Main Index Page General Ratings Page Rock Chronology Page Song Search Page New Additions Message Board


"Throw a penny for my children they are going down"

Class D

Main Category: Lush Pop
Also applicable: Dance Pop, Pop Rock
Starting Period: The Psychedelic Years
Also active in: The Artsy/Rootsy Years, The Interim Years,

The Punk/New Wave Years, The Divided Eighties,

From Grunge To The Present Day




Disclaimer: this page is not written by from the point of view of a Bee Gees fanatic and is not generally intended for narrow-perspective Bee Gees fanatics. If you are deeply offended by criticism, non-worshipping approach to your favourite artist, or opinions that do not match your own, do not read any further. If you are not, please consult the guidelines for sending your comments before doing so. For information on reviewing principles, please see the introduction. For specific non-comment-related questions, consult the message board.

For reading convenience, please open the reader comments section in a parallel browser window.


Reviewing the Bee Gees. Should I feel guilty? Nah.

Just about every Bee Gees fan who starts talking about the band starts all of his monologues with more or less the following phrases: 'Nowadays, the Bee Gees are unfairly associated with the late-Seventies disco movement, gold medallions on hairy chests, leisure suits and Saturday Night Fever. But how fair is this unjust association? We should not blame the Bee Gees for disco. They only had some disco albums, and they weren't the worst of the lot'.

This is not completely true, of course. We should blame the Bee Gees for disco; after all, it wasn't their promoter who penned 'Stayin' Alive' and 'Night Fever'. And alas, whatever lies in the future, the Bee Gees will be associated with the disco craze and the disco craze only for millions of years to come; so far, few albums have beaten the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack saleswise. But then again, many people associate the Beatles with 'Yesterday', the Who with 'Pinball Wizard', and Rod Stewart with 'Do Ya Think I'm Sexy'. Are all these songs the artists' best achievements? Definitely not, even if 'Pinball Wizard' is a magnificent composition and 'Sexy' is a very so-so exercise in Latino-disco hybridizations. It's up to the considerably more wise and rational public to sort out things, and I hope that this page will do the Bee Gees a favor, because they are certainly a band to be reckoned with.

The Gibb brothers (along with the Wilsons, probably the most famous 'family combo' in the world of pop music) weren't big innovators in the world of pop, sure enough. Then again, neither was David Bowie. What the brothers always had for them, and to a certain extent, have preserved up to the present day, is an incredible knack for writing solid pop melodies (something which the above-mentioned David Bowie never had, by the way). This is a plus. Another plus is the brothers' vocal talents: while their harmonies leave a lot to be desired, both Robin and Barry had tremendous singing voices, and were undeniably in the same league with Britain's (not to mention Australia's) best vocalists of both the Sixties and the Seventies... until, of course, they traded everything in for the irritating falsettos on their disco records.

Yet another plus is the brothers' chameleonic nature, a thing that, this time around, really unites them with David Bowie. They didn't have any inspiring musical ideas of their own, but they were excellent at imitating every other genre available and beefing it up with their melodic instincts. It's obvious that the brothers' strongest talents were always in writing melodramatic balladry - and at their peak (the 1967-71 years) they were probably the only band in the world that could get away with including sweeping string arrangements on every second song on an album and not end up sounding completely corny. But they also tried their hand at many different styles, ranging from psychedelia to bluesy roots-rock, and their mimicry was so perfect you could hardly tell it from the real thing.

Which brings us to the point - what was the Bee Gees' 'real thing'? The brothers are often accused of 'faux-soul' singing and cheap fakery, but I find all these accusations unjust. For one, the Bee Gees aren't any more 'faux-soul' than the entire Motown scene, and their composing skills were always holding up to, and often surpassing, those of the best Motown songwriters. And they were certainly more real than the usual soul scene, simply because they were writing all their compositions themselves, a point that's often missed. They hardly ever did covers - on the other hand, they served as prolific 'cover deliverers' themselves, as early as 1967-1968, and in the sheer number of occasions of their material's coverage by other artists stand more or less in the same row with the Beatles and Dylan. Maybe their work lacks sincerity; it certainly does, because aping and sincere composition rarely go hand in hand. But, like I said, similar accusations can be thrown at David Bowie and God knows who else.

So let's just cut the crap and admit the following points. The Bee Gees were prime composers and singers, even if they preferred to work within given formulas rather than create their own ones. The Bee Gees often demonstrated stupid lapses of taste, but that's only to be expected if you're working within such a dangerous genre as lush pop balladeering. The Bee Gees are sleazy, slick and phoney, but they compensate for it with incredibly catchy melodies and a great entertaining instincts: even the worst Bee Gees records are still pretty interesting to listen to.

And what about the disco horrors? Well, for starters, one must remember that the Bee Gees didn't exactly 'jump on the disco bandwagon', as they say. It has been rightly pointed out that if Saturday Night Fever had never taken off and 'Stayin' Alive' hadn't turned out to be played every ten minutes on every radio station, the Bee Gees might have been glorified, not anathemyzed, for disco. Before 1977, they were its 'underground heroes' (yeah, that's right, there was a period when disco was underground. Those were the days, eh?), and were actually one of the very first bands to try their hand at a then new and exciting genre. And, like it happens oh so often, a genre might be horrendous, but its forefathers are often genial; some of the Bee Gees' disco stuff has aged far better than your average heavy cock rock of the mid-Seventies like Aerosmith, if only because it was kinda, well, you could say 'groundbreaking' for the time. I am, of course, not a big fan of the brothers' disco compositions, and I sure wish they'd diversify their singing at that point instead of chiming in that abominable falsetto on all the tracks, but, like I said, some of the stuff is well worth trying at least once.

After the disco period, the band had reverted to its AOR formulas, putting out loads of crap interspersed with some good material, but, of course, it was sorta late - from now on, they would only be 'Stayin' Alive'. A pity, because in that way it turned out that many of their excellent early albums are out of print and hard to find. They're well worth hunting for, though.

I'm not sure if I'm going to review the band's entire catalog - after all, such occupations can get a bit nauseating - but I'm glad to have a big chunk of their early records. So if you're willing to give the lads a try, just buy the Bee Gees' First and proceed carefully from there. Good luck to you.

Lineup: Barry Gibb - guitar, vocals; Maurice Gibb - vocals; Robin Gibb - vocals; Vince Melouney - guitar; Colin Peterson - drums. Melouney and Peterson quit by the end of the Sixties, leaving the brothers to go on as a trio. Robin fell out in the end of 1969, leaving Barry and Maurice as a duo, then returned in 1971 after a briefly successful couple of solo albums. Geoff Bridgeford on drums and Alan Kendall on guitar also formed part of the band for a brief while in the early Seventies. After that, the Bee Gees went on steadily as a trio and, as far as I know, are still going steady.



Year Of Release: 1967
Record rating = 10
Overall rating = 12

The Gibb brothers steal from almost everyone - but they steal from worthy predecessors, and they are masterful stealers.


Track listing: 1) Turn Of The Century; 2) Holiday; 3) Red Chair Fade Away; 4) One Minute Woman; 5) In My Own Time; 6) Every Christian Lion Hearted Man Will Show You; 7) Craise Finston Kirk Royal Academy Of Arts; 8) New York Mining Disaster 1941; 9) Cucumber Castle; 10) To Love Somebody; 11) I Close My Eyes; 12) I Can't See Nobody; 13) Please Read Me; 14) Close Another Door.

There's certainly a lot to say about the Brothers Gibbs' controversial debut album. Starting from the fact that it isn't really a debut album - they'd already released two full-fledged LPs in their na... wait, no, here's a controversy again: everybody knows that the Bee Gees were from Australia, but not everybody knows that they weren't born in Australia: they emigrated there in the mid-Fifties in search for a better life, much like the children of Arthur in the notorious Ray Davies concept album of the same name. Anyway, a fact is a fact: 1st is actually 3rd, and it only goes to show how the record industry serves to discriminate non-UK and non-US releases. It's probably easier to find a Shakespeare autograph nowadays than these first two albums.

Even so, the Bee Gees' 1st can also be treated metaphorically - as, quite naturally, the Bee Gees' best. Because one can't get away from the fact that the brothers' songwriting and performing talents have never been better than on their British debut. They don't even have any beards on here, for Chrissake. Probably less important, but nevertheless worth noting is the fact that every single song on their debut album rules. Not like 'this is a flawless masterpiece' or something, and there are no timeless chef-d'oeuvres on it. And, to tell you the truth, I can't think of even a single argument of why this record should be better than, for instance, the Monkees' Headquarters, coming out the same year. But why should it be better? The Monkees were a manufactured American band that wanted to imitate the Beatles and just so happened to have had some talent. The Bee Gees were a manufactured Australian band (okay - not as blatantly manufactured as the Monkees, perhaps, but somehow I doubt that their entering the world of music at age eight or so was their own willing choice) that wanted to... imitate the Beatles and... just so happened to have had some talent, too. So there are a lot of similarities between the two bands at this particular period, but like I care.

And, actually, it's not true that the only thing they do on here is ripping off the Beatles. Rather they're ripping off the entire pop-rock scene of the era - I hear loads of Hollies, Kinks, and even Beach Boys overtones. Other reviewers have even stated certain resemblances with Barrett's Pink Floyd; I think that's carrying the game a bit too far, but that just goes to show you there's more than simple Beatles imitation going on here.

