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20 May 2017

Soft Machine “Live in Paris”(Recorded in 1972) 2004 UK Fusion Jazz Rock Canterbury Scene 2 CD

Soft Machine “Live in Paris”(Recorded in 1972)  2004 UK Fusion Jazz Rock Canterbury Scene 2 CD

Recorded: May 2nd, 1972 at Olympia, Paris
Released: 2008

The Cuneiform issue of Soft Machine's Paris Olympia Theatre concert is a straight reissue of the One Way set released in 1995 and quickly deleted. It features the short-lived but compelling lineup of Elton Dean, Hugh Hopper, Mike Ratledge, and drummer John Marshall. Marshall was in fact the second drummer to be hired after Robert Wyatt's departure in August of 1971 (Phil Howard was the first), and this edition of Soft Machine recorded merely half an album together. It is one of the few documents of an entire Soft Machine concert available, and the sound quality is unusually good (as Soft Machine live recordings go). The material on the set is split pretty much cleanly between the albums Third and Fifth, with the band's fourth album being completely ignored -- Dean was writing wildly knotty jazz-rock stuff at the time and Marshall was just coming into the band from a stint with Jack Bruce. That said, this wonderfully spacy open jam material is solid, showcasing a band utterly comfortable with improvisation and in command of its use of space. For a stellar example check "Slightly All the Time" on disc one, where Ratledge and Dean weave through and around one another in the middle and simultaneously solo, taking the tune into the stratosphere without losing its focus. Another fine example is the stellar version of "Facelift" that kicks off disc two with elastic drum work by Marshall and a burning solo by Dean. All in all, though, these are ensemble performances, the sound of a band working together to get to they know not where but knowing how to travel. Highly recommended.................... by Thom Jurek ...............

Among the shortest-lived of Soft Machine's seemingly countless lineups is the fleeting period between John Marshall coming on board and Elton Dean leaving the band. Not being a huge fan of Karl Jenkins' subsequent contributions to the groups, I find this rare (and, compared to the many Cuneiform and Voiceprint live releases, pristine) recording of this version of the band much more revelatory of their potential than side B of "5". Mainstays of the live repertoire of the classic quartet like "Facelift", "Slightly All the Time" and "Out-Bloody Rageous" retain some of the looseness of the Phil Howard era. The main difference, though, is the percussive philosophy of Marshall in contrast to Howard. Marshall somehow manages to combine the free-flow sensibility of the Softs' prior drumsmiths with a solid, in-the-pocket technical aptitude that would mark the future of the band. Even compared to his recordings with Nucleus and as a sideman for numerous artists, he really seems to come into his own style in his tenure with Soft Machine, and this recording shows Marshall hitting the ground running. The rest of the band seem somewhat revitalized from their time with Howard. Hugh Hopper's bass work regains its vitality from the learned helplessness on display on the "Drop" album, alternatingly solid and fluid even on ad hoc jam pieces like "And Sevens" and "At Sixes" (named presumably for their respective time signatures). Elton Dean has since complained of mike problems dampering this performance, and while at moments his sax playing appears to get thrown off, he manages to saves face in short order, churning out passionate phrasing unseen since the septet days. Overall, what the band lacked in compositional direction at this transitional phase in their arc, they make up for in performance, making this a must-have for Machineheads all, not just the completionists.......ByJohnny Fargo.............

I can imagine the type of thoughts folks have when looking at this version of Live in Paris just released last week. "It doesn't have Wyatt on it"; Modern mixing destroys the authentic sound" and yada yada yada.
What folks often forget (as I did in the beginning) is that along about 1972, just before and during the release of TSM 6, the band was softening their overtly brash sound and opting for a less harsh and abrasive sound. I believe this versions takes it one step further and cleans up some of the technilogical meanderings from the 1972 master tape recordings of this concert set and makes it presentable if a very positive way!
The inclusion of John Marshall (The Bands prefered Drummer after Wyatt split), captures the band in a special moment in time. He is incredible!
Commercially, things were in a flux for the band until the release of TSM seven. This captures the band as their are moving and gathering steam in the public eye (In europe anyway). They adjusted to personnel changes positively as it was an almost continuous event back in 1972. The recording is capturing a rare moment in the Soft Machine time capsule. This is a collectors piece and if you are not really familar with the band, it just might be better to start with their legacy album TSM3. Then come back and check out Noisette and THEN buy this record/CD. Great spin!......ByCarl Johnson...............

