Artist/ Band: Soft Machine
Title: Land of Cockayne
Label: Esoteric
Year of Release: 1981/2010
Offical Artist/ Band Link

The Review:

Yet another remastered album from the past. Soft Machine’s ‘Land of Cockayne’ was actually a Karl Jenkins solo, which he scored and conducted the string section with the music and gathered a fantastic group of musicians including Allan Holdsworth on lead guitar, Jack Bruce on bass, John Taylor on piano, Ray Warleigh alto sax and bass flute, John Marshall in drums amongst a few others. So the player skill was there. What caught most Soft Machine fans by surprise is the laid back almost adult contemporary jazz that the recording started off with. Obviously, you had to be in a certain state of mind to accept this new style but a good listen to the whole CD and you can easily piece it all together as a much more progressive recording. Yes, it is the most commercial sounding of all their catalog, and by the time this was released (1981) it was clear that the Machine was done. This is the last record they ever made.

Since I loved ‘Softs” so much, and I had been listening to dozens and dozens of ECM artists by the early 80's, I didn’t find this album to be distasteful nor expendable whatsoever. I heard some great stuff albeit it is in the classical jazz mode with lots of commercial vein to it. I still like the groove and the feel of it all. Especially track 4 (Panoramania) that takes off like some of the best music on “Softs”. I’ve said it many times, it’s a matter of taste whether a person likes something or not. And yes, I was way familiar with the early Soft Machine sound with Robert Wyatt and the crew. I think it is a matter of spreading your palette and seeing what else might strike your fancy. Another huge part is your age and how you have progressed as a music lover. What you have been exposed to and had the opportunity to hear. For me, this CD is blissful and just perfect for time when you just want to relax after a very hard day.

So I love anything John Marshall plays on drums, Allan Holdsworth plays on guitar, and John Taylor plays on piano. Even if some of it does touch on sounding like theme from some 70's TV detective show, or a bit of adult lounge music; as long as it has some great music to grab on to and ride like this CD does. Maybe the description of what ‘Land of Cockayne” really is says it best. “The Land of Cockayne is a country where life is a round of luxury and idleness. In Cockayne there are rivers of wine, house built of cake and streets paved with pastry. Roast pigs wander about with knives in their backs, crying “eat me, eat me” while naked nuns bathe in rivers of sweet milk. In the sky there is a palace of glass, floating above the clouds. Th enter this land one has to wade up to the chin in swine’s dirt for seven years”

Take it for what you will, but I can still listen to ‘Land of Cockayne’ after owning the vinyl back in the 80's (fresh off the press) and the original CD when issue. Like most of the old records that are “remastered” I rarely can hear anything different and if I do, it’s pure noodling with the treble graph from the equalizing software they use to do these quick so called “Remasters” just to take another few bucks from your wallet, a second time.

Reviewed by Lee Henderson on May 17th, 2011


01. Over 'n' above (7:24)
02. Lotus groves (4:57)
03. Isle of the blessed (1:56)
04. Panoramania (7:07)
05. Behind the crystal curtain (0:53)
06. Palace of glass (3:22)
07. Hot-biscuit Slim (7:27)
08. (Black) velvet mountain (5:10)
09. Sly monkey (5:00)
10. A lot of what you fancy... (0:35)

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