Graham Reid | | 3 min read
Few people who know anything about the Bee Gees can't help be struck by the sad irony that Barry Gibb -- now 66 -- is the last man standing.
He's suffered crippling and painful arthritis for many years -- he was visibly stiff at a Western Springs concert in 2000, over a decade ago -- but most recently he has buried his younger twin brothers Maurice and Robin, and back in '88 his youngest brother Andy.
With the announcement that he will be appearing at the Mission Estate Concert in February 2013 -- opening act is Carole King on another return bout -- comes the reappearance of the Bee Gees 2010 four CD set Mythology; The 50th Anniversary Collection.
The concept was that Barry and Robin would pick their favourite tracks on a disc each, the late Maurice's widow Yvonne and their children would pick a selection for his disc and Andy's daughter Peta would choose songs for the Andy disc.
It's an interesting breakdown; Barry's disc picks up the most familiar disco-era material (Jive Talkin', Night Fever, How Deep is You Love, Stayin' Alive etc) but also -- and this is very good -- includes material from their excellent Spirits Having Flown album like the title track, Tragedy and Too Much Heaven.
Interestingly it closes with their first hit Spicks and Specks.
It's a very thorough overview of their most successful period with a nod to their origins (and has their sublime Alone).
Robin's disc errs more towards the Sixties hits where he was prominent (New York Mining Disaster, I Can't See Nobiody, Massachusetts, Gotta Get a Message to You, I Started a Joke) and his solo hit Saved by the Bell, the title track to their ambitious Odessa album and the hit they penned for Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers, Islands in the Stream.
This leaves Maurice's disc floundering and somewhat hit-free because he was rarely the lead singer, however if nothing else it showcases the musical breadth of the group through a real street funk beat on Dimensions from '91 to the weird guitar tuning on Suddenly (from Odessa).
One of his rare out-front spots was the solo single Railroad from '70, a loose country-flavoured piece of likable pop very much in tune with its time, and his self-penned It's Just the Way from the Trafalgar album in '71 looked back to their classic Sixties period but came with a typically big production.
If Maurice's disc is the weakest in the sense of not having chart stormers it is also the most interesting for the unfamiliarity of material like his own country-funk Lay It On Me and the seductive pop landscape of Omega Man (from 93).
And there was a lot of country soul in Maurice which is apparent here.
The Andy disc has hits -- his chart damaging Shadow Dancing, I Just Want to Be Your Everything, Thicker Than Water -- and of course with his brothers on hand to write, produce, arrange for him, and provide backing vocals, he fits seamlessly into the broader notion of the Bee Gees even though he was never officially one of the elect.
His disc (aside from his pop hits) sounds like a collection of decent Bee Gees b-sides or album tracks.
No serious music critic dismisses the Bee Gees (yes, it's easy to make cheap shots about chest hair and medallions) because you cannot deny the power, craftsmanship and impact of their music. And there is ample evidence of their particular genius across these four discs.
A pity no one chose weird stuff like Every Christian Lion Hearted Man Will Show You though where they peeled off a convincing sliver of Lennondelic.
That said, Robin Gibb's solo show in 2010 was utterly appalling. He seemed totally adrift and his idea of a performance was to give the occasional thumbs-up at the end of songs. I walked after five songs.
So it is hard to imagine what a solo Barry might be like, he's more stiff on stage than even Mike Love of the Beach Boys who looks like he can't bend at the waist.
I won't be going because the Bee Gees were always a three-piece and one man under spotlight singing those classic songs will look a lonely figure.
Sad, given the often joyous music they made together.