And then there's the 'Bee Gees balladeering' style which is their own schtick - you can't get away from it. Somehow, the Gibbs have come out with a strange, peculiar brand of balladry that straddles the plank between 'sincerely fresh' and 'sickeningly generic'. In other words, they are able to use orchestration, lush backup singing and overemoting in such a way that it doesn't make one (okay - it doesn't make me) cringe. Maybe it's just because they never try to use these things with the aim of masking lack of substance. Isn't 'To Love Somebody' a terrific song, for instance? It's campy and trashy, of course, and can be easily dismissed as pablum. But the strings are restrained and cleverly arranged (by Bill Shepherd), the chorus is built with excellence, and the song is instantly memorable, quite unlike anything written by Frankie Avalon or Pat Boone. 'One Minute Woman' is even better - it's in the same mood and not as sweepingly grandiose, so it doesn't hit you smack in the head on first listen, but in that way it also managed to espace radio overplay and might be appreciated even by radiosick gentlemen.

'Cucumber Castle' is also typical Gee Bees: a free-form fantasy that later served as the title for yet another album, arranged as a dreamy, hypnotic ballad where the orchestration runs a bit too wild for me, but whose melodicity it is frankly impossible to deny. And gee, I don't know who they had been ripping off on the gorgeous 'Holiday', whose vocal melody makes me shed a tear every now and then. And when I consider that this incredible melody was written by a seventeen-year old (Robin) and a nineteen-year old (Barry)... Even Pete Townshend only wrote 'I Can't Explain' when he was already twenty, and it was a Kinks rip-off, too.

But truth must be told: everything else is ripped off, whether it's obvious or not. It's almost as if these seventeen-year old dudes have been messing round the 'grown ups' - Beatles, Hollies, etc. - stealing their songs, remixing them, taking out vocal melodies, instrumentation ideas, changing the sequences and the order, and then putting it onto the tape deck. Is this a death sentence? Nay, rather a compliment: go ahead and try to write a song in the Beatles' style and make it sound convincing. You'll be an Oasis at best. And the brothers pull it off. Just take a listen to 'In My Time'. Doesn't it sound like it was just taken fresh off Revolver? They even model the singing after John Lennon. It's not great, but it sure ain't much worse than 'Doctor Robert'.

Things get even better when they try to go psychedelic - 'Every Christian Lion Hearted Man Will Show You', undeniably the most freaky experience on the album, has a spooky 'psycho' mellotron line with ominous voices chanting 'Oh Solo Dominique' in a Gregorian kind of way, while the main melody is a wee bit mantraic, but the chords are unforgettable. Funny, though, it doesn't as much remind me of the Beatles than of the other Britpop bands going psychedelic at the time - like the Hollies and the Pretty Things. Which just goes to show that the Beatles could hardly be beat at their principal game.

'New York Mining Disaster 1941' is also often accused of being a Beatles pastiche, but once again I fail to see the resemblance. Maybe in the chorus, a wee bit: that 'don't go talking too loud, you'll cause a landslide' bit does sound Lennonish. Yet the song also serves as a brilliant example of WHO were the Beatles and WHO were the Bee Gees. It's a great little pop number with an uncannily joyful melody accompanying an uncannily sad event (a person stuck in a mine under an avalanche discussing his wife with another miner), but the hooks... well, they just aren't deep enough. There's nothing to go 'aaaaahhh' about, it almost sounds unfinished. Personally, I would throw that 'landslide' line away and insert something that would rhyme with 'don't go talking too loud' instead. That would be Beatlish. This isn't. But cut the crap - I'm perfectly ready to accept the tune as it is.

Then there's 'Craise Finston Kirk Royal Academy Of Arts'. The title suggests it's gonna be a Kinks rip-off, and it is. But Ray Davies would be quite proud of such a composition in his catalog - after all, he's always been a fan of simple tinkling British-halley piano. There's more Hollies ripping off in 'Turn Of The Century', a tune that achieves grandiosity with just a couple string embellishments and some perfectly placed bass drums. There's the untrivially structured 'Red Chair Fade Away' with weird time signatures and a 'Rain'-type coda. There's some exercises in Beach Boys harmonies going on in 'Please Read Me'. And, of course, there's the stupendous album closer - 'Close Another Door', a multi-part song that goes from introspective ballad to upbeat pop rocker to God knows what.

Actually, it's simply impossible to name all the tunes. There's fourteen of them, like in the good old times when the Beatles didn't sing about walruses but sang instead about holding your hand; and there's such a potload of creative ideas, moods, mini- and maxi-hooks, that I'm eager to forgive the Gibbs the fact that... well, it's obvious that they just wanted to be big and they started collecting the fruits off others' trees. So what? This is still one of the best 'secondary' efforts of 1967, and I'll be damned if I can find a seventy-minute Nineties record that has at least a tenth part of such quality ideas as displayed on 1st. A great reminiscence of why the Bee Gees should really be considered an important band it is, and I suppose that if somebody came up to the brothers at that moment in July 1967 and told them that ten years later they would have 'Stayin' Alive' he'd be laughed off... but time changes everything, now doesn't it?



Year Of Release: 1968
Record rating = 9
Overall rating = 11

Sentimentality is the brothers' badge from now on, but at least they're capitalizing on it in a big way.


Track listing: 1) World; 2) And The Sun Will Shine; 3) Lemons Never Forget; 4) Really And Sincerely; 5) Birdie Told Me; 6) With The Sun In My Eyes; 7) Massachusets; 8) Harry Braff; 9) Day Time Girl; 10) The Earnest Of Being George; 11) The Change Is Made; 12) Horizontal.

Almost as good as the debut, but there are two (interrelated) bad things to be said about the album. First, while Horizontal is easily the last Bee Gees album to still preserve a certain hodge-podge of styles, it's already clear where the brothers are mostly steering for: sentimental schlocky balladry accounts for more than half of the songs on here, with the rest being three or four vaguely psychedelic rockers that make even less sense than the ones on 1st - either the brothers didn't really 'get' the gist of the Psychedelic Rocker at all, or they were already sniffing the air to spot the changes to come that would soon leave psychedelia behind, discarding it in favour of country rock and soft rock.

The second thing is that Horizontal put a big red cross on any perspective of the Bee Gees actually making it to the 'major' league of critically respected bands of the time. 1st displayed potential, but that potential all went to naught; from now on, the Bee Gees would always be second-liners in critical terms (though not always in sales terms!). As ridiculous as it may seem, in the long run 1st turned to be the band's most "mature" album (although they did make one last grasp at 'maturity' with Odessa the following year), despite the thirty plus years of recordings that followed.

That said, by the regular standards of the Bee Gees themselves Horizontal is one hell of an album. I've personally never had an aversion for the Bee Gees trying to rock out - as long as they didn't try to assume a generic cock rock stand on their "harder" numbers, most of their rockers are fun, and so it's only natural I prefer the rockin' numbers on this record. None of them make sense lyrically, falling under the 'Red Chair/Every Christian...' category - none of them are supposed to, since while "psychedelizing", the Bee Gees were taking all of their cues from the Fab Four, which is all right by me except that the Gibb brothers were far worse at stringin' together odd-sounding pieces of English language than either Lennon or McCartney.

That doesn't stop 'Lemons Never Forget' from being one of their moodiest, most disturbing numbers, with a sinister "woman tone" for the guitar and somber piano parts. and if the line '...incidentally there should be some changes made...' doesn't get your senses going, you're some weird kind of beast, mister. Then there's the expected nod to the Kinks, with the terrific Brit-rocker 'Harry Braff' and its cute stop-and-start structure. The cheery side of the British Empire sure raises its sleepy head on this one. Oh, and the stop-and-start structure is also present on 'The Earnest Of Being George' - need I mention the Oscar Wilde reference in the title? Prob'ly not. It's really fun how such a mean-nothing tune can sound so much fun in the hands of these braggadoccios, and if you make the mistake of dismissing it as a faux-psychedelic juvenile bunch of garbage, you're missing out on a lot of sheer emotional pleasure. What pleasure? Dammit if I know!

Okay, so the ballads are good, too - most of them. Wasn't 'Massachusets', like, the biggest of their early hits? I think the city of Boston should raise money for a bronze monument to the brothers for giving their state such terrific publicity. The groovy thing is that the song actually has a pretty trivial melody - it's merely a basic folkish chord sequence, yet raised to superclassic status simply through the band's tremendous talent for arranging. Strings, chimes, vocal harmonies, simple, but effective rhythm section, and presto, a classic is born. A memorable classic, too.

Other terrific ballads on the album include the album opener, 'World', graced by a gracious Mellotron (you'd expect strings, wouldn't you? they still had a use for that lumpy box in early 1968, so it turns out); the soulful 'The Change Is Made', which is immensely aided by more of that wailin' psychedelic guitar and is actually one of the band's more credible attempts at capturing some true soul in their music; and the title track, for which I can only say that this is the kind of ballad that nobody ever did better than the Bee Gees - not just a shallow sentimental vamp, but an epic, powerful, artsy, introspective kind of "self-hymn", virtually unknown in the States (the Beach Boys were big in other spheres) and in Britain introduced by bands like the Hollies and maybe the Zombies, too, but nobody did that genre better than the Bee Gees. Boy, were they really good at it.

There's more ballads on here, too, but the problem is, they're either too draggy ('With The Sun In My Eyes' - okay, maybe it is pretty, it just puts me to sleep) or a bit too simple ('Birdie Told Me'), and some also showcase the "bleating goat" vibrato of Mr Robin Gibb, soon to be featured even more prominently all over the place, and that just don't make me comfortable. Still, there's fourteen songs on this sucker - the Bee Gees weren't about to drop the early classic tradition of limiting each number to three minutes in favour of dangerous non-commercial adventures - so it's natural that you'll have some favourites and some non-favourites on here, too. More than half of them rule, anyway, and about half of that half rule supremely, so you do your own little calculations, and I'll just quietly give this one an overall 11 and see what happens. Oh, and it also has the best Bee Gees album cover of all time. I like putting it back to back with the Saturday Night Fever cover and thus, to remind myself why the Sixties as a musical decade were imminently better than the Seventies. Heh.



