The appearance of not one, but two instrumentals in the late 60s lists shouldn’t be taken as any great sign of a revival: the first months of the year are generally the time when minority tastes can break through. This represents a hiccup in their long decline, but the days of pop instrumentals regularly reaching the top had long gone. Those older hits were light, frisky, dance-ready; “The Good, The Bad…” and “Albatross” are both thicker concentrates of pure mood.
In the case of “Albatross” there’s not even a film to prompt you, so its associations need to be even more compelling. Of all the instrumentals to reach number one, “Albatross” is closest to the ‘exotica’ and lounge music that enjoyed 50s and 60s popularity: a collection of ruthlessly pared-down sound-ideas. The tidal throb of the bass and drums, the seaspray brushes and cymbals – this is soundscaping the Martin Denny way, with a one word title setting the tone like a cherry in the cocktail glass.
It teeters close to kitsch (and is no worse for that) but the glory of the record is the marriage of this briney confection with Peter Green’s wistful, wandering guitar line – an element of subdued individuality that is quite foreign to exotica. Green’s appearance in the track is like a single figure on a postcard seascape – it lends the vista scale and makes it feel more wild and mysterious and lonesome, not more human.