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  • Third
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4.6 out of 5 stars
41
4.6 out of 5 stars
Third
Format: Audio CD|Change


on 1 September 2017
Most wonderful experimental rock dbl album from 1970, the band firing on all cylinders, 4 sides 4 compositions (1 with vocals & brilliant wild gypsy violin) in unequaled beauty & panoramic vision. Tape loops, cut & paste, backwards editing forever moving forward. For me its up there with Yeti & Tago Mago. Really where could you go from here & how could it be bettered?? Certainly in the top 20 albums released in the last 50 years & bands still cant touch its creative explosion.
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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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on 25 May 2006
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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on 3 June 2012
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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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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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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on 30 January 2016
I've loved this since first hearing... at the time shaving still didn't need doing every day, girls brought me out in sweat, didn't take many pints to render me horizontal... And Soft Machine entered my life. Oddly enough I didn't take to their other albums enough to buy them - cash was strapped in those far off days in Glasgow suburbs. Billy Connolly was a local act that turned up in folk clubs and could sometimes be seen drinking pints of lager in a bar near Queen Street railway station. Ahhhh.... But few of my pals could see SM as I did, only two at most. I'd sometimes come home, half-blitzed on maybe three pints of hooch and put this on, high volume through the head-cans. Bliss.

Sorry to say I never got to see them live, and now they're probably long disbanded - or dead even? After all I'm retired and those guys were older than me by - maybe ten years or so?

How different would my life have been if I'd learned how to play the horn, bass, keyboards? But in SM-land, for me the sax was the thing of wonder - still is...

If you listen to this and remain unmoved, you've no soul, no rhythm, no heart even - in fact, could be you've died and didnt' notice it.
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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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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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on 9 July 2012
Now I was born to hate this album. Bloody Adam Dale, ginga ringer from Welwyn Garden City-pint size king of cool loved this tosh. He'd play it to me and I'd wrinkle my nose at the pea soup of well, dirge and sonic noise. Ok, so that was somewhere in 1971. Wind on to the 1990s and I pick up a CD of this because I was having some fond memory recesses about my old friend Adam and well just had to see what all the fuss he'd made then was about. So to speak. Well, absolutely bloody amazing what time marching on does to the ears and aural parts of the trained brain. Yeah, in the interim I'd found a liking for jazz and groan Coltrane so Soft Machine of this vintage was child's play. And Robert Wyatt had made an appearance or three in my collection. But this is just brill! From the intransigense of "Facelift" to the nasal thrumming of "Moon in June" it is out-bloody rageous. Yeah. Stupendous. What do you mean you haven't got it in your collection? You should have heard it through tin speakers and a turntable held together with string.
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