// Album Recommendation

Bee Gees

The Ultimate Bee Gees

(2009)

“Can still feel the breeze
That rustles through the trees
And misty memories of days gone by.”

The Ultimate Bee Gees Album Cover

Much Like their greatest early influence The Beatles, the brothers Gibb successfully fused a pop sensibility with lyrics that often managed to be simultaneously deep, evocative and engaging. For such a commercially ambitious group, their lyrics were often unusually cryptic and poetic, too. How Can You Mend A Broken Heart eloquently puts into words the rude awakening of growing up and being exposed to the heartaches and hardships of life and love (“Can still feel the breeze / That rustles through the trees / And misty memories of days gone by / We could never see tomorrow / No one said a word about the sorrow”). Like The Beatles, the Bee Gees also achieved a commercial success that few other bands will ever equal, scoring numerous hit singles and hit albums over the years, mainly in the '60s and in their '70s heyday. But unlike their idols, initially they didn’t achieve the same level of respect and credibility among critics by whom they were bashed as Beatles wannabes due to their similar three-part harmonies and baroque orchestral arrangements. Gradually, through hard work and perseverance, the Bee Gees proved that they were indeed far too talented a band to be labeled mere imitators, and they established themselves as highly respected songwriters in their own right, winning a total of seven Grammy Awards, a BMI Icon Award, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from both the BRIT Awards and the RIAA. Furthermore, they have been inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame, and they’ve received a star on The Hollywood Walk of fame. On top of that, they’ve sold in excess of 205 million albums and singles worldwide.

The 2-disc compilation The Ultimate Bee Gees, celebrating their 50th anniversary – as iconic ‘60s pop band, '70s kings of Disco and '80s/'90s soft rock elder statesmen, respectively – is ample evidence that they were fully deserving of every award, honor and chart placing bestowed upon them. All of the most notable hits are here in one generous package, as well as selected album tracks (e.g. the title tracks off Spirits Having Flown and Still Waters), and it’s a great place to start your Bee Gees collection or get re-acquainted with some of the most sophisticated Pop songwriting ever. The Ultimate Bee Gees is enough to dishearten any aspiring songwriter, that’s how impressive the musical legacy of the Gibb brothers is. Whether it be affecting ballads or infectious Disco or mature Pop/Rock, their music doesn’t merely entertain, it also makes you feel. In fact, love never hurt so good. The memorable ballad To Love Somebody describes what it’s like to love someone, who keeps hurting you (“You don't know what it's like, baby / You don't know what it's like / To love somebody / To love somebody / To love somebody / The way I love you”). Love You Inside Out is about a guy, who’s hopelessly in love with the woman, who’s cheating on him (“I am the man / Who loves you inside and out / Backwards and forwards / With my heart hanging out”). The passionate If I Can’t Have You is romantic longing at its most insistent and heartbreaking (“If I can't have you / I don't want nobody, baby”). The ultra-smooth ballad Too Much Heaven, one of the Bee Gees all-time classics, deals with the elusiveness of true love in modern times, a subject matter, which is probably more relevant than ever in this day and age (“Nobody gets too much heaven no more / It's much harder to come by / I'm waiting in line”). And then there’s the summery How Deep Is Your Love, an exquisite ballad about hoping for something more than just a casual fling (“And you come to me on a summer breeze / Keep me warm in your love / Then you softly leave / And it's me you need to show / How deep is your love?”). All this unrequited love may sound like a depressing prospect, but wrapped in the Bee Gees lush production and beautiful harmonies, it all sounds irresistibly warm and romantic.

The sequencing of the tracks on The Ultimate Bee Gees is non-chronological, but to this reviewer it only enhances the listening experience and renders it that much more interesting and satisfying, as the songs alternate between the Beatles-esque melancholia of Spicks And Specks and Lonely Days, the heartache of To Love Somebody and How To Mend A Broken Heart, the ambitious and masterfully composed Nights On Broadway, the glitterball Disco of Night Fever, You should Be Dancing and Stayin’ Alive (with the wonderfully campy lyrics: “Well, you can tell by the way I use my walk / I'm a woman's man / no time to talk.”), and the older and wiser reflections of You Win again (1987), This Is Where I Came In (2001) and Alone (1997). The latter, released as a single and included on the album Still Waters, is among the strongest singles Bee Gees released post-1980. The man referred to in the lyrics is most likely the same man that Barry Gibb sang about on the 1977 single Stayin’ Alive (presumably Barry Gibb himself: "I'm a woman's man / No time to talk"), only now he’s older and wiser, looking back and reflecting on his youth (“I was a midnight rider on a cloud of smoke / I could make a woman hang on every single stroke / I was an iron man / I had a master plan / But I was alone”).
The Ultimate Bee Gees features one lovely and heartwarming song after another and will make you want to delve even deeper into the Bee Gees back catalogue. This is popular music at its best.

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