The Electric Record 1977 / Esoteric 2015
Voracious, if non-predatory, attack of the magnificent three – their last one before the hit.
It was a failure, but not on the band’s part, when “The Lone Ranger” from their eponymous debut had been banned by the BBC and didn’t chart. As a result, the album’s beauty failed to turn into commercial success, so guitarist Mark Warner left to work with Cat Stevens, and though he was replaced by guests Paul Keogh and CARAVAN’s Geoffrey Richardson, who also added viola to the mix, the style balance tilted significantly. Instead of instrumentally bold fusion, the group’s second LP excels in intricate vocal arrangements that wash the listener from a gospel-lite opener “Don’t Look Now” with its soft a cappella intro and punchy polyphony, and let go only with the warmly cracking “Neighbours (Limbo Cottage).”
But if one wonders how all that could have sounded on-stage, the answer lies on the second disc of this expanded edition which houses the ensemble’s 1977 concert for the Beeb, where vengeance is taken just brilliantly with the forbidden and other songs, and where another spiritual track, “The Séance (Too Spooky),” rises from the vibes-sprinkled dim delight of a studio version to a sparkling uplift, hoedown including. It also embosses John G. Perry’s bass and low tones of a string section on the honeyed flow of the title track that, thanks to a harmonica, lapses into country once again, enhanced by Elkie Brooks’ soulful wail at the end. She duets with Rupert Hine in the America-criticizing carnival of “Starbright Park” that unfolds a brass-splashed funk celebration and, live, allows NEKTAR’s Roye Albrighton rip on his axe as does on “Over Rio.”
The second side of the original vinyl is more lyrical, though, yet its pastel hue perfectly suits “Blue Mountain (Aloha Green Sea)” enshrouding a delicate piano in soft synthetic layer and velvet voices, to which the cut’s 1979 remix, a result of “Ranger” finally making it, shed its initial dynamics in favor of sonic scintillation. Such a touch turns quite playful for the still pale “Europe On A Dollar A Day” yet the sun comes out with a bright outtake cover of “Summer In The City,” while “Take Me To The Void Again,” caught in a work-in-progress state, allows a look into the band’s creative process. Unfortunately, with their second album following the first into temporal oblivion, QUANTUM JUMP dissolved rather soon, and that process would never be resumed, even after the group’s “Top Of The Pops” appearance. Now, both their LPs are a tremendous treat.