A clamshell boxed set of the three albums that Soft Machine made on the Harvest label in the mid-‘70’s and it beggars belief that these three albums are so horribly overlooked by many.

Bearing in mind that this is, ostensibly the same Soft Machine that appeared in 1968 Canterbury as a folky/hippy/jazzy crew of young turks (originally including Daevid Allen, Kevin Ayers, Mike Ratledge and Robert Wyatt) they went through a mass of changes in lineup and form, eventually becoming a part of the London Jazz-Fusion scene in the mid-seventies. By this time they were associated with outfits such as Nucleus and their live shows were no longer acid laden jaunts at the UFO or Middle Earth but fully experimental avant garde shows.

The boxset has three albums: ‘Bundles’ from 1975, ‘Softs’ from ’76 and ‘Alive & Well’ alive album recorded in Paris in 1977 and released in ’78.
The lineup on all three is different but the music has many of the same deft syncopation and extended soloing that epitomises the fusion scene of the time.

Any of the three albums is worth picking up on but, for me, you really need to hear all three to fully understand where the band had developed to.
The furious pace and bombast of ‘Bundles’ leading into the varied forms on ‘Softs’ – neo classical one moment and furious jazz leading to stretched out and sparse experimentation – sounds very different but only by listening to both can you really get the progression of the band. The live album is exhilarating – a classic example of jazz-fusion at its finest, complex, pacy and there is a sense of musicians playing with each other in all of the senses that brings to mind.

Fans of the original Soft Machine lineup won’t really take to this but Soft Machine of this era were up there with the likes of the Mahavishnu Orchestra or Larry Coryell in terms of the jazz/rock fusion form. Very well worth a go.