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on 8 May 2007
It's good that the original classic Soft Machine CBS albums are getting a definitive remaster/upgraded reissue. I guess everyone will go for the well known volumes 3 to 5 (which feature additional bonus tracks) but what of "Six"? For most people the departure of Robert Wyatt and Elton Dean was the end of the story and it is often forgotten that there was a distinctive late edition of the band in 72-74, exemplified by "Six" & featuring regulars Ratledge and Hopper joined by drummer John Marshall and multi-instrumentalist Karl Jenkins.

"Six" was a double album - in the vogue of the time one disc live / one disc studio, all included on a single CD here (no bonus tracks). Arguably this was the most musically accomplished version of the band. The live album is one long suite, effortlessly gliding back and forth through tunes and themes (mostly drawn from "FIFTH"). It's very tight and fluid, driven by understated, shifting funk or rock rhythmic patterns. The studio album contains just four tracks. "Sot Weed Factor" and "Chloe" are developments out of the languorous style pioneered on "THIRD": Terry Riley-ish loops, loping repetitive funk drum and bass, tinkling keyboards. Jenkins generally eschews jazzy improv, preferring to overlay the tracks with elegant, repetitive, extended lines on oboe or soprano. They are over-used words but I'd have to describe this music as "minimalist" & "cool". It's a far cry from the hyperactive fusion music of the 70s and might even prefigure some of the ambient, trance and trip-hop of the 90s.The other two studio tracks sound like sketches for compositions and don't stand up so well, though Hugh Hopper fans may be interested in his abrasive tape loop piece "1983" as a precursor to some of his solo work.
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on 26 October 2007
Aside from a brief listen to 'Third' when I was way too young to appreciate it, this was my first real and proper encounter with Soft Machine. The album was a perfect soundtrack to those heady days living on the edge, miles from home in London's netherworlds.
The band had a very British take on the jazz/rock styles prevalent at the time, coming from the bohemian Canterbury scene in the sixties, home of Kevin Ayers, Daevid Allen and Caravan. This showed them leaving their 'middle phase' and brought an almost prophetic interest in the kind of repetition that would become popular with the onset of samplers. Most notably with Hugh Hopper's hypnotic often cyclic bass style...check out track six Gesolreut ... cool or what?

This is post-Robert Wyatt Softs, with John Marshall now in charge of the drums, adding a free-rolling precision to the playing. Perhaps the most distinctive voice in this lineup was Karl Jenkins plaintive, other-worldly Oboe and Soprano sax playing. A couple of notes from him and you knew straight away who you were listening to. Mike Ratledge's keyboard sounds were often percussive and hard-edged, adding bite to many of the tunes. Between them, the band had a very distinctive sound that was unmistakeable.

This is a double album, condensed onto a single CD. The first half is a collection of live recordings, the tunes melding into each other seamlessly...and there are some extremely cool sounding pieces on here, but the two that really set this album apart are from the studio album.

The opener The Soft Weed Factor is perhaps one of the band's most memorable compositions. Dreamy and multi-layered, it starts very simply with a light, seven note cycling motif from Hopper's keyboard. It is met with a counter motif interlocking with the first...then a third ...then a new phrase on vibes ... we are starting to build a mesmerising twinkling matrix of similarly voiced instruments...this continues for a good three minutes...and just as you are settled in and nicely hypnotised, the drums and bass kick in with a superbly judged groove. To top it all off, the Karl Jenkins' oboe enters stage left with long sustained hard-edged notes...the sour to the preceding sweet. This is a masterful concoction that lasts for over eleven minutes, and never outstays it's welcome.

The other highlight is Chloe And The Pirates. This is an altogether more etherial piece, utilising reverse tape techniques to create an other-worldly atmosphere with floaty synth pads fluttering round two gently pulsing chords from the keyboard. Almost pastoral woodwind from Jenkins, again reversed, adds a melodic feel, still floaty, some building chords...and then understated drums begin to roll. this is a lovely delicate tune that really outlines the finesse of these players.

Often overlooked in Soft's canon, this has some of their finest recordings, and I really can't recommend it highly enough, especially in it's remastered form.
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on 30 August 2017
A dbl album released 1973, I album studio 1 album live and the last truly great Soft Machine album. The reason being that Karl & Nucleus haven't completely taken over. With Ratledge & Hopper still solid in the ranks & composing 3 out of 4 of the studio tracks there is still a good degree of experimentation & playfulness in their composing. People deride Hopper's track 1983 for not being melodic enough, however, if someone like Stockhausen composed it they would be screaming genius with its looped tape use & almost atonal piano staccato progression & Hopper's added sound effects, it really sounds futuristic & like you are travelling through an electronic city scape. If you add Hopper's best track the 14 minute 'Miniluv' from his contemporaneous album 1984 (utilizing Soft Machine members) then it even makes more sense. Especially rearranging the tracks to 1. S.S. G. Album 2. 1983, 3. Chloe & the pirates, 4. Miniluv and finally 5. Soft Weed Factor.
Some other reviews mention the live album as being terrific but in comparison to when Wyatt was playing live with them, it just isn't as experimental or free, but still a must have album when the sonic possibilities seemed endless for this once truly magnificent band that could conjure some very exciting/experimental and jazz rock infused landscapes.
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on 22 April 2004
Chloe and the Pirates is an extremely beautiful bright piece of music,with fine atmospheric organ sounds, slowly climbing up and down, steadybass lines and electric piano chords and above all great oboe playing byKarl Jenkins. It's like a bird cry in a mysterious warm afternoonlandscape. For me their very best composition. Also the minimalistic SoftWeed Factor is fascinating. The other two numbers of the studio part areless convincing. Better then is the first of the two live sets.
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on 4 December 2011
tl dr version. This CD is brilliant, buy this if you've never bought a Soft Machine album before or have only bought one.

