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Soft Machine: Facelift France and Holland

So any fans of late 60’s Psychedelic Rock, Jazz Fusion and even 70’s Progressive Rock with Jazz elements are sure to know about one of the pioneers of all of these genres. Britain’s own Soft Machine, who were originally birthed in 1966 have cemented their legacy as one of the more well known and loved Jazz Fusion bands from the classic era of the genre.

On this latest release, Facelift France and Holland we get a deep dive into the band in quintet form, delivering pieces from their live sets across the first quarter of 1970. All captured from shows performed in France and Holland at a pivotal turning point for the band just before the recording and release of their breakthrough album Third.

I have to be honest that I have never really been a big fan of Soft Machine, Perhaps when I came to their albums I was still very young and compared to the fusion I was most in love with at the time like Return To Forever, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Headhunters and Weather Report, it just felt like a step down to my young ears. However, listening now after being somewhat detached from that world for some time and being more focused on metal I have to say I found this album mostly very enjoyable. There is plenty of raw and raucous youthful energy abounding across these live sets and the band are clearly having fun attacking this music. At this stage it feels closer to an electric Post-Bop kind of approach with the power of Psychedelic Rock thrown in for good measure. In other words musically it’s Jazz but sonically it has a strong late 60’s rock vibe to it. The band mixes both short sonic explosions like the brief but cool “Noisette” with the stretched out musical adventures of longer tracks like the high energy exertions of “Out-Bloody-Rageous” and the ever so slightly more dialed back but equally adventurous “Facelift” which both clock in over 15 mins. I feel like unfortunately the album opens with a bit of a meandering feel to it and may put some people off who are expecting the fire immediately, although that being said the heavy distorted bass guitar is instantly cool. However the fire definitely grows as the album progresses and the band loosens up into the performances.

The sound quality is decent but not excellent, at times sounding close to a bootleg, the drums sound a bit thin and tinny by modern standards but this was a common trait from live albums of that time, and it can get a little ear piercing at times when the band fires up due to the mix. However, for the most part the sound is good enough to capture the power of what the band was putting forward.

As someone who has admittedly slept on Soft Machine for many years now, I have to say that I was thoroughly impressed with this effort. Is it a bit long and meandering at times and could I Live without the harmonica solos? Yes, however when the band fires up the intensity it's glorious and fans of fiery classic early Jazz Fusion will find a lot to love with Facelift France and Holland.


Soft Machine
Elton Dean: alto sax, saxello
Lyn Dobson: soprano and tenor sax, flute, harmonica, vocals
Hugh Hopper: bass
Mike Ratledge: Hohner Pianet, Lowrey Holiday Deluxe organ
Robert Wyatt: drums, vocals


Facelift France and Holland Track Listing:
Disc One (CD)
March 2, 1970
Théâtre de la Musique, Paris, France


Eamonn Andrews [Ratledge] (9:42)
Mousetrap [Hopper] (3:56)
Noisette [Hopper] (:36)
Backwards [Ratledge] (4:03)
Mousetrap (reprise) [Hopper] (:24)
Out-Bloody-Rageous [Ratledge] (15:11)
Facelift [Hopper] (18:34)
Slightly All The Time [Ratledge] (6:40)
Moon In June / vocal improvisation [Wyatt] (3:19)
Esther’s Nose Job / Pigling Bland [Ratledge] (8:49)


Disc Two (DVD / NTSC �" all region)
March 2, 1970
Théâtre de la Musique, Paris, France


Eamonn Andrews [Ratledge] (9:57)
Backwards [Ratledge] (3:46)
Mousetrap (reprise) [Hopper] (:24)
Out-Bloody-Rageous [Ratledge] (16:02)
Facelift [Hopper] (19:17)
Vocal improvisation [Wyatt] (3:01)
Esther’s Nose Job / Pigling Bland [Ratledge] (9:27)
Audio bonus material:
Entire concert [audience recording], March 2, 1970


Disc Three (CD)
January 17, 1970
Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, The Netherlands


Facelift [Hopper] (9:57)
Moon In June [Wyatt] (6:27)
12/8 Theme [Hopper] (10:52)
Drum solo [Wyatt] (:48)
Esther’s Nose Job / Pigling Bland [Ratledge] (16:31)

Added: June 6th 2022
Reviewer: Benjamin Dudai
Score:
Related Link: More Information
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Language: english

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