Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Bee Gees

  • Bee Gees' 1st [Atco, 1967]  
  • Two Years On [Atco, 1971] C-
  • Best of Bee Gees Vol. 2 [RSO, 1973] C+
  • Main Course [RSO, 1975] B+
  • Children of the World [RSO, 1976] B
  • Spirits Having Flown [RSO, 1979] B-
  • Bee Gees Greatest [RSO, 1979] B+

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Bee Gees' 1st [Atco, 1967]
In August 1967, into a pop world totally besotted by Sgt. Pepper, was born a pop album mostly indebted to Revolver riding a rather literary hit called "New York Mining Disaster 1941" and addressed to a "Mr. Jones" who couldn't have been Bob Dylan's, right? The perpetrators were Manchester-born Australians returned to a U.K. where Robert Stigwood would eventually transform them into world-historic disco pop-up dolls and stars of the 1978 cinematic megaflop Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. But here they gave the world, among other sweetmeats, the soul standard "To Love Somebody" and an opener set in a 1900 equipped with a town crier and Robin Gibb's quaver. A tuneful hoot.  

Two Years On [Atco, 1971]
This is a little better than the LPs the Gibb brothers came up with during their separation--Cucumber Castle, which at least sold some, and the solo flop Robin's Reign. It does include a bizarre juxtaposition of Jerry Reed imitation and singing strings. But "Lonely Days" sounded more distinctive on the radio than it does among its epigones here--the collective vibrato is turning into a grating affectation. Presumably they broke up because they sensed that the formula was getting stale. To try to re-create it yet again is to guarantee the transformation from good commercial group to bad one. C-

Best of Bee Gees Vol. 2 [RSO, 1973]
What a pathetic comedown--the melodies soggy, the harmonies strained, the lyrics deadly dull. Fifteen songs plus lyric sheet means they're really trying to sell it, too. It'd be a better deal if as many had been hits as the notes imply. I count four top-twenty in four years, which oddly enough is also how many good songs I count, and I'm being lenient. C+

Main Course [RSO, 1975]
At first I was put off by the commercial desperation that induced these chronic fatuosos to turn out their brightest album in many years. But commercial success validated it: "Nights on Broadway" and "Jive Talkin'" turned out to be the kind of fluff that sticks. Sad to say, an unpleasant tension between feigned soulfulness and transparent insincerity still mars most of side two, which does, however, lead off with an undiscovered gem: "All This Making Love," a baroque, frantically mechanical evocation of compulsive sex. B+

Children of the World [RSO, 1976]
Their closed-system commitment to a robot aura renders embarrassing questions about whether they mean what they're singing irrelevant, which is good. Too often, though, their pleasure in artifice doesn't wholly irradiate the rather patchy material. Best hook: Blue Weaver's organ part on "Subway." B

Spirits Having Flown [RSO, 1979]
I admire the perverse riskiness of this music, which neglects disco bounce in favor of demented falsetto abstraction, less love-man than newborn-kitten. And I'm genuinely fond of many small moments of madness here, like the way the three separate multitracked voices echo the phrase "living together." But obsessive ornamentation can't transform a curiosity into inhabitable music, and there's not one song here that equals any on the first side of Saturday Night Fever. B-

Bee Gees Greatest [RSO, 1979]
Not that I don't think "Jive Talkin'" and "Stayin' Alive" are "great," but it's hard to trust a group that leaves such monuments of master-schlock as "To Love Somebody" and "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart" out of its own pantheon. This is a solid sampler of twenty late-'70s hits and oddities. But I remember. B+