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The Soft Machine

Canterbury Scene

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The Soft Machine Fourth album cover
3.48 | 261 ratings | 33 reviews | 20% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1971

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Teeth (9:15)
2. Kings and queens (5:02)
3. Fletcher's blemish (4:35)
4. Virtually part 1 (5:16)
5. Virtually part 2 (7:09)
6. Virtually part 3 (4:33)
7. Virtually part 4 (3:23)

Total Time: 39:13


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Music tabs (tablatures)

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Line-up / Musicians

- Elton Dean / alto sax, saxello
- Hugh Hopper / bass guitar
- Mike Ratledge / organ, piano
- Robert Wyatt / drums

- Roy Babbington / double bass
- Mark Charig / cornet
- Nick Evans / trombone
- Jimmy Hastings / alto flute, bass clarinet
- Alan Skidmore / tenor sax

Releases information

LP CBS S 64280 (1971, UK)

CD Epic/Sony ESCA (1991)
CD One Way Records (1995)

Numerous LP and CD reissues

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to NotAProghead for the last updates
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THE SOFT MACHINE Fourth ratings distribution

(261 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(20%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(44%)
Good, but non-essential (26%)
Collectors/fans only (9%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

THE SOFT MACHINE Fourth reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
3 stars (fourth of a series of eleven)

3.5 stars really! How can you follow their previous album ? By going in the direction they started with THIRD and let the Psychadelic Caterpillar transform itself into this majestic Fusion Buterfly. But by god is this ever cold sounding.....

Side 1 is made from three tracks some very jazz sounding without the fusion element especially the Ratledge-penned opening track and therefore lack a bit of punch (energy). Elton Dean makes his mark and one can feel that Wyatt will not hang around much longer as this is a totally instrumental album. I even think that Ratledge asked him not to sing on the album because he did not like his voice (Tbc).....

But this album is Hugh Hopper's album: he composed the multi-movement suite on side 2 , some of it quite delightful in athmospheres and they get some help from the "Keith Tippet Boys" Charig and Evans and from ex-Nucleus Babbington as they add much of the punch lacking on side 1 . His Kings track on side 1 was also the better one.


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Review by Philo
4 stars There is a quality about Fourth that is carried on from Third but to me is more warmer in a very subliminal way with a touch of '50 jazz played with a late '60's early '70's rock'n'fused mentality. For a long time Fourth has been the most played Soft Machine album I possess and while certainly not as diverse or as strong as Third it does have a very endearing feeling. But then again Soft Machine are a very unique band and played a music they possibly could never be masters at but with Hugh Hopper and Elton Dean bending and driving notes would help cover up any limitations/overindulged and frustrated noise that may have ebbed through. "Teeth" is a continuous rolling piece of Soft Machine filth that becomes hypnotic and embedded in your brain like a stoned out daze. All parts of "Virtually" are equal to it and this would be the nearest the Softs get to recreating a full blown almost side long jazzy jam as it shuffles along at will. The fact that Robert Wyatt does not add any vocal to any of the compositions on Fourth is in my book a blessing. His voice is certainly an acquired taste and I much preferred the complete instrumentation running from start to finish. The one big factor he provide to the Soft Machine was his drumming, he provided a raw and rocking looseness. But as he exited the Softs soon after the release of this album his replacement John Marshall lacked that edge and instead added a schooled discipline as the Soft Machine fragmented.


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Review by Trotsky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars The story of Soft Machine's progression (some might say decline!) from whimsical psych- tinged proto-proggers (that amazingly housed Daevid Allen, Kevin Ayers and Robert Wyatt at the same time!) to full-blown jazz-fusion instrumentalists is pretty well-known. I've often felt that while the band had all the ingredients, the recipe was rarely as well-balanced as it could have been (Volume Two and Third are my favourites).

Certainly by the time Fourth was cut, the influence of the early trio was hardly felt, with Allen and Ayers long gone, and Wyatt neither singing nor composing a track on an album that was to prove his last with Soft Machine. Here the jazzer instincts of organist Mike Ratledge and sax-player Elton Dean are predominant, although it is actually bassist Hugh Hopper who makes the strongest contributions in the composing department.