Year Of Release: 1968
Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 10

Well, if there IS an idea on this album, I'd be glad to hear it. But if it is what I think it is, it's a downward move.

Best song: no idea ['scuse me for the unintentional pun]

Track listing: 1) Let There Be Love; 2) Kitty Can; 3) In The Summer Of His Years; 4) Indian Gin And Whisky Dry; 5) Down To Earth; 6) Such A Shame; 7) I've Gotta Get A Message To You; 8) Idea; 9) When The Swallows Fly; 10) I Have Decided To Join The Airforce; 11) I Started A Joke; 12) Kilburn Towers; 13) Swan Song.

The All-Music Guide states that this album is more rockin' and less orchestrated than the previous one, but I guess they confused it with Saturday Night Fever or something. True, there might be one or two ballads less than on Horizontal, but that doesn't mean that the rest of them suffer from underorchestration, and neither does it make the rest of the songs more "rocking". If anything, Idea is easily the schlockiest Bee Gees album so far, with the non-ballads slighter and much less fun than before and the ballads therefore overshadowing everything else.

If there's a big change, it's in that the Bee Gees finally dump psychedelia overboard. When a song on Idea is not a ballad, it's a roots-rocker, with folk and country motives prominently featured, but not yet wholly harnessed - that would come several months later with Odessa. On here, the Bee Gees were still adjusting to the times, sensing that overall change which led the rocking world from trippy incoherent acid-induced imagery (which the Bee Gees could formally master but which, as far as I seem to understand, was never really their own favourite cup of tea) to heartfelt sincere honest (variant: generic phoney boring) country rock a la The Band, The Byrds (late period), James Taylor, The Eagles, you get my drift.

So when you hear a song like 'Kitty Can', don't worry, don't shout 'This is what they traded 'Lemons Never Forget' for, the dummies?' madly at the CD player, cuz they'd get somewhat better with it. 'Kitty Can', though, is unbearably slight, kind of like the Beatles' 'Maggie Mae' without the humor part (okay, so it has humor, but it's not that kind of humor). 'Indian Gin And Whisky Dry' is a little better, if you don't pay attention to the song lyrics starting from the title, but as far as folksy ballads go, it still ain't no 'Massachusets'. 'Such A Shame' sounds like either a mediocre Badfinger outtake or a very good mid-period Eagles song, you make your pick - it certainly doesn't showcase the Bee Gees at what made them so special. Which leaves the title track, the only one to feature the same wailing lead guitar that made the rockers on Horizontal so good, as probably the best of the bunch, but even that one sounds like they're forcing themselves or something.

All of this leaves us with the ballads again - this time, as the goddamn saving grace of the record. Okay, so maybe I sound a bit too harsh on it, so let me apologize. It's not like there was no talent in these songs. It's just that the Bee Gees were going through creative motions, readjusting themselves to a new world and all, and maybe this record was a little bit too rushed after Horizontal. Jesus, there were no straightforward country rockers on their preceding two albums, none at all, so it's no wonder they couldn't quite cope with it on first try.

Anyway, the ballads, as usual, range from gorgeous to schlocky, with criteria almost inexistent. Like I already said, the Bee Gees are absolute masters of the form; if you think that orchestrated balladry as a genre has a right to exist, it's pretty hard for you to criticize the band for any of that material, just because they were kind of setting the standard for it. My basic criterion is - don't overdo it. I don't like too much sugar in my coffee, which is why the higher Robin is singing, the lower my tolerance is. And neither of the album's two big hits, 'I've Gotta Get A Message To You' and 'I Started A Joke', qualifies as highest-level Bee Gees balladry, I think: at least the former has a memorable chorus, but the latter is just pure undiluted sentimental sugar that makes me yuck, not to mention that it kinda attempts to make an intimate micro-philosophic statement, and I ain't takin' that bullshit from the friggin' Bee Gees of all bands.

I prefer to concentrate on the more 'concealed' material, such as, say, 'Kilburn Towers', with a subdued atmosphere and wonderful construction of the vocal melody - it's dreamy, humble, and at the same time as romantic as anything. Little patches and pieces of the psychedelic past can be vaguely observed in 'Down To Earth', whose ultra-slow pace should not detract you from acknowledging the power of the melody. And then there's the majestic 'When The Swallows Fly', a bit Elton John-like in the verses and a total blast in the 'and I know!' chorus. And on 'Swan Song' whoever is singing (Barry? I still can't differentiate...) almost sounds like a Jon Anderson in a particularly childish mood. Is that good news for you?

Well, anyway, count this as a very weak 8 as compared to, say, Cucumber Castle (which I think is a slightly better album indeed), and a further confirmation that the Bee Gees would never turn out to be the "intellectual giants" of the rock elite. To make matters worse, this record finally convinced them, or must have convinced them, that the sappier and schlockier the song is, the better hit single it would make. Oops, sorry, seems like I've unintentionally switched onto the Bee Gees hating mode, didn't mean to do that. In any case, their next album would be much, much better, and a rare case of pretention actually helping the schlock master rather than being his worst enemy.



Year Of Release: 1969
Record rating = 10
Overall rating = 12

You can't think positively of the Bee Gees and dislike this album. Their most ambitious - and it all works.

Best song: MELODY FAIR

Track listing: 1) Odessa (City On The Black Sea); 2) You'll Never See My Face Again; 3) Black Diamond; 4) Marley Purt Drive; 5) Edison; 6) Melody Fair; 7) Suddenly; 8) Whisper Whisper; 9) Lamplight; 10) Sound Of Love; 11) Give Your Best; 12) Seven Seas Symphony; 13) I Laugh In Your Face; 14) Never Say Never Again; 15) First Of May; 16) The British Opera.

Less diverse than 1st, but still deserving of the highest Bee Gees rating possible. The first few listens left me in virtually no doubt that this overfed, luxuriant, sprawlin' gold-lettering-on-red-velvet monster of a double album was a gigantic failure. The ballads seemed feeble, the "roots-rockers" as secondary and insipid as the ones on Idea. Yet all that meant, in reality, was that the hooks were subtler and the melodies more intricate than before!

Some say Odessa was the band's Sgt Pepper; others say it was their White Album. Both comparisons only make sense in pure 'status' terms - since the record is, at the same time, the band's "grandest" and the band's "biggest" statement, not to mention that comparing the Bee Gees with the Beatles is a favorite occupation among anybody who discusses their music. But unlike those two albums, Odessa is primarily a mood piece; it almost entirely lacks the diversity of late period Beatles, concentrating instead on creating an ethereal world of majesty and harmony - and in that sense, it is much more probably the Bee Gees' Pet Sounds, albeit nowhere near as complex or revolutionary (although some of the songs are pretty complex).

Of course, the Bee Gees could never refuse to follow the fashion: in accordance with the spirit of the times, Odessa was destined to be a bombastic concept album, with a grand story of love and loss and lots of references to Odessa the city in question. And, also in accordance with the spirit of the times, the concept crashed down somewhere in the midst of the recording sessions, leaving merely a bunch of disconnected songs that not only don't make any collective sense, but often don't make any individual sense either (yeah, this is mostly balladry, but the lyrics are often more nonsensical than the ones on their early "psychedelic" tunes). In addition to that, the band members had actively come to grips with each other and manager Robert Stigwood during the sessions, and in the end, this led to Robin splitting, Melouney and Peterson jumping ship, not wanting to get impaled on both sides, and the band effectively ceasing to exist for almost two years.

Yet despite all odds, this is a very, very strong collection of songs. If anything, this pseudo-conceptuality and an obvious desire to create something 'really serious' led to a temporary disappearance of the ultra-commercial sentimental schlock. It's no wonder the band argued so much about which song off the album should be the single - if we measure Bee Gees singles in terms of 'I Started A Joke' or 'How Can You Mend A Broken Heart', there are no potential singles on the album, maybe with the exception of 'Sound Of Love' (although the actual single was 'First Of May', which Stigwood apparently chose without the brothers' consent). In other terms, though, pretty much any song out of these ones, bar the two instrumentals, could be a single.

Odessa probably boasts the best orchestration on a Bee Gees album you'll ever hear. The movements of the string section are often unpredictable, and as a rule, they avoid the syrupy Mantovani-style passages, often sounding gloomy or doomy instead of saccharine. And without the overt sentimentality, exquisite ballads like 'Melody Fair' eventually come out as the proverbially ideal ballads they are. Check out that "two-level" chorus on 'Melody Fair' - when the low register vocals on 'Melody Fair, why don't you comb your hair, you can be beautiful too...' seamlessly flow into the higher register on 'remember you're only a woman', that's genius or at least close. Robin tones down the bleating on 'Lamplight', and the vocal melody in the verses is so complex it comes close to "non-commercial", while the chorus is a terrific singalong in the classic "Bee Gees Anthem" style (see 'Horizontal' the song). 'Black Diamond' is perhaps Robin's crowning moment of glory: his heart gripping '...and I'm leaving in the morning...' chant sure pulls some deeply hidden emotional string inside myself I haven't noticed previously, or maybe it's just cuz it's so well-counterpointed by the band's surrealistic harmonies in the background?

