ARTIST: The Soft Machine
TITLE: The Soft Machine
YEAR RELEASED: 1968
CHART ACTION: No
SINGLES: Joy of a Toy
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: No, not even if you were a hippie in 1968
LINEUP: Kevin Ayres, Robert Wyatt, Mike Ratledge. Hugh Hopper was on one track.
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A combo of psychedelic rock and jazz (that would evolve into fusion) that was more inspirational than commercial.
SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Part of the underground scene from Canterbury (the same area that produced Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd), Soft Machine used the jazzy instrumental chops, plus Kevin Ayres and Robert Wyatt’s odd songs and vocals that at times can go into trances with their repeating phrases, to create a unique sound.
This is rather much an outlier in the Soft Machine catalog, but it was probably truer to the original vision of the band. There was more of a focus on songs, even if odd and unnverving, and they definitely sound like a band honed in the same psychedelic clubs as their more famous brethren bands.
Ratledge’s organ and Wyatt’s drums carry the tracks, with Ayers’ bass anchoring it all. These guys can play, it’s just an odd record out of context from the scene. Still, worth hearing for sure.
NOTES & MINUTIAE: Originally, the band was a quartet with Daevid Allen (later of Gong, which, well, is their own trip, man), but Allen, a Australian, was denied entry back into the UK after a series of shows in Paris. So he stayed in France.
IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: A recent version has their first single appended.
GRADE: A- There’s so many intriguing things about this album, yet it’s quite dated.