Ratledge's opener Teeth is toothless for too long, and a Dean freak-out over some jazz- rock towards the end doesn't save it. Dean's Fletcher's Blemish is equally flaccid, although its improvisatory nature means that it at least isn't as sterile as Teeth. On the positive side the Hopper compositions Kings And Queens and the four-part Virtually are stronger. The former is a brooding affair, while Virtually is the highlight of the album, despite being uneven. It kicks off with a guest spot from Nucleus' Roy Babington on double bass, and as some great drumming by Wyatt to boot. When Ratledge is involved the song really cooks (I particularly like the second half of Part 2) but that isn't often enough for my liking. There's also some nice "fuzzy" playing towards the end of Part 3, but for the life of me, I can't figure out which instrument it is!

Overall though, there's nothing here that approaches the heights of Ratledge's great organ performances on the preceeding album Third, which is probably why I consider this album a disappointment. ... 54% on the MPV scale


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Review by Bj-1
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars One of my favorite Soft Machine releases, "Fourth" saw them progress further into regular jazz though it still had the canterbury sounding to it. It's similar to "Third", only more jazz oriented. As with all Soft Machine releases this one shows that this band really can play, it's more or less flawless technically, and the band masters the insanely difficult time signatures with complete ease. Unfortunately, this was drummer Robert Wyatt's last album with the band, it seemed that he didn't like the direction the band was going through, so he quitted to make his own solo career.

Musically, the songs are well balanced and pretty even. The best cut have to be the opener, "Teeth", one of their very best songs and perhaps the jazziest on the album. Hugh Hopper's "Virtual" suite is also a stand-out here. Overall, the album has enough to please most jazz-rock/canterbury fans, though it's a bit inacessible but it's a grower, so don't worry! Newbies should hear some of their other stuff first though, otherwise this one is highly recommended. 4.25/5


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Review by Zac M
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars It was clearly obvious by this time that Soft Machine had changed for good. This album, while good, doesn't live up to the three previous albums. The band, with little Wyatt influence (this was infact his last release with the band), had decided to head in a more avant jazz/rock direction. I agree with Hugues remark about this album seeming "cold" compared to the band's previous albums.

The incorporation of wind parts by Dean and co. make this album particularly interesting. Elton Dean is a remarkable artist and free jazz musician, and his influence on this album is even more pertinent than on Third. I may be the only one, but I particularly enjoy the album opener. It's probably my favorite track on the entire album, although Hopper's side-long suite is particularly good as well. It's too bad this was the last album with Wyatt on drums, but I can see why he left. The band were obviously treading in one direction and Wyatt in another.

Like I said, this is a good release, but to me, it is no more interesting than Wyatt's The End of an Ear, which was released earlier. While an essential release for Softs fans, I can still only award this album 3 stars, although 3.5 would be more like it. It's just not quite good enough for four stars.


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Review by febus
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam

By the time FOURTH was released-1971-, SOFT MACHINE was one of the biggest name not only on the prog scene, but on the whole rock scene overall. Their first 3 albums were total creative, innovative, ground breaking masterpieces very challenging but were received to great critic and..commercial acclaim. Quite a feat coming with some music such as FACELIFT. Their tours were also very successful and often played sold out and were even a regular staple on rock TV shows of this time in Europe as wellL.

Specialized Rock magazines held many yearly polls back then on who is the best keyboardist, best guitarist, etc and the names of HUGH HOPPER, MIKE RATLEDGE or ROBERT WYATT were always in consideration. But the glorious times won't last as SOFT MACHINE would waste no time to squander their newly aquired relative fame by releasing non-descript albums such as FOURTH.

For the first time -and only time- in SOFT MACHINE history , there won't be any personel changes between albums; So the same quartet RATLEDGE-HOPPER-WYATT-DEAN is back with some help of their friends like NUCLEUS bassist-future SOFT MACHINE member ROY BABBINGTON or the great flutist JIMMY HASTINGS. If FOURTH is numerically the successor of THIRD, there are big differences between these two releases.

