There’s a saying that impact and influence are not measured by sales. While true for jazz, it also holds in the rock music world. Soft Machine was a creative psychedelic rock group founded by Robert Wyatt and toured with Jimi Hendrix. Wyatt went on to record some tracks while staying with The Experience that document his creative and influential style.
For over 45 years, Robert Wyatt has been a major, creative force in music, having had a major impact on the beginnings of both psychedelic rock and jazz/rock in the UK with Soft Machine, to his eventual long solo career as a unique singer/songwriter.
In September, 1968, the Soft Machine had just finished their second, exhaustive tour of the USA supporting the Jimi Hendrix Experience. At the conclusion of the tour, vocalist/drummer/multi-instrumentalist Robert stayed, working on recordings in Hollywood and New York City.
Now, for the first time, all four of the recordings Robert made in ’68 are collected together and released!
This release is fully authorized by Robert and the liners include an in-depth interview with him about his recollections of this period of his work and life.
We continue to find releases from artists that were either lost or never meant for release. Some are ‘just another live recording’, others are out-takes that would have been better off staying lost, and entirely too few are actually worth hearing.
Not surprisingly based on the title of this post I consider this to be an essential recording for fans of rock music, and especially for anyone who considers themselves a student of the genre.
Startng off with the recently discovered ‘Chelsa’, we are transported to 1968 and some fantastic music that is both old and new – it is clearly of the era, but it has aged surprisingly well. Wyatt plays drums and organ and sings the beautiful melody over an infectious groove and simple but effective harmony. This is followed by ‘Rivmic Melodies’ – more on that in a bit.
The other amazing acetate discovery is ‘Slow Walkin’ Talk’, which is a bit noisy – but that is immediately forgiven due to the quality of the song and the spot-on bass-line by Jimi Hendrix. The album closes with another sprawling collection ‘Moon in June’, which is another sketch of a work-in-progress that was featured later on Soft Machine’s ‘Third’. ‘Moon in June’ mixes a jazzy fusion and heavy rock sensibility in a way that actually flows extremely well.
I was honestly surprised by how much I liked this recording – as I said I tend to find the demos and outtakes in most packages to be ‘filler’, and seldom listen more than once. But here you are getting a peak into Wyatt’s creative process captured in a way that is actually compelling.
My Favorite Song: “Rivmic Melodies” – maybe this is cheating since it is over 20 minutes long, and is really composed of a series of sketches that would be used as the basis of the following SOft Machine album. But if you listen to them here and in the final version, you will enjoy the spontaneity and relaxed flow of creativity. So often ‘demos’ are throwaways (i.e. most of the Quadrophenia demos), but here they shouldn’t be considered demos.
Would I recommend?: Absolutely! Let me be clear, this isn’t a bunch of pop tunes, but instead a set of four sketches and demos highlighting the talents Wyatt brought to Soft Machine.
Where to buy: $9.99 from iTunes
Source: Publisher provided download code
Here is a section of the song Rivmic Melodies: