Burden of Proof? Indeed, and who more able to provide the closing argument than this collective of four gents, each a force in prog/jazz/fusion/avant/etc.: John Marshall (dr.), John Etheridge (gtr.), Roy Babbington (bass), and Theo Travis (keyb., flute, sax, and slowly working his way to join his elder statesmen companions). Shouldering the task of extending the Soft Machine legend, a heavier weight than Monty Python's 16 tons, would normally be a congeries of Laocoonian complexities in most anyone else's hands but not here. Soft Machine Legacy is exactly that, an extension of the map. The notion to re-recruit John Etheridge, however, a member of the Machine itself from '75 to '79, was particularly wise, as he, having been rather stunning from the git-go, has proven to be one of those who only increase their depth as time passes, the panoply in the second half of Voyage Beyond Seven setting that in cement, offset by the ghostly Kitto.
The pastorale Kings and Queens is equally eerie, not in any Clive Barker sense but more a pensive Dunsanian fairyland drifting through outer space. Written by the late Softie Hugh Hopper, it has the idyllic poignancy of the initial Long Hello band on sopors after a Literature class with the headmaster. That lazy filigreed sensation is, however, turned on its head with the follow-on, Fallout, an anarchic tumble through spiky hinterlands that eventually resolves into a fusion stumble-hop. The Legacy band is oft labeled a Canterbury ensemble, which is a bit of a puzzlement to me. ProgArchives, for one, makes the curious claim, but I'm damned if I detect reason for it. SML is solid jazz-prog fusion, not possessed of the seriality that so readily marked Caravan, Gilgamesh, National Health, and so on. I guess the rhetorical 'Canterbury Scene' nomenclature is meant to blur boundaries. On the other hand, though self-dubbed as the 'ultimate prog rock resource', we've actually seen little of the critical function in any prog venue—and I mean ANY—alas, so proceed with caution.
That, however, has no bearing on this CD, I merely wish to deter readers from too large a disappointment when accessing such references (as some have indeed remarked to me back channel). The Legacy band spans the Softs catalogue from about mid-period to the end of their days, an era which saw much in the way of personnel changes yet a fair constancy of collective mode (sans Ratledge, no band will ever emulate the fabulous Thirds and kindred releases, so that's a given). The Boomer generation (+/-) saw a period in art that has yet to be equaled, though I have very high hopes for the incoming crop, and, even as it grows long in the tooth, the vanguard maintains a fearsome acumen and imagination that keeps exemplars at the forefront of several waves. Soft Machine Legacy ain't no exception. Its members were part of what made everything happen in the first place.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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