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Virtually

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Album Review

Recorded on March 23, 1971 for Radio Bremen, during the band's final European tour with Robert Wyatt in the lineup, this is a good (and very well-recorded) document of their early-'70s sound. At this point the band, having doubled in size around the Third era, had contracted to a quartet with Wyatt, Mike Ratledge, Hugh Hopper, and saxophonist Elton Dean. Over the course of the 77-minute disc, they run through all of the material from Fourth, and much of Third: the music that found them tilting toward jazz, rather than rock. Those who are attracted to the band because of Wyatt may thus be disappointed; his drumming is here in force, but he contributes no original compositions, and his vocals are limited to a few processed scats. It's challenging, at times demanding listening, especially when Dean goes off into improv territory; numbers highlighting Ratledge's Lowrey organ hit grooves that are more accessible to rock listeners, but not much. It's certainly better, from both audio and performance aspects, than the Live at the Proms 1970 release, which features the same personnel.

Biography

Formed: 1966 in Canterbury, Kent, England

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s

Soft Machine were never a commercial enterprise and indeed still remain unknown even to many listeners who came of age during the late '60s and early '70s, when the group was at its peak. In their own way, however, they were one of the more influential bands of their era, and certainly one of the most influential underground ones. One of the original British psychedelic groups, they were also instrumental in the birth of both progressive rock and jazz-rock. They were also the central foundation of...
Full Bio