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The Soft Machine - Fourth / Fifth CD (album) cover


The Soft Machine


Canterbury Scene

3.59 | 23 ratings

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2 stars The Soft Machine - Fourth/ Fifth

This is a box set where The Soft Machineīs fourth and fifth album is included for the price of one album. A great deal of course if you like the contents of these albums.


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.


Fifth is the fifth album from The Soft Machine. The Soft Machine started as a psychadelic vocal based canterbury styled pop/ rock band but from their third album on their style shifted towards jazz. Their style on Fifth is like on Fourth very inspired by Miles Davis late sixties and early seventies albums. The characteristics that I normally associate with Canterbury bands are nowhere to be found on neither Fourth or Fifth. This is essentially a jazz album.

The songs seem to be very jamlike and I sense no real structure in these songs which is a thing I need to enjoy music. Lots of soloing is not a problem for me but soloing just for the sake of it is generally a bit too boring for me. There are some themes on the album but they are not that obvious or easy to listen to and as such this album for me is one long solo mostly done by Elton Dean on sax. Allthough sax is a very nice instrument Iīm not that excited about this be-bop/ free jazz sax soloing. There is a great organ solo in the end of Drop that I enjoy very much though.

The musicianship is really great and the technical skills are the most exciting thing for me on Fifth. I especially enjoy the bass from Hugh Hopper.

The production is very good. A really enjoyable sound.

Even though I enjoy the musicianship I donīt enjoy the music much. I like prog rock with jazz tendencies but not jazz played by prog musicians without prog tendencies. Fifth fail to capture my attention completely. For me this is a 2 star album. Good musicians that play jazz I donīt like. Iīll recommend that you buy the two first great albums from The Soft Machine instead. They are both great examples of Canterbury rock at itīs best.

There is a saying that Two wrongs donīt make a right and that saying fits this box set completely. Getting two albums for the price of one is of course always a great thing, but when the music isnīt more exciting than on these two albums Iīll have to pass. 2 stars is what I rated both original albums and thatīs exactly what this box set will also receive.

UMUR | 2/5 |


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