Written by Karl Jenkins, Soft Machine's final record was produced by Mike Thorne, who also had just produced Wire's trailblazing trilogy of art-rock albums for the Harvest label. The record's title refers to a medieval land of plenty, and plenty of diverse tracks is what the album holds. Released in 1981, Land of Cockayne arrived well past Soft Machine's sell-by date; their previous studio album was 1976's Softs, with a live album recorded and released the following year. However, joining Jenkins and drummer John Marshall were an A-list of guests: Jack Bruce, Allan Holdsworth, Alan Parker, John Taylor, Ray Warleigh and Dick Morrissey. It's also the only album from the band to feature string arrangements. But what about the music? Composed entirely by Jenkins, he moves between new agey-ness, a good measure of disco-era funk (with strings, of course), some Oldfield-like minimalism and a tiny hint of the Softs of old (there's some nice blowing toward the end of the record). Holdsworth makes his mark on "Sly Monkey," but I still can't believe how much the opener "Over ‘n' Above" sounds like Supertramp! It's a strange record; not that it's difficult to listen to or digest, but it's one that ultimately has no time or place. Soft Machine? Not really. New Age? Maybe. Rock ‘n' roll? Certainly not. 1981? Really!? Well, it opened to little fanfare; and apart from a week-long residency in 1984 at Ronnie Scott's, the album remains Soft Machine's final coda.
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Taken from The Strawberry Bricks Guide to Progressive Rock, here is an Album of the Week to enjoy and discuss.
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"Always ready with the ray of sunshine"