1) One could expect that after 3 very creative LPs, the band at some point would lose some spark and get into some kind of a inspirational slump. It just happened here as MIKE RATLEDGE, the main architect of THIRD comes back with only one track TEETH, a complete jazz tune with absolutely no ''teeth'', 10 mns of conventional jazz with no particular memorable parts and endless soloing. This is not even jazz/rock, don't mention the word ''fusion'' either; just 50s jazz played by a 70s british band.

2) The same musicians who played on THIRD are all present on FOURTH, but there is a another BIG difference between the 2 albums. ROBERT WYATT's voice has been completely shut down as FOURTH is entirely instrumental.Any link with the past when SOFT MACHINE was playing fresh and funny music has been cut for good.When you listening to FOURTH , you cant believe that this is the same band KEVIN AYERS and DAEVID ALLEN played with not a long time ago.

Not only, we are not treated to the delicate vocals of ROBERT, but he is also completely absent in the composition department. He is merely just a drummer and that's it.I am sure you guess this would be his last album with SOFT MACHINE before going to form MATCHING MOLE ( a sacarstic frenchized name for his former band)

3) ROBERT WYATT might not have been authorized by boss MIKE to bring any new songs, but ELTON DEAN did! He came with an atrocious, horrible piece of ''music'' (or lack of) named FLETCHER'S BLEMISH a complete free-form jazz experimentation with no heads or tails. Just think of you bringing 3 friends in your garage, just take any instruments and play them without worrying what the others are doing!! FLETCHER'S BLEMISH is just as good! A shame for a band that was so creative very recently.

4) the sound of the overall music has quite changed since THIRD. First of all, MIKE RATLEDGE spends more time behind the electric piano than using his organ. One important part of THIRD magic was his organ playing, especially the unique gorgeous sound he could get out of this instrument. It is still present on some parts and of course, they are the best moments of FOURTH; the very nice KINGS AND QUEENS, the best track of the album penned by HUGH HOPPER; A 5 mn tune that could have been featured on THIRD holding its own worth.

HUGH HOPPER too ''forgot'' somewhere his distinctive fuzz bass which created such beautiful music mixed with the organ of RATLEDGE on THIRD . You have to wait for the end of the ex-side 2 of the album to hear it again on the side long suite VIRTUALLY reminding us of the good old sound, especially when coupled with the organ sound we loved. The problem is this HUGH HOPPER suite VIRTUALLY is nothing great compared to any THIRD 4 masterpieces.

One thing for sure, we cannot criticize the fact SOFT MACHINE was not trying to please the masses at this time, they went their own way, play the music they wanted, but i am not sure a lot of SOFT MACHINE fans wanted to listen to straight sounding Jazz with barely any rock reference in their music. This is ''serious'' music, but boring music they will perform for a while played by men with moustaches looking like college science or old Greek professors losing their fans along the road. Where were you, KEVIN at this time?with Lady RACHEL, i guess!

What a transformation between the end od 1969 and 1971? same name, two different bands with nothing in common. Surprisingly ,FOURTH did relatively well commercially, but i think it's more due to the strenght of its predecessor than the musical value of this album. In France, it went even #9 in sales in the rock sales ( even if there is barely anything remotely rock in it) but the buyers will make sure that the next FIFTH won't chart as well anywhere; they learned their lesson!

It will take time for SOFT MACHINE to come back with good albums, but they will! However, that will be -once again- a different SOFT MACHINE, a different band, a different sound! I like this band, but i have to be honest with FOURTH, i cannot give it more than.....



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Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Fourth is the ( well yes) the fourth album from The Soft Machine. On the previous album Third The Soft Machine was almost transformed from a psychadelic canterbury rock band into a jazz combo. There were enjoyable moments on Third for those of us who are not very interested in jazz, but those moments were far between. The most of Moon in June was great though. On Fourth the transformation is complete. The Soft Machine is now a jazz band.

The music is dominated by sax soloing by Elton Dean who is now a steady member of the band. Mike Ratledge also plays some organ solos occasionally. The drum and bass playing from Robert Wyatt and Hugh Hopper is great as always. Robert Wyatt has dropped the vocals on Fourth which is fully instrumental. There are still a few psychadelic moments and I must say itīs about the only thing I enjoy on this album. Virtually part 3 and 4 have an almost ambient atmospheric sound that I can partially enjoy while the be-bop/ free jazz of Teeth and especially Fletcherīs Blemish is annoying if Iīm in a good mood and downright terrible if Iīm not. I canīt stand this style of music.

