by Kristin Battestella
In 1987 Barry, Robin, and Maurice were reunited! Or at least that’s how new distributor Warner Brothers tried to sell it. Even though the brothers never really left themselves or us, but I digress. I only have this album on cdr, since Warner’s seemed to make the release very scarce. The cover is cool, though. The boys look totally different from when audiences remembered them last. No white, no hair, well not as much anyway. Black. Dark, edgy. I’m Pip and I’ve come to play!
ESP is naturally the song to lead off the album. It is different from any other project the Brothers did at the time. Better than Walls Have Eyes, more polished than Now Voyager. However, ESP is also very stand alone on this album and nothing else here sounds like it. (Not that I mind that of course.) We heard some of Robin’s coming out voice party on Living Eyes, but in songs shared with Baz. Barry moved onto some heavy producing, but without Robin. ESP brings them together again and slams both powerhouses. There is so much going on in this song, you can imagine this is what a telepath hears. Noise, each trying to have its own say, competing with everything else that is heard, and all of it’s important. Brilliant.
Ah, You Win Again. Although not as well know in the US as the Fever Monsters, this song is indeed one of those monster songs that you just have to love. There are so many hooks, lines, and sinkers musically, lyrically, vocally. From the whole second verse’s play on ‘Nobody stops this body’ to Robin’s Oh Baby! wail to that bombing drum throughout. Hot damn. This song did actually even encroach the US charts, imagine that!
Live Or Die (Hold Me Like A Child) (What is it with them and parenthesis?) is the first slow song presented. Barry returns to his shrill notes and sometimes the versus are tough to understand. The chorus is strong and the lyrics as always are top notch. The ad-libbed over the top ending is perfect eighties power ballad fashion. The music and high voices are a little dated, but you can’t help but try and sing along when your driving home alone late at night, or is that just me?
Giving Up The Ghost sound a bit more like the tracks on Walls Have Eyes, but that’s ok. Great music rifts. Some of the refrains are a bit much, and one of the times where I might say the chorus is the weaker part of the song. Then again, the boys hold out ‘Ghooooost!’ and it sounds cool again. Robin sounds great in the verses, since you can understand him seventy percent of the time. ;0)
The Longest Night is one of the hotter Bee Gees songs in my opinion, just like Bodyguard. After their solo and side projects in the early eighties, the brothers came back for ESP stronger again. Robin with this song has somehow managed to combine the weeping Joke sound with the booming voice he developed post Fever. The vibrato was always there, but the five o’clock shadow eighties sounds fit Robin’s haunting lyrics as the sixties mellow sound did. Indeed ESP together with Walls Have Eyes is a dang good hunk of Gibb material that it seems everyone missed. Pity.
Every album has to have a fun song and This Is Your Life is ESP’s. It’s nice to see the Brothers come back and kind of laugh off and yet embrace their past music. The lyrics ‘line-drop’ titles of other Bee Gees songs during the interlude. Can I tell you this is the only time I sing to ‘JJJive Talkin’! It’s Barry rapping but with dribs and drabs from the old songs cutting in and out. Very cool. I could recommend the entire album on that interlude alone if I had to, but I don’t.
Outside of its sweet and soft lyrics and vocals, Angela is in my mind a little bit of a statement song. Sometimes it feels like you can almost exchange ‘Angela’ for ‘America’. Followed by the line ‘I’m still alive’, I wonder if the boys were making a veiled statement at us stubborn Yanks. Indeed they were still alive, and maybe this is also a pun on Stayin’ Alive. The New York times effect a man, remember. ;0) The feel of the song is so innocent and easy feeling, but I suspect more! The girl that got away? I think not.
Maurice brings this album to a standstill with Overnight. It’s the closest in vein to the song ESP. Maurice, however, adds not telepathy, but animal magnetism. It’s a different kind of psychic sense. The lyrics are so detailed and the interlude combining the echo of all three voices is exceptional. The music has, if there is such a thing, a predatory feeling that’s good. By the end of the song you are totally sold and yelling back, “All right I’ll stay!”
In the eighties and later on High Civilization, The Brothers seem to have a little Motown tribute revival thing going. Crazy For Your Love is fascinating in that it is has a Motown throwback vibe and at the same time, it’s straight eighties bubblegum pop. (Tiffany, anyone?) I would cringe if I heard some tween today singing any song about love and ice cream . However, play Crazy for a kid today, they will like it, and never know it is old men singing in 1987! How ingenious is it to find such a timeless song here?!
Backtafunk is not your traditional Gibb song. It sounds a bit...I want to say New Edition! Naturally the brothers master all the hip beats and singing, even if the lyrics are slightly bland. Again however, the breakaway interlude makes the song. The harmony and fun of the boys come in and the song kicks up to another level. Is Barry scatting? Incredible!
ESP ends with the ESP Vocal Reprise, and I don’t really know why. Its just the opening echo of the voices on the first track, but it does sound cool. Allow me to mention the oddities associated with ESP, as you knew there would be some! Young Love is an unreleased cut that didn’t make the album. I managed to download a piece that cuts short, but it’s heavy in the low key Maurice vein. Honestly I don’t know why it was cut. The 1989 compilation Tales From The Brothers Gibb contains an ESP Demo that is very similar to the final version, just missing a few production marks. Fans should also check out The One For All Tour VHS and DVD for concert footage of the boys singing Giving Up The Ghost and extras from One.Warner Brothers does not realize The Bee Gees quality they possess, and they should re-release ESP. I wonder if this album planned to have any sort of theme to it? Each song touches a different type of emotion and vibe, and aren’t songs in a way a psychic connection from one person to another? Interesting theory, Kristin. Interesting.