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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Soft Machine Legacy

Steam

Review by Gary Hill

Fusion is the biggest serving on the menu here. That said, there is a lot of King Crimson here, too. And it tends to wander between periods of Crimson. Add in some Pink Floyd and even some Jethro Tull, Hawkwind and Led Zeppelin and you’ve got a good idea of the range of this thing. It’s a strong album that’s easy to listen to.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2013  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Footloose

This comes in with a dramatic crescendo and then turns to some rather tentative jazz at first. After a time the bass takes over and leads this out into a cool jazz groove. There are hints of world music in the melodies that carry it. As this cut continues to evolve, there are moments where it feels a bit like Red era King Crimson. This really gets fairly crazed at times. The guitar leads a freeform jazz jam that’s got some hints of space rock later.

The Steamer
Horn playing really rules this cut. It’s got a real straightahead mainstream jazz vibe to it and some great musical shifts and turns along the way. Past the two and a half minute mark the guitar takes command and the piece moves more towards a space rock meets fusion kind of vibe.
The Big Man
The sound that starts this is almost like a heavy metal drone. Horn powers up over the top of that shifting it into the fusion/rock zone. There’s definitely a space rock element as they continue. This is very heavy and very crunchy, though. It’s also tastefully weird. It gets pretty crazed before it ends as it explores spacey jazz soundscapes.
Chloe & The Pirates
Much mellower and more mainstream, this is tasty stuff. It’s slow moving and more “song” like. It’s one of the most accessible pieces here.
In The Back Room
There really is sort of a back room jazz club vibe to parts of this. It works out from there, though, in a more straight fusion jam mid-track. We get some pretty free form jamming as the guitar leads this into different directions later. Still, it does work out to more mainstream jazz in the closing movements.
The Last Day
Starting with tentative, noisy weirdness, this works from there in a freeform space music kind of way. It really does get pretty strange as it continues to explore outward. A little before the three minute mark it settles into just some hints of a groove. It builds out from there in something like jazz meets space rock and Jethro Tull.
Firefly
There’s an energetic kind of jazz jam driving this thing. Lots of soloing is heard all over it and the thing just works really well. It does have some twists and turns and gets a little strange at times, but overall it’s more mainstream than a lot of the music here. There’s a drum solo in the midst of this one, too. It still quite exploratory, but features some great jazz jamming.
So English
As this enters it almost feels like Hawkwind, but then it just sort of becomes a sparse arrangement of symphonic weirdness a bit like early King Crimson. This does get more filled out in terms of less empty space, but it’s quite freeform and rather strange throughout.
Dave Acto
This one is very much freeform Hawkwind style jamming. It’s weird and tasty at the same time. It twists out to an almost Led Zeppelin-like riff dominated jam later, though. That gets a King Crimson treatment as it continues.
Anything To Anywhere
A killer jazz rock groove opens this and holds it for a while. It eventually drops down to more sparse musical explorations, though. Around the three minute mark it powers back up to a smoking hot fusion jam. Different instruments lead the way at different points, but it remains compelling throughout.
 
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