I am no Bee Gees fan, in fact, a couple of years ago, I thought they were just some short-lived disco band. Then, my parents bought The Bee Gees' Greatest Hits: The Record, and I found out that they had a long history and began as a great, basic rock group, founded upon an incredible three-part harmony. So, when I found out that Barry and Robin Gibb, along with Maurice's estate, were releasing a box set, consisting of their first three pre-disco albums, I figured, we had to get it. So...read on!
The first Bee Gees album definitely shows it's age, but it is still enjoyable. Red Chair, Fade Away, Cucumber Castle and the opener, Turn Of The Century all sound straight out of the psychedelic sixties, while others are just timeless. The three most recognizable songs, Holiday, New York Mining Disaster 1941 and To Love Somebody are all incredible. "New York..." is a mesmerizing tale of a disaster, but the action is more in the vocals, as it is in all 14 of these tracks. Every Christian Lion Hearted Man Will Show You and Craise Finton Kirk Royal Academy Of Arts both skirt on the lines of serious and comedy record, but the vocals make both interesting listens. The amazing three-part harmony of "Craise Finton Kirk..." takes a serious turn later and is perfect in I Can't See Nobody and it shows versatility in One Minute Woman and Close Another Door. The Beatles influence on the group appears continuously, as no group at the time could stop the wave coming from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, but The Bee Gees find a way to differentiate themselves in various ways. One great example is "To Love Somebody". The greatest moment, probably on the whole album is the chorus of this song, where Robin Gibb sings "You don't know what it's like...no you don't know what it's like...to love somebody, to love somebody..." Then Barry Gibb comes in and does "...the way I love you."
The sophomore album is much different than the first and almost sounds like an entirely different group. It kicks off with the single, World, which is a nice song but some of the others on here are much better. Massachusetts, the other single, Lemon's Never Forget, Harry Braff and Really And Sincerely are all stellar numbers. The album is in a much more rock style and drifts from psychedelia, but some of that still sticks. The Earnest Of Being George, with it's starts and stops, is very odd and the album ends with the title track, which is surprisingly depressing. Overall, it might not be the best album in the set, but it is still well done and a good listen.
Probably, the best album in the set, Idea is a great mixture of pop and rock, although most of it does tend to shift to the pop side. The title track, stuck in the middle of the album is a great track, with fantastic guitar licks from Vince Melouney, who provides the only non-Gibb/Gibb/Gibb song ever released on a Bee Gees album: Such A Shame. The song's a great tune, but it proves that the singing in this quintet had to be left to the brothers Gibb. In The Summer Of His Years, Let There Be Love and I Started A Joke are all classic Robin songs. "I Started A Joke" was a huge hit, but it's lyrics are hardly uplifting. The other hit, I've Got To Get A Message To You is a classic Robin & Barry tune and Kitty Can is a great stomper, with a fast paced melody with excellent vocals from Maurice. The album closes with Barry's incredible ballad Swan Song.
All three albums include a second disc of bonus material. Of the forty extra tracks, only eight of them have been released anywhere. These include the hit Words, the obscure singles Baker of the U.F.O and Jumbo, along with their respective b-sides. Also included is an alternate mono single version of I've Got To Get A Message To You, which gives Maurice's McCartney-esque bass more volume and an instrumental track, Gena's Theme from an aborted soundtrack that came out on a promotional LP. Of the unreleased tracks, eighteen are songs the Gibbs never used in any way.
The most interesting disc might be Bee Gees' 1st's disc, which is all unreleased and includes two really interesting versions of "New York Mining Disaster 1941" and some great early versions of a few tracks. The highlight of Horizontal's disc, besides "Words" and the other 3 non-album single tracks, is the three unreleased Christmas tracks. The disc concludes with a very well done medley of Silent Night and Hark The Herald Angels Sing. On Idea's disc, there are two absolutely hilarious Coca-Cola radio spots at the end.
Another huge bonus is the addition of mono versions of all three albums, giving you two unique listening experiences.
The packaging is absolutely beautiful. Each album is packed in cardboard digi-packs with amazing group pictures of the band and Idea has three incredible portraits of the Gibbs. Also included are three fantastic booklets with detailed essays, complete with interviews from Robin, Barry and Vince. These essays give you complete histories and they go over each track and explains their significance and their inspiration. The booklets also show the original LP covers, along with the alternate covers for Idea and Horizontal and various single sleeves from around the world. The three albums are packed nicely inside a beautiful sleeve with an amazing picture on the front of the Gibbs and a picture of the band on the back.
This is an incredible box set. I can't say enough about how amazing the albums sound and how great the packaging is. There was not a single second of music that I did not enjoy. This set of one hundred-eighteen tracks (including the mono versions of the albums) made me laugh, made me want to sing, and most importantly, made me want to hear it all over again.
Bee Gees' 1st: 4/5