After Phil Howard was told he wasn’t Soft Machine’s drummer anymore, there were two problems. One of them was Elton, who lost his musical pal and because of that realised that he seemed not to be so important as Mike and Hugh, since they had made that decision. The other one was the planned recording session for a new album, for which half was finished already. Soft Machine needed a new drummer urgently. On the very night John Marshall heard that the band he was playing in – Jack Bruce’s – stopped, Sean Murphy – Soft Machine’s manager at that time – met John and told him that Soft Machine needed a new drummer: “maybe he was interested?” John was, and soon he was invited to play at a rehearsal. He arrived in a strange atmosphere; Elton was thinking about his place in the band and Mike and Hugh were thinking about how they could finish their new record. John, a very good drummer, both in rock and jazz styles, but also a drummer with volcanic explosions, fitted like a glove. He could play the written scores and sometimes very difficult themes, but could also flow with the improvisational side. As Mike Ratledge remembered: “It’s nice to have someone who takes notice of the score”. But maybe that quote made more clear about his thinking than John’s approach. With John in the line-up the band restarted recording sessions for Fifth in February 1972. As written elsewhere on this site, that album ended in two split halves; one side with Phil, one side with John as drummer. Starting in March, two small tours had to be done with the new quartet. One of the places visited was Olympia in Paris. ‘Live in Paris’, this two cd-set, is the complete concert. The set-list is remarkable: compositions from the Third album, as well from the soon to be released Fifth album; nothing from Fourth. They had skipped compositions from that album already when Phil was the drummer, but even with a more structured drummer they didn’t choose to play that complex material. The Paris concert starts with Plain Tiffs, a typical Elton Dean composition with more free aspects. All White is played tighter than before, with a new heavy bass sound from Hugh and a clear and more rock based layer from John, while Elton plays a long saxello solo. In Slightly all the Time new and old visions meet. Drop Is free at first, but halfway becomes more straight. M.C. does it without drummer and has a light and fluid touch. Out-Bloody-Rageous is more organised, more like the actual version on Third. The concert part two starts with a long Facelift, which begins with Fender Rhodes piano and bass; it is the longest track and has free as well thematic parts. ‘And Sevens’ is a new composition, but better one could speak of a live group-improvisation. It develops in a more rock-orientated sound than the jazzier sound the band had with Phil in the line-up. The beautiful As If has lost its lazy late night jazz feeling and is played more aggressive; in my opinion that isn’t an improvement, but you can’t have everything, can you? John shows his abilities in LBO, after which Pigling Bland is played and that one also is changed in favour of the rhythmic approach. For an encore the band plays ‘At Sixes’; another group improvisation. You can hear that there had been an enormous musical growth, but it wasn’t enough for Elton; at the end of the tour he quit the band. That makes this record a special one, since it is the last recording with Elton playing. Once again, there was a vacancy for a new musician. ............Paul Lemmens © 2014....................

The Soft Machine line-up of Elton Dean, Hugh Hopper, John Marshall and Mike Ratledge lasted under half a year and recorded just one half of an album (side two of "5"). Live in Paris is a rare recording of this quartet during that lineup’s final days; Dean left Soft Machine later that month. It is also a special, rare example of a Soft Machine concert recorded and released in its entirety. Live in Paris shows Soft Machine playing in top form. As Aymeric Leroy points out in the liner notes, the music illustrates main composers Ratledge and Hopper's shift in compositional style…towards looser and more minimalistic themes." The tracklisting consists of works from "Third" and "5" in often significantly different versions, as well as several piece not recorded elsewhere. This excellent quality release is taken from the less than 2 dozen shows performed by this version of the band, and shows that despite such a short life, that this version of the quartet definitely had their own style and sound................