The musicianship is good as mentioned so I wonīt say anything negative about that part of Fourth.

The production is also very good.

Third was a great disappointment to me but Fourth drives the last nail into Soft Machines coffin. This is a terrible album if you ask me. This is only recommendable to jazz freaks. Donīt expect what I associate with Canterbury on Fourth which means whimsical vocals, soft prog rock with jazzy elements and great humour. The only reason I donīt rate this 1 star is because of the outstanding musicianship. This is a 2 star album for me.


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Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars I think the reason I like this album so much is because Hopper composed most of it. This is very jazzy, but at at the same time it's not normal Jazz. There are lots of dissonant and Avant-garde passages plus some Free-Jazz improvs which makes this a little difficult to digest if your not into this style of music. This is SOFT MACHINE's first all-instrumental album much to Wyatt's disappointment. He would leave after this recording.

"Teeth" is a Ratledge composition and it does have it's moments (haha). Keys, drums and sax are quite prominant early as we get outbursts of sounds until a steady melody arrives with throbbing bass. Sax leads the way though. Very jazzy. It stops before 3 1/2 minutes and then we get blasted with sounds including fuzz. Keys lead the way 4 1/2 minutes in but the music changes so often. Ratledge does lead the way though from 6 1/2 minutes in to the end with some fuzzed out organ runs. "Kings And Queens" is a Hopper tune. This is perhaps my favourite along with parts of "Virtuality". This one is dark with some atmosphere. Wyatt really shines with his intricate drum work. Sax comes and goes. The piano is reserved and the bass is subtle. Some dissonant sax late. "Fletcher's Blemish" is such a unique title. It fits the music though. This is Elton Dean's baby, and the Free-Jazz maestro offers up just that, a Free-Jazz improv. Avant-garde is the word folks.

"Virtuality" is divided into 4 parts and takes up side two of the album. This is Hopper's suite. Part 1 features some alto sax as Wyatt keeps very busy. He seems to shine on the Hopper tunes. The sax stops as bass comes in around 1 1/2 minutes, the sound is very reserved. Keys also join in around 3 minutes as it seems to build. A fuller sound 4 1/2 minutes in as sax returns. Part 2 opens with fuzz organ and horns. The sax and drums become more prominant. This continues until we get more of a melody after 3 1/2 minutes. This sax led passage continues to the end of this part. Part 3 really does't have a lot going on. This is darker and more atmospheric. I like it. Lots of fuzz bass 2 minutes in to the end of this part with atmospheric keys helping out. Nice. Part 4 continues with the almost spacey vibe as atmospheric keys, bass and sax all play in such a laid back style. The sounds slowly build. Then it ends.

A solid 4 star album for me. I find this one adventerous at times but always rewarding.


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Review by Kazuhiro
5 stars They had the style till then face a more reformative flow at the same time as transfering the register to CBS in 1970. Show..Music..obviously..color..strong..go, this album became the second a work from CBS. The style of the tune has the flow that unites the style of Jazz further and is constructed. However, it had already been proven not to end in mere Jazz Rock by the sensibility that Softs had in the United States and Britain. The flow of the entire tune became shape to condense the composition of a further form.. tune in "Third" extremely further. However, Softs at this time will be sure to be the most important for Canterbury Scene album including "Third" and this album. Wyatt is guessed that the next plan had already arisen in his head in this album though takes an active part. However, the principal member of Softs revolutionizes in the age and the album changes the consistency of Softs little by little. It is guessed that it matches so that Wyatt may produce Solo Album in 1971 and the directionality of Softs had liquidity in it. I think that this album is indispensable if talking about mid-term Softs. And, it might be one of the masterpieces in Softs. The flow of the album lands in the suite of "Virtually" including the first "Teeth". This album with a severe flow might clarify the revolution from "Third" and the flow changed into an external limited element in "Fifth" to which possession Wyatt came off an inner element. One the top might have been received for them at this time if the history of Softs was considered.


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Review by ZowieZiggy
2 stars I won't be too long in the description of this musical experience: the fourth album from "Soft Machine".

