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Bee Gees, '1st'

The Bee Gees' 1st  (1967,  37.44)  ****/TT½

Turn of the Century
Holiday
Red Chair, Fade Away
One Minute Woman
In My Own Time
Every Christian Lionhearted Man Will Show You
Craise Finton Kirk Royal Academy of Arts
New York Mining Disaster 1941
Cucumber Castle
To Love Somebody
I Close My Eyes
I Can't See Nobody
Please Read Me
Close Another Door
Bee Gees, 'Words' 7"  (1968)  **½/T

Words
Sinking Ships
Bee Gees, 'Horizontal'

Horizontal  (1968,  37.13)  ***½/T (T½)

World
And the Sun Will Shine
Lemons Never Forget
Really and Sincerely
Birdie Told Me
With the Sun in My Eyes
Massachusetts
Harry Braff
Day Time Girl
The Earnest of Being George
The Change is Made
Horizontal

[2006 reissue adds:
Out of Line
Ring My Bell
Barker of the UFO
Words
Sir Geoffrey Saved the World
Sinking Ships
Really and Sincerely (alt.version)
Swan Song (alt.version)
Mrs. Gillespie's Refrigerator
Deeply, Deeply Me
All My Christmases Came at Once
Thank You for Christmas
Medley (Silent Night/Hark! The Herald Angels Sing)]
Bee Gees, 'Jumbo', German single sleeve 7"  (1968)  ***½/TT

Jumbo

The Singer Sang His Song
Bee Gees, 'Idea'

Idea  (1968,  33.04)  ***/T

Let There Be Love
Kitty Can
In the Summer of His Years
Indian Gin and Whisky Dry
Down to Earth
Such a Shame
Idea
When the Swallows Fly
I've Decided to Join the Air Force
I Started a Joke
Kilburn Towers
Swan Song
Bee Gees, 'Odessa'

Odessa  (1969,  64.00)  ***/½

Odessa (City on the Black Sea)
You'll Never See My Face Again
Black Diamond

Marley Purt Drive
Edison
Melody Fair
Suddenly
Whisper Whisper
Lamplight
Sound of Love
Give Your Best
Seven Seas Symphony
With All Nations (International Anthem)
I Laugh in Your Face
Never Say Never Again
First of May
The British Opera
Bee Gees, 'Cucumber Castle'

Cucumber Castle  (1970,  34.15)  ***/½

If Only I Had My Mind on Something Else
I.O.I.O.
Then You Left Me
The Lord
I Was the Child
I Lay Down and Die
Sweetheart
Bury Me Down By the River
My Thing
The Chance of Love
Turning Tide
Don't Forget to Remember
Bee Gees, 'Trafalgar'

Trafalgar  (1971,  47.17)  ***/½

How Can You Mend a Broken Heart
Israel
The Greatest Man in the World
It's Just the Way
Remembering
Somebody Stop the Music
Trafalgar
Don't Wanna Live Inside Myself
When Do I
Dearest
Lion in Winter
Walking Back to Waterloo
Bee Gees, 'To Whom it May Concern'

To Whom it May Concern  (1972,  44.00)  ***½/T

Run to Me
We Lost the Road
Never Been Alone
Paper Mache, Cabbages and Kings
I Can Bring Love
I Held a Party
Please Don't Turn Out the Lights
Sea of Smiling Faces
Bad Bad Dreams
You Know it's for You
Alive
Road to Alaska
Sweet Song of Summer
Bee Gees, 'Life in a Tin Can'

Life in a Tin Can  (1973,  32.18)  **½/T

Saw a New Morning
I Don't Wanna Be the One
South Dakota Morning
Living in Chicago
While I Play
My Life Has Been a Song
Come Home Johnny Bridie
Method to My Madness
Bee Gees, 'Mr Natural'

Mr. Natural  (1974,  46.36)  **½/T

Charade
Throw a Penny
Down the Road
Voices
Give a Hand, Take a Hand
Dogs
Mr. Natural
Lost in Your Love
I Can't Let You Go
Heavy Breathing
Had a Lot of Love Last Night
Bee Gees, 'Sketches for Odessa'

