A fine album. Real fine playing by fantastic musicians, but it fails to intrigue like their previous effort: Third. “Teeth” is a remarkable track though, mixing in psychedelia with some groovy jazz & Bitch's Brew-esqe electronic keyboards, a fantastic composition by keyboardist: Mike Ratledge. “Kings & Queens” is a typical jazz-rock track, very cool, but does not enthrall my attention very long though. “Flectcher's Blemish” is actually a favorite of mine & is basically a free jazz track. “Virtually” parts 1 through 4 should of been just one track. I like this one very much, a good Hopper composition that's bold & maintains consistency.
Overall a very good album, but not a good starter point, become familiar & acquainted with Third & then check out the further releases.
(All Album Reviews by Burgess Penguin)
Fourth captured the Soft Machine at its creative zenith, just before Robert Wyatt's departure and the band's subsequent descent into bland mediocrity. With an expanded lineup, SM veers dangerously into straight-ahead jazz territory but still retains more than enough of their quirky psychedelic edge to keep you glued to the edge of your seat.
Compositionally, there's not a weak idea on here, and the core lineup of Mike Ratledge, Hugh Hopper, Elton Dean and Robert Wyatt plays as ferociously as ever, with some great contributions from upright bassist Roy Babbington, trombonist Nick Evans, Jimmy Hastings on alto flute and bass clarinet along with Alan Skidmore on tenor sax and cornetist Marc Charig adding to the maelstrom.
"Teeth" opens the disc with a feisty romp into modern post-bop jazz with twisted yet fun melody lines aplenty, punctuated by Mike Ratledge's distinct fuzz-organ. This is my favorite track on the album. "Kings and Queens" is a more brooding piece giving each of the guest musicians lots of room to explore. "Fletchers Blemish" is a rather sinister and ominous tune with some VERY twisted melody lines, that would be right at home in a suspense, mystery or horror flick of some sort. "Virtually Parts I - IV" is a wildly varied more free form excursion that will hypnotize you if you let it, a rather interesting way to end.
All told, a VERY worthwhile effort especially if you like to hear the Soft's more pronounced jazz tendencies come to the fore. And sad to say, this was the last time that Soft Machine would ever achieve this level of brilliance and creativity again.