Sprawling "Odessa" marked Bee Gees' apex
I freely admit that I was a huge fan of the Bee Gees when I was about 10 or 11. With the caveat that while most at that time were booty shakin' to "Night Fever," I was digging "Odessa." The fact is that by that age I was already the snotty, snooty music geek that I remain. I was an early bloomer in that area, for some reason.
When I saw that Rhino had reissued great discs like the "Bee Gees' 1st," "Horizontal" and "Idea," I took notice, but I didn't dive in. Then I saw that the epic 1969 "Odessa" was coming in a three-disc reissue in a red velvet box mimicking the original packaging and I could resist no longer.
Now, I appreciate that for many, the problem with the Bee Gees is the problem I suffer when it comes to the Beach Boys. The Mike Love-fueled vocals of the Beach Boys drive me bonkers and darn near ruin even that group's best moments (which for me are on records like "Wild Honey," "Friends" and the like). For some, the Bee Gees' vocals are a turn-off.
You folks can stop reading now, if you're still here. But you will miss out on one of the great unheard records of the rock and roll era.
Barry, Robin and Maurice (that's pronounced "Morris," you know) were being urged by their producer Robert Stigwood to take on a more ambitious project and early titles like "The American Opera" suggest what the band was thinking while recording the dark and often symphonic -- but also very rootsy -- "Odessa."
The seven-minute title track opens the record, setting an austere, dark tone with haunted vocals, a cello and acoustic guitars strumming minor chords. But things lighten up -- musically -- with "You'll Never See My Face Again" and across four sides of two LPs, 17 tracks create a sonic -- in not always thematic -- concept record.
"Odessa" -- which over the years has been trimmed to a single LP and suffered other reissue brutalities -- is restored here (the set also includes a poster and a sticker) and so we are reintroduced to some of the best tunes the brothers Gibb ever dished up: "Never Say Never Again," "Sound of Love," The Band-inspired "Marley Purt Drive" and the psychedelic, pastoral pop of "Melody Fair," which conjured both Syd Barrett and The Beatles.
The first two discs of this set contain the original stereo and mono mixes -- a mix to suit every taste -- and disc three has 23 demos, alternate mixes, outtakes -- "Nobody's Someone" and "Pity" - and a promotional spot.
The demos are almost all different enough to be of interest and the alternate mixes uncover some fine moments, like Maurice Gibb's Mellotron parts on "Melody Fair," which is stripped of its string arrangement, and some space-tastic fuzz guitar on "Never Say Never Again."
But as radical as it may have seemed at the time and as obscure as it may have come to be viewed, "Odessa" is quite possibly the Bee Gees' best moment ever. And in a career spanning decades, that's quite a distinction.
Never been a huge fan, but their songs pre-disco were definitely well penned and well produced.
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