The release of the new album of Soft Machine Legacy came unexpected and became a pleasant surprise for me. Unexpected, because a year earlier, in 2009 the legendary bassist Hugh Hopper passed away. He was the last linking pin between the “classic” Soft Machine and the new Soft Machine Legacy. Let me remind you, that already in 2006, the saxophone player of the “golden” band Elton Dean departed as well.
Honestly, those facts made me doubt whether the project will still keep it’s creative activities going, after losing the basic players. But, Elton Dean was replaced by Theo Travis already in 2006. Let me remind you of his busy creative life as a solo artist and of course his collaboration with other famous groups and musicians: Gong, Robert Fripp, Tangent, Jade Warrior and many others.
But let us go first to the beginning of the 1970s, to the period when Hopper left Soft Machine and decided to pursue a solo carrier. He was replaced then by bassist Roy Babbington (ex-Nucleus & Keith Tippett Group). The same happened in 2000s. Veteran came back and completed the band where three other ex-Soft Machine members were already in place. Let me remind you, that on drums we find here John Marshall and on guitar - John Etheridge. This kind of succession causes only positive emotions, of course. Start new decennium with a new personnel! However, let me mention, that the production of SML is more jazzy and soft, comparing to the experimental Soft Machine itself.
The new live album consists of the tracks, that were recorded in the end of October 2009 in Austria and Germany. As usual, there are also new songs, among the “standard” Soft Machine material. The opening track "Has Riff " is gloomy, atmospheric song, filled with sound textures and pads, creating a little tensed mood. It brings the listener to a state of expectation of something interesting and unusual. After all, the waiting will be justified.
The next track, "Grapehound" is, however unhurried, but filled with rather stringy and heavy riff. On it’s background, John Etheridge on guitar and Theo Travis on sax are shining on turns. Good, solid jazz-rock, that will develop further in the following tracks.
Note the cover of the dreamy and beautiful Karl Jenkins’ composition, "Song of Aeolus". Here the guitar of John Etheridge sounds brightly and in the same time transparently light, together with the enchanting flute of Theo Travis.
In “Relegation Of Pluto / Transit” you will not only enjoy wonderful solo on saxophone by Theo Travis, but also a very clear and accentuated action on drums by John Marshall.
The next track, “Gesolreut” is, to my opinion, the best one on the album. This is a cover from the 6th Soft Machine, made in a funky jazz-fusion key, with sparkling guitar and saxophone solo’s. It should be noted, that the role of the guitarist John Etheridge has grown on this CD. He still does not dominate (however his technique and style impress), but I would say, that the instrumental proportions became more verified and correct.
The short version of the legendary "Facelift" is, no doubts, a peculiar tribute to Hugh Hopper, with it’s dark and fateful tones, obsessive saxophone, seething bass and prickly guitar lines.
The finishing composition, "Last Day", is a dreamy and unhurried substance, as if giving the listener the possibility to relax and calm down. A nice outro for an album.
After all, this is not a canned 10 years ago music. It is a living and breathing substance, called Soft Machine Legacy. The musicians show that the music with it’s roots back in stormy 60-s, is still demanded and up-to-date. The band and it’s creative legacy, born almost half century ago, are far from decline and continue developing, bravely stepping into the new decade. This proves the geniality of the work of the original Soft Machine, once again.
Wonderful and talented musicians, well composed and freshly arranged and played music, with plenty improvisations, and last but not least, a cute cover of the album; all this forms a sufficient reason to recommend the disc not only to the Soft Machine funs, but to all jazz-rock and prog-rock lovers. It may sound trite, but the Legacy is in good hands.
1. Sleep is teasing a man (4:34)
1. Has Riff 8:31
2. Grapehound 8:38
3. Nodder 7:04
4. In The Back Room 9:41
5. Song Of Aeolus 6:58
6. Relegation Of Pluto / Transit 3:02
7. Gesolreut 5:52
8. Facelift 3:28
9. Last Day 5:01
John Etherbridge /electric guitar
Theo Travis / tenor & soprano sax, flute
Roy Babbington / bass guitar
John Marshall /drums
on Wednesday 06 April 2011 - 23:53:39