While I was positively enthusiast about their debut album, I couldn't really cope with their production afterwards (except on eside of their "Third" album).

While there was still one (and ONLY one) excellent song on their previous release ("Moon In June"), I can't find any out here. Pure jazz rock music from A to Z. Mostly free jazz and conventional one.

Not my cup of tea AT ALL. I am trying hard to find anything positive about this work. The musicianship of course, but in terms of "song" writing, this resembles to the Sahara: a huge desert as far as I am concerned.

I will rate this work with two stars (but three out of ten would be more accurate). This album is meant for jazz lovers only.

Nous ne serons jamais d'accord Antoine. Ni ā propos de "Soft Machine" ni ā propos de "Genesis".


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Review by The Quiet One
3 stars The logical follow-up to Third?

Yes, I actually think this is a logical follow-up to the grandiose Third. Does logical follow-up mean a better album? No, Fourth doesn't have the 'unique' feel the previous album had, it kind of repeats the previous album's formula. However, there is a change as you expect from the band, The Soft Machine was way into deep jazz grounds by this time, with even more brass musicians on board contributing which at times may remind us of Zappa's big band stuff, there's even a double bass player to let you know that this will be jazzier than ever.

Fourth is a 70s 'jazz' album which is played greatly as one would expect, also one expects it to be memorable, but unfortunately ths time the band didn't manage that very well.

'Teeth' for example starts as an energised jazz composition with extended sax playing by Elton Dean, enough change of paces to keep the listener awake, but overall it just seems to emulate past glories. It's a good track alright, the same goes for 'Kings & Queens', a much gentler affair, and the 20 minute four-piece 'Virtually' which was entirely composed by bass player, Hugh Hopper, but nothing really strikes you as genius as 'Moon in June' or 'Out Bloody Rageous'.

Only throwaway track would be the free jazz tune 'Fletcher's Blemish' composed by Elton Dean, but surely anyone fond of Coltrane's and Ornette's noisy stuff will understand something from this tune.

I would recommend this to anyone who really digs the jazz aspect the most from Third, they'll surely find something to enjoy from Fourth, I know I do. Also, anyone looking for a quality 70s jazz album, this is not a bad one but probably not the most unique one out there.

3 stars: Borderline to be a 2 stars, well-played and some fine compositions but not all that fresh nor memorable. Though a must-have for the band's fans, that's for sure, it's not bad after all.


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Review by snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Fourth is the only Soft Machine's studio album, recorded with the same line-up as previous release (Third in this case). If Third was for band a revolutionary step from jazzy psychedelic pop/rock to complex jazz-rock territory, Fourth is excellent evolutionary example.

You will hardly find band's psychedelic pop/rock roots on Fourth, they are gone forever (both together with Wyatt vocals;dissatisfied with new direction he will leave band soon after Fourth will be released.Almost all albums compositions are written by Hopper, and band's sound moved towards more interplays between all musicians (instead of more solo oriented earlier works).

Music there is fully instrumental perfectly balanced complex jazz fusion with plenty of Dean's sax soloing (but still not extremely free form),Wyatt's drumming is possibly his ever best and all band sounds as real team of equal skilled musicians.Additional brass section and acoustic bassist add more texture to the sound.

Fourth is strong next step after excellent Third, step towards more jazz direction (for good and bad), and one of the best band's release ever. Possibly, only on this album you can find so good collective work of all musicians as one team and great balance between free form improvisation and structured compositions.


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Review by Man With Hat
COLLABORATOR Jazz-Rock/Fusion/Canterbury Team
4 stars A transitional Machine.

Fourth is a bit of an odd beast in the Softs catalogue. Progressing further into the realm of jazz than anything previous, but still keeps a very unique aire about it. The sound of this record is the main attraction for me. I have yet to find an album in any genre that sounds the same. Not necessarily in terms of the music, but in terms of the sounds of the instruments themselves. The music I also feel is unique, perhaps being closer to free-rock than free-jazz (even though this was mostly composed). The drums pound away, never excessively erratic but never complacent. The sax doesn't blow everything away with its ferocity for the entire record, but is tuneful yet still with elements of extended freedom. The organ is nothing short of majestic at times, and provides some wonderful atmosphere, especially on side two. Hugh Hopper probably plays the greatest role, being he dominates the writing credits on Fourth. Perhaps that's even more credit to it him then, to evoke this sound of the group. There are also a handful of familiar faces that guest on double bass, horn, and a host of woodwind instruments.

