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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Soft Machine

Live at the Baked Potato

Review by Gary Hill

This is a new live album recorded at a Los Angeles show in 2019. The instrumental music here has a jam band vibe throughout a lot of it, but it is also quite jazzy and decidedly prog. As you might expect of a recent recording, the sound quality is great. The performance is inspired and effective. The lineup on this album is John Etheridge (guitar), Theo Travis (saxophone, flute and piano), Roy Babbington (bass guitar) and John Marshall (drums). All deliver potent  work. 

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) in Music Street Journal: 2020  Volume 4. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2020.
Track by Track Review
Out-Bloody-Intro
Coming in mellower and rising up gradually, this has a real trippy kind of vibe to it. It remains largely sedate throughout. As you might guess, given the titles, this eventually glides into the next piece.
Out-Bloody-Rageous, Part 1
The sounds of the last number bring this into being. A killer guitar jam that makes me think of The Doors a bit rises up to join. The track moves forward into some particularly effective jazz-meets-jam-band vibe.  At times there is a bit on Allman Brothers thing to it. The cut gets into some killer music explorations and really works well. It is quite dynamic, shifting this way and that.
Sideburn
This is a drum solo that runs for nearly two-and-a-half minutes.
Hazard Profile, Part 1
Coming out of the previous piece, a smoking hot guitar riff brings this in from there. The tune works out to more inspired jamming that has plenty of jazz in the mix. There is some powerhouse guitar soloing on this number, bringing some screaming hot sound to it. This thing is positively incendiary as it builds outward. It keeps evolving from there, getting into some of great fusion meets prog jamming beyond that section.
Kings and Queens
This number comes in mellower. There are hints of world music along with psychedelia and jazz in the mix. Flute is a prominent feature of the cut. The piece has some classy instrumental explorations built into it.
The Tale of Taliesin
Rising up gradually, as the guitar starts soloing there is more of a psychedelic Allman Brothers vibe. The cut drifts on through a number of changes and moods in a rather organic, jam-band way.  There is some scorching instrumental work later in the number.
Heart Off Guard
A jazzy guitar solo with definite classical elements for than a minute of its running time, a horn rises up to join the guitar as the exploration continues. This definitely makes me think of King Crimson in some ways. This seems to connect directly to the next piece.
Broken Hill
I love the guitar lines that dance over the top of the slow moving opening section of this. The number evolves, but doesn’t change a lot as it moves forward.
Fourteen Hour Dream
I love the killer fusion meets jam band approach on this number. The tune really has an exploratory vibe. The guitar soloing is so expressive. There is some great bass sound later in the number. I dig the flute soloing, too.
The Man Who Waved At Trains
Not a big change in terms of style, this is another piece that has a lot of fusion built into it. It glides through shifts and movements with style and class. .
Life on Bridges
Jazz and classical music merge on this number. The guitar brings a harder edge to it with a bit of a King Crimson thing at times. It’s quite an effective and dynamic piece of music.
Hidden Details
This is another powerhouse tune. It has some of the most potent musical passages of the whole set. There is some killer jamming built into this thing. It has a lot of differing movements and moods along the road. At over seven minutes long, it’s also one of the most extensive pieces here. It makes for a great closing piece.
 
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