way to Karl Jenkins, who oversaw the besmirching of Soft Machine’s reputation.

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