Atlantic Bridge: Atlantic Bridge: Remastered & Expanded Edition
Before the great jazz-rock boom of the early 1970s, this British quartet pioneered the art of funneling a pop song through a fusion arrangement. That’s not to say that they perfected that art. Numerous stretches of their lone, self-titled LP fall prey to the sort of snoozy wallpaper vamping that ran the genre into irrelevancy later in the decade. The worst offender is the refresh of The Beatles’ “Dear Prudence”: The band guts that mystical tune down to its signature descending chord progression, rendered here by Mike McNaught’s electric piano; from there, it’s a parade of bland, if instrumentally competent, soloing. (In this case, the cover song vehicle was a trap—when you’re forced to live up to a Beatles song, you may have set your sights too high.) But there’s a reason that vinyl hounds continue to scour for this sought-after period-piece: These guys can wail, and when their enthusiasm matches their skill level, the results remain stunning. Opener “MacArthur Park” reimagines Jimmy Webb’s 1968 schmaltz-pop hit (originally recorded by Richard Harris) into a proggy inferno anchored by Daryl Runswick’s fuzz-bass and Jim Philip’s assorted flutes and saxes. Here, as with their take on Webb’s “Rosecrans Boulevard,” they drain any traces of mawkish sentiment in favor of harmonic fire. Esoteric’s remastered edition expands the band’s story with a pair of bonus tracks, including a dopey attempt at radio play (“I Can’t Lie to You”) fronted by a blustery female soul singer. Not a good look, but, in spite of its lapses in both energy and judgment, Atlantic Bridge is still worth traversing.