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While the last original member of the band had left a couple of years before, Mike Ratledge still guests on a couple of tracks, this is the first soft machine album to feature John Etheridge, so this is the Babbington Jenkins Marshall, Etheridge and Wakeman line up of the band. The Music is as you would expect exquisitely played Jazz fusion. I find this album possibly more conventional rock than other albums (Not a bad thing). The music flows well and John Etheridge brings a touch of play on guitar that had not really been heard before possibly it's that, that gives the album its slightly more commercial possibly progressive shine.

A very good album from a band who were not what they once were but what they were to become, always evolving with the revolving door of membership.
The mastering on this new issue is rather nice as well not overly loud.
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on 7 September 2010
"Groups exist for the use of musicians" so said drummer Bill Bruford. I think that this statement applies here. Much is made of Mike Ratledge literally fading away from the group during these sessions thus effectively leaving the Soft Machine to a whole bunch of non-original members. This has no trace of the wit and wisdom of the Robert Wyatt years, or the edgy experimentalism of the mid-period band with Hugh Hopper and Elton Dean alongside Ratledge's patent organ soloing.

It does however, continue the shift towards the first class compositional and instrumental intensity delivered on it's predecessor `Bundles'. Keyboard and Reeds man Karl Jenkins is now the driving force, and (Allan Holdsworth recommended) guitarist John Etheridge takes the music to a new intensity and ferocity ably supported by the stunning drumming prowess of John Marshall. There are contrasting slower melodic passages, and time shifts, making this a thoroughly well assembled and captivating suite of compositions.

This album is often seen as the beginning of the end for the Softs, but fresh listening to this beautifully recorded and newly remastered re-issue on Esoteric reveals much to admire and plenty to enjoy in terms of breathtaking musicianship.

In truth the album becomes a little fragmentary towards the end, but the first two thirds of its duration is a tour de force of energy and propulsive Mahavishnu style intensity, contrasted with Jenkins' strong compositional abilities on the softer passages. `The Tale Of Taliesin' and `Ban Ban Caliban' in particular represent British musicianship at it's finest, while `Song Of Aeolus' occupies the melodic territory of the likes of contemporaries Focus and Camel.

Forget the name and the associations of old, and enjoy the fact that the musicians gathered here were at the height of their creativity. Recorded at Abbey Road under the auspices of engineer John Leckie, instrumental music never sounded so good.
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on 21 April 2016
There are Soft Machine fans who despise everything from Bundles on because there is a guitar. Some others got Bundles but did not rate Softs as John Etheridge was seen to be a poor substitute for Allan Holdsworth. There are many flaws in these arguments. The earliest demo recordings when Daevid Allen was still a member featured guitar which fits in well with the material that was recorded for their debut album. The John Etheridge objection is plain prejudice as he was hand picked by Holdsworth as his replacement.

As Softs, it is a great album on its own merits. Sure it is different from the early albums, but to compare the music of this version of the band is like comparing it to The Hot Club of France, they are just different. This has more rock in the mix of genres that is the common thread that runs through all Soft Machine albums but it is still a singular approach that make for exhilarating listening. This is a brilliant band still on fire.
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on 17 February 2011
Conventional wisdom has this iconic, cult band, in these its last gasps, more `soft' than `machine', its cheerful experimentalism giving way to increasingly mainstream fare as founding scenesters like Robert Wyatt and Kevin Ayers decamped to avant-garde offshoots and solo-dom. Despite its title, 1976's 'Softs' has the pedal to the floor at times. The band's second release for hip Harvest, it continues the trajectory of predecessor 'Bundles', marrying bursts of energetic jazz rock with progressive flashings to the contemplative mood-pieces of earlier work. With sole founder Mike Ratledge leaving and almost absent from the sessions, Karl Jenkins' melodic soundscapes (`Aubade') dominate, enlivened by scrabbling interplay between newbie guitarist John Etheridge and a supremely fluid rhythm section in bassist Roy Babbington and drummer John Marshall on the bouncing `Camden Tandem' while `The Tale of Taliesin' has both elements in spades. Worthy of the band, unlike last-gasp 'Land of Cockayne'...
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on 16 January 2010
I first heard this album in 1986/87 and was blown away, not only by the virtuosity of the musicianship but also the excellent use of space and atmosphere. As a teenage fan of King Crimson, especially the 1972-75 line up (at the time)this album had a huge effect. Powerful riffs in interesting time signatures (such as One Over The Eight) are interspersed with emotive and almost ambient pieces. It certainly pressed all of the right buttons.
John Etheridge's playing on this album is sublime and if you ever want to hear a maestro of all styles then listen to 'Etika' followed by 'The Camden Tandem'. To me this was a development in emotional termms from the previous album 'Bundles' which featured Allan Holdsworth on guitar. It was a shame that the band petered out towards the end of the 70s. However, if you get a chance to hear 'Live in Paris' with the tremendous Ric Sanders on violin I would urge you to do so. Ric Sanders later had more success as chief fiddle player and showman for the enduring and entertaining Fairport Convention (Gladys' Leap album onwards).
Please dust it off and re-release it on CD. It is a tragedy that music of this quality is not readily available when so much dross is!
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on 10 October 2011
If I had to pick a favourite Soft Machine album it'd have to be Seven or Softs; John Etheridge's guitar playing on Softs is incredible and I must've listened to Carl Jenkins' Out Of Season a thousand times. The album is a little traditional in a jazz-rock sense giving precedence to guitars and keyboards over saxophones and woodwind but that's OK too because it means it won't terrify your cat.
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on 8 March 2016
definitely classic fusion at its peak
...and this is definitely SOFT MACHINE SPIRIT! echoes of the Vol.2 and Third are still here
...just the sound, production and time has changed a bit...
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on 16 May 2010
Been waiting many years for this cd to be re-released (too many scratches on my vinyl copy to bear). Great collection of tracks with "Out of Season" worth the purchase price on it's own. Rate this 9/10.
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on 8 June 2010
Strange how Soft Machine's best album has to date been the hardest to get hold of on CD. The album comprises two tracks (originally album sides) which are split into little bits n pieces to satisfy the music industry bosses who didn't really encourage tracks longer than three and a half minutes at the time of Softs' release. This album is the closest the band came to regular progressive rock, with compositions that are reminiscent of the great instrumental outfit Focus, with equal virtuosity. Later Releases saw Karl Jenkins hijacking the band for his own agenda, with a significant fall-off in quality and integrity. So relish Softs as the studio album the band were working towards their entire musical career.

Never mind what the popular music press says, this is one of those albums that everyone who enjoys "good proper music" should have in their collection.
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on 23 May 2012
This is by far the best of their albums (apart from Bundles which comes a close second). Great playing, great short pieces too, with some great grooves going on and awesome guitar freakout solos in the jazz rock stylee. Some of their early stuff just sounds they are tuning up for hours, but this one is awesome. Heard this first as a kid and is the only record in my dad collection I liked!
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