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Soft Machine

Floating World Live

Review by Gary Hill

So you say you like fusion? Do you enjoy live fusion? Well, then you should love this disc. It has elements of space rock and world music and a lot more, but overall this is just a great live disc of fusion played extremely well.

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Track by Track Review
The Floating World

Keyboards bring this up and it works out gradually from there. Other instruments are eventually added to it and the piece takes on sort of a world music meets space rock meets jazz feeling. As this continues to move forward the jazz sound with more pure progressive rock seems to lead it more.

Here we get a more energetic and adventurous jam that’s just about one hundred percent fusion. There is some cool guitar soloing built into the beast. In fact, as the guitar solos over this thing, I’m inclined to compare this to Weather Report of Return to Forever.
Land Of The Big Snake
Coming out of the previous cut, the guitar continues to dominate here and the same fusion comparisons are valid on this one, also.
Ealing Comedy
Coming out of the previous cut, this is a bass solo. It feels both fusion like and prog oriented. The man can play and it’s more of a “song” oriented solo than just a flash solo. The one thing I’d say, and keep in mind, bass guitar is my first instrument to play, this thing is a little long and starts to get a little boring after a while. Of course, it’s also over six minutes long and almost all unaccompanied bass solo.
The Man Who Waved At Trains
Sounds that began at the end of the previous cut start to rise up, but then the bass again leads the way, with a new progression. Violin rises up to take the lead after a while and weaves some cool melodies in the progress. Eventually the guitar solos, too, but overall it’s the violin that drives this piece the most.
Coming out of the previous piece, this one has an even more pure jazz vibe to it. The jamming gets a little noisy, but it’s also very tasty and the bass line that drives underneath is awesome. This is one of the most bombastic cuts of the set and also one of the most energized. It’s a real rocker. It dissolves to near chaos at the end.
North Point
Almost random sounds open this and hold it, a bit like computer music. This is a keyboard solo, but it just doesn’t work that well for me. The whole thing feels a bit too much like music to a video game.
Hazard Profile (Part One)
Drums lead us out of the previous tune. While it seems like we might be about to get a drum solo, after twenty seconds or so, they launch out into a jam that seems like one part fusion merged with a Led Zeppelin styled riff. This is a definite highlight of the set, part prog rock and part fusion. As the bass guitar drives this later, it feels a bit like something from Grand Funk Railroad, if Al Di Meola were soloing over GFR’s rhythm section.
Now, here we do get that drum solo. I’m not a big fan of drum solos, but this one is pretty cool. It does tend to overstay its welcome, but then again, see the first part of my previous sentence. At over ten minutes in length, this is no short solo, that’s for sure.
Riff III
There’s a bit of funk in this jazzy mix as this tune rises up from the drum solo. The bass plays a prominent role in this tune and I also love the retro keyboard sounds. This is one of the highlights of the set. Guitar soloing does take it later. This gets incredibly intense further down the musical road.
Song Of Aeolus
This is both more pure progressive rock and more “song” like. There are some cool keyboard soloing sections and some other intriguing melodies in the mix.
And this one starts with another drum solo. After thirty seconds or so the other instruments join and they launch into a cool fusion jam from there. This is another composition that features some amazing guitar soloing. There is more of a prog sound later in the piece and it gets quite exploratory. At times I’m reminded a bit of Pink Floyd, but other sounds are also all over this thing.
Penny Hitch (Coda)
Somehow the jam that opens this makes me think of a cross between early Santana and jazz with some Pink Floyd in the mix.
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