Teeth begins the proceedings with an excellent melody line and some wonderful playing by Elton Dean. I particularly love Wyatt's drums here. So free sounding, yet quite composed. All elements included this is one of my favorite Soft Machine songs of any era. Kings And Queens is like the tide, ebbing and flowing, propelled by the almost soothing bassline of Hopper and the drums of Wyatt, creating a wonderful atmosphere. Fletcher's Blemish is similar in sound to Teeth but freer, and unfortunately less successful. Side two is Hopper's epic track Virtually. Admittedly, some parts of this suite do drag on, but there are some absolutely gorgeous moments as well. The last third or so of Part two is top notch Soft Machine, and the ending part is meditative and a fitting resolution to the suite and the disc.

All in all, Fourth is top tier Soft Machine. There is a bit of frustration with this release, as the sound is absolutely brilliant, but the results are not nearly that high. And unfortunately this would be Wyatt's swan song with the Machine, meaning the full potential of this group is probably not fully realized, which is a shame. Still, a strong album, but probably not the best one to start your Soft Machine journey with. Jazz fans will also find more to like here than previous albums whereas fans of psychedelic rock will probably find less to like. 4 to 4.5 stars. Recommended.


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Review by Warthur
2 stars Fourth - the Softs did go in for nice simple studio album titles early on in their career didn't they? - is infamously the last studio album from the Soft Machine to feature Robert Wyatt's playing, and the only one of his tenure in the band in which he is not permitted to sing (though he did have to fight tooth and nail to have Moon In June, the sole vocal track, included on Third). This under-use of Wyatt's talents is baffling to me - equally baffling is the way his drumming is sometimes buried in the mix - but what really gets to me is the fact that this is the first Soft Machine studio album I'd characterise as being less than absolutely consistently good.

Musically speaking, the tracks lie on a continuum from a slightly more jazzy take on the fusion sound of Third (as on Virtually) to an approach which takes on so much of jazz and incorporates so little rock that it's no longer really fusion, just jazz - as seen with Teeth. The difference in approach is most striking when you come to this album after listening to the absolutely blinding fusion rendition of Teeth on Grides, a live album recorded partway through the process of recording Fourth, so it's clear that quite late in the day a sudden change in direction has been mandated.

My guess is that some persons within the Machine were angling to get more recognition from the jazz establishment (having thoroughly won over the progressive rock crowd), but the end result is that material like Teeth ends up coming across as being less experimental or novel than material being released by people like Miles Davis, who at the time was approaching fusion from the jazz end (rather from the rock end as the Softs did). Either way, an album which is pleasant enough at times but it's far from the best rendition of the material available, and it's also an album which buries the Softs' virtues for the sake of an experiment in the band's sound that doesn't quite work. I'm not keen, myself.


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Review by zravkapt
3 stars This was the first 100% instrumental Soft Machine album and the last to feature Robert Wyatt. Saxophonist Elton Dean is a full member now and he has a big influence on the band's sound. Wyatt left because he didn't like the non-vocal, more jazz-inclined direction the group was heading into. He formed his own group named after the French term for Soft Machine: 'machine molle'(Matching Mole). Here they take the jazz element of the previous two albums and put more emphasis on it, while mostly ignoring their psych-rock past. This is basically a fusion album with no real 'Canterbury' sound involved. Some guest musicians appear, including wind players whom some might be familiar with from some Crimson and Caravan albums; and bassist Roy Babbington who plays acoustic double bass here while Hugh Hopper plays the electric bass parts (he will replace Hopper as Softs' bassist later on).

