Thursday, October 22, 2020

Bee Gees - Horizontal and Idea

My collection of Bee Gees music is a mainstay of my 45 collection, with incredible songs like "Holiday," "I Started a Joke" and "How Can You mend a Broken Heart." My LP collection contains only the Bee Gees 1st (actually their third LP; the first released internationally), a sadly overlooked LP from 1967 and the concept LP Odessa. The criticism of early BeeGees has always been the Beatles comparisons but 1st, and particularly the epic Odessa, are worthy of far more serious attention. With a single as impressive as "Holiday," why Bee Gees 1st is overlooked is a mystery. Obviously, the band's venture into disco flash precludes many of us from even saying the name without turning to stone, 1st stands out amongst the plethora of psychedelia that flanked AM radio by 1968 (yes, unlike Pink Floyd or the 13th Floor Elevators, the Bee Gees brand of Psychedelia was pure pop). The brothers' second (or 4th) LP, Horizontal, is one of 1968's forgotten gems.

As before, the variety of styles covered is almost dizzying. Starting off strongly with the spacey, psychedelic U.K. hit single "World", we get a couple of predominantly Robin tracks, which, while melodic, suffer from his over-excited vocal style. When brother Barry takes the lead, we land on stronger ground. The Beatles' influence remains, but I rather enjoy playing "Spot the Beatles", in songs like "Day Time Girl," Which sounds like all of McCartney's strings-laden ballads rolled into one, "The Earnest Of Being George,” heavying it up a-la "I Am The Walrus" and the closing title track falling somewhere between "Tomorrow Never Knows" and the Stones "2000 Light Years From Home." Despite the influence, these are top-notch tunes, the boys ability to so cleverly "follow-the-leader" does a fab job of filling very big footprints.

There is no doubt that the Bee Gees wanted to be the Beatles, who didn’t, but the Bee Gees fit unequivocally into that 2nd tier of Beatle-Pop alongside bands like The Hollies and The Dave Clark Five. Idea, the Bee Gees third international release was equally strong and included two stellar hits, "I've Gotta Get a Message to You" (not on the U.K. release) and "I Started a Joke." Here the LP sheds some of its influences and the brothers start to find a voice of their own; a voice that would lead them by the end of 1968 to the recording of Odessa, an LP that sits amidst the best of the most overlooked and underrated albums of all time (Oddysey and Oracle (sic), SF Sorrow, Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake). 

Apart from the hits, the album is filled with clever progressive baroque pop. "Let There Be Love" is a beautiful love ballad that could have been a single. The bouncy "Kitty Can" and "Indian Gin and Whiskey Dry" are simple novelty pop tunes, while "In the Summer of His Years" and "Down to Earth" are tragic ballads, while "Kilburn Towers" is an excellent smooth jazz experimentation that works oddly with Barry's vocals. The last track "Swan Song" beautifully closes an LP in which the sum more than exceeds the parts, even monster parts like "I Started a Joke."

Next Up: Odessa

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