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Man In a Deaf Corner: Anthology 1963-1970

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Album Review

The subtitle of this double-CD compilation might lead you to believe that this is a retrospective or best-of covering the band's finest era. That is not the case; in fact it's a ragtag quilt of live performances, including nothing from any of the studio recordings that the musicians made during this period. Disc one will be of most interest to hardcore Soft Machine collectors as it contains the rarest material. It kicks off with six tracks of free-jazz doodling that almost certainly predates the Soft Machine's official formation by a few years (only one cut, the live 1963 performance "Dear Olde Benny Green Is A-turning In His Grave," is given a date). Yet that same material is also by far the musically weakest on the set, presenting rather lo-fi, cacophonous, unstructured, vocal-less, somewhat amateurish outings by various combinations of players that passed through early Soft Machine lineups. Those players include Robert Wyatt (the only one to appear on all six songs), Mike Ratledge, Hugh Hopper, Brian Hopper, and Daevid Allen (who's only on "Dear Olde Benny Green Is A-turning In His Grave"); original Soft Machine member Kevin Ayers is not present on any of these six tracks. Disc one finishes with three 1967 tracks for which no dates or sources are given (these have also shown up on the Middle Earth bootleg); there are good performances on "We Know What You Mean" and "I Should've Known," sonic torture on the 13–minute "Hope for Happiness," and substandard fidelity to varying degrees on all three tunes. Disc two, with a few exceptions, boasts better sound quality, and features live performances from 1969-70, as well as an undated recording of "As Long As He Lies Perfectly Still" that is probably from the 1990s or early 2000s, and only has one noted Soft Machine member aboard (Hugh Hopper). The second CD is a decent representation of their live sound as they were moving into full-bore jazz fusion; with the plethora of live Soft Machine from this era that's already been issued, it's not all that easy to tell what might have been issued elsewhere without access to a ridiculously complete Soft Machine library.


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...
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Man In a Deaf Corner: Anthology 1963-1970, Soft Machine
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