So you thought that the Bee Gees had orchestrated and harmonized themselves out for a while after Odessa? Well, not so. In fact, they have multiplied. Within the last two months two more albums in the continuing Bee Gees odyssey have appeared. The first of these is a Robin Gibb solo album, the other features the remaining two brothers. Maurice and Barry, involved in a quasi sound-track album.
Needless to say, it is very difficult to distinguish one from the other. Both feature evocative, nostalgic melodic gestures and literal sweeps of sound, sensitive (sometimes contrived gestures) harmonies and a brilliant mingling of classical and Spectorian gimmickry that dynamizes each tune. But what really makes both albums succeed is the lyrics. All the songs on both albums were composed by the brother, or brothers, involved. Most are negative ballads about either wasted lives or wasted loves, although on the Robin Gibb album this is varied quite a few times. “Farmer Ferdinand Hudson” is a surreal, have-to-hear-that-one-again effort similar in tone and vibrancy to the title tune from “Odessa,” while “Lord Bless All” features an over-dubbed choir and has a beatific pretentiousness about it. Other effective efforts on this album include “The Worst Girl in This Town,” which sounds like something the Crystals forgot to record in the mid-Sixties; also “Mother and Jack,” which is, surprisingly enough, a calypso-oriented tune that Robin expands and adds to expertly. The rest of the songs are undiluted forlorn/lonely ballads that range from the succinct “Weekend” or “Gone” to the repetitive “Most of My Life” or the confusing “Down Came the Sun.” Whatever else you want to say about Robin Gibb’s leaving the Bee Gees to go solo you have to give him credit — he has put together a well-balanced, appealing album. Except for that awful cover.
Cucumber Castle has its merits also. Actually, it’s a pseudo sound-track, half (five cuts) is from a Bee Gees television spectacular; the other half includes some vintage 1967 cut-in-Australia tunes previously never released. The most effective sound-track cuts are “Then You Left Me,” with Barry’s cosmic piano, the fragile-tempoed “I Was a Child” and the obligatory rave-up Christianity cut entitled “The Lord.” Of the old cuts. the percussive, almost Byrds-sounding “I Lay Down and Die” and the lackadaisical “If Only I Had My Mind On Something Else” show both sides of the peculiar Bee Gees sound that only gained a foothold in the United States through singles like “Holiday,” “Words” and “Massachusetts,” Not since the days of the Righteous Brothers have I heard such powerful harmonies coupled with such inventive musical diversity.
Actually, homogeneity is perhaps the key to the Bee Gees. At times they sound like the Beatles, Procol Harum, Moody Blues, the Buffalo Springfield and admittedly, pure schmaltz. But, a lot of the time they sound just like the Bee Gees — from Australia — three talented brothers — who sing, write and produce. If you got hooked on them with the vastly underrated Odessa, don’t miss either of these albums.