FAME Review: Soft Machine Legacy - Live in Zaandam
Soft Machine Legacy - Live in Zaandam

Live in Zaandam

Soft Machine Legacy

Moonjune Records - MJR006

Available from Moonjune Records.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

Your first question, of course, is "Where's Zaandam?" It's in Holland. The second inquiry is "Uh, Soft Machine…Legacy???" The third interrogative becomes "Is it a tribute band?" Well, a simple inquisitive—"What's in a word?"—answers the second curiosity, and "Yes and no" settles the third. Let me explain.

Soft Machine was an historically amorphous concept in and of itself—save for the prevailing constancy of excellence, an ensemble always in ferment, starting in pop, prog-pop, and psychedelia, then going on to hard fusion, and transforming to prog-fusion before bouncing around in fusion, prog, jazz, bop, noise, and whatever modes struck compositional fancies thereafter. 'Legacy' is a nomenclature denoting tribute to an exceptionally strong influence in music, while the years-long staple 'Soft Machine' serves at least double duty. Two members (Hugh Hopper and Elton Dean) are founders of the Softs, but the Legacy band does not dedicate effort to renditions of the past, but rather projections into the future. Drummer John Marshall and guitarist John Ethridge have provided the latter half of the quartet but the personnel has necessarily changed, with Theo Travis taking the late Dean's place. Nonetheless, the mission remains: great unorthodox new work from a genesis long famed for innovation and expertise. This disc, however, documents Dean still very much at the top of his game only a year before passing.

I must now regret to inform the reader that Hopper has also gone to The Great Gig in the Sky, but there's always a silver lining in jarring art news: Roy Babbington (Nucleus, Soft Machine, Ovary Lodge, etc.) will be stepping into the breach. I reviewed Steam (here) and suggest that this critique be read to get up to speed because you're getting more of the same in Live, an embarrassment of cerebral riches. Legacy will hopefully enter as a relative tandem in the realm of the original Soft Machine, though it must be said that the seminal band is still so stratospherically ahead of its era that even speaking so is somewhat silly. Still, alongside a continuing profusion of SM releases, though the band's been dead for quite a while, Legacy is more than appetizing for the genre's aficionados. Certainly, the invention and array of modalities here warrant the regard and then some. Ladies, gents, and music-hounds, the continuing dearth of true good ol' fusion has not been encouraging, and thus the cry for CDs such as this has been heard and providence delivered.

Track List:

  • Ash (John Etheridge)
  • 1212 (Hugh Hopper)
  • Baker's Treat (Elton Dean)
  • Kings & Queens (Hugh Hopper)
  • Two Down (Marshall / Etheridge)
  • Big Creese (John Etheridge)

Edited by: David N. Pyles


Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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