Soft Machine: Live At The Baked Potato

In brief:
"...the great thing about the current group is that there is no desire to live in the past. The Soft Machine project seems to be pointed forward and not part of the heritage industry"

Would the Liverpool of 2020 stuff the Liverpool of 1981-1986? Would Sam Snead and Tommy Armour with modern equipment beat the majors tally of Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods? Are the latter-day Soft Machine as good as the band that made Third, Fourth and Fifth? Excellent material for a saloon-bar barney but such relativism is usually slightly beside the point.

Whatever the merits of the old Softs, they aren’t around now and some of the old membership (Dean, Hopper, Ayers, Holdsworth) is dead, and the current incarnation of the band is actually bloody good. It’s worth remembering that three out of the four current Softs, who marked the band’s half centenary last year with a major tour, have pedigree going back to the 70s and that the only “new” member is Theo Travis, who’s a senior figure himself now, though not quite as venerable as his colleagues.


Live At The Baked Potato was recorded in Los Angeles. They probably wouldn’t have got out alive without playing Out-Bloody-Rageous and The Man Who Waved At Trains, but the great thing about the current group, despite the presence of John Marshall, Roy Babbington and John Etheridge, is that there is no desire to live in the past. The Soft Machine project seems to be pointed forward and not part of the heritage industry, which would be a much more comfortable gig and possibly a more lucrative one.

Though the set also includes Hugh Hopper’s Kings And Queens and Karl Jenkins’s Hazard Profile and The Tale Of Taliesin, the music is fresh and alert. Travis and Etheridge are the main composers, with the guitarist’s Heart Off Guard and Travis’s Life On Bridges (it follows The Man Who Waved At Trains and might have been inspired by it) both vital new items in the Soft Machine book.

The sound’s very good and everything comes through strongly. What in former times could sound like a solid clump of electric sound, now has a bit of air round the instruments, which is another reason to prefer the current group.

Buy Soft Machine: Live At The Baked Potato at

Out-Bloody-Intro; Out-Bloody-Rageous; Sideburn; Hazard Profile Pt 1; Kings And Queens; The Tale Of Taliesin; Heart Off Guard; Broken Hill; Fourteen Hour Dream; The Man Who Waved At Trains; Life On Bridges; Hidden Details (64.30)
Theo Travis (ts, f, elp); John Etheridge (elg); Roy Babbington (elb); John Marshall (d). LA, c. 2020.
Dyad DY031


Jazz Journal articles by month

Keith Jarrett: La Fenice

Jarrett’s newest release of solo piano, recorded live at the Gran Teatro La Fenice opera house in Venice, Italy, continues in the style which...

Obituary: Richard Wyands

Richard Wyands began studying the piano at the age of seven or eight and showed remarkable proficiency. By his own admission, “I was very...

Border crossings: 50 years of ECM Records /1

‘Manfred Eicher and ECM have given invaluable opportunities for fresh musical ideas and experiences of lasting quality to reach listeners world-wide. What they have...

So You Want To Sing The Blues: A Guide For Performers

'’s also a text that could appeal to any music fan who wants to understand more about how the blues are sung' The title of...

Norah Jones: Live at Ronnie Scott’s

Jones’s Come Away With Me album was a great example of highly effective music marketing, using what might seem like the most unlikely of...

JJ 06/80: Rollins reflects

"What is he doing? One of the most influential of all tenor saxophonists playing Isn't She Lovely or something called Disco Monk. It's just...