More good news - the Bee Gees are getting ever so much better at their roots-rock excourses. You start getting a taste of it from the second track - the folksy ballad 'You'll Never See My Face Again', which could have easily been penned by any early Seventies singer-songwriter, but was instead penned by the Bee Gees, who had the bright idea to feed it up with a terrific strings arrangement (see how the strings section jumps all over the place and plays complex intricate figures that carry the actual melody, especially the mock-psychedelic swirl after each ''ll never see my face again...' line). 'Marley Purt Drive' may not be a particularly complex song, but it puts the slide guitar and the banjo directly in their place, and Barry's vocals sound much more self-assured than they did on any of the rootsy songs on Idea. Geez, the song could have been done by The Band, don't you think? And it's got such a good stomp and everything, and a little touch of irony all through the lyrics ('fifteen kids and a family on the skids, I gotta go for a Sunday drive... an orphanage full of thirty-five kids, I gotta go for a Sunday drive...'?). I'm also a sucker for the fast punch of 'Whisper Whisper', a song that ain't particularly hard-rocking, but it's speedy enough to at least provide some relief from the constant snail-pace of the record. It's so much more full-sounding than 'Kitty Can', though, that you don't really need it to rock out - guitars, pianos, and organs, jumping from one speaker to another, a string quartet to join in for a few seconds, a false fade-out, a brass section that jumps out of nowhere for the last minute, and even a few bars of drum soloing, all good! And I might be sacrificing my credibility for eternity, but I'd personally take the joyful upbeat country-rock of 'Give Your Best' over at least three quarters of those lethargic songs off Sweetheart Of The Rodeo. Yup. Anytime.

Of course, the air of "maturity" is mainly given to the record by its more ambitious pieces, where the Bee Gees make feeble attempts at crossing into art-rock and even classical territory. 'Seven Seas Symphony' and 'The British Opera' are their attempts to create something in the Yellow Submarine spirit - "commercially relevant" classical pieces with poppy overtones. Not exactly my cup of tea, but you gotta give them some credit for stretching out without really embarrassing themselves: these pieces, indeed, are complex and display a certain knowledge/understanding of the subject. Much more interesting is the seven-minute title track which leads you into the album and almost deceives you into thinking that the Bee Gees have completely transformed into a different band. Otherworldly vocal melodies, harmonies coming out of the clouds, dark, occasionally flamenco-styled acoustic guitars, multiple sections, and a chorus that goes 'O-de-ssa' as if the band members' bodies were temporarily inhabited by Gregorian monks in a particularly cheery mood. It's not memorable in any way - there are no hooks in the song, just atmosphere. But as a grand atmospheric lead-in, it works as well as anything else.

In other words, it's definitely not a failure. Of course, with so many songs and this band not being the Beatles after all, there's bound to be some amount of filler (you choose your own, brother), and I'm kinda displeased with the fact that so few hooks jump out at you on first listen, but it's a very, very good record all the same. Heck, maybe this is the Bee Gees at their most mature, after all. And I guess for a brief moment they were idealistically hoping that they could combine this level of ambition with commercial potential - but Odessa didn't turn out to be a great commercial proposition in the end, and the Bee Gees would never again stretch out so much on any of their records. Too bad.



Year Of Release: 1970

Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 10

Without Robin, the brothers wade through the schlock - be they any less talented, this would be a complete Carpenter-like disaster.

Best song: I.O.I.O.

Track listing: 1) If I Only Had My Mind On Something Else; 2) I.O.I.O.; 3) Then You Left Me; 4) The Lord; 5) I Was The Child; 6) I Lay Down And Die; 7) Sweetheart; 8) Bury Me Down By The River; 9) My Thing; 10) The Chance Of Love; 11) Turning Tide; 12) Don't Forget To Remember.

It's hard to be three brothers in a row. So 1970 was marked by the only Bee Gees album where the band functioned as a duo - Robin Gibb quit over some serious spiritual differences, and it seems that his disagreements with the other band members were heavy indeed, because in certain interviews the band members are said to have told that if it wasn't for the brotherhood ties, Robin would never have returned at all. Which he did, eventually, after turning out a critically unsuccessful solo album and probably getting bored with loneliness.

In the meantime, Barry and Maurice were left to carry on by themselves - and the only album they released was indeed a far cry from former successes. I mean, what the hell, by far the coolest thing about Cucumber Castle is the front cover photo, picturing the brothers as knights, and the back cover one, picturing them as kings. Maybe they'd have done well to star in some Robin Hood movie, rather than wretching their careers in the infamous Sgt Pepper... cool idea, isn't it? Hmm.

Well, as for what concerns the song material, it's kinda painful. I fully understand people who dismiss it as a wretched self-parody and refuse to ever give it a second chance. Some even think of it as the Bee Gees' worst Seventies' effort. Heh. The problem is that all of these songs are horrendously overproduced. The orchestration gets way out of control; the brothers go out of their way to overemote on every second track; and even the 'tongue-in-cheek' songs, like 'I.O.I.O' and 'The Lord', are so grotesque in their 'mass orientation factor' that I find it hard to laugh at 'em. The level of saccharine is so high that... well, like I said, visions of the Carpenters and Billy Joel come to mind immediately. I hated the record on first listen and was even getting angry at myself for getting into the band in the first place (especially since this one had the misfortune of being my second Bee Gees album).

But you know, something clicks on the way. Overproduced and oversugared it may be, but in any case, the brothers still retain the main thing - an incredible knack for writing catchy, memorable pop melodies. In different hands, with a different production, this might have been a pop masterpiece. But even in the current situation, you just have to get used to the saccharine level, and then the melodies will show through. And there's quite a few brilliant ideas on here, especially in among the choruses. 'I Lay Down And Die', for instance. With its typically mid-Seventies Lennonish intro and the sly hooky chorus and the nagging piano line, you just can't get rid of it in your head. And there's something so seducing about the vocal melody of 'If Only I Had My Mind On Something Else', all these charming 'du-du-du-du's and the rest, that I can forgive even the Hollywoodish strings. And what the hell? I usually hate overemotive wails like they contribute on 'Then You Left Me' and 'Bury Me Down By The River', but dang it, are these vocal melodies clever. By far the worst moment on the album is when the first verse of 'Then You Left Me' ends and Barry whispers 'cause you left me', because according to the laws of the genre this should be followed by a faux-soul spoken passage (remember 'Are You Lonesome Tonight?' Yyyyyeeeek!), but by far the best moment is when it turns out there's gonna be no spoken passage at all. Gee, what a relief. But no, I'm serious: somehow the guys manage to be completely generic and avoid most of the usual cliches at the same time. 'Bury Me Down By The River' is very Elton John-ish, on the other hand, although it really reminds me more of Elton's Nineties style than of the Seventies' one - anthemic, universalistic and falsely grandiose. But oh so damn catchy.

The monotonousness of sweety ballad after sweety ballad only gets interrupted twice, but both times it works. 'I.O.I.O' is the Bee Gees revisiting Hollies territory with a 'calypso jam', and it's a little terrific pop number, although I'm still puzzled as to whether I should take the 'i-o-i-o' chorus for something brilliantly simplistic or something completely abysmal. And they also allow themselves to go a little countryish on the intentionally pedestrian 'The Lord'. It's definitely a comedy number, because the Bee Gees were too intelligent a band to let themselves seriously believe in something like 'you can believe what you wanna but I know what I'm gonna do I'm gonna believe in the Lord' set to a stupid bluegrass rhythm. So I count this number as belonging to the "so stupid it's really groovy" category.

'My Thing' is very Simon and Garfunkel-esque, too: remember that style of softly shyly picking your guitar while singing in a hushy quiet tone (read 'Feelin' Groovy', 'Cloudy', etc.). Kinda pretty. The other songs don't grab as much, and that's not good, because when a song off Cucumber Castle doesn't grab you, this is more or less a death sentence to that song. But even after you've executed the fourth or even third part of this album, the rest still begs for forgiveness - in the 'we're guilty but we're entertaining' kind of way. Cheese, yes, but remember that this kind of cheese would dominate throughout all of the Bee Gees' early Seventies period - before they switched to being 'lords of the disco underground', that is.



Year Of Release: 1971

Record rating = 9
Overall rating = 11

With Robin back, the overorchestrated schlock is mostly gone, with just a couple of severe lapses of taste here in its place.


Track listing: 1) 2 Years On; 2) Portrait Of Louise; 3) Man For All Seasons; 4) Sincere Relation; 5) Back Home; 6) The First Mistake I Made; 7) Lonely Days; 8) Alone Again; 9) Tell Me Why; 10) Lay It On Me; 11) Every Second, Every Minute; 12) I'm Weeping.

Is my taste going down the drain? I love this album. Okay, so it's not the kind of love you feel towards a Beatles album. But it's just the kind of love I usually experience when adjusting myself for a 2-star band. Critics and fans alike often put down this record, calling it one of the brothers' weakest efforts ever, for what reason - I still can't figure. For me, this is undeniably a high point and easily their best effort of the Seventies. Talk about feelings... in any case, people running the All-Music Guide were somewhat baffled by the record, too, because they give out a two-star rating to it and then proceed to write that it's just as strong an album as any of the early Bee Gees' records (which ranged from three to five stars). Go figure.

Anyway, the brothers happily reconvene and reconciliate and turn in what some call a bunch of genial songs and some call a bunch of morose outtakes from their solo careers. Which side to take? Well, it's the Bee Gees, for Chrissake, are you going to blame them for putting overblown orchestrated country ballads on the album? It's their schtick, consarnit. Okay, so the album does sag in places, it's not all brilliant. While walking the plank, they seem to fall into the water on no less than two dreadful numbers. First is 'Sincere Relation', a song where Robin plays on our weakest senses by presenting us with a melodramatic picture of the life and death of an outcast (in about eight lines of lyrical brilliance, no less). Not only does the song have no distinctive melody, but his tremolo singing really grates on me, and combining it with lines like 'But then he died without an explanation/He never lied, a very sincere relation' was a double bad move. Aarrgh. Another lapse of taste is the banally-titled 'Tell Me Why' which only goes to show that the only good song of that name will forever be associated with the Fab Four, not the Fab Three (by the way, Genesis also had a 'Tell Me Why' and it also sucks). The brothers' song is criminy, overproduced sacchariney schlock of the worst kind. The good news is that they rarely fell victims of such an approach to arranging their compositions; the bad news is... well, I already told it.

