Friday, May 03, 2013

Soft Machine - Fifth (CBS, 1972)

The Fifth album from Soft Machine completed their transition from psychedelic prog-rock to jazz fusion. The purely instrumental tracks are performed by a ever changing lineup that included Elton Dean on alto saxophone and saxello, Hugh Hopper on bass, Mike Ratledge on keyboards and Phil Howard or John Marshall on drums. "All White" leads the album off with horn and electronics building in with fuzzy organ giving way to electric piano as Dean's saxophone, with a pinched nasal tone, releases ribbons of music with the three other band members providing punchy accompaniment. The music moves to an abstract, watery texture on "Drop" where echoed keyboard builds in with bass and drums and heavily processed saxophone. "As If" brings the proceedings back to a strong full band improvisation. Dean is really reaching releasing forth a taut spray for notes, with the low moan of bass providing texture. After a short drum feature on "LBO" the group comes together for a quite jazzy performance on "Pigling Bland" with Dean developing a tart and citrus tone on alto saxophone. "Bone" strikes out with low and ominous smears of organ, setting the stage for the whole band to come together developing a strong and potent fusion of jazz and progressive rock. An alternate take of "All White" ends the album with a drum lead in building to a strong and exciting improvisation and taking the album out on a fine note. It is interesting and a testament to the musicians skill that they were able to play so consistently well despite the swirl of ever changing musicians that were entering and leaving the group. More changes were in store to come, but the musical quality remained high.Soft Machine: Original Album Classics -

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