Sunday, November 18, 2007

Soft Machine - Grides

Grides is a CD/DVD set released by Cuneiform featuring a Soft Machine concert on CD and a German TV broadcast on DVD. Since this is the first time The Softs can be seen on an officially released DVD, this release is essential.

What about the CD itself? The gig was recorded in Netherlands, 25th of October, 1970. This is a decent performance, though at places really interesting. They preview a couple of epic pieces from the Fourth album the sessions for which were undertaken at the time. "Virtually" follows Elton Dean's sax solo on "Facelift" and is 14 minutes long, a bit looser than the studio take. "Teeth" is still a work-in-progress as the composition's different and provisional structure indicates. Even Elton Dean's "Neo Caliban Grides" which was in the Softs' setlist but recorded on Elton's first solo album in 1971, was different in its early version. It has a composed theme after the opening riff, which is quite straight, given Elton's free jazz propensity. Mike Ratledge gets a distorted organ solo before the piece dissolves into atonal group improv. This is one of the last times where they play "Esther's Nose Job" and even that piece is on the verge of falling apart. Not only does the group feel kind of tired when they play this piece for umpteenth time, but there are several elements different: first, the melodic part in "Pig" section is dropped, then Robert Wyatt's voice being totally absent from this gig means that his scat vocal is replaced by the instrumental bass melody during "A Door Opens and Closes" section. Last, but not least, "Pigling Bland" is played exactly as played from 1971 onwards. Only "Pigling Bland" part survived it in the band's setlist the next year. The encore is quite a nice rendition of the mid-section of "Slightly All The Time" as heard on Third album, with more fuzz bass from Hopper and it ends with an aggressive rendition of Hopper's "Noisette" theme.

DVD was filmed at German TV show Beat Club on 23th March, 1971. They play "Neo Caliban Grides", which had reached its full atonal, group improv oriented form; followed by "Out Bloody Rageous" with great solos from Mike Ratledge (backed by Elton on electric piano) and Elton on alto sax. "Eamonn Andrews" features a mind-blowing scat vocal improv from Wyatt and they round it off with a proto-version of "All White". The CD part has an ok concert, but the DVD is why this album is recommended.

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