Plus, a couple of songs are just boring ('I'm Weeping', 'Alone Again'), the big surprise being that all of them belong to Robin - the man apparently had some kind of breakdown which temporarily cut off his pop instincts, or at least drove them deep into the bowels. The rest? The rest is good.

Predictably, Barry and Maurice go on with the orchestrated balladeering, and the hooks are as strong as always. The title track, going from a bit of tasty accapella singing to an upbeat, sing-along part and from there to the climactic chorus - celebrating the family's re-union after two years - is a minor masterpiece. And it's immediately followed by 'Portrait Of Louise'; just listen to that song twice in a row and see if you can get it out of your head. The 'you can shelter in my home and I won't ask you why' part is unbeatable, in the best tradition of the Hollies - magnificent Brit-pop at its most catchy and pleasant.

The swooping 'Man For All Seasons', though a bit more on the pompous side, is still a great number, with yet another overwhelming chorus - I especially groove at the way they rhyme the 'I gotta tell you, I got the reasons, cause I'm a man, man for all seasons' part. Beginning songwriters should stay here and pray at the altar of these guys, no matter what kind of venom one might thrust at the orchestration; that's just the way one should go about carefully constructing and 'hooking' a pop anthem. They give their verses such sharp, unexpected and absolutely genial twists that few men alive really could. I even hate to admit it, but I dig 'The First Mistake I Made', Barry's organ/guitar/strings country ballad that one could accidentally mistake for the Eagles, except that it's a bit better in the musical department and a bit worse in the lyrical one (as it usually happens when Brits tackle American lyrical subjects).

But perhaps the biggest advantage of the album, which makes it stand out and actually surpass Trafalgar, is that there's enough diversity in the songs. Sure, it's nowhere near as diverse as First, but from time to time the balladeering gets substituted for tracks that rock out a little. 'Back Home' is a great exercise in minimalism - less than two minutes long, just two verses, a simplistic chorus and a couple distorted lead guitar lines. And dig that swooping bass, too. A good contrast with all the balladeering and a great sly move - on a 'rocking album' this would be filler, on here it's a highlight. Maurice contributes the groovy country rocker 'Lay It On Me' which is fun to sing along to and fun to identify with - 'I'm just a low down critter who never did any good'. As far as I know, it's one of their better country stylizations; the only thing it lacks is a banjo - have they never tried utilizing that instrument?

The main hit single off the album, 'Lonely Days', is also a major highlight. Again, it utilizes the 'climax trick' of the brothers, going from 'tiny' to 'huge'. If you can resist stomping your foot to the chorus groove and chanting 'where would I be without my woman?' along with the brothers, you don't belong on this planet.

All in all, I could never see why 2 Years On gets such a bad rap from critics. Okay, brothers and sisters, condemn it, throw it in the trashbin, but if so, you gotta do the same to Cucumber Castle, Trafalgar and virtually all the Bee Gees early Seventies period, cause it's so typical of that one. An excellent orchestrated pop album it is, and a perfect reunion for the brothers. And those lapses of taste I've mentioned earlier... well, let's just pretend they never existed.



Year Of Release: 1971

Record rating = 9
Overall rating = 11

I miss the hooks. I miss the diversity. Dammit. But there are some really shattering ballads on here.


Track listing: 1) How Can You Mend A Broken Heart; 2) Israel; 3) The Greatest Man In The World; 4) It's Just The Way; 5) Remembering; 6) Somebody Stop The Music; 7) Trafalgar; 8) Don't Wanna Live Inside Myself; 9) When Do I; 10) Dearest; 11) Lion In Winter; 12) Walking Back To Waterloo.

On the contrary, this one seems to be somewhat overrated by fans. It's certainly one of the most ambitious Bee Gees' projects ever, maybe the most ambitious after Odessa (which I hope to be reviewing soon). However, where Odessa was a naive, but experimental and daring move, Trafalgar is slick, slick, really slick, with every tiny speckle of dust carefully plucked out and polished to extreme shine. Every instrument is in its place, all the vocal parts are carefully arranged and overdubbed, and, just so as to assign a bit more significance and pomp to the record, it is presented as a 'conceptual' one - with the scene of the battle of Trafalgar on the front cover, the band dressed in Napoleon/Nelson period uniforms inside and songs with titles like, accordingly, 'Trafalgar' and 'Walking Back To Waterloo'. Everything speaks in favour of the hypothesis that, urged on and inspired by the commercial success of 2 Years On, the band were intentionally planning to release their masterpiece. Does it work? No; bands don't prepare masterpieces.

First of all, the concept is a hoax. I find it kinda cute that Maurice 'impersonates' Nelson and Robin 'impersonates' Napoleon (can this represent the feud of old?) in the songs, but that's about it - no other numbers fit the concept, and I really do not quite get it. Second, while carefully sorting out everything that could be 'filler' and thus preventing the record's 'masterpiece' status, the brothers viciously stamp out any 'rock' incentives they might have had. It is certainly understandable: the smooth balladeering is what they do best. But it also makes the record hard to endure; forty-seven (yes, it's that long) minutes of 'orchestra pap' can really get on your nerves even if it's the Bee Gees, masters of the genre, that we're talking about. Oh, for a little 'Back Home' now and then! Nadah.

Third and most important, not all of these songs have that kind of 'The Authentic Patented Stupendous Gibb Bro. Hook' that I already described the many variations of above. Oh no, lapses of taste are almost vacant here... almost, because 'Dearest' is horrible - I don't know if Robin based the song, seemingly dedicated to a dead love of the protagonist, on a real case, but if he did, it's all the worse. Whew, what a stinky piece of overemotive, faux-operatic schlock. I hate it when Robin uses that bleating tremolo effect on his voice, and when it's supposed to be dedicated to remembering a deceased person... eeeh, just a minute while I find the bathroom.

Okay, now that's that out of the way: 'How Can You Mend A Broken Heart' was the big hit single on here, and it's kinda catchy, but it also overdids the sap factor. So.. okay. All right. I count six very good, maybe great, songs on here, and these six numbers are enough to raise the rating as high as I raised it - after all, that's half of this record, isn't it? (And the other four songs are okay). Now, a bit of formula.

Number one. 'Israel'. You know that one, doncha? The one where Barry Gibb confesses his love for the land of our ancestors. I don't know what struck him exactly, but he does it quite convincingly, pulling off one of the best white R'n'B numbers of the Seventies. I only wish they'd invited Elton John to sing that one, because Barry's voice is simply kinda thin and feeble to completely fit the grandiose orchestra arrangement. (Shh... please don't tell Barry, or he'll probably massacre - either me or Elton).

Number two. 'It's Just The Way'. Maurice is still doing fine, it seems. A great acoustic/electric melody, but the best thing, of course, is Maurice's brilliant Lennon impersonation and the subtle changes of vocal notes. And the lyrics are fine, too; did I mention, by the way, that the lyrics on Trafalgar are among the band's most interesting? Even if, as usual, if it ain't a love ballad, it hardly makes any sense. But that's a tradition going back to 'Every Christian Lion Hearted Man...'

Number three. 'Somebody Stop The Music'. Ah, I love that one. It's got the only 'boogie' passage on the album - the 'don't love ya baby don't love ya' end section - so it's the best place to groove along to. But the main melody is equally good, and easily the most memorable moment on the record.

Number four. The title track. Maurice again. Beatles imitation again. But I enjoy singing along to the 'Trafaaaaaaalgar' chants.

Number five. 'Don't Wanna Live Inside Myself'. Don't be quick in dismissing it as just another piece of oversaccharined jello. I made that mistake the first time around, and I almost missed a masterpiece. Actually, it's the sugar falsetto of Barry that might make one turn away, but you just gotta get used to it. If there is one, just one single moment that is 'pure heaven' in all the Bee Gees catalog, it's the dreamy, hypnotic, majestic chant of the title line at the end of each chorus. Nobody in the world of pop music - and I'm racing over all the possible connections in my mind right now - could ever come up with something as unique and overwhelming. Maybe Brian Wilson on Pet Sounds... but no, that would be a little different, because the Beach Boys' harmonies set a mood that's quite unsimilar from the Bee Gees'. That swooping coda is just one minute of perfection. Oh dear me. Whoever could have thought that one minute of perfection could be embodied in a Bee Gees coda? There you go.

Number six. 'Lion In Winter'. The stupid drum intro should have been cut out (or at least made three times as long - at least we'd know the guys are really trying to be weird and it's not just a mixing error), but the song, about... about... about a lion in winter - the lyrics are too ambiguous to guess what the hell the brothers were meaning to say - makes a shattering climax, with Robin singing in a strange hoarse voice that may turn off the uninitiated but won't turn off me. I love weirdo singing. Man, I'm a Bryan Ferry fan. What else do you want from me?

So that's that. These six songs, plus selected moments (the grand chorus of 'Walking Back To Waterloo', the touching coda to 'Greatest Man In The World') minus other selected moments (the bgoring chorus of 'Remembering', the unbearable coda to 'When Do I') minus the abomination of 'Dearest' make up a record rating of nine. A weak nine as compared to the strong nine of 2 Years On. Considering that both records came out in 1971, I suggest you get both and unite them on one album, throwing out the filler. This would possibly make the greatest Bee Gees album ever.



