Live at the Baked Potato by Soft MachineRelease date: June 10, 2020
Label: MoonJune Records
“You may laugh at me/Say I don’t deserve”/all the things I had/Sad.” Despite the various line-up changes, and its formation in 1966 in Canterbury, the Soft Machine had crossed over two genres. From the psychedelic scene to Jazz Rock, they still have a huge impact throughout their 54 year career. Whether its Robert Wyatt, Kevin Ayers, Allan Holdsworth, Mike Ratledge, Hugh Hopper, or Karl Jenkins, their music has never, ever burned out.
That and the live album released on the MoonJune Records entitled Live at the Baked Potato, showcases John Etheridge, Theo Travis, John Marshall, and Roy Babbington at their best. Recorded during their world tour for their promotion on their Hidden Details album on the first of February of last year, it shows that the band are at their best by giving the audience a lot of support by releasing all of the ammunition they unleashed at the pint-sized Jazz club in Los Angeles.
Listening to this live recording, you can just close your eyes and imagine yourself being at that venue, showing support to the Soft Machine sound. I can imagine the quartet were having a ball at the club by keeping the sound alive.
Starting things off is the introduction of ‘Out-Bloody-Rageous’ with Theo Travis who not only channels Ratledge’s arrangements, but Terry Riley for the first two minutes as to get the audience’s ready for an adventure they’ll never forget. And they go into the first part of the composition from the Third album as guitars, drums, and bass go into this climatic mode. And then Theo channels the riffs of Elton Dean while he and John Marshall channel some incredible challenges as Etheridge and Babbington do this dueling melody where I can imagine the club had their jaws dropped. ‘Sideburn’ sees Marshall go into this pounding section on his drum kit by bringing out the big guns to add some intense explosions by giving Etheridge a chance to get ready by raising hell.
‘Hazard Profile, Part 1’ is not only John honoring the late great Allan Holdsworth, but adding some extensions that the crowd lends his support by laying down the law on the frets whenever he plays. He and Babbington take it up a notch as they once more duel between each other. Then, in the 1 minute and 40 second mark, Roy and John are laying down some heavy metallic grooves as Roy’s dooming bass and Etheridge’s improvisations that fill out the club like a flaming fire won’t burn out. ‘Kings and Queens’ sees Babbington channels Paul Chambers by honoring the styles between ‘So What’, ‘Freddie Freeloader’, and ‘All Blues’ from Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue.
This time, he comes centerstage as he and Travis sets up this game of chess with some incredible moments while on ‘Fourteen Hour Dream’ he takes his bass line by driving down the deserted highway. They take audiences along for the ride as it not only becomes a ride down to the countryside, but a beautiful landscape that goes into higher levels. With ‘Broken Hill Dream’, Etheridge takes the Baked Potato into the Boulevard of Broken Dreams by creating these mournful, relaxed, and echoing bluesy guitar work. He comes to the forefront once more as he drives into this area in L.A. where you do not want to go into.
And then on ‘Hidden Details’ which closes the live set off gives the people at the Baked Potato a great send-off, it is the Soft Machine’s nod to both to the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Deodato. Travis takes his sax into the night while the band lays down some funky-jazzy grooves as Babbington, Etheridge, and Marshall take over in the midsection before bringing the curtain down and ending on a high note to roaring applause. If you’re very new to the Soft Machine’s music, Live at the Baked Potato is perhaps a great introduction to get you into the band’s work.
It’s time to get that energetic juice going by spending a night for a Moon in June, the hope for happiness, and a search for the Soft Weed Factor as well. The live recording that MoonJune Records unleashed this year is right up in your alley to get you into the Soft Machine sound.