söndag 27 november 2016

THE SOFT MACHINE CPLP 4500 (-68) US

The Wilde Flowers was a popular UK sixties band from Canterbury. They went through a number of settings from 1964-68 without releasing any records, but the break-up resulted in two well known combos - Soft Machine and Caravan. Wilde Flowers was mainly responsable for creating and developing the "Canterbury Sound" - a mix of psych, folk, rock and jazz with a British touch. The two offsprings went in slightly different directions. While Caravan initially embraced a melodic folk psych style which is shown on their first album, this Soft Machine debute is something else. At the time down to a trio consisting of keyboardist Michael Radledge, drummer Robert Wyatt and Kevin Ayers on bass and guitar they got a contract with American ABC:s newly founded Probe label. Recordings took place at Record Plant, New York, in the presence of two experienced producers - Tom Wilson and Chas Chandler. I wonder how big part those professional surroundings had in the end result. Cause the outcome here is not what you'd expect from a UK psych trio debute in the sixties. The quirkiness is there, the long improvised interventions, the form experiments, dissonances and challenging lyrics. But it's never messy, unbalanced or amateuristic. I get well planned where the weirder sections blends with calmer melodic pieces, thus making it easier to embrace. They are truly skilled musicians, sometimes pushing the psychedelia towards what would later be called "prog" and maybe this album was one of the inspirations to that emerging genre. So if you're only into saggy mental garage or really disturbing stuff this is not it, but if you want very good psych/prog, performed and produced by some of the better from the period with top audio, it's a trip worth taking. Favorite tracks - the hypnotic "We Did It Again", the weirdly intrusive "Hope For Happiness" and "Why Are We Sleeping" (partly reused by Ayers for his 1974 "Confessions Of Dr. Dream" album). 1968 releases in US, Canada (same label, cover and number) and France (Barclay 920 082). Initial US cover was withdrawn and replaced with a plain censured one omitting all nudity. First UK 1976 on ABC (27135 ET) came with alternate sleeve design. 1990 US CD on One Way Records (MCAD-22064). Premiere US had label as shown here, fold/out windowed cover with rotatable card inside and uncensored nude pictures. (YZÄ*)

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