Sketches for Odessa  (2009, recorded 1969,  77.24)  ***/T½

Odessa (demo)
You'll Never See My Face
  Again (alternate)
Black Diamond (demo)
Marley Purt Drive (alternate)
Barbara Came to Stay
Edison (alternate)
Melody Fair (demo)
Melody Fair (alternate)
Suddenly (alternate)
Whisper Whisper Part Two (alternate)
Lamplight (demo)
Lamplight (alternate)
Sound of Love (alternate)
Give You Best (alternate)
Seven Seas Symphony (demo)
With All Nations (International Anthem)
  (vocal)
I Laugh in Your Face (alternate)
Never Say Never Again (alternate)
First of May (demo)
First of May (alternate)
Nobody's Someone
Pity
Odessa promotional spot

Current availability:

Mellotrons used:

Like many people, I first heard the Bee Gees (abbreviated from 'The Brothers Gibb'), Barry , Robin and Maurice, via their mid-'70s disco abominations; Jive Talkin', You Should Be Dancing et al.; it was actually some years before I even realised that this was their second stab at fame and fortune and they'd had a whole slew of hits in the late '60s. Sadly, I wasn't impressed by them either and it was many years again before I heard their early album tracks and realised there was a little more depth to the Gibb brothers than their bland mainstream work.

After several hits in their adoptive native country, Australia (although all were born in the UK, in the Manchester area), the brothers came back to Britain to make their fortune, releasing The Bee Gees' 1st in 1967. It's very much a product of its time, being largely composed of clever psychedelic pop, including many period production tricks (like the vocal effect on Craise Finton Kirk Royal Academy Of Arts), with enough mainstream appeal to ensure its success. One of the album's most endearing features is Maurice's Mellotron work on a couple of tracks, although much of the album uses orchestral accompaniment. Red Chair, Fade Away opens with an upfront chordal flute part, complete with pitchbend, although the album's 'Tron (and musical) pièce de resistance, though, is the (quite frankly) bizarre Every Christian Lionhearted Man Will Show You, with its Gregorian-style verses complete with heavily gothic 'Tron strings, leading into a typical Bee Gees chorus. This really is superb, with some excellent pitchbend work on top of the fantastic verse riff.

By the following year's Horizontal, the Gibbs' true colours were already beginning to show, with little psychedelic experimentation and a surfeit of string-laden balladry, although there's still the odd quirky song, notably Harry Braff. As for Maurice's Mellotron, we get brass on The Change Is Made (thanks, Zohar) and upfront strings on the title track, but the alleged strings on opener World turn out to be a combo of a heavily-modulated organ and real ones. As with 1st, there may be other 'Tron tracks, but most of the strings are real, as are the other orchestral instruments I can hear. The 2006 remaster added a bonus disc of outtakes and the like, essential for fans, less so for the rest of us, although Deeply, Deeply Me has an interesting cod-'Eastern' feel. Upfront Mellotron strings on the alternate version of Really And Sincerely, although that appears to be it for the extras.

Incidentally, the band had a major hit with the syrupy Words that January, with the non-LP Sinking Ships on the flip. I've had it pointed out to me (thanks, Chris), that it could be Mellotron strings, strangely alongside real ones, on the track, although I'm not 100% on this one. A more definite sighting is March's Jumbo 7", with quite noticeable Mellotron string and brass chords throughout. Idea is similar to its immediate predecessor, being largely orchestral pop, without even Horizontal's one interesting track to grab the attention. Perfectly respectable, you understand, just not very exciting for those not into the style. Also like its predecessor, there's one overt Mellotron track, with the flutes on Kilburn Towers, although to my ears, there just might be some background flute chords on In The Summer Of His Years, although the orchestra on the track may well give this the lie.

The ambitious double, Odessa followed, with its seven-minute plus title track and occasional progressive leanings; definitely an improvement on Idea, although I can't quite work out how tracks like Marley Purt Drive or Edison are supposed to fit the album's spurious concept. Two credited Mellotron tracks, with a faint flute part on You'll Never See My Face Again from Maurice and something inaudible under the orchestral strings on Black Diamond from Robin. In 2009, the album was reissued as a three-CD set: stereo, mono and demos, the latter of which featured several more Mellotron tracks, reviewed at the end of this article.

The Mellotron's credited on Cucumber Castle, an album made without Robin, who was in the throes of a brief solo career, but again, I can't actually hear it, which isn't to say that it isn't there. The album's better than Idea, but the brothers had slipped largely into mainstream balladry by this point, with large-scale orchestration that would seem to make the Mellotron redundant. Chris (again) comments that, "My Thing has what sounds like possible M300 sounds on it including cellos. According to Wikipedia, there is no orchestration on this track, so all of the odd sounds have to come from the Mellotron". I concur re.the Mellotron, although I'm not sure it's an M300 we're hearing. The overlong Trafalgar looks like it should be a concept album (as did Cucumber Castle, for that matter), but is basically just another collection of weepy ballads, although a few tracks (It's Just The Way, Trafalgar) dig themselves out of this hole. Maurice's credited Mellotron usage is, as was usual by now, largely inaudible, although I think the wobbly flute line on When Do I is the mighty Mellotron.