Year Of Release: 1972

Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 9

Too many freakin' Robin vocals on that one, too much saccharine, too. And not a lot of hooks. (Dang, I'm not getting too diverse in these summaries).


Track listing: 1) Run To Me; 2) We Lost The Road; 3) Never Been Alone; 4) Paper Mache Cabbages & Kings; 5) I Can Bring Love; 6) I Help A Party; 7) Please Don't Turn Out The Lights; 8) Sea Of Smiling Faces; 9) Bad Bad Dreams; 10) You Know It's For You; 11) Alive; 12) Road To Alaska; 13) Sweet Song Of Summer.

Okay, so this is the start of the downfall. The brothers had moved to Los Angeles by this point, and the Hollywoodery was obviously starting to draw them in - hell, just look at their pompous outfits on the album cover. Not that this record is really bad: like most other early Bee Gees records, it draws you in after a while. But not as strongly as its predecessors from 1970-71. Like Trafalgar, this one is completely dominated by orchestrated ballads. But it doesn't have the epic swirl of the latter which the brothers managed to pull off so splendidly - on an overall level, To Whom It May Concern is an extremely lightweight record, with shorter songs, simpler arrangements, less intricate production and far less pretentious lyrics. 'So', the reader says, 'isn't that a better thing? Who really needs pretention and complexity on a Bee Gees record?'

Well, some certainly do. Lack of pretention means that the lyrics are just simplistic love poetry, and lack of complexity means that the arrangements are quite trite and second-rate. Worse, the "solo" numbers, that is, the ones that are not dominated by the band as a whole or written exclusively by one band member, completely blow: Robin's 'Never Been Alone' and 'I Can Bring Love' and Maurice's 'You Know It's For You' and 'Alive' are bland hookless love concoctions that are supposed to break through to our conscience exclusively due to the force of the brothers' voices. But if Maurice's is at least tolerable, Robin has completely switched onto that shitty trembling tenor that he'd only displayed occasionally before. Apparently, he thought that this renders his singing more convincing and his vocal delivery more emotional, but I can't see how anybody could really fall over his goaty generic crooning. This is called 'over-emoting', and since there is no obvious reason for that on any Bee Gees song, this type of over-emoting just stinks. Sorry Robin.

Other embarrassments follow one by one - steadily and mercilessly, they all convince us that the Bee Gees are finally losing their balance and tripping over the line that separates genius from cornball. 'We Lost The Road' strikes me as a particularly stupid tune: besides featuring more Robin Goat, it also has the entire band joining in a happy dippy 'Close Another Door'-type harmonizing. But they're actually singing 'aaaahh, we lost the road'! Can you imagine anything more stupid and disorienting than chanting 'we lost the road' as if the subject matter were something beautiful and gorgeous? Try substituting the da-da-da chanting at the end of 'Hey Jude' for something like 'we lost the road' and see how idiotic you will look while singing along.

Another embarrassing gimmick is 'Sweet Song Of Summer', with the proud announcement in the liner notes: "The Moog Synthesizer on "Sweet Song Of Summer" played by Maurice Gibb". The main melody is actually not bad, but the 'playing' itself (messing around, rather) is completely unnecessary.

Still, not everything is so bad. The anthemic multi-part harmony-fests 'Run To Me' and 'Sea Of Smiling Faces' are excellent, despite the heavy cheese elements in the former (I mean, it's hard to get over the icky feeling over the sweety falsetto 'if e-ever you got rain in your heart' opening, but you have to get over it - the melodic structure of the song is immaculate) and the Davy Jonesey vocals in the latter, which is still bopping pretty well and quite mood-uplifting, if you axe me. The couple of 'arder rockin' songs are surprisingly good, too. 'Bad Bad Dreams' is a cheerful, energetic Beatlesque rocker with a magnificent guitar riff and hooks all over the place; and 'Road To Alaska' draws on the roots, but does it in a fun, tongue-in-cheek manner, and it's one of the two songs on the whole album that doesn't have Robin kicking out all the contents of my stomach in one go, as his goatey effects seem to be irritating only when they're supposed to sound, ahem, 'emotional'. Terrific lead guitar work from Alan Kendall, too. Hell, it's so dumb that there are but two of these harder numbers on the whole record - why did these guys want so much to market themselves as soft balladeers when they were equally, if not far more talented, at penning classy pop rockers? Heaven knows the answer.

The best number on the record, though, is track number four - one of the last ever true Bee Gees classics, and pretty underrated at that. 'Paper Mache, Cabbages & Kings' is nothing less than a forgotten Britpop/psychedelic masterpiece, fit for inclusion on Bee Gees 1st; a multipart inventive nonsensical ditty that goes from a quirky little music hall dance tune to anthemic refrains with vocals soaring to the sky, until it suddenly changes to a soft love ballad with lyrics that completely make sense ('like paper mache you broke my heart') and Robin starts screaming 'paper mache paper mache' all over the place... yeah, you got me, it's the second time he doesn't irritate me because he sounds so dreadful funny. Bwahaha. And they end the song with a little bit of black humour - 'Jimmy had a bomb and the bomb went bang/Jimmy was everywhere'. Proof enough that at least at this point the brothers' sense of humour and self-irony was still present; even more so, 'Paper Mache' produces the necessary 'deflating' effect for the album's pomposity and is enough to bring its rating up an entire point. Hopefully it's this song that will be remembered the most from this album.

Other than that and the 'rockers' and a couple of better ballads, yeah, well, things go pretty rough; 'stagnation' is the perfect word for the situation, and, unfortunately, the brothers themselves weren't still aware of the fact; so things would go far rougher on their next release.



Year Of Release: 1973

Record rating = 4
Overall rating = 6

Complete saccharine country junk where you can count decent musical ideas on the fingers of one hand.

Best song: WHILE I PLAY

Track listing: 1) Saw A New Morning; 2) I Don't Wanna Be The One; 3) South Dakota Morning; 4) Living In Chicago; 5) While I Play; 6) My Life Has Been A Song; 7) Come Home Johnny Bridie; 8) Method To My Madness.

More like "Hitting The Bottom Of A Tin Can". I mean, To Whom It Should Never Concern was poor enough, but it never really predicted the utter disaster that is this album. For a long time I thought that ultimately the Bee Gees couldn't go wrong with their ballads - whatever were my initial feelings for an early Seventies album of theirs, they always finally gave way to a feel of satisfaction. With Life In A Tin Can, it's exactly the opposite: with every new listen, the feel of boredom, sickness and disgust only grows higher. Blah.

The only general advantage of the record is that it's remarkably short - eight songs in all, and they don't always overextend any given song, so it ends pretty quickly. Otherwise, it's all blah blah. Barry dominates on here - four of the songs are his solo compositions, while the other four are all written in coauthorship with the other two brothers. But if this means something, it can only mean that Barry either sold out to the big bosses who intentionally asked him not to put forth any new musical ideas or just suffered from some terrible accident that put water on his brain. For starters, there are ONLY ballads on here this time, with just a couple variations on the second side. Second, there are no hooks - melodical or vocal. Third, the band goes for a solidified 'multi-player' approach, drawing on various talents (they recruit Jim Keltner on drums, Rick Grech on bass and even country hero Sneaky Pete Kleinow on pedal steel) and wasting them shamelessly. The goal, if I understand it right, was to emulate a big band 'soft country' sound; not surprising, considering the fact that the brothers were by then well-soaked in Californian influences. (Strange they didn't go into surf rock, tho'). But an orchestrated country ballad isn't exactly my cup of tea, and I don't see why it should be anybody's cup of tea. The Bee Gees always saved their butts by taking traditional orchestrated pop and twisting it in a way that it left space for their own genial melodic hooks and special, fresh harmonies, memorable and even relatively innovative - if you count new melodies within an existing genre as real innovation, of course. On Life In A Tin Can, they work strictly within a formula, and that's not just disappointing - it's painful. It's a clear-cut case of sellout, and even more ironic is the fact that the Bee Gees actually reached the bottom of their sales with this album. Well, quite deservedly so: whoever needed yet another band of Californian jerks? Even me, I'd much better take any given Carpenters record over this hogwash.

I count exactly ONE good (not great) song on the album, Barry's interesting ballad 'While I Play' that opens the second side, because it's exactly one song that deviates from the formula, at least in the instrumentation and the mood shifts. The main acoustic melody is pretty pedestrian, but the instrumental links between the verses are rather good, with menacing electric guitars and spooky violins coming in and suddenly changing the upbeat mood into something real dreary. If only they'd bothered to add this kind of gimmickry to other songs on the record, it would at least have something for us to hold on to; but in the context of the other seven numbers, 'While I Play' almost seems like a crazyass Brian Eno experimental number.

And that's it with the 'good' stuff. The 'listenable' songs include the lightweight, slightly underproduced country shuffle 'Come Home Johnny Bridie' that sounds not even a trifle authentic but at least has next to none of the oversickening orchestration, replaced by some tasteful playing courtesy of Sneaky Pete. And I'm not yet fully decided as to the album closer, the anthemic 'Method To My Madness': on one hand, Robin the Goat takes lead vocals (I don't know why I hate his voice more than the band's obnoxious falsettos in their disco period, but I can't help it), on the other hand, the main vocal melody is immaculately constructed and is quite Trafalgar-quality. Let's just say that it's a good musical idea that's been set into an unsuitable environment. Okay?

