The Bee Gees’ Festival Albums Collection 1965-67 shows the brother Gibb in an embryonic phase. These are, after all, the first three albums they recorded in Australia after arriving here from England. Their debut was recorded when Barry was just 19 and the twins, Maurice and Robin were 16. It seemed like a fun, joyful time because this feeling makes its way onto the record. And while they did not produce chart “hits” per se, this time was fruitful in providing the solid groundwork for what was to come.
The three albums have not been released before in a full, comprehensive form. The closest anyone has come is to release these as compilations like Brilliant From Birth. But in that case the track ordering was muddled and the original artwork was not used. On this 2013 collection the albums are preserved with their correct cover, running orders and track-listing and so here begins our journey with The Bee Gees Sing & Play 14 Barry Gibb Songs.
This album was their true debut (and not the internationally released Bee Gees 1st) and it came out in November 1965. As the title suggests, it boasts 14 tracks that were penned by the older Gibb and it is also a collection of the singles released during a period of three years in Australia. It opens with the sing-song pop of “I Was A Lover, A Leader Of Men” before “To Be Or Not To Be” sees some of Mick Jagger’s singing style combined with Little Richard’s piano tinkering.
On the album the boys are as straight as their parted hair and goofy, beatific smiles suggest on the cover. The songs are mostly ballads reminiscent of the early Beatles with lots of acoustic guitar and electronic organ thrown in. “And The Children Laughing” – once dubbed their “protest” song – is full of jangly, Byrds-like guitars while “Timber” is pure pixie dust and nostalgia, not unlike Sam Cooke’s “Cupid”.
On their sophomore record, Spicks & Specks the guys are a little more mature and they produce their best album of this set. A more cohesive effort, the sounds are expanded to feature harmonica, mandolin, double-tracked vocals and pianos that chime. There is the amazing title track with its infectious beat, which remains a staple to this day while “How Many Birds” is a catchy gem infused with garage-sounds.
“Monday’s Run” is a slow opener where the brothers sing with deep vocals. This is in no way reminiscent of the falsettos that would follow when they turned their sights to disco in the next decade. Instead, this has more in common with the Righteous Brothers and “Big Chance” has a guitar riff that sounds like Loved Ones’ “The Loved One”. Another group from this period – The Animals – springs to mind in “Born A Man” or at least when the Gibb brothers borrow from Eric Burdon’s singing style. The boys never stuck to one particular genre and this album is a fine example of it.
Turn Around, Look At Us”is a tad disappointing. It was released after the band left Australia and had some international success but it is essentially an odds and sods collection of early songs (and some of these are already offered on the other two discs here). The remaining tracks are covers; “Turn Around, Look At Me” is by Jerry Capehart while “Theme From Jamie McPheeters” is from a Western TV series. It almost seems like a step backwards when you consider their previous two efforts were made up exclusively of their own, original material.
The Bee Gees would go on to be a popular band for decades dabbling in a diverse range of genres. This set focuses on the blues, early rock ‘n’ roll and ballad styles and features those unique but splendid vocal harmonies that people came to associate with the group as much as the voices drove the music by The Hollies, Crosby, Stills & Nash and The Beach Boys, to name a few.
The Festival Albums is rough at times and it does contain some sugary ballads but in spite of this it does an excellent job of summing up the early days for the group. It is also a hint of the radio pop finery to come (even if it doesn’t include dance or disco numbers). Instead, this set shows that the song writing seeds were sewn early and the talent was already obvious, even if these works didn’t quite catapult the brothers to the top of the charts and beyond.
Originally published on 9 July 2013 at the following website: http://www.the59thsound.com/the-bee-gees—the-festival-albums-collection-1965-67-09072013.html
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