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Old 12-06-2016, 10:02 AM   #118 (permalink)
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Frownland has made some very valid and important points vis a vis recording techniques in the last few posts, something I have not really covered up to now, not being versed in such, and not being a musician. I did watch George Martin's fascinating documentary Soundbreaking – highly recommended – and was amazed to find that originally, back in the forties and fifties, and especially with jazz bands apparently, the process of recording was: band come into studio, play, are recorded directly to the album which is then cut, all done in one take! Primitive, and with no room for overdubs, changes, cutting or anything else, and extremely immediate. Also meant everyone had to get it right first time, as there was no second chance. With that in mind, then yes, the evolution of the recording of sound through the works of The Beatles, Zappa and Beefheart, among others, underwent something of a seismic change during the latter half of the sixties and on into the seventies, and for those reasons alone these bands and their engineers and producers should be credited with having added to the overall sound that emerged eventually as progressive rock. Thanks, dude!

Album title: Nice
Artiste: The Nice
Nationality: British
Label: Immediate
Year: 1969
Grade: A
Landmark value: For this album, I don't know. Some of it was rehashed stuff from the first album, so other than carrying on the legacy from that, I don't guess all that much.
Tracklisting: Azael revisited/ Hang on to a dream/ Diary of an empty day/ For example/ Rondo '69/ She belongs to me

All right buddy! Stop right there!
This album is neither available on Spotify or god-damn YouTube, and I will be fucked if I am paying for it just to review it! So unless someone can shoot me a link, this will have to be one we pass over. We've had two albums from the Nice already so I doubt we're really going to be missing anything out...

So it's on to

Album title: Volume Two
Artiste: Soft Machine
Nationality: British
Label: Probe
Year: 1969
Grade: A
Landmark value: Given that Soft Machine were major players in the Canterbury Scene, and that they were essentially if not copying then at least being influenced by Zappa for the British market, I guess it would have to be seen as a pretty important album in the overall scheme of things.
Tracklisting: Rivmic melodies (Pataphysical introduction Pt 1/ A concise British alphabet Pt 1/ Hibou, anemone and bear/ A concise British alphabet Pt 2/ Hulloder/ Dada was here/ Thank you Pierrot Lunaire/ Have you ever bean green/ Pataphysical introduction Pt 2/ Out of tunes) / As long as he lies perfectly still/ Dedicated to you but you weren't listening/ Esther's nose job (Fire engine passing with bells clanging/ Pig/ Orange skin food/ A door opens and closes/ 10.30 Returns to the bedroom)
Comments: Well just looking at the song titles I'm definitely feeling a Beefheart come on, or at least an English Zappa! In other words, a little trepidation is creeping in! Bit of an abrupt start really, nice piano line with just a spoken vocal (well I guess it is an introduction) which then runs into a literal singing of the ABC and then with a buzzy guitar we hit the first song proper (this is all part of an overarching suite called “Rivmic melodies” - get it? English people often speak in this way: rhythm becomes rivvim, so it's actually a play on the way they would say “rhythmic melodies”) “Hibou, anemone and bear” and it's quite jazzy in its way, a six-minute instrumental with a lot of horn I guess, kinda psych too – oh, there are vocals coming in now. So much for being an instrumental. Sort of calming down now into a nice pastoral sort of sound, gentle vocal, quite nice. Will it stay that way? Well, kind of, and then we're into another recitation of the alphabet (this time backwards) before it's on to “Dada was here” via a short little ditty called “Hulloder”.

“Dada” sounds like it might be sung in Spanish or Portugeuse or something, pleasant enough, and the next three tracks all average just under or over one minute, so hard to judge them really. The piece then ends on “Out of tunes” which is essentially a Beefheartesque manic run with everything going at once. I can see why they so titled it! Chaotic is not the word, though I'm sure it's anything but chaotic. It sounds a mess, but then rather than actually everyone being out of tune, I have no doubt this is a band so well versed in their music that they can pretend to play out of tune while still being totally in control of what they play. That's true class. Nevertheless, it sounds like a mess to me.

Side two opens with “As long as he lies perfectly still”, which kind of sounds like a cross between The Beatles and later soul music. Can't say I'm wild about it. One more short song then with “Dedicated to you but you weren't listening”, a simple little acoustic ballad before we move into the second suite, which this time is called “Esther's nose job” (don't ask me! Oh, apparently it's from a novel) which is broken into five parts, the first of which is simply called “Fire engine passing with bells clanging” and features an extended organ run and percussion, which sounds nothing to me like fire engines, but there you go, and on into “Pig”, which runs on bass piano and percussion, and reminds me of the Peanuts music, then “Orange skin food” is a kind of jazzy continuation of the theme begun in the previous track, with what sounds like warbly effects on the organ while sax keeps up an annoying sound like a car alarm going off.

Now we have “A door opens and closes”, as electric guitar takes over and rocks things up a little, horns and organ also getting in on the act, with some scat singing for good measure, and the piece comes to a close on “10:30 returns to the bedroom”, a decent instrumental workout, and the second longest track at over four minutes.

Favourite track(s): I didn't really like any of this. Most of the songs were too short, and even those longer suites were made up of songs that were too short. Much of it was what I would term musical nonsense and I got very little personally out of the album.
Least favourite track(s): As above
Overall impression: Really odd and weird, kind of like a more musical Zappa or Beefheart. Some very weird ideas, some clever ones but overall I personally for myself found it to be something of a mess and I couldn't get my head around much, indeed, most of it. I fear Soft Machine may remain a mystery to me. Nevertheless, because of their massive influence on the Canterbury Scene they had to score big on the Legacy Rating, whatever I may think.
Personal Rating:
Legacy Rating:
Final Rating:
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