ORGAN THING: So, how to approach this one? A Soft Machine live album released today, Facelift France and Holland, some superb quality live footage of the Softs at their freewheeling peak…

Soft Machine – Facelift France and Holland (Cuneiform Records) – Now how to approach this one? Soft Machine fans, jazz fans, prog heads and those who already know are going to be excited, they’re going to want the details, the forensic analysis, the pulling apart of every note, but then you can go hear a big slice of this double live album on the Cuneiform Records Bandcamp page so you don’t need anything from us other than the signpost. What you fans mostly need to know is that the live video footage is only available to those who buy the physical audio release on CD or vinyl, all this is on the Bandcamp page, the album is out today, assuming you’re reading this on the day we’ve posted it, March 25th. The full details of this release are down there under the music, the Cuneiform Records press statement thing.

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So, how to approach this one? You Softs followers already know, however, we do suspect there’s quite a few Organ readers who have no idea, I mean Soft Machine were never really a household name, this was over fifty years ago now and well what would anyone make of Soft Machine if they were a new band down at the Old Blue Last on  Tuesday night in March. I suspect parts of this album have been widely available for ages in some semi-legal form or other, but this is a damn fine record of that particular version of the band in full flow, this is clever but never too clever progressive jazz, is it jazz rock? Does it matter what we call it? This is bright, light, clever, complex, easy on the ear elegant, free. Oh look, you’ve got the music, you’ve got the visuals, you have all the information down there, do you really need anything more from us? I mean it isn’t like this is still a publication on paper and we have to dance around the architecture, we can cop out and you can point your mouse at the music and listen and see and taste and do it all yourselves. How cool would it be to walk in to the Old Blue Last and see a band like this in the middle of the bill, this feels very sunny in that jazz meets prog rock way bands like Egg or Gong do, this feels like there is some good still, this feels jsut right in the sunshine of today whatever might be happening in the world, this just flows so well, just give it time and space to take you with it…    

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“From their beginnings as a psychedelic rock band in 1966, sharing stages with Pink Floyd and the Jimi Hendrix Experience, to being one of the originators of electric jazz/rock by early 1969, Britain’s Soft Machine were restlessly creative. Facelift France and Holland captures them at a pivotal moment in the first quarter of 1970 as a short-lived quintet, just before they recorded and released their breakthrough album Third.

As broadcast on the French TV programme Pop 2, the film of Soft Machine’s concert at Paris’ Théâtre de la Musique, which constitutes the main course of the present release, stands as an exceptional document of the band at, arguably, its artistic peak.

It is the earliest footage of the band to be commercially released and also the only video footage known to exist of the quintet line-up that was active from January to March 1970. The broadcast contains the only professionally-recorded performance of “Out-Bloody- Rageous” with Lyn Dobson on second sax and it also is the only professionally-recorded alternative performance by the quintet of “Facelift” (the original appearing as the opening track on Third).

Facelift France and Holland marks the first official release of the entire show in both audio and video format. Footage of the concert was previously released in 2008 on DVD, but we have gone through the original footage once again to improve video quality as well as remove or lessen soundtrack issues including fake applause and hard edits.

In addition to the March, 1970 material presented here on CD and DVD in splendid stereo sound and looking better than it ever has before, Disc 3 presents a previously unreleased soundboard performance at Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw from January 17, 1970.

Every Soft Machine fan needs this.

“A love affair with France preserved on film – shot with tangible cinematic flair at Paris’ photogenic Theatre De La Musique in March 1970, this superb quality live footage of the Softs at their freewheeling peak was originally broadcast on French Television… Like the sounds fashioned onstage by Messrs Wyatt, Hopper, Ratledge, Dean and Dobson the visual style here is both highly fluid and refreshingly free of the stylistic cliches all too familiar from countless lookalikes in concert films… With the Softs flying high sans safety net and previewing material from their upcoming album Third, the audience in raptures, Robert Wyatt looking like the younger brother of Brian Jones and the sight of Orangina bottles decorating the top of the amps, this is a hugely evocative period piece made all the more vivid by the warm hues of the colour film stock. They sure don’t make ’em like this any more.” – Grahame Bent, Record Collector 

Find it all on Bandcamp

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