Soft_Machine_-_Bundles“Holdsworth’s high velocity and utterly unique cascading, legato lines—informed by saxophonist giant John Coltrane‘s legendary “sheets of sound”—push the group towards visceral, rock-edged heights they’d never previously achieved, but especially drummer John Marshall, who matches the guitarist’s frightening runs note-for-lithe-note.” – John Kelman (jazz critic)

Soft Machine (named after William Burroughs’ book) were an underground English progressive rock group that helped pioneer the genre. For their eighth album they recruited young jazz fusion guitar virtuoso Allan Holdsworth, and the result was one of the finest albums ever produced. Below is a clip of Allan Holdsworth playing with Soft Machine at the 1974 Montreux jazz festival, a year before they released ‘Bundles’. The clip starts an ambient  soundscape titled ‘Floating World’ and then segues into the album’s title track, which then cascades into an extended and improvised solo from Allan, who is at the very top of his game

. If you have never heard of Allan Holdsworth, then you have now. Allan Holdsworth wanted to play the saxophone as a child, but his father bought him an electric guitar instead, and the rest is history. He is known for his fluid phrases and expertly quick runs up and down the fretboard. The fascinating thing about his playing is the way he emulates the saxophone giant John Coltrane, his childhood idol. His clean, yet slightly overdriven melodic lines drip out of his amp like oil. He creates a ‘wall of sound’, characteristic of Coltrane’s playing, which is a barrage of runs and scale patterns played over chord changes; it might sound like dribble at first, but when you open your ears just a little bit more and let the pure energy of each note resonate within you, you begin to realise its almost transcendental quality. Allan Holdsworth is never ‘noodling’ about on his guitar, every note has been expertly chosen and played by the incendiary flames of his subconscious, with all the emotion beneath it that you would expect from a blues player, but never a jazz one. This is Allan Holdsworth’s best playing to date… also note his white Gibson SG because it’s awesome. Another gem from the live performance of the album is ‘Hazard Profile’, which can also be found on YouTube (along with the entire concert).

* * * * 4 stars

Track Listing

  1. Hazard Profile Pt 1 – 9:18
  2. Hazard Profile Pt 2 – 2:21
  3. Hazard Profile Pt 3 – 1:05
  4. Hazard Profile Pt 4 – 0:46
  5. Hazard Profile Pt 5 – 5:29
  6. Gone Sailing – 0:59
  7. Bundles – 3:14
  8. Land of the Big Snake – 3:35
  9. The Man Who Waved at Trains – 1:50
  10. Peff – 1:57
  11. Four Gongs, Two Drums – 4:09
  12. The Floating World – 7:12

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