But you probably get it that next to 'listenable' comes the 'unlistenable', and this comprises the entire first side of the album - quite possibly, the worst side of Bee Gees material ever. The overlong, slow, 'philosophic' anthem 'Living In Chicago' is the worst offender, showing us how much the brothers really cared about originality at that point - I could have composed a better song in five minutes, and anyway, why bother? It's obviously a rip-off of some obscure country ballad. But 'Saw A New Morning' and 'South Dakota Morning' more or less sound the same, and the Robin the Goat showcase 'I Don't Wanna Be The One' is just a big fat piano nothing; earlier, they would just make a short two-minute link out of it, but on here it's extended to a four-minute running time and upgraded to a true toilet-demanding experience. And I won't even mention 'My Life Has Been A Song', the major stinker on side two (sheez, the title itself is enough to provoke a particularly nasty fit).

What happened? Well, for starters, the brothers should never had moved to California; it's obvious that the stale corporate environment of the place had them stagnated and their talents neutralized in no time. Second, Life In A Tin Can acts like a warning to all the balladeers: however talented you are, one day you will run out of creative ideas and will be left marring your reputation forever with loads of nasty schlock. Third, well... use your head and not your butt. This, I believe, is the crucial principle that should apply to all musical genres, and is essentially the main point of this site's existence.



Year Of Release: 1974

Record rating = 9
Overall rating = 11

Back in business at last - amazingly, relying more on the old formula than the new one.

Best song: DOGS

Track listing: 1) Charade; 2) Throw A Penny; 3) Down The Road; 4) Voices; 5) Give A Hand, Take A Hand; 6) Dogs; 7) Mr Natural; 8) Lost In Your Love; 9) I Can't Let You Go; 10) Heavy Breathing; 11) Had A Lot Of Love Last Night.

One last gasp at decency on the part of the "antiquated" Bee Gees as opposed to the disco-rejuvenated Bee Gees starting from the following year. Wait, "gasp of decency"? That's putting it rather mildly - compared to the previous two disappointments, Mr Natural is a dang classic. I don't want to sound nationalist or anything, but apparently, working on English soil turned out to be way healthier for the brothers than trying to establish a few roots in California. Maybe London broads were less distracting than L.A. broads. Or maybe England suffered from cocaine deficit in 1974. Or maybe there was an overall fresher vibe in London's IBC Studios (which they apparently shared with Eric Clapton). Or, maybe, most probably, the Gibbs simply had this ridiculous prejudice that if you're recording in California, you have to record Americana - and that's one thing they were really unfit for.

In any case, Mr Natural is really good. Some people choose this album as the starting point for the band's new image, and upon first sight, it would seem fitting: a classic case of a band running out of steam in its original incarnation and then suddenly brought back upon its feet through a radical shift of style. The catch is - there IS no radical shift of style on Mr Natural. Only two songs out of all the lot, 'Down The Road' and 'Heavy Breathing', can give a slight, very slight hint at the disco craze of the band's next several albums; slight, because even these two are merely danceable and funky rather than discoish in nature - rugged and scruffy, too, instead of glossy and polished. Everything else continues in the vein of Trafalgar rather than anything else; in fact, the record is such a "natural" (pardon the unintended pun) successor to Trafalgar that it almost seems like the brothers had this subconscious (understandable) desire to wipe every memory of their two recent flukes out of their heads.

It took some time to get warmed up to it, though, mainly because I was severely misled by the generic sap of the album opener, 'Charade'. This, as well as several other softer-than-soft jello pieces ('Had A Lot Of Love Last Night', 'Lost In Your Love'), rigidly continues in the 'How Can You Mend A Broken Heart?' vein, and all I can really say is... well, at least Robin's vibrato is either non-existent or not particularly irritating on these songs. 'Had A Lot Of Love' is probably the best of the bunch, putting vocal harmonies on a higher level than the generic orchestration, but still, it just ain't no material to die over upon in out of, if you get my meaning. No big hooks, either.

Once you get past these ones, though, Mr Natural really starts cooking. The previous album almost forgot what kind of monster a classic singalong Bee Gees anthem can really be, and they finally correct the mistake by including 'Throw A Penny'. Honestly, I don't get the lyrical message of the song (and this applies to a lot of the material on here, by the way - all of a sudden, the lyrics start getting stuck somewhere in between profound social commentary and manneristic psychedelic nonsense of their early albums) - it may be about showing kindness for the younger generation, but it might as well be a convoluted metaphor for something entirely different. But it doesn't matter as long as they warm me soul with yet another magnificent gospel-tinged, unforgettable chorus. Later on, the "children" subject is being raised once more in the somewhat less stimulating, but still well-written 'Give A Hand, Take A Hand'.

Wait a minute - actually, now that I think of it, 'Voices' is about children, too! (Stop me now before I start thinking dangerous Freudist thoughts about these guys). And that's a song that can easily get by even without a single repetitive hook, simply through an utterly clever power build-up. Or rather, it's a very rare case of a Bee Gees song carried by an instrumental hook rather than a vocal one: Alan Kendall should have been given a special prize for his wah-wah work on the track. The craftmaship is impeccable: after the long long long vocal phrase introducing the chorus ('...if I were you and you were me those voices they would cease to be...') there's a desperate need of some counter-response, and when Alan steps in with the wah-wah pedal, it's almost as if another dimension were opening in your mind. The riff that appears later on in the song is no slouch, either. Awesome.

However, if I were to make a double-CD best-of for the brothers, 'Voices' would most probably be outrun by two other candidates. The title track is hard to describe in words; it's not particularly special in terms of style or arrangement, it's simply the proud owner of one of the best choruses these guys ever created. The verses are a bit Elton John-ish, maybe, and so are some of the vocal moves in the chorus (the 'when I walk in the rain...' line reminds one of the chorus to 'Love Lies Bleeding', doesn't it?), but the 'well I try try try try...' bit is pure Bee Gees, filling you from head to toe with that wonderful tingling sensation somewhere on the border between spiritual and erotic. It's also a great case of half-happy, half-sad music suiting the half-happy, half-sad lyrics to a tee (with Robin trying to get over his lost love and presumably failing. Cheer up, Robin, the crystal ball is just round the corner).

And then there's 'Dogs'. Every English (okay, the Bee Gees are genetically English, don't nitpick) band has to record a song called 'Dogs' sometime in their life. The Who had one. Pink Floyd had one. Even Blur had 'Essex Dogs'. Why didn't the Kinks have one, the sissies? Of course, now that the fox hunt is on its way out, this tradition has no future, which is why third millennium generations may have trouble identifying with the lyrical ideas of the Bee Gees song, whatever these might be. Musically, however, the song begins as classic rhythmic-ballad Bee Gees (or Elton John), then suddenly breaks into a totally different proto-ABBA piano-led middle-eight, then gets a powerful swooshing resolution in classic Bee Gees (Elton John!) style again. If anything, it's the bridge of 'Dogs' that is the most obvious indicator of the band's future (in retrospect, of course); even the vocals get the easily recognizable falsetto tinge. But it's not the bridge per se, of course, but rather the way it seamlessly interacts with the "old" style that makes the song such an obvious standout.

Out of the two "fasties" on here, 'Down The Road' is rather generic in an Eagles-kind of way, but nobody should ever neglect 'Heavy Breathing'. The brothers' first serious take on funk, it shows all of their limitations within that genre (stiff, artificial arrangements with no true groove power) as well as all of their strong points (potentially mediocre hooks that gain extra power and convincibility by being set to a heavy rhythm base). And - mind you - no falsetto. No slick gloss yet. Well, it is slick, even when compared to the contemporary soul experiments of other 'inexperienced' white boys like David Bowie, but still nowhere near the unfaltering automaton that the Bee Gees were going to become.

It's pretty weird, if you ask me, that Mr Natural didn't sell well - but maybe the people were just afraid of getting burnt third time in a row. The title track certainly deserved to be a hit, at the least. Maybe that was the last straw which led them to disco, together with the fact that their new producer, Arif Mardin (responsible for the horn arrangements on 'Heavy Breathing', in particular), was pushing them in the same direction. Well - whatever it is, Mr Natural is still a much better and much more logical conclusion to the band's Big Ballad Era than the 1972-73 flops, and I daresay even the direst fans would agree with me on that one.



(released by: BEE GEES & OTHERS)

Year Of Release: 1977

Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 10

Hey, it's Saturday Night Fever, all right. No kidding.

Best song: STAYIN' ALIVE

Track listing: 1) Stayin' Alive; 2) How Deep Is Your Love; 3) Night Fever; 4) More Than A Woman; 5) If I Can't Have You; 6) A Fifth Of Beethoven; 7) More Than A Woman; 8) Manhattan Skyline; 9) Calypso Breakdown; 10) Night On The Disco Mountain; 11) Open Sesame; 12) Jive Talkin'; 13) You Should Be Dancing; 14) Boogie Shoes; 15) Salsation; 16) K-Jee; 17) Disco Inferno.

Wait, don't kill me. First of all - how could one expect an extensive site like this to even pretend to amount to a little something without a review of the infamous, triple, quadruple infamous Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack? The top bestseller of the Seventies? And amazingly, still selling moderately well up to the present time; apparently, quite a few people of that generation still keep their stocks of polyester away in their closets. Or maybe it's all due to the success of Leisure Suit Larry (one of my favourite games, by the way)? Heh heh.

Now I'll proceed to say something atrocious. Saturday Night Fever actually was a positive move in the musical/cultural world. First, it brought disco out of the secluded night clubs and virtual 'underground' onto the surface. Second, it made disco so universally popular that the genre crumbled under its own newly-acquired mass just a couple years later. Third, it actually... yes, it did inject an ounce of creativity into a vast range of performers. Don't believe me? Compare the Stones' 'Hot Stuff', released in 1976, and 'Miss You', released in 1978. Both are disco, yes, but both are completely different disco. 'Hot Stuff' is nothing more than a danceable amusing groove - a riff, incessant jamming and lyrics that seem ad libbed and never do much within the song. 'Miss You', on the other hand, is a fully accomplished tune, with a solid melody and both instrumental and vocal hooks - and the disco rhythm to which it is set never really lets the song down but only serves to emphasize its good sides. In brief, pre-1977 disco is dance muzak; post-1977 disco is... dance music. Feel the difference?

