A 26255 Six
production credits unknown
Released on February 1973
no chart information
Find it at GEMM
A 26255 cover
[high resolution scan]

M elody Maker’s British Jazz Poll (June 1973) ranked Six the number 1 jazz album of the year. Oddly, the same readers voted Karl Jenkins as the fourth-best baritone sax player (lacking an oboe category to call his own). You’d think Jenkins would have scored higher, given that the poll placed Nucleus (his previous employer) and Soft Machine as the #1 and #2 jazz bands, but polls are often the victims of their own questions. Honestly, what kind of person can name five current baritone saxophone players, and should we really be encouraging these people? Anyway, onto Six, which was the first to feature Jenkins alongside the now-familiar nucleus of Mike Ratledge, Hugh Hopper and John Marshall. Their second double album (Third being the first, and I don’t know how this could play out more confusingly), Six is split between live (record one) and studio (record two). The audience isn’t a distraction; after all, most of them were probably really really stoned, so they’re docile as audiences go--an enthusiastic smattering of applause at the end, a stupefied mumbling for “more,” that sort of thing. Jenkins and Ratledge spar from across the stage, soprano sax and organ interlocked on numbers like “All White” and “37 1/2.” There are also short dream sequences on stage, influenced mayhaps by mister coltrane, such as “Between” and “E.P.V.” But they save the best stuff for the end: the cool Canterbury trot of “Riff” is reintroduced on “5 From 13,” interrupted by one of the more thoughtful drum solos you’ll ever hear, and closes on the radically reconstructed “Riff 2.” (Okay, maybe it’s not that radical, but I can’t resist alliteration.) Honestly, it’s a pretty ho-hum affair on stage, and the real fun starts in the studio. Beginning with “The Soft Weed Factor,” the Canterbury fusion blossoms into a beguiling garden, and the wading through all that masturbatory jizz fusion on the first half seems worth it. “Stanley Stamps Gibbon Album” sounds like a Santana record skipping over the same five seconds layered with a sax solo on 78 rpm. “Chloe and the Pirates” offers welcome respite with otherworldly sounds and Jenkins’ warmest playing, only to close with “1983” and its unsettling sound-image of luminous insects in outer space. The second record especially is where Soft Machine continues to sculpt new sounds. Is it the best British jazz record of 1973? Well, maybe, since the British are hardly known for their jazz, but on a good day RTF and Weather Report could run rings around this. If you’re soft on the Softies (or just really high), waystation Six is strong enough to support an hour of idling in your interplanetary travels, but I wouldn’t get too hung up on hanging around it.

A 26255 back picture sleeve
A 26255 back picture sleeve

TRACK LISTING

  1. FANFARE    (Karl Jenkins)    0:42
  2. ALL WHITE    (Mike Ratledge)    4:46
  3. BETWEEN    (Karl Jenkins/Mike Ratledge)    2:24
  4. RIFF    (Karl Jenkins)    4:36
  5. 37 1/2    (Mike Ratledge)    6:51
  6. GESOLREUT    (Mike Ratledge)    6:17
  7. E.P.V.    (Karl Jenkins)    2:47
  8. LEFTY    (Karl Jenkins/Mike Ratledge/John Marshall/Hugh Hopper)    4:56
  9. STUMBLE    (Karl Jenkins)    1:42
  10. 5 FROM 13 (FOR PHIL SEAMEN WITH LOVE & THANKS)    (John Marshall)    5:15
  11. RIFF II    (Karl Jenkins)    1:20
  12. THE SOFT WEED FACTOR    (Karl Jenkins)    11:13
  13. STANLEY STAMPS GIBBON ALBUM    (John Marshall)    5:50
  14. CHLOE AND THE PIRATES    (Mike Ratledge)    9:28
  15. 1983    (Hugh Hopper)    7:11

CREDITS

HUGH HOPPER -- bass guitar
KARL JENKINS -- oboe, baritone & soprano saxophones, electric piano, grand piano
JOHN MARSHALL -- drums & percussion
MIKE RATLEDGE -- organ, electric piano, grand piano, celeste

return to SOFT MACHINE discography

REGION RELEASE DATE LABEL MEDIA ID NUMBER FEATURES
UK February 1973 CBS 2LP 68214 gatefold cover
US February 1973 Columbia 2LP KG-32260 gatefold cover
US December 6, 1995 One Way Records CD A 26255  
UK 1999 Columbia CD 494981-2  
UK March 22, 2004 Edsel 2CD MEDCD-740 repackaged w. SEVEN
UK February 19, 2007 BMG/Sony CD 75912 digital remaster
JPN 2007 Sony CD MHCP-1296 digital remaster

 

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