Soft Machine – one of the Desert Island bands, whose influence and point of view was the guiding light for the Progressive Rock movement from the late 1960s through the early 1970s, whose influence is still felt today. And even though there are no founding members in the current lineup (known as Soft Machine Legacy), they are still highly regarded and still perform.
But this incarnation of the band, and the previous one which included future Gong founder Daevid Allen as well as Kevin Ayers who would wind up having a successful solo career as well as collaborating with a virtual who’s who of Avant Garde and progressive musicians, are the versions of the band which still had a foot in rock/psychedelia and experimental before stepping off into the land of Jazz Fusion/Free Jazz – for them, it was the logical progression, as those of you who were fans of Prog early on quickly realized with many bands during the period. Some of them came and went through the transitions and either stayed there or went in another direction entirely; towards Funk and in some cases, Pop. But Soft Machine were always committed to their sound – and even though some of their later albums were less successful than the earlier ones – people say Soft Machine 3 was the pinnacle, I’m still fond of Bundles – they were still a band worthy of attention.
So this session, coming just as the band is getting ready to go through major changes, still has its foot firmly planted in Psychedelia and Experimental – and of course, there’s Robert Wyatt’s improvisational singing which, for a drummer was a feat unto itself. Shortly after this, towards the end of the year, the lineup would change and expand and set off on its Jazz exploration.
Soft Machine were a hands-down musical game-changer for me – they stretched the limits and explored all the possibilities. And music doesn’t get too much better than that.