I wasn't born at the time of this album's release. It was the CD of Volume One and Two that got me interested in 1992. I was aware of the line up changes that band had, so put off buying their later albums after "Fifth". What I fool I was! I've only had this CD for a week and already it's one of the best things Soft Machine ever did.
Firstly, seeing as it's a double album on one CD.
When I first heard it, I thought the best parts of the first 11 tracks ("Fanfare", "Stumble") were the shorter tracks, but now feel "Riff" is a highlight that should have been included on their "Out-Bloody-Rageous" compilation, even though "Gesolreut" did the album proud.

I love the four studio tracks that would have made for side three and four. That sequence is almost like Soft Machine's classic "Third" album but condensed. With Karl Jenkins replacing the contributions of Robert Wyatt on "Third" with keyboards replacing Robert's vocals obviously.
It also contains Mike Ratledge's last two great large scale compositions, "Stanley Stamps Gibbon Album" and "Chloe And The Pirates".
I once saw in a magazine the former being described as "a load of musicians arsing about". I disagree, and can hear an echo of the closing section of "Volume Two" in the start before a piano groove for Mike Ratledge to play that Mike Ratledge sounding organ over it.If Mike Ratledge played a guitar, this track would be on all the compilations and Ratledge would be a more thought of God. Hypnotic ending to this piece as well.

"Chole And The Pirates" is a pre-sampling psychedelic backing to the bands crossroads between the band of the past and the band they'd become become. But the track I really love is "1983". In fact it scares me a little after the jokey fuzz bass intro. A lone piano plays the tensest riff on the album, whilst Hugh Hopper builds up a set of sound effects that sound like they were simple to create, but become more threatening as they become more constant. Like the sound of a futuristic CCTV camera sending out mind controlling rays on a future (from 1973 anyway) people who walk along getting bombarded with this stuff.

Basically, "Six" deserves it's place alongside classic albums from 1973 like "Dark Side Of The Moon".
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VINE VOICEon 11 November 2002
From back in 1973. First half of CD is live. I caught them on this tour when I was a student. Enjoyed it that night and this brings it all back. Karl Jenkins (Nucleus) had replaced Elton Dean from previous line-up.
Four studio tracks follow. Not quite up to incfedible standards set on Fourth and Fifth. The first three tunes, one by Karl Jenkins and two by Mike Ratlidge are very fine but Hugh Hoppers closing effort is patchy and doesnt really gel.
Overall its pretty good though and should be valued by all Soft heads.
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on 23 January 2003
Marked the end of their lunatic exuberance. A live reprise of some of their most interesting experiments, which unfortunately does not sound as good as the originals, and a studio set of perhaps their most rewarding compositions.
Earlier albums were disgracefully good, later ones depressingly respectable (with the possible exception of their later "Alive and Well" outing) - but the studio part of this one has perhaps their most repeatably listenable work, which really ought to be classed as "classical".
So why only four stars? - because in total, it's just not quite as good as albums 4 and 5 (or 3, come to that). I had this on vinyl and only the studio part got played to death. With this release it's all on one CD.
But Definitely Worth Getting anyway.
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on 15 December 2003
The studio album lacks any real creative edge. The live album works mainly due to the incredible propulsive drumming of John Marshall, some of which is awesome. However, the music as a whole lacks focus. Robert Wyatt, and Elton Dean were not long gone, and you can hear the difference, when compared to a live album like 'Virtually.'
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on 14 February 2015
IMHO the best album ever from the Softs. Truly Timeless. Masterpiece of Prog / Jazz fusion....Probably fairer to say its in a category of its own....
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on 17 February 2012
I have to say that I kind of lost interest in Soft Machine after listening to 'Fifth'. To much jazzy echo and not enough whimsy. I suppose Ratledge and Wyatt couldn't really live with each other after 'Third'. Pity.
Anyway, would you believe I've only just now decided to listen properly to the albums after 'Fifth'. And do you know - 'Six' isn't at all bad. Plenty of emotion and dreamy places to go to. Karl Jenkins adds something mellow and structured. John Marshall's drumming is interesting, but not sure about the extended drum-solo.
Initially I thought that the album could have been half as long, more compact, with long repetitive bits removed. But they do kind of work, as well as Ratledge's noodling. Which itself is OK - doesn't have the fireworks of "One" or the emotion of "Slightly All the Time".
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