Great Progressive Rock doesn't need a guitar
ol'guy | 01/16/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I had been at a musical festival when I first heard these guys but we all know that doesn't necessarily translate into enjoying their studio albums.....I did and still do. I NEVER would have thought I would enjoy music that did not have a guitar...but there you are! "Fourth" is innovative, melodic, intricate, and intriguing."
Nice mix of jazz, free jazz and aspects of minimalism
Jeffrey J.Park | Massachusetts, USA | 03/31/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Released in 1971, this is an excellent album from the Canterbury scene that boasts a thrilling mix of jazz, free-jazz, the avant-garde and aspects of minimalism. Of the Canterbury groups, I think that Soft Machine may have been the jazziest and this album certainly illustrates this.
The musicians are fantastic and comprise the classic lineup of Hugh Hopper (electric bass), Mike Ratledge (electric piano and (typically heavily distorted) organ), Robert Wyatt (drums) and Elton Dean (alto saxophone and saxello). The core group is augmented by Roy Babbington (acoustic bass) who would eventually join the group around the time of Seven (1973), Marc Charig (cornet), Nick Evans (trombone), Jimmy Hastings (alto flute and bass clarinet) and Alan Skidmore (tenor saxophone). All of the musicians are top shelf.
Although I loved the "straighter" jazz of tunes including Teeth (9:12) and Kings and Queens (5:02), I also liked the explosion of highly dissonant free jazz on Fletcher's Blemish (4:35) and the spacier sections of the lengthy (a little over 20:00) Virtually suite that feature the ostinati (repeated patterns) characteristic of minimalism. There are other neat techniques employed on this lengthy suite including electronic experimentation and tape loops etc. The arrangements for the brass and woodwind instruments are very interesting and at times are reminiscent of "big band" jazz.
This reissue by One-Way Records is OK and while the sound quality is excellent, the skimpy liner notes leave a lot to be desired. Then again, many of the One-Way releases are out of print and seem to be commanding fairly high prices.
All in all, this is a great album released at a time when the musical landscape (in rock) was wide open and essentially untamed. Fourth is very highly recommended to those folks that enjoy jazz and avant-garde styles just as much as rock. Other great albums include Third (1970), Six (1973) and Seven (1973)."
Madcaper's go Avant-Garde
Mr. Mcdooglefish | Salt Lake City, Utah | 02/05/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Way back in 1970 when Weather Report was just a twinkle in Joe Zawinul's eye's, The Soft Machine were across the pond in England's Canterbury scene going forward with their own brand of jazz rock fusion. Their album Third marked the beginnig of their penchant for long jazz influenced pieces. On this their follow up album Fourth, we begin to hear a more free-floating abstract jazz style, somewhat reminiscent of very early Weather Report. Casual fans of jazz will probably not care much for this very challenging psychedelic jazz rock. Fans of early 1970's fusion avant-garde may enjoy this most stimulating music!"