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Fourth Import, Original recording remastered

13 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Import, Original recording remastered, March 5, 2007
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Editorial Reviews

2007 digitally remastered reissue of this 1971 album from UK legends Soft Machine. In the history of Rock music, few bands underwent such a stylistic musical transformation as Soft Machine. Starting life as a band that absorbed Soul and Jazz influences, the group were one of the first to embrace Psychedelia before heading off on a Jazz influenced tangent. In hindsight Soft Machine's evolution could have only taken place in the musical free thinking environment that was the music business of the late 60's / early 70's. It was an evolution that would produce some of the most startlingly brilliant and innovative music of the period. Sony/BMG. 2007.
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (March 5, 2007)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Import, Original recording remastered
  • Label: Sony Bmg Europe
  • ASIN: B000H8RWFG
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #273,148 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By JOHN SPOKUS on February 4, 2001
Format: Audio CD
This was the second album I bought by the incredible Soft Machine (got Third first)and it's a great one. Although many American ensembles get all the credit for great jazz-rock fusion, Soft Machine, along with fellow countrymen Henry Cow deserve a nod as well. For some reason I find this to be a great night time driving album, and my cassette copy finds it's way into my car very often. I would actually recommend this as an intro to the band over the more highly regarded Third, mostly because the pieces are a little shorter and it's a single album.Soft Machine's music can be quite demanding of the listener and a shorter first dose may sit better with the uninitiated listener.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Bryan on October 6, 2009
Format: Audio CD
Some people have told me to avoid Fourth because it marked the period where the Soft Machine made the complete change into straight up jazz, and moved completely away from rock (or progressive rock) elements.

So I went into Fourth thinking I had a pretty good idea what to expect. I was wrong! I was totally expecting the moody, melodic and easy-listening kind of jazz that's featured at the end of "Slightly All the Time" from the Third album. Nope! Well, there's SOME jazz on here similar to the saxophone playing at the end of that particular song, but the kind of jazzy style that dominates Fourth is, for the most part, *unbelievably intense*.

Imagine a hard rock or heavy metal band that, instead of using an electric guitar, uses a saxophone and just rips your speakers apart with a distinct style of intensity and a distinct ability to make it melodic. That's what Fourth is like, and why it's so unique.

The *other* unique thing about Fourth is the atmosphere. I can sit here and tell you it's "haunting" and you'd probably know what to expect because you've heard haunting music plenty of times, but to be honest, it's haunting in a way that feels frighteningly real, like immediately after something horrible happens (such as a nuclear disaster for example) you'd imagine the mood of this music to match the feeling of the horrible incident. It's really bizarre and the main reason I don't play this album very often. Nothing else from the 70's contains a similar atmosphere for example. It's just "impactfully" and distinctly dark.

Take the jam in the middle of "Out-Bloody-Rageous", add some scorching saxophone jamming with tricky rhythms and other instruments all blasting at the same time, and that's what many parts of Fourth is like.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Mcdooglefish on February 4, 2009
Format: Audio CD
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!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey J.Park VINE VOICE on March 31, 2008
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
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).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Bill Your 'Free Form FM Print DJ on October 5, 2009
Format: Audio CD
Soft Machine Third marked an end for the band. Except for Robert Wyatt's "Moon In June" the band moved away from the dada humor if its first two albums and into more serious, post-Bitch's Brew jazz.

Fourth takes this idea further. Wyatt drums here, but his singing and loopy genious lyrics are gone. The band even got true Engligh jazz pros like Elton Dean and Roy Babbington to transform them from a Zappaesqe band of merry acid eaters to a straight jazz unit.

Which does not mean the cheekiness that made Soft Machine one of rock's most inventive bands ever is gone. With a chromatic romp called "Teeth," and a free form jam entitled "Flecher's Blemish," that English black humor is sublimated, not extinguished. If you look at the song titles and hear the music, the wit is evident.

This is fantastic jazz--the Softs really had little to do with rock by this point. And it is a early 70s "fusion" (I hate that non-descriptive word) at its finest. The electric panios let you know this is from this era. But unlike some early jazz rock overindulgers, Soft Machine stuck with clean sounds and clean structures, using simple lines to open space for improvosation. There are no knotty charts used.

Fourth was one of my first records beyond my Beatles/Stones/Kinks childhood, and I almost gave it five starts, because it is a classic for self-referancial reasons.

But objectively, I can't help but feel the Softs lost a little of what made them great when they abandoned the flower-power romp of the first two albums.

Still, for early 70s jazz rock, you cannot do better than this.
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