This is the Soft Machine line-up of 1972, without Robert Wyatt but with Elton Dean, Hugh Hopper, John Marshall and Mike Ratledge. The Soft Machine sounds here far more as a jazz quartet as in early years. However, this combination lasted only less then half a year and recorded just one half of an album (side two of "5").

Live in Paris contents two disks and is a rare recording of this quartet during that lineup’s final days; Dean left Soft Machine later that month. It is also a rare example of a Soft Machine concert recorded and released in its entirety.

Live in Paris shows Soft Machine playing in top form. Listen f.e. to Facelift on the second disk. It's just great, with an excellent saxophone playing by Dean, Ratledges warm-sounding keyboards and last but not least Hoppers modest, dreamy but nevertheless pushing bass-lines. There are more live tracks from "Third" and "5" with highly creative improvisations, as well as several tracks not recorded before. This excellent quality release is taken from the less than twenty-five shows performed by this version of the band, and shows that despite such a short life, that this version of the quartet definitely had their own style and sound. If you like jazz with a lot of energy, just listen to this ..............

Wow! Another newly found live recording which was previously available only in bootleg format? Unfortunately, the disc is a mono-sound recording which is frustrating if you’re expecting live stereo sound and a truer representation of the band's live sound. It doesn't appear to obscure the forceful performances by band members however. The lack of liner notes is also frustrating since no positive date is available for the gig as well as missing information on venue and city! This indicates less than the normal care given for CD archive releases. But Wayside lists the date as Elton Dean's last with the band from Paris in May 1972, which could be correct. The personnel line-up is the same as Soft Machine 5, side 2 with Dean/Hopper/Marshall/Ratledge, probably one of the more stable line-ups for this period. This was John Marshall's first tour replacing Robert Wyatt at the drumkit (daunting task indeed). The set material consists of three songs from Third; the remainder is from 5. Three songs are unfamiliar to me: "Plain Tiffs" (the intro piece preceding "All White"), "And Sevens," and "At Sixes." Ratledge's characteristic pieces spotlight his Lowrey organ style, although he seems to be much less aggressive for this concert than the Paradiso show from '69 (previously reviewed). Dean is clearly the main soloist during this phase of the band's career. Ratledge's role is primarily as a Fender Rhodes piano player with wah-wah. Overall a pretty good show by a band constant in Jeff Melton, ....................

By May 2, 1972, when Soft Machine appeared at the Paris Olympia, the band had already lost founding member Robert Wyatt and had contracted from a lineup with full horn section down to a quartet with saxophonist Elton Dean. They had also recently replaced drummer Phil Howard with John Marshall, a decision made by bassist Hugh Hopper and keyboardist Mike Ratledge without input from Dean. Howard was central to Dean’s plans to shift the band from a progressive rock band into a largely improvisational, jazzlike unit. (A disillusioned Dean would only play out the string of concert commitments, including this one, before leaving himself.)

Soft Machine must have stumped the crowd as it performed as part of pop fest. A decently recorded complete performance from the band, Live in Paris suggests that, despite the new drummer, the Howard era was still leaving a mark. Soft Machine tunes featuring tight, complicated arrangements were left off the set list, there are no vocals and the band focused almost exclusively on open ended, long-form material culled from the studio records Third and Fifth. Dean’s buzzing, terse saxello and soprano saxophone parts are the primary element here. Hopper and Ratledge give the music its character with brooding, simple vamps from the former and unsettled, churning chord sequences from the latter. The band lets the dark clouds break now and again, at times with a sound remarkably close to ambient. But even at their most sour, they still generate energy thanks to Marshall’s drumming.

The best moments come when Dean feeds off of the focused rumble from his chosen drummer’s replacement. Though creaky in some places and certainly dated, Live in Paris is much more than an archival curio and deserves to be heard by an audience greater than long-time fans.......... By Aaron Steinberg........

