Sunday, February 01, 2009

ODESSA - The Bee Gees (Part Two - Bonus Material)

Here’s part two!
Rhino subtitled the bonus disc Sketches of Odessa, which is exactly what the disc includes.
Sketches of Odessa starts with a demo of “Odessa” that starts with a spoken version of the narration, which is more historically accurate (the ship sunk in 1866, not 1899). The guitar intro is sweet and lovely. It melts into Robin’s clear (instead of echo-drenched) singing solo in front of strings and the guitar. It’s a nice version, compared to the busy opener of the album proper.
You’ll Never See My Face Again”, which I have decided is my second favorite song, is featured here without Shepherd’s over-done orchestration. The only instruments are the acoustic guitar and Maurice’s quiet mellotron. This version really helps you to appreciate Barry’s vocal more, as it really is the driving force.
The version of “Black Diamond” is a basic demo, featuring Robin on piano, Barry on guitar, Maurice on mellotron, Colin’s drums and only very slight Shepherd strings. Robin drastically changed his vocal approach to the song and, I think, the album version is much better.
An alternate mix of “Marley Purt Drive,” sans orchestration, is next and even more awesome than the LP version. This is the version that if you didn’t tell your friend that it was the Bee Gees, he or she would never figure that they were the performers. This song is more country than anything any “country” artist is doing today.
Barbara Came To Stay” is a skeletal version of “Edison”, featuring none of the same lyrics and just a similar melodic structure. It sounds like these lyrics were never intended to be worked out as the final version, as half of the time, Robin is going “na na na” or “do do da do” during the verses. Soon, “Barbara came to stay” became “Edison’s here to stay”, so the song’s development is chronicled with an alternate mix of the final version, “Edison”. There are no major differences, except maybe that the guitar is more audible and the strings are further back in the mix. Plus, the vocal is different, with Robin giving a funny quip at the end.
Melody Fair” is represented by a jauntier demo, with great piano playing by Maurice and a different backing vocal arrangement. The song really is helped a lot by orchestration, so the LP version is much better than this demo, which is no more than a sketch. An alternate mix of the master take restrains Shepherd’s strings behind the Gibb’s guitars, piano and mellotron and Colin’s drumming.
A different mix of “Suddenly”, which just confirms the amazing nastiness with which Maurice sings, is next. After that is an alternate version of the second half of “Whisper Whisper” that misses some of the cool drumming and Robin’s frantic vocals that makes the final LP version really fun.
Lamplight” gets a spare demo, with Colin’s drumming mixed way into the front, giving it a fuzzy effect. Plus, Barry’s guitar is sometimes even in front of Robin’s vocals, making this mix focus more on the instruments than anything else. A more completed take follows.
Sound Of Love”, which is beautiful anyway, has an alternate, earlier mix that primarily features different lyrics. Other than that, it’s almost the same as the album track.
The alternate mix of “Give Your Best” gives a more serious take on the song compared to the happy-go-lucky insanity of the album version. For example, the hilarious opening is missing and Barry almost sounds bored while singing.
Next is an amazingly heartwarming piano demo of “Seven Seas Symphony” played by Maurice. I don’t see why the Gibbs wanted Shepherd to go nuts and put on a full orchestra on it. It was beautiful with just Maurice. Following that is studio chatter, which leads to a version of “With All Nations (International Anthem)” with vocals! It’s just a really silly, world-peace type prayer from the Gibbs. They were probably embarrassed by it more than anything. It was definitely a good idea to cut it!
An alternate 'single' mix of the insulting “I Laugh In Your Face”, which was planned to be the B-Side of Idea’s “I’ve Got To Get A Message To You”, is next. There’s no real striking difference, but it’s nice to have. The mix was withdrawn and the album track, “Kitty Can” replaced it.
The highlight of the disc, for me, is the mix of “Never Say Never Again” that follows. Maurice experimented with a fuzz box (like what Paul used of “Think For Yourself”) and while it is pretty cool, it gets in the way of Barry’s vocals and the harmonies in the chorus. Obviously, since the Bee Gees are a vocal group, mixing the effect out was a good idea.
A demo and an alternate mix of “First Of May” are next. While the demo is very nice, showing how great their vocals are when just accompanied by a piano, the mix features little differences and it might just be different vocal.
Two songs that didn’t even make the LP, “Nobody’s Someone” and “Pity”, are tacked onto the end of the disc. “Nobody’s Someone” features some great orchestration and fantastic vocals, so I’m not sure why they knocked it off the record, unless they just felt that there were too many depressing songs on it already. “Pity” is pretty cool and would have fit on Idea easily, which might be the cause of it getting cut.
The disc really ends with a promo spot for Odessa, which is just a nameless DJ rambling for 30 seconds about how awesome it is and how you should buy it.
Rhino’s deluxe packaging houses the album inside a hardcover flocked case to replicate the complete LP package. The inside of the case is the painting that acted as the inside of the LP’s gatefold. Along with the three discs, you get a cardboard sleeve for Sketches Of Odessa, another for the stereo and mono discs, plus a 16 page booklet, a poster and a Bee Gees bumper sticker. The booklet has a disappointing essay that is much less detailed than the extensive notes written for the first three albums. It mentions that the release lead to Robin and Colin leaving…but not exactly why. It features some nice pictures (including shots of Robin with ridiculous bug-eye glasses). The poster features a picture of the band on one side and written lyrics and 45 sleeves on the back.
In conclusion, any fan of psychedelic and 1960’s music, needs this set. The album is magnificent, and while the bonus disc features no fantastic revelation, it does show that the beauty of these songs lie in the songs themselves, not the production.
Plus, hopefully, it won’t take two years for Rhino to issue Cucumber Castle and Two Years On…and I’m crossing my fingers for Robin’s Reign. Overall, I love how Rhino is handling the Bee Gees’ output. I feel like I’m living back in the 1960’s and 1970’s waiting for the next Bee Gees release, especially since I haven’t heard the next few albums that Rhino has to put out.

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