Monday, June 2, 2014

Barry Gibb tour nears end, Bee Gees reissues out now

On Wednesday, Barry Gibb concludes his first U.S. solo tour with a show at the Hollywood Bowl with eldest son Stephen and niece Samantha in tow. Recent set lists have included a wealth of old favorites. Select tickets are still available via 

So this is a good time to remind Southern California fans (and others) about the new Bee Gees collection The Warner Bros. Years 1987-1991, which came out this past April.

Similar artist releases that round up four or five catalog CDs in slim sleeve packaging are prevalent in Wal Mart, Sam's Club, Best Buy, etc. Yet only a fraction of them are either remixed, remastered or feature rarities like Warner Bros. Years (see full track listing elsewhere on my blog).

I had never heard the three studio albums in their entirety before. Here is my take... 

Released in 1987, E.S.P. was the trio's first CD after a six-year absence and found them reconnecting with '70s producer Arif Mardin. A top 5 hit in England, the production is very much of its time. Highlights include the international hit single “You Win Again” with its clanking rhythm, the lush "Angela" and catchy vocal arrangement of "Crazy for Your Love."

Among the five bonus cuts are demo, extended and edited versions. The title track's demo is preferable to the finished one, while the extended “You Win Again” by then-hot remixer Shep Pettibone (Pet Shop Boys, Madonna) is only a minor change.

1989's One followed Gibb brother Andy's untimely death the year before. “Wish You Were Here” was penned for him and the album came dedicated to their youngest sibling as well.

Ace session bassist Nathan East (recently heard on Daft Punk's Grammy-winning latest effort) and drummer Steve Ferrone (now with Tom Petty's Heartbreakers) contributed.

The percolating title track (a #7 pop hit in America) is a standout here, as is "Bodyguard" (#9 adult contemporary), the plangent "Tears" and "It's My Neighborhood. Among the extras are “Shape Of Things To Come,” off 1988 Summer Olympics Album: One Moment In Time and remix/club/dance versions of "One." The club take is quite different.

The Gibbs crafted a loosely-based concept album for 1991's High Civilization (1991). Despite supple backing vocals by the Waters Sisters, it was met with deaf ears in America and failed to chart. Newly remastered, it is the weakest of the three studio albums in the collection with British top 10 hit “Secret Love” the high water mark.

For diehard fans the collection's real treat is One For All, a 1989 concert recording from the National Tennis Centre (now known as Rod Laver Arena) in Melbourne, Australia. Previously seen on the '91 concert home video, the entire audio has never been available before.

Newly remixed by Barry Gibb and John Merchant, the sound is superb and the brothers are still in fine voice despite it being the end of the One tour.

Plenty of classics are represented, though some are presented in a medley. "One," with Barry joking and laughing with the crowd, is strong. Elsewhere, "Lonely Days" is exciting and the low key arrangements of "I Started a Joke," "How Deep is Your Love" and "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart" are all winners.

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