On this, their fourth studio album, you are treated to the unexpected missing link between James Taylor Quartet's early mod-cum-spy theme sound and the later polished acid jazz feel (which carried the band through to be the respected pioneer figures they are today) without sounding exactly like either of them. Having landed themselves with the big-budget U.K. label Polydor, James Taylor found he could indulge himself with the best in big jazz-funk sounds, employing what sounded suspiciously like more than a "quartet" to produce a collection of bold and brassy numbers that escalated the sounds of Johnny Hammond and Booker T into the late '80s. The album begins as it finishes, with a touching yet relentless jazz-rock instrumental groove combining clever chord structures and strong piano flourishes gliding over, of course, Taylor's trademark whirring Hammond organ.
British soul-jazz organist James Taylor has crossed easily between stylistic definitions throughout his career, from the hard-charging garage rock of the Prisoners to his pioneering acid jazz work of the '90s. As the title suggests, Picking Up Where We Left Off finds Taylor returning to a straight soul-jazz setup with a classic Hammond quartet lineup akin to the James Taylor Quartet but featuring new collaborators in guitarist Nigel Price, bassist Andy McKinney, and drummer Neil Robinson. Fresh blood aside, this is entirely familiar territory for Taylor, mixing funky, Jimmy Smith-inspired organ lines with shuffling beats and funk-influenced guitar. The closest thing to a departure is the ballad "Never in My Wildest Dreams," a lovely showcase for an extended George Benson-like solo by Price.