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coverpic flag Italy - Full Moon 169 - 06/26/10

Beppe Crovella
What's Rattlin' On The Moon?
MoonJune Records

We received a pile of MoonJune albums for review in May. Some of them were not brand new at the time we received them, even less so by now. But hey, the full moon of June is the perfect hour to launch the reviews of these albums anyhow. What's Rattlin' On The Moon? has the subtitle A personal vision of the music of Mike Ratledge. For the uninitiated, Mike Ratledge was the prominent keyboard player and composer of Soft Machine. Soft's Moon In June gave the name to the record company we're dealing with and here at Luna Kafé we dissected the track several full June-moons ago.

What's Rattlin’ On The Moon? is a personal vision, indeed. There are no traces neither of the Lowrey fuzz organ nor any fuzz bass, the two most outstanding characteristics of the Soft's sound. Beppe is a keyboard player that handles both Hammond and Farfisa organs, assorted pianos and other keyboards. His main instrument in several of his interpretations here is the mellotron. That old-fashioned analogue synthesiser, so to speak, is seldom used to handle the melodics. It's more commonly utilised as a wall-to-wall backdrop, the King Crimson way, you know. However, the mellotron plays the key role in the melodics of several tunes here. As a real lover of the instrument, that alone makes the album worthwhile to me. Beppe states in the CD sleeve that: 'My approach to Mike's compositions has been totally free following my own vision as the spirit of the original tunes was in a new unity of time.' I thought I knew the early Soft Machine recordings pretty good, but only occasionally I can discern familiar melody lines. Also, the instrumentation differs from the originals in other respects than the mellotron thing. Beppe uses no drums and hardly any bass (no stringed ones anyway), only keyboards. And Beppe's visions have less jazz leanings compared to Soft Machine's approach. But still the spirit of Soft Machine and Mike Ratledge is moving over the face of the waters.

In addition to ten tracks with titles from Ratledge's Soft Machine catalogue, the album includes three tracks recorded before and three after the recordings of the Soft Machine interpretations. They are grouped into Before and After The Moon and include far less mellotron and more piano doodlings than the Ratledge tracks. Although the homage to the late Soft Machine, Soft Works and Soft Machine Legacy sax player Elton Dean and bass player Hugh Hopper "Moon Geezers (To Elton & Hugh)" is a nice and sweet little piano gem, these six tracks don't quite match the preceding ten. The album as a whole would've worked better without most of these 'bonus' tracks. Well then, for Beppe, Soft Machine/Mike Ratledge and keyboard/mellotron enthusiasts What's Rattlin' On The Moon? can easily be recommended. Others who want to explore paths outside the mainstream will no doubt find something of interest here, too.

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