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These 2 albums were released originally independently, and you can see a true progression in the way that pop/psychedelia was being explored in the UK/60's. Vol.1 was "feeling" the way, but still had a basis rooted in their contemporaries (floyd, beatles etc.). But when Vol.2 came out -WOW!!! Even the first few chords of the 1st track (from "Pataphysical Intro") showed that this album would be like nothing like anything else that preceded (and arguably followed) it. It is so difficult to categorize it - but why bother? Just enjoy it. It's got everything in it (including "knickers and panties - nude, bare, naked" - and with no scrimping on the rich and sometimes complex arrangements. Tracks flow into and recede from each other to make this a listening experience where you have to hear the whole record from start to finish. In vol.1 this linkage, again is experimented with, but lacks the polish and completeness of vol.2. I heard that on the strength of Vol.2, Soft Machine were invited to do the proms (1st pop/rock group to do so). As to the richness of the sound, compare vol.2 with its live "Paradiso" session (also on cd). Same tracks, yet the trio amazingly still manage to convey the sound of a small orchestra! This along with Can's "Tago Mago" must rate as one of my all time favourites! Both smashed the underground frontiers of the music scene in that magic period that straddled the 60's & 70's. This is the sort of cd you by 2 of ...and hand down to your kids and their kids!
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on 14 February 2001
These two albums really show what the Soft Machine was capable of in the late sixties, while Psychedelic rivals and contemporaies Pink Floyd were still suffering from Syd Barrett's departure, The Soft Machine had used a gruelling tour supporting Hendrix across America to hone their own skills to ragged perfection. The first volume is basically the live set recorded in a studio, it sounds like Jazz played by punk rockers, all distorted organ and plunky bass flying off in random directions held together by Ayres pop sensability and Wyatts wonderful drumming and very English sounding vocals. The second album was recorded after a Ayres had left exhausted by the US tour, and was originally meant to be the last album, The first side is a suite of newly drafted in Bassists jazzily wonderful pop songs re-arranged by Wyatt. however one of the finest moments on the first side is Organist Mike Ratledge's Hibou, Anmone and Bear. The second side features two indepent songs the first a homage to former bassist Kevin Ayres, the second a strange - but oddly beautiful- song of Hugh Hopper's. The album ends with Mike Ratledge's powerhouse suite Esther's Nose Job - featuring some comical lyrics in the first section. Together these two albums add up to a brilliant hour and a bit of Pure jazzy Psychedelic fusion that really rocks hard!
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on 20 February 2007
When I was young I found this a difficult brace of albums to get into but although it didn't all turn me on immediately I always knew that there was enough in there to make it worth my while sticking at it. Once the penny dropped it all became very clear and I do still love this music. The wonderful thing about this CD version is that there is enough room to cram on both albums so that I can listen to it as a whole. There are clearly songs and pieces of music in there that I am very fond of but picking them out seems to miss the poit. The separate pieces are all part of a whole so that although I always await with anticipation of hearing "You may laugh at me, Say I don't deserve..." I would never consider isolating any of these tracks from the whole album(s)

Although Soft machine went on to seemingly more serious jazz orientated music on Third Fourth and Fifth particularly. However I would argue, and indeed have argued quite pasionately, that you don't need to be overtlt serious and poe faced about your art to be deadly serious in your intent just as there is nothing quite so frightening than a television or radio presenter being constantlt "happy"

I love this band and accept the various splits and changes that happened along the way but this will alway be may favourite
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on 8 May 2014
Much has been written about the Canterbury influence on progressive rock, but it has to be heard and experienced in it's infancy to truly appreciate how cutting edge and mind expanding this music was after years of blues rock and American influenced pop.
Soft Machine are best compared to free jazz rather than the clinical virtuosity of progressive bands such as Yes and Rush. There is a richness, but no staleness, the music evolves organically from free improvisation sessions, unrestrained by rules and regulations of what music should be our ought to be.
Robert Wyatt is a prime mover here, as a jazz drummer extraordinaire, vocalist and poet.
I'd say of this CD again, an acquired taste, sit back with the CD on repeat and don't expect radio pop, keep an open mind! :-)
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on 22 March 2005
Marvellous albums, excellent value - they could have been very rich & famous a la Pink Floyd but in the words of Major Willard in Apocalpyse Now 'they went for themselves'
I often wonder what happened on their USA Tour supporting Jimi Hendrix - the audience must have been totally bemused by this bunch.
Oh well - It all went t*ts up after Robert Wyatt flew the coop but we have these 2 albums which still sound utterly radical (& wouldnt get anywhere near any 'chart' even today)
Well done those men!
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on 11 January 2013
I'd been vaguely aware of these albums for many years, but had never gotten around to listening to them. I'd heard some of the later Soft Machine and had found it impressive but somewhat cold. I suppose I'd also heard that the first two albums were rather psychedelic and I'd assumed that as they were less well known, then they were probably a bit second rate compared with, say, early Floyd. HOW WRONG I WAS! Both of these albums are astoundingly good. I can't even begin to describe the inventiveness, the energy, the sheer joy of music that these albums contain. I'm only glad that I've found them. I wonder what else I've been missing?
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on 11 June 2001
Soft Machine 1 is like Quicksilver's Happy Trails - raw, extravagant and virtuoso. Right from the start you know you are in for a white knuckle ride. Hope for Happiness has the most stunning organ solo I've ever heard, and Wyatt's drumming is thrilling. Why did they get so "studied" later?
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on 2 October 2015
Still two of the most original albums of that time and the music is still brilliant after 40years+. I had to buy the CDs because I can't play my vinyl copies in the car.
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on 15 January 2013
If this repackage is the "Big Beat" reissue, it is a ripoff and it will ruin our listening experience of two milestones in modern music. For one thing, volume 1 and 2 were carelessly packed on the same CD, a debatable choice, but let's say not dramatic. Where it hurts is the passage from one track to the other, where audible ticks and music discontinuity kills the original music flow.

This is particularity annoying on volume 2. Theoretically there are 20 titles or so on the album, but when it came out, we listened to side one and then side two has a whole, not even noticing the passage from one song to the other. But this re-edition artificially reminds you that the track has changed, certainly not the way this masterpiece was intended.

I simply threw this re-edition in the garbage and ordered the single re-editions, hoping I'll get better quality.
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on 22 February 2009
OMG it doesn't get a lot better than this...2 of the finest albums ever on 1 cd and what a pairing !! Vol 1 great psychedelic and improvisation with Ayers ocean deep voice offerings , Ratledge with some awesome keyboard work and the totally unique Wyatt driving it all along.This must have been awesome at the UFO club in 1967 !! "I've got something to tell ya"
Vol 2 you know you are in for something unique with the opening then the mighty Hibou Anemone and Bear kicks in!!! 2 has my favourite Softs track of all time on it As Long As He Lies Perfectly Still...just beautiful.
Then knickers and panties !! MUST BUY PEOPLE
Wyatt is God buy everything he has ever been involved in
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