Mike Ratledge had gone along with his distinctive keyboards and Robert Wyatt has long been in a wheelchair by the time this Soft Machine album appeared. All the trademarks that had endeared the Softs to fusion lovers and the Canterbury scene had gone. There were no original members, although Jenkins, Marshall and Babbington had been in the band for a while. Not only that, but there was a new guitarist, John Etheridge, "sellout" was the cry.
To be fair, this version of the Softs had little in common with the band that produced the incredible "Third". The change in band members led to a completely different style, so much so that they could, and maybe should have, been called by another name. If they had done so, it is possible that this wouldn't be dismissed as the last gasp of a once great band. But dismissed it was. Even the cover was a dramatic departure, with its modern neon design, a little too slick.
Pity, really, as on its own terms, its a great album. The sound is largely the result of Karl Jenkins' increasing interst in composition and the wonderful guitar of John Etheridge. The latter is an overlooked genius of the instrument and should be held in the same catagory as Allan Holdsworth. He's that good. His guitar work is a study in when and when not to play, that is the gaps in his solos are as important as the notes. He also a very melodic player.
This is an album that has not lost its appeal over time, it still sounds fresh and is one that should be heard.
--Album, scans and review submitted by fellow contributor micaus. Thanks!!