Like Weather Report, Soft Machine were a band best savoured live. In concert the interplay and spacious atmosphere of their music highlights the band at their best. But unlike Weather Report whose Joe Zawinul moments could after the marvellous `Sweetnighter', be as saccharine as wistful, Soft Machine never seemed to embrace cheerfulness or funk or fun. This is a Gormenghast of a band whose music seems to inhabit long Gothic corridors of the soul.
Soft Stage: BBC in Concert 1972 is a fascinating document. Cut just a few months before `Six' it contains much of the same material yet unlike the satisfying firmness of `Six' it frequently sounds tentative as if the musicians were still finding their way around the music. Cues are occasionally muffed or missed, tempos which on `Six' are brisk are seem slower and Marshall's drumming has considerably less of the crispness and drive of the later live recording. If the BBC sessions have a problem it is partially due to poor engineering on Marshall's drums which sound as flat as a cardboard box. But the BBC sessions are not to be dismissed. Power sometimes comes at the expense of emotion and if the live sides of `Six' are powerful, the more tentative nature of these sessions brings a shade more emotion to the proceedings. And with a version of Ratledge's wonderful `Slightly All The Time' these sessions also mark a bridge from the world of `Third' into the brave new world ahead.