I, for one, certainly do. That said, I am definitely NOT going to glorify Saturday Night Fever as an amazing piece of breathtaking songwriting and performing, as some of the more devoted readers at do. But nevertheless, it is, without a question, the best disco album ever put out by anybody, a weird anthem of disco rhythms and an ample demonstration of disco's possibilities. And those possibilities? Unlike rap, most of which is carefully structured according to a single beat/melody/vocal pattern, disco rhythms don't really prevent you from a lot of creativity - you can use them as a base for any riffs, vocal hooks, or atmospheric noises you prefer. I suppose this is obviously proved by Walter Murphy's 'A Fifth Of Beethoven', included on here, where he butchers poor Ludwig's immortal opus by discoifying it. Okay, so this particular track is a silly joke, as is 'Night On The Disco Mountain', a disco re-arrangement of Mussorgsky's 'Night On Bald Mountain'; but joke or no joke, the melody is preserved - one can hardly argue with that. Which means that you can actually find better, more aptly suitable melodies and come out with winners.

Like 'Stayin' Alive', for instance. Guilty pleasure, mayhaps, radio fodder, silly nostalgic crap. But trying to resist its charms is like trying to resist the charms of an experienced seducer - you know she's after your money, but you can't help it anyway. Aren't your knees beginning to wiggle at the very first chords of the song and how come you're not singing along to 'whether you're a mother or whether you're a brother you're staying alive...'? I sure do all that and more; that vocal melody is so dang great. 'Stayin' Alive' is the strongest track on the album, of course, but on some of their further numbers the Gibbs are solidifying their formula even more - particularly on 'Night Fever', 'Jive Talkin' and 'You Should Be Dancing', with hooks that weigh a thousand tons and just refuse to let you go. Guilty pleasures, all of them, but nevertheless, they are all able to display the brothers' songwriting talents. Guitar lines, vocal 'jumps', excellently placed saxophone passages, and, of course, a reasonable length, not your average seventeen-minute long horror ('Love To Love You Baby', huh?). It's when the disco rhythms are combined with over-the-top sappiness that the cheese really begins to stink: neither 'How Deep Is Your Love' nor 'More Than A Woman' have ever striken a bell with me, maybe because the otherwise tolerable falsetto of Barry and company sounds so overtly disgusting when it's actually put to the use of accompanying a love song. In fact, I far more enjoy the Tavares' version of the latter, which is also included on the album; without the sappiness, it comes out as yet another catchy, solidly written number.

I also don't understand all the fuss around Yvonne Elliman's version of the brothers' 'If I Can't Have You', which is often considered the girl's finest hour among all the critical crowd. The song, with incessant backing vocals, doesn't really give her soulful vocals a chance to shine like they did when she played the part of Mary Magdalene in Jesus Christ Superstar. The song itself, to me, seems rather like a throwaway that the Gibbs were wise enough to give to somebody else so as not to embarrass themselves.

The rest of the record is mostly instrumentals, most of them in a different style to illustrate the vast realms of disco. Nothing particularly special, yet nothing ugly or disgusting at all: the arrangements are clever and diverse, with reasonable amounts of brass, orchestration, wah-wah guitars and everything that goes with disco. Some do go on for too long, like Ralph McDonald's 'Calypso Breakdown' which simply never knows when to stop. But it is all compensated by the Trammps' blistering composition 'Disco Inferno' that closes the album on a lengthy, ten-minute note and yet never becomes boring. I mean, it is a well-known fact that disco originally grew out of a 'whiter take' on funk and soul, but these guys really put the 'soul' back into the genre, reminding us what it was all about in the first place. And if you feel that the hot rhythms and sexy vocals are getting too repetitive, well, that was disco's essence, after all. Gotta get over it.

In all, Saturday Night Fever is definitely more of a priceless document of its epoch than an independent, well-aging piece of music. But one gotta understand that it was actually intended to be that way at the very beginning - the film and the record were thought of in order to promote disco, and not in order to satisfy an artistic group's creative interests. That said, this is a very strong promotion, and there is absolutely nothing amazing about the fact that it won the genre millions of new devotees. Even if it never really went any further than that. And as for today, well, I was one year old in 1977 and missed the whole disco craze (which even got officially imported into the Soviet Union - yes, one could even acquire some Bee Gees songs on plastic records back then!), but I must say that taken individually, the best of these songs still sound fresh and musically interesting. Now feel free to crucify me.



Year Of Release: 1979

Record rating = 3
Overall rating = 5

Even without disco, these guys sure could embarrass themselves - and everybody else.

Best song: TRAGEDY... (indeed)

Track listing: 1) Tragedy; 2) Too Much Heaven; 3) Love You Inside Out; 4) Reaching Out; 5) Spirits (Having Flown); 6) Search Find; 7) Stop (Think Again); 8) Living Together; 9) I'm Satisfied; 10) Until.

This is crap. Not just crap - arguably the lowest point in the Bee Gees' entire career, outdoing both earlier lifeless efforts like Life In A Tin Can and later adult contemporary rubbish. I mean, heck, if the album cover isn't enough to piss you off, just one quick listen to three or four of these songs in a row will do the trick. At first I wanted to give this a one, but then I realized there were maybe just a couple of half-decent numbers on here, so no need to put Spirits on the lowest rung of the hierarchy scale. Still, it's all kinda sour...

The amazing thing is that, despite the album cover and the album's general reputation, Spirits is, in fact, NOT a disco album - let the main point of this here review be exactly that. In fact, there is just one pure disco number out of the ten tracks, and perversely enough, it turns out to be the best song. 'Tragedy' can't really hold a candle to the brothers' 'classic' disco numbers, all captured on the last album, but it has a rather nice structure and catchy refrain. I don't like the lyrical matter and it really irks me that the song seems to be taking itself a bit too seriously, whereas the best Bee Gees disco material was always somewhat tongue-in-cheek and humorously lightweight ('Jive Talkin', eh?), but I can't deny that there's been quite a bit of work put into the song - look at all the stops-and-starts and really clever incorporation of the sax and everything.

That said, every other song features a band member using the same goofy falsetto, and you can't imagine how tedious that turns out to be. Whoever instigated that fashion for falsetto singing in the late Seventies must be shot dead. The Bee Gees have an astonishing way of harmonizing with each other and compensating for each other's vocal weaknesses with their relative strengths; here, everything is neutralized, and one of the brothers' main strength - the strength of vocal conviction - is reduced to absolute nothing. All the more ironic that the album was released in 1979, when disco, falsettos and gold medallions were already on the way out. All the more ironic that the Bee Gees actually must have been sensing that, otherwise they would incorporate more pure disco songs on here. However, it is a well known fact that recording companies are the last ones to recognize that a certain fad has passed over, so the album was still marketed as a disco one (ooh, that ugly album cover, yuck...). It did well on the charts, but fully cemented the Bee Gees' reputation as bare chest polyester dorks, and that's why their 'respectable' transition to other genres in the Eighties took so long.

Anyway, what I wanted to say was that the songs on here are atrocious anyway. Apart from 'Tragedy', which at least mildly deserved its hit status, the two other hit singles on here were 'Too Much Heaven' and 'Love You Inside Out' (and all three are placed at the very beginning of the album - whoever does that? Was that a direct hint at 'you can sit through the hits and never pay attention to the rest' or what?), and both are not hot at all. In fact, they're rather cold. 'Love You Inside Out' is an insipid, rigid 'funk' number that completely forgets to incorporate at least one mild subtle hook, while 'Too Much Heaven' is way too sappy even for a Bee Gees ballad to count right up there in my book of classics. Oh sure, it might have been kinda unusual for the time - after all, adult contemporary was only forming as a distinct style - but today we get that crap on MTV regularly, and I really could care less.

So the only two songs on here besides 'Tragedy' that have, like you say, 'moments of coolness', are the title track and 'Search, Find'. The former at least deserves some respect because it sounds more 'live' than anything else on here - heck, its most prominent instrument is a lively acoustic guitar, and then there are all these bits of electric playing surrounding it. That's touching. I also like the nice flute motive that appears in between the verses - so folkish and touching. Even so, the main melody doesn't even approach memorable - where are the classic Bee Gees climaxes and unexpected vocal melody twists? Forget that. As for 'Search, Find', that one seems like a lost semi-classic to me, and one of the brothers' best R'n'B efforts - it's still not that much, but Barry keeps singing a very tightly constructed vocal melody that at least requires some serious voice modulation, and for once, the chorus seems to recapture some of the tightness and grooviness of Saturday Night Fever. For some reason, though, the song is always overlooked by fans - oh well, perhaps they're too busy shedding tears over all the balladeering crap that, for me, just drags the album further down.

None of the other songs are memorable at all - I won't even be mentioning song titles (would it be nice for anyone to hear, for instance, that 'Stop (Think Again)' is an absolute nadir in Bee Gees balladeering, with an ice-cold, super-slow, plodding melody that could have been written in three seconds but takes about seven minutes to get through? No it wouldn't. So I'll just shut up). As a resume, I'd like to return to that main point and say this: Spirits Having Flown isn't a true disco album, no matter what they tell you, but this doesn't mean that it's really worth picking up. Oh well, I didn't have to pay much for it, and if you find it in a used bin - and chances are high - you might even give it a try, in case you're nostalgic or 'historically curious'. Otherwise, spend your money on charity funds instead.


Return to the main index page