Of all the line-ups that can be filed under the (mysterious but ultimately useful) "New English Jazz" label, Soft Machine are without a doubt the group that's still remembered with more affection and warmth, especially on the Continental part of Europe where at the time their music was met with real enthusiasm - and tangible sales. And I'm quite sure that had Soft Machine been an American group by now they would have received their due in the evolution of the electric music, post-Davis.
Cognoscenti know quite well that the group's history is more than a bit complicated, and they reserve a special spot for the album titled Volume Two, quite influential on many groups - alas!, of the non-commercial kind. Hence, outside the pages of most Encyclopedias.
Whether Soft Machine were still a good group after Robert Wyatt jumped ship has always been the source of heated arguments. One could maybe distill the discussion about Live In Paris - a double CD recorded live on May 2, 1972 which had previously been released with a different mastering - by asking the reader whether s/he likes Soft Machine's Fifth; especially side two, which presented the work of John Marshall, the same drummer featured on Live In Paris.
This factor is important for still another issue: for technical reasons, this recording places the rhythm section as louder than the era's norm (we could jokingly talk about a "Can mix"), so we get a loud set of drums; Elton Dean's saxophones suffer a bit, while Mike Ratledge's organ solos are sometimes partially masked by Dean's piano backing. Hugh Hopper's bass is always clear.
Though it was destined to undergo further changes not too long after this concert, the group never sounds tired or as playing by the numbers. This is quite easy to see in the versions of those perennial classics - off the album Third - titled Slightly All The Time, Out-Bloody-Rageous and Facelift. But it's when playing the compositions off the still-new Fifth that the group sounds especially involved, and very convincing. All White, Drop and Pigling Bland are very good, but the peaks are to be found on the relaxed M.C. and the long As If. There are also two improvisations: And Sevens, with two electric pianos (hope I'm not wrong if I say that during this concert Dean plays more electric piano than on most other live recordings of the group); and the closing track, At Sixes, with the usual instrumentation.
Without a doubt Marshall is a technically more accomplished drummer than Wyatt. But whereas when Wyatt was in the group one had the impression that anything could happen, Marshall's kind of geometry (listen to the high-hat - and notice how different Hopper's work sounds for this) sometimes gives the impression of narrower horizons.........Beppe Colli 2004.....................

Originally released on CD a few years ago by One Way Records, this 2 CD live set by Soft Machine was recorded May 2nd, 1972, now rescued from the "out of print" vaults and remastered by Cuneiform Records. Besides the fantastic performance of the band, the other notable reason to seek out this release is the fact that it is one of the few live recordings ever of the short-lived line-up of Elton Dean (sax/electric piano), Hugh Hopper (bass), John Marshall (drums), and Mike Ratledge (electric piano/organ.)

Even more so than most of the other previously available Soft Machine releases, Live in Paris is primarily a jazz album, as the band is extremely laid back, grooving and soloing with more restraint than you would usually hear them, but adventurous and groundbreaking nontheless. Ratledge's organ solos take on a rather distorted, reed-like quality, and his electric piano passages ring with majestic tones, much like Chick Corea, Jan Hammer, or Herbie Hancock. Elton Dean, who is the other main soloist in the band, squonks and soars throughout-check out his melodic leads on the smooth "Slightly All The Time" for a perfect example of his far reaching talents, complete with Marshall and Hopper pounding away with some complex rhythms. Surprisingly, the material covered on this set is mostly from the Third and Fifth albums, which is a bit looser and allows more room for extended blowing, as opposed to the more complex and structured tunes from the Fourth album. Fear not though, as favorites such as "Facelift" (all 17+ minutes of it), "Out Bloody-Rageous" and "At Sixes" are covered with superb results.

This is an essential recording from one of progressive music's treasured bands. So sit back , pop the 2 discs into your changer, and get ready for over 90 minutes of prime Soft Machine, as jazzy and far reaching as they have ever been.....................

Elton Dean: saxello, alto sax, rhodes piano
Hugh Hopper: bass
John Marshall: drums
Mike Ratledge: electric piano, organ 

1. Plain Tiffs
2. All White
3. Slightly All The time
4. Drop
5. M.C.
6. Out-Bloody-Rageous
1. Facelift
2. And Sevens
3. As If
4. LBO
5. Pigling Bland
6. At Sixes

johnkatsmc5, welcome music..





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