The Bee Gees – Trafalgar (1971)

AllMusic Review: The Bee Gees had entered the early ’70s with a roaring success in the guise of “Lonely Days” and its accompanying album, which established their sound as a softer pop variant on the Moody Blues’ brand of progressive rock. Trafalgar, which followed, carried the process further on what was their longest single LP release, clocking in at 47 minutes. The music all sounded meaningful, much of it displaying the same kind of faux-grandeur that the Moody Blues affected on their music of this era, the core group (playing pretty hard) acompanied by either Mellotron-generated orchestra or the real thing, with the group’s soaring harmonies and Robin Gibb’s quavaring lead vocals all over the place. As with 2 Years On’s “Man for All Seasons,” there was also one title (“Lion in Winter,” featuring a startling falsetto performance) lifted from a recently popular film and play having to do with English history. It was all very beautifully produced and, propelled into record-store racks by the presence of “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart,” the group’s first No. 1 single, Trafalgar shipped very well initially. Nothing else on the record was remotely as memorable as the single, however, and its sales were limited. Trafalgar was also the handsomest and most elaborately designed of their albums, its cover reprinting Pocock’s painting “The Battle of Trafalgar” and the interior gatefold containing a shot of the brothers enacting the scene of the death of Lord Nelson. It all imparted the sense of a concept album, though nothing in the music said so, except perhaps the finale, “Walking Back to Waterloo.” Despite the hit single, the album showed the limits of the Bee Gees’ talents as songwriters and of their appeal as album artists. — Bruce Eder

Track Listing:

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Lead vocal(s) Length
1. “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” Barry Gibb, Robin Gibb Robin and Barry 3:58
2. “Israel” B. Gibb Barry 3:54
3. “The Greatest Man in the World” B. Gibb Barry 4:18
4. “It’s Just the Way” Maurice Gibb Maurice 2:34
5. “Remembering” B. Gibb, R. Gibb Robin 4:02
6. “Somebody Stop the Music” B. Gibb, M. Gibb Barry and Maurice 3:31
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Lead vocal(s) Length
7. “Trafalgar” M. Gibb Maurice 3:53
8. “Don’t Wanna Live Inside Myself” B. Gibb Barry 5:25
9. “When Do I” B. Gibb, R. Gibb Robin 3:58
10. “Dearest” B. Gibb, R. Gibb Barry and Robin 3:52
11. “Lion in Winter” B. Gibb, R. Gibb Barry and Robin 3:59
12. “Walking Back to Waterloo” B. Gibb, R. Gibb, M. Gibb Robin and Barry 3:51

 

Schill Score:  7/10

 

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The Bee Gees – Odessa (1969)

AllMusic Review: The group members may disagree for personal reasons, but Odessa is easily the best and most enduring of the Bee Gees’ albums of the 1960s. It was also their most improbable success, owing to the conflicts behind its making. The project started out as a concept album to be called “Masterpeace” and then “The American Opera,” but musical differences between Barry and Robin Gibb that would split the trio in two also forced the abandonment of the underlying concept. Instead, it became a double LP — largely at the behest of their manager and the record labels; oddly enough, given that the group didn’t plan on doing something that ambitious, Odessa is one of perhaps three double albums of the entire decade (the others being Blonde on Blonde and The Beatles) that don’t seem stretched, and it also served as the group’s most densely orchestrated album. Yet amid the progressive rock sounds of the title track and ethereal ballads such as “Melody Fair” and “Lamplight” were country-flavored tunes like “Marlery Purt Drive” and the vaguely Dylanesque bluegrass number “Give Your Best,” delicate pop ballads like “First of May” (which became the single off the album), and strange, offbeat rock numbers like “Edison” (whose introduction sounds like the Bee Gees parodying Cream’s “White Room”), and “Whisper Whisper” (the latter featuring a drum break, no less), interspersed with three heavily orchestrated instrumentals. Even the seeming “lesser” numbers such as “Suddenly” had catchy hooks and engaging acoustic guitar parts to carry them, all reminiscent of the Moody Blues’ album cuts of the same era. Moreover, the title track, with its mix of acoustic guitar, solo cello, and full orchestra, was worthy of the Moody Blues at their boldest. The myriad sounds and textures made Odessa the most complex and challenging album in the group’s history, and if one accepts the notion of the Bee Gees as successors to the Beatles, then Odessa was arguably their Sgt. Pepper’s. The album was originally packaged in a red felt cover with gold lettering on front and back and an elaborate background painting for the gatefold interior, which made it a conversation piece. — Bruce Eder

Track Listing

Side one
No. Title Lead vocals Length
1. “Odessa (City on the Black Sea)” Robin 7:33
2. “You’ll Never See My Face Again” Barry 4:16
3. “Black Diamond” Robin 3:27
Total length: 15:16
Side two
No. Title Lead vocals Length
4. “Marley Purt Drive” Barry 4:26
5. “Edison” Robin and Barry 3:07
6. “Melody Fair” Barry and Maurice 3:48
7. “Suddenly” Maurice 2:29
8. “Whisper Whisper” Barry 3:24
Total length: 17:14
Side three
No. Title Lead vocals Length
9. “Lamplight” Robin 4:47
10. “Sound of Love” Barry 3:27
11. “Give Your Best” Barry 3:26
12. “Seven Seas Symphony” Instrumental 4:09
13. “With All Nations (International Anthem)” Instrumental 1:46
Total length: 17:35
Side four
No. Title Lead vocals Length
14. “I Laugh in Your Face” Barry and Robin 4:09
15. “Never Say Never Again” Barry 3:28
16. “First of May” Barry 2:50
17. “The British Opera” Instrumental 3:17
Total length: 13:44

 

Schill Score: 7/10

 

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