Overall not as great an album as Third was, but this has one advantage over that album: better production. Third sounded like it was recorded on 4-track in someone's bedroom; Fourth sounds like it was recorded in a professional recording studio on a 16-track console. Fifth would be an improvement sonically over this but also more jazzy as well. Although 'fusion' this still sounds different from your typical American fusion of the time; the fuzzed out organ and bass along with the backwards effects gives this a more 'British' flavour. The only Ratledge composition "Teeth" opens the album with some acoustic double bass; this is probably the most trad jazz sounding track on the album. Not until the wah-organ and fuzz-bass show up does it sound like fusion. Not one of Softs' best songs but a highlight of this album.

"Kings And Queens" is a song you can listen to on PA. It's the only song by the Machine that you can stream on PA but it is not a good introduction to the band for anyone who has never heard their music before. This has somewhat of a similar vibe to what Miles Davis was doing at the same time. "Fletcher's Blemish" was written by Dean and is the most avant- jazz oriented track on the album. They be all up in your face with their noisiness. To some this would sound like some toddlers were let loose in a recording studio.

Hopper's four-part "Virtually"(which comprised the original second side) is what saves Fourth from being just another fusion/avant-jazz album. This is the centerpiece of the whole album and basically could be considered an epic due to the four parts segueing into each other (even though they are four seperate tracks). Part 1 is based around 2 notes to which the musicians improvise around. Part 2 starts with duelling sax and organ. This track is pretty free with no structure at all until it reprises the earlier 2 notes. Part 3 starts with backwards organ and overdubbed saxes playing atonally. Then wah-organ and double bass soloing. Then some fuzz-bass soloing.

Part 4 opens with phased organ and (non-fuzz) electric bass noodling, along with some subdued sax work. Some backwards effects later. The last two parts are basically drumless but Wyatt is still present. Definately not a place to start with Soft Machine. You're better off checking out the first three albums first, or if you are already a fusionhead proceed directly to the album Bundles. One of the group's weaker efforts but not unlistenable. 3 stars.


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Latest members reviews

3 stars Robert Wyatt's last record with the Soft Machine, although you will not hear his presence. In this stage the Soft Machine has turned into a jazzrock/ fusion group much like the 2nd and fourth composition on Third. No vocals and no psychedelic influences anymore. This was the main reason for Robert W ... (read more)

Report this review (#743646) | Posted by the philosopher | Tuesday, April 24, 2012 | Review Permanlink

3 stars While Third is inventive and in constant combustion, Fourth is barren, cold and desolate. It's almost as if the previous record was an atomic bomb and this is the aftermath of the explosion, and, in a sense, it is. By this time, every member was tired of the band and virtually hating each other, ... (read more)

Report this review (#627506) | Posted by JackFloyd | Monday, February 06, 2012 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Where Third had been a record where the new Jazz direction was explored Robert Wyatt's more contemporary touch was still present and made it still very identifiable as Soft Machine. On this record they stray further into the Jazz domain and it makes for a more traditional Jazz sound. Virtual ... (read more)

Report this review (#409184) | Posted by topographicbroadways | Monday, February 28, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This recording follows almost the same pattern of their previous one "Third", however we cannot consider that both albuns have the same quality. "Fourth" is an amazing Soft Machine's production. As the other one mentioned, this recording has lots of experiments, jazz/fusion characteristics, go ... (read more)

Report this review (#401424) | Posted by The Eye | Wednesday, February 16, 2011 | Review Permanlink

1 stars Well i can't say i am a fan of the Softs BUT i am a huge lover of Third. This album had it all, the jazzy passages from Mr Dean, the great melodies from Ratledge, the fuzzy basslines of Hopper, great flow through out the songs, substance, i mean they really wrote some music there. Whereas in this ... (read more)

Report this review (#259058) | Posted by camelspotter | Sunday, January 03, 2010 | Review Permanlink

3 stars I am a big fan of Third. I think that album has a raw nerve and some superb music. I have been told that Fourth is even better. I disagree. The opener Teeth is an elegant track with both cool jazz elements and some very intense improvisation parts which builds up the track to an almost cresc ... (read more)

Report this review (#236519) | Posted by toroddfuglesteg | Wednesday, September 02, 2009 | Review Permanlink

3 stars I listened a lot to this album lately and I must say that it's quite an interesting album. Listening to this album twice or three times in a row doesn't seem to bother me. However, at some moments the band seems to be lost in it's own experimentation. 'Fletcher's Blemish' is a piece with one b ... (read more)

