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4.7 out of 5 stars
Third
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57 of 58 people found the following review helpful
on 17 November 2003
After 30 years I still listen to this one every week or two, and it grows with familiarity. The album contains 4 very different sides, and was a mystery to me when I first heard it. Side one is a live piece and despite the average recording is somewhat extraordinary.
Nothing can prepare you for "Slightly all the time", however. It's as though everything Soft Machine was before this track came together to culminate in their masterpiece. Certainly, the track contains themes heard fleetingly in earlier songs, and live performances stitch the parts of this album together in other ways but this piece goes beyond anything that preceeds it.
In fact, this particular performance has a cool qulaity that most live renderings lack. The buzzing organ and compelling bass notwithstanding, the brass playing is an unusual mix of lively jazz and cool, reflective, lyrical playing. It's at once emotional and thriving.
The song structure is complex, with a memorable bassline and 'jazzy' brass section interspersed with Ratledge's wonderful organ playing, but the highlights on this track are like all the other highlights of the album, moments of true bliss from Elton Dean's lyrical sax.
On "Slightly..." the highlight comes around the 10 minute mark with the most beautiful sax solo I can imagine.
On "Out Bloody Rageous" the same applies. The track starts however with a Terry Rileyesque tape loop that gradually gathers intensity over 5 minutes but then resolves into some Keith Tippett style jazz for a couple of minutes... It's after that the track takes off, however and after a piano figure that will live in your mind forever, Elton Dean transforms the piece in a way that didn't seem possible.... Again, the sax playing is slightly melancholy but not sentimental, transforming but very much based in this world, not some Coltrane spiritual dimension. I can't think of words that describe Dean's playing on this record, but I will tell you this, repeated listening will never wear the impact down.
Finally, a word about "Moon in June". The forst half of this is all Wyatt, the organ the bass the singing the drumming everything... and it is a glorious achievement. His lyrics here are funny and mundane, but he does not sacrifice art for honesty, somehow managing to achieve both. The track is very different to others here, but no two of these tracks are alike anyway, and when the rest of the band join in there are some lovely moments too.... I know, as repeated in numerous liner notes since, that there was a lot of tension in the band at the time they made this record, and that Wyatt was very much at the centre of this, but as a record I think "Third" succeeds because of that. By the time Soft Machine 4 came out, the creativity had petered somewhat.
This record isn't for everyone. I wouldn't unreservedly recommend it to someone without knowing what other music they enjoyed. But after 30 years of collecting records by acts from all categories and styles, this remains to me the most extraordinary record of all. If you have any interest in Soft Machine, I wouldn't bother with any other record. This is their pinnacle, it's better than anything produced by any of the participants before or since.
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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on 12 June 2000
This album changed my entire outlook on music when I first heard it back in the late sixties. Suddenly, here was a band that was not afraid to play extended, ambitious music and also had the talent to carry it off. In the intervening 30 years I have returned to this album many times, and it remains one of my top 3 or 4 records of all time. From the sombre opening of "Facelift" through the beautiful bass line of "Slightly All The Time" and the whimsical Wyatt vocals on "The Moon in June" (the last Softs track ever to feature vocals) to the ethereal "Out-Bloody-Rageous", this album is a pure delight. Buy it and prepare for a major listening experience!
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40 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on 4 March 2007
A third purchase of "Third" !!!

I first bought it on vinyl when it came out, the initial CD issue, and now this which must be the definitive sonic upgraded edition,

with the bonus of the Royal Albert Hall Proms gig. Now all I need is a DVD of this gig which was shown once on BBC "Omnibus" !

Facelift sounds louder and punchier, Slighty All The Time is clearer and more detailed, Robert's "Moon" even more effecting

and Out-Bloody-Rageous just about sums it all up. Out-bloody-rageously amazing, 37 years later.

No true Softs fan should be without it. A perfect place for any new listener to start.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Other reviewers have already done this album justice so I will just add my own views briefly.
In hindsight some 40 years on it can be clearly seen that the classic line up (Ratledge, Hopper, Wyatt and Dean) could not last as they were heading in different directions musically.
Having featured "songs" on Vols 1 and 2 (albeit whimsical and jazz based) this collection features three instrumentals opening with the angular and strange "Facelift" which now sounds like a prequel to Hugh Hoppers later efforts on his solo album 1984.
"Moon in June" is a glorious twenty minute ditty on which Robert Wyatt sings wittily and laconically and can be seen as a foretaste of the direction he would later go in when forced to re-align his career post accident.
But the backbone and beauty of this album are the two Mike Ratledge pieces "Out-Bloody-Rageous" and "Slightly All the Time" where the whole band and its associate luminaries perform at the peak of their powers.
The revelation is that at times the keyboard is playing the basic melody while bass, sax and especially percussion skitter around sympathetically in a gorgoeus sweep rich with pathos, humour and invention. Wyatt and Dean's contributions are memorable and the second half of "Slightly All the Time" is one of the most beautiful passages I have ever heard.
Subsequent releases may have featured highly accomplished musicians and had their high points but as a whole this album has a warmth and affection that very few jazz based recordings manage to achieve.
Best listened to alone on a rainy afternoon in Winter by the way.....
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 25 September 2007
This is a brilliant album and if you are on a tight budget then this is a real bargain, however, I would strongly recommend that you look to the newer remastered version that not only has an excellent bonus disc but, what is more important, it also boasts exceptionally good remastering with an unbelievable boost to the sound quality and separation of the instruments that is bordering on magical. It is not that much more expensive either
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on 20 April 2007
Although I'm a longstanding Robert Wyatt fan, I always struggled to get to grips with Soft Machine, mainly due to a negative experience with a live album of theirs circa 1990. Finally after further reading on the subject of Mr Wyatt I decided to go out and buy `Third'. What a fanastic revelation this album has been to me.