To Whom it May Concern, with cool sleeve pic of Maurice on white Ricky bass, starts badly, but ends up being one of their better early albums, with several tracks bucking their ballads, ballads and more ballads approach. The slightly eccentric, Greek-flavoured Paper Mache, Cabbages And Kings (and that's papier mâché, chaps; it's French...), I Held A Party, with its 'Persuaders' theme tune feel about it, and the rocking Bad Bad Dreams, among others, stand out from the distressingly familiar dross that clogs up most of these releases. The album also contains their most 'out there' song since Every Christian Lionhearted Man in the moody, synth-driven Sweet Song Of Summer. At last, there's a definite 'Tron Track, too: You Know It's For You has clearly audible 'Tron flutes and strings, sounding a great deal less cheesy than their usual preference for orchestral accompaniment.

Wondrously, the surprisingly short Life in a Tin Can actually gives track-by-track credits, so at last, there's no dissension over Maurice's Mellotron usage. The album seems to be Business As Usual, being a string of syrupy ballads with little real substance, with an unfortunate country edge to some of them. The credited Mellotron on I Don't Wanna Be The One is, once again, totally inaudible, unless Maurice had some different strings tapes recorded, which is always possible, I suppose. Living In Chicago has melodic flute and string parts, which actually sound like a 'Tron, which is nice, but doth not a 'Tron Album make. Mr. Natural charts the Gibbs' move into a more soul-influenced direction, fulfilled on the massive-selling Main Course a year later. Opener Charade is as cheesy a soul ballad as they were to produce, sax solo and all, but the rest of the album is more varied than its predecessor, thankfully. On the Mellotron front, Voices has not only strings, but, for the first (and probably last) time in their catalogue, choirs; or should that be voices? Throw A Penny and the title track have some strings, too, but they're used so 'orchestrally' that it's difficult to ascertain that they're 'Tron at all. There may be some more on the album, but as usual, it's pretty hard to tell.

Despite the sheer number of 'Tron albums in the Bee Gees' back catalogue, with only one of their first ten releases not being included above (1970's 2 Years on, which could easily have some buried in the mix), it has to be said that there's surprisingly few Mellotron classics among them. First is a great album, with three all-out 'Tron pieces, but I can only hear another five or six worthwhile efforts over the succeeding nine LPs. It's difficult to know what to recommend musically here, as I don't personally like any of their albums after their worldwide debut, but for fans of their particularly quavery style of balladry, most of the above are probably worth hearing. For those of a more progressive/psychedelic bent, buy First, then approach Horizontal and maybe Odessa with considerable caution. Better still, borrow them and tape the best tracks; I rather doubt you'll fill a C90, I'm afraid.

I actually feel it's quite irrelevant to ever accuse the Bee Gees of 'selling out'; at all stages of their career, they've striven to be as 'commercial' as possible, with the express aim of selling shedloads of records. It's practically impossible to argue with an approach that honest, even though their ultra-clever take on the genre helped to keep The Disco Years going that little bit longer, for which I shall probably never entirely forgive them. Their falsetto harmonies and an excess of teeth ensured that the band were treated as something of a joke from the late '70s onward - the late '90s Clive Anderson TV interview where they stormed out en masse was a classic example, although I'm afraid they did come across as startlingly humourless. Multiple-million sales tell their own story, though, giving the brothers the last laugh. Sadly, Maurice died in early 2003, after years of ill-health; it's often forgotten that he was the band's real musician, equally at home on guitar, bass or keyboards, and it was he who kept their Mellotron flame alive for so long. Despite everything, RIP, Mo.

Just when you thought it was all over... 2009 brings a three-disc deluxe expanded edition of Odessa, with the mono and stereo versions of the album, plus a disc of demos, outtakes and alternate versions. And guess what? Mellotron; not all over, but here and there. Basically, the alternate mixes tend to contain the same orchestral parts as the album versions, while the demos tend towards Maurice's Mellotron, with strings all over Odessa itself and brass on Black Diamond, although the strings on Suddenly (alternate mix) throw that theory out of the window. It's possible there's more Mellotron hidden away here, but given its low usage on the album 'proper', I doubt it.

links

Official site

See: Maurice Gibb


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