Soft Machine: Elton Dean (saxello); Mike Ratledge (organ); Hugh Hopper (bass guitar); Robert Wyatt, Lyn Dobson.
Personnel: Lyn Dobson (vocals, flute, harmonica, soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone); Robert Wyatt (vocals, drums); Elton Dean (saxophone, alto saxophone); Mike Ratledge (electric piano).
Liner Note Author: Brian Hopper.
Recording information: Het Turfschip, Breda, The Netherlands (01/31/1970).
In January 1970, Soft Machine worked as a quintet, retaining the services of sax/flute player Lyn Dobson from the previous septet version of the band. Three months later he was gone and the group carried on as a quartet. The quintet recorded only one piece, "Facelift," which appeared on the seminal Third. Breda Reactor presents a near-complete concert performed in Breda, Netherlands, on January 31, 1970. The sound quality is better than on other Soft Machine documents released by Voiceprint, but is still a far cry from the comparatively hi-fi CD Noisette taken from a live performance on January 4, 1970, and released by Cuneiform five years earlier than this one. Tape hiss and distortion abound, some parts are very muddy, and the bass and organ rule the sonic spectrum, leaving very little room for Wyatt's drums (which tend to disappear in the background) and the reeds. That being said, Noisette presents a truncated set on a single CD, while Breda Reactor contains a whole (well, almost) concert split across two discs. The set list is rigorously the same, except for the tracks omitted on the Cuneiform album. Among these is the 22-minute "Facelift," a classic if Soft Machine ever had one, here given a thunderous reading. Dobson's Roland Kirk-esque flute solo at the end eases some of the audio shortcomings. By all means, acquire Noisette first: beside the sound quality argument, Elton Dean was in much better shape for that earlier show, and the fade-out two minutes into the encore of "We Did It Again" is frustrating. ~ Fran?ois Couture