Time telescoped in the late-’60s/early-’70s. Year by year artists ranging from Miles Davis to Frank Zappa to David Bowie reinvented themselves, and Soft Machine was no different. Virtually no consecutive Softs albums ever had identical personnel, and with new members came new material. By 1974, when this previously unreleased CD/DVD was recorded at the Monteux Jazz Festival, only keyboards player Mike Ratledge remained from the beloved original line-up centred around Robert Wyatt.
The newest member was virtuoso guitarist Allan Holdsworth, creating a quintet with Ratledge, Karl Jenkins (keyboards/reeds), Roy Babbington (bass) and John Marshall (drums). Holdsworth’s inclusion led to the five composers churning out a fresh repertoire that would constitute the subsequent Bundles album. Some fascinating compositional ideas cohabited with mundane unison riffing, and Holdsworth became the primary soloist, which was a shame, as Ratledge remained the most original thinker, especially texturally. Nonetheless being able to see this pivotal non-US fusion band in action is fun, even if the Softs’ glory days – and sense of humour! – were behind them.