Report this review (#219055) | Posted by Foolsdrummer | Sunday, May 31, 2009 | Review Permanlink

4 stars By the time Fourth was recorded in Autumn 1970 the Hopper, Ratledge, Wyatt & Dean quartet had reached their creative peak first glimpsed on the track 'Facelift' from Third and the interplay here is quite breathtaking. 'Teeth', taken at a furious rate with Ratledge's possessed and stuttering org ... (read more)

Report this review (#172577) | Posted by Karyobin | Friday, May 30, 2008 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This is a punch in the face, a breath of fresh air. It's Soft Machine's Fourth. Actually, this is a very complicated album critic-wise. On the other hand, you have those who think that this is Soft machine's true first album, where they become a true jazz fusion band. And those who think this ... (read more)

Report this review (#159039) | Posted by Grimfurg | Saturday, January 19, 2008 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Clearly an extension of Third, Fourth pushes Robert Wyatt vocals away and heads towards free-jazz. This is a particurlarly important point at the Softs career, seen that they seem to have "spent" all the inspiration here (leading to their poorest effort, which in IMHO is Fifth): Ratledge's inten ... (read more)

Report this review (#144896) | Posted by Oneiromancer | Monday, October 15, 2007 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Even before Robert Wyatt leaves Soft Machine distinct changes can be heard. The first thing that is noticeable is the big step towards jazz/rock. This album is dominated by Hugh Hopper's compositions which is a good thing since I feel that Ratledge's contribution (Teeth) seems to lack any bite whe ... (read more)

Report this review (#131093) | Posted by progismylife | Wednesday, August 01, 2007 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Well, Fourth is a logical progression from Third, with the band voyaging ever increasingly into the seas of instrumental fusion and away from their psychedelic-cum- vocals beginnings. As can be guessed from this trajectory, Robert Wyatt was being pushed further and further out of frame. Notably ... (read more)

Report this review (#126260) | Posted by olga | Monday, June 18, 2007 | Review Permanlink

5 stars It was released in February, 1971 "4(Fourth)". The saxophone of Elton Dean that became a formal member and the organ of Mike Ratledge feel the tension. Work by which nuance of free jazz becomes strong further. The Electric sound is suppressed. It is a sound with a clear outline clear of solo a ... (read more)

Report this review (#44204) | Posted by braindamage | Thursday, August 25, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I bought this album for the first time a long time ago. It always sounded to me like a very warm album with plenty of texture and feeling. I especially like Teeth with it's complexity. I always preferred Soft Machine without the singing. It still sounds like a very individual statement from a ... (read more)

Report this review (#42024) | Posted by | Monday, August 08, 2005 | Review Permanlink

5 stars this album is the first soft machine's one i've bought and the first listening session concluded with a sense of pure joy: the sound is unique - the recording, the style in playing - and the generic atmosphere of the whole album is really great. a deep travel through jazz, rock and psychedelic ... (read more)

Report this review (#22054) | Posted by | Thursday, May 26, 2005 | Review Permanlink

3 stars First of all, the album sleeve is really cool, it perfectly displays the music of the band: mysterious and a little bit elitaire. Actually this album deserves 3 and a half stars, because the free-jazz is really great, but does'nt beat the power of it's previous albums. Every composition has got ... (read more)

Report this review (#22053) | Posted by Jaap | Thursday, February 10, 2005 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Although this album contains some great tracks (Teeth, and parts of Virtually), it somehow feel disjointed. This is not helped by the poor recording quality (perhaps it is better on the CD). Wyatt left soon after recording it, as Hopper and Ratledge flat out told him they did not like his passionate ... (read more)

Report this review (#22047) | Posted by | Monday, February 02, 2004 | Review Permanlink

4 stars A fine album. Real fine playing by fantastic musicians, but it fails to intrigue you like their previous effort: "Third." Teeth is a remarkable track though, mixing in Psychedelia with some groovy free jazz & "Bitch's Brew-esqe" electronic keyboards, a fantastic composition by keyboardist: Mike Ratl ... (read more)

Report this review (#22046) | Posted by | Sunday, December 28, 2003 | Review Permanlink

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