Four songs, each clocking in at 20 minutes or so, each different in it's own way. There is a certain groove to this album. At any one point it can serve as the perfect accompaniment to any particular mood that you might be in. Rock, jazz, folk, soul - curiously it's all here, wrapped up in a package that seems utterly progressive but is in fact so much more.

After listening to this I was fascinated by the roles each of the band perform(ed). Mike Ratledge is an absolute enigma on keyboards, a man who apparently epitomised the surge towars jazz that led Wyatt to leave, but at the same time was so crucial to the sound on this album -their crowning achievement.

Wyatt's contribution - `Moon in June' is unique. Twenty minute songs were obvioulsy de rigeur in 1970, but this one is different - it's chatty, heartfelt, whimsical, an absolute joy. No wonder he was frustrated that he couldn't do a bit more of this. However, if there are four band members, and four sides to an album, then getting one of them could be seen as democratic.

`Slightly All The Time' and `Out-bloody-rageous' plough a similar furrow - keyboards settling into a groove, and Elton Dean's saxaphone blowing with purpose. The music ebbs and flows, sweeping you away and then easing back again for tranquil/ambient passages. The only track I haven't listened to so much is Hugh Hopper's `Facelift' which occupies side one. It has dissonant and dark overtones and maybe qualifies as a grower !!

Great band, great music - from what I've read, Wyatt was glad to be out of it and Ratledge slowly stagnated as the band slowly became more obtuse. I bought `Fourth' on the strength of this one and, to these ears, it's not a patch on `Third'. A landmark album.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
This was the first peak of the Soft machine's creative development. At the time and for some time afterwards I was astounded at how they had gone in such a different direction from their contemporaries in the British Underground Scene. It was not until some time later that I was able to see them in the context of the wider jazz/rock developments. This, far from diminishing the impressiveness of their music, further increased my admiration of their bold strides which are clearly influenced by Miles Davis' post In a Silent Way period but not in any sort of slavish copying way but rather in a way that seizes the new approach and takes in in a very individual direction.

The contrasting styles of writing of Wayatt and Ratledge heighten the tension, however it remains a cohesive whole and an albums that benefits greatly from the advent of CD. As a double LP you had 3 changes of side/disc that broke up the listening experience and often broke the spell. I also tended to favour The Moon in June and so listen to that over the other sides. It is worth getting the BBC Radio 1969-1971 album for Wyatt's improvised variation on the lyrics of that that song alone.

Third is definitely one of my favourite Soft Machine albums. It is sad that this album marked the beginning of the end of Robert Wyatt's place in the band, however, we would not have had the wonderful Matching Mole albums had he remained in this band. I would also encourage people to explore the range of live Soft Machine albums, particularly the BBC sessions (as above) plus the companion BBC Radio 1971-74, 1971 In Concert.

Of the original albums Vol.1&2, and Fourth - Seven are all excellent. Of the post-titles era, Bundles is the best, the Land of Cockayne is interesting and more of an easy listen, Softs and Alive and Well are for collectors only.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 14 September 2002
Of all my LPs from my youth this was definitely my favourite. The Moon in June was very good, very like Soft Machine 1 material (for some reason I never heard 2). Facelift and Outbloodyrageous were better but the star of the album is Slightly All the Time. Robert Wyatt's drumming is excellent and Hugh Hopper's bass playing the best I ever heard but the high point for me was the Elton Dean's saxaphone - a new instrument for someone who had been used to listening to rock bands. Listening to the album 30 years on it has not lost any of its appeal.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 13 September 2003
The softs 3rd LP saw them turn away from the 3 minute song structures of their first two recordings and start to stretch out into more jazzier climates.
'Facelift' is a good snapshot of the band live (recorded at Fairfield Hall, Croydon Jan 1970) and the interplay between them is almost telepathic, Hooper & Wyatt are exceptional and it's sad to hear what his later accident robbed him of, Elton Dean, fresh from Keith Tippett's groundbreaking free band is never lost for ideas that fit perfectly with Ratledge's meticulous colourings.
'Slightly all the Time' and the awesome 'Out Bloody Rageous' carry the inventive interplay over into the studio and the organ led 'Moon In June' contains Wyatt's last vocal outing for the Soft Machine.
This is a very fine album highly recomeded
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
I heard this in 1970. Few albums have stayed with me in quite the way this one has. I was an impressionable 13 yr old with an older brother who introduced me to the wonders of rock music and along the way bought this to my attention. It is an absolutly unique album that sounds as amazing today as it did then. Facelift's opening organ solo creeps up like a creature from another planet and bursts into full band blowing. Slightly All The Time is a jazz-rock symphony, Moon In June shows Wyatt at his most extensivly weird and Out Blood Rageious finds Ratledge at his most facinating, incorporating his Terry Riley inspired tape delay experimentations sandwiched between jazz riffing wonderment. This, together with Terry Riley's 'A Rainbow In Curved Air' remains one of my all time desert island discs. It has opened me up to so much great music as a result, but has also proved to be a peerless achievement. This particular version of The Softs only managed to survive a short time, but the legacy of 'Third' is unquestionable. It is not simply jazz,rock, or avante garde experimentation. It is a unique sonic experince that has never really been matched by anyone scince. Buy it and treasure it. You will not be disapointed.
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