03 December 2008

Number Ones

I Salute you, Number Ones!
by Kristin Battestella

In the fall of 2004, Barry and Robin released the compilation set Number Ones, complete with An Audience with The Bee Gees mini concert that I shall refer to as well. (Gibbers across the pond were treated to additional tracks instead.) Although the criteria for the track listing may seem obvious- the number one singles of The Bee Gees-I do have a few head scratchers.

The history begins with Massachusetts, the Brothers’ first number one off the Horizontal album and what a fitting place to start. Currently I have Number Ones in my alarm clock stereo system. Everyday I wake up to Massachusetts. Sometimes I just shut it off and go back to sleep, but sometimes I feel bad about stopping such a great song and I end up listening to the whole CD. Did I mention this also serves in waking up the entire household?

World, also an early hit from Horizontal, is always a bit depressing following Massachusetts, but that woe is me was Robin’s forte back in the day, and it still holds up today. The poetic lyrics are still so heartfelt and true.

Words of course is Barry’s mellow love self. I’ve always chuckled at the origin of this oft-covered ballad. Cast off and tossed onto Best of Volume One. It was a chart topper, who knew? You can never get tired of this one.

Yes, yes, yes! I’ve Gotta Get A Message to You is my favorite of course. I get giddy every time I hear the opening beats. One of the Brothers most popular songs, and its about a man getting the electric chair. Genius. Have I said that before?

The quirky hits keep coming with I Started A Joke. I was disappointed when Robin didn’t do this live in Germany, so I am very pleased to see this enigmatic song here. Today I doubt a song like this would ever top the charts. We Gibbers love it and we don’t even know what it’s about!

I was, however, a bit surprised by Don’t Forget To Remember’s inclusion here. Although the jacket hails some fine pictures and artwork, little is given about the songs’ actual chart success. Liberties seem to have been taken between UK Number Ones and US chart toppers. It’s also ironic that Barry and Robin would include the hit from Cucumber Castle, the album done by Barry and Maurice. Go Fig.

Ah, Lonely Days. In all these sappy, easy tunes you need a little pick me up and nothing does it like Lonely Days. I still don’t know anyone who doesn’t tap their foot by the end of this track.

The lone Trafalgar standout How Can You Mend a Broken Heart might be the definitive Gibb slow song, pre Fever anyway. The Brothers themselves defined their early career as ‘Broken Heart Bee Gees’ and this reunion diddy was the first US Number One for the boys.

Jive Talkin led the Brothers’ Main Course revival , even if it isn’t one of my favorites. This pivotal hit launched the boys into their seemingly quintessential dance music style. As much as I dislike Jive, it’s place here as a chart maker is undeniable.

I wonder if You Should be Dancing is so associated with Travolta and Fever that people forgot it actually topped the charts with Children of the World first? More than a mere dance song, You Should Be Dancing has become imbedded into our cultural lexicon. How many movies have spoofed the white suit routine?

Love So Right, another hit from the Children of The World record, showcases Barry, Robin, and Maurice’s softer side. I love the opening bars to this one. Love So Right tells of love found than lost, who can’t relate to that?

And naturally we come to the Fever hoopla. How Deep is Your Love, Stayin Alive, and Night Fever all take their rightful places here. The exclusion of More Than a Woman, however, is woefully obvious. Gibb Reviewer as I Am, even I am not sure of all the finite chart numbers, but anyone who was alive in 1977 must know of Barry, Robin, and Maurice’s five number ones in the Billboard top ten. Naturally all the glorious Gibb tunes cannot fit in one compilation, and More Than A Woman was saved for the UK version of Number ones and the follow up compilation Love Songs I protest!

Too Much Heaven, Tragedy, and Love You Inside Out all represent the Spirits monster. While I love all three dearly and historically there is no way around these three number ones, Number Ones here gives the impression once again that the late seventies were the be all end all of The Bee Gees. The next track being 1987’s You Win Again doesn’t help the case either. I think the idea was to have hits only from The Bee Gees banner, but Guilty might have been a nice addition. No solo Gibb work is presented here either. Juliet would have fit the criteria, but instead Robin’s tune found it’s way to Love Songs. I would have preferred more range showcasing the Brothers’ five decade career not a re- solidifying of the heyday, but I digress.

The set ends with The ‘Maurice Gibb tribute track’ Man in the Middle, from the boys final studio album This Is Where I Came In. Although it’s not a number one hit, not a hit at all-not even a single in fact- Man In The Middle is the finest touch on the album. The song reiterates Barry and Robin’s dedication to Maurice on the foldout. The surviving boys call Mo ‘A Man in the middle in many ways...’ and later an ‘All around good egg’. Barry and Robin setting aside their current differences and pulling together this compilation for Maurice explains partly why they endured so long and had so many number ones.

UK fans were treated with bonus tracks of Islands In The Stream and Immortality. I’m assuming both are The Brothers versions found on The Record, but I must of course mention The Audience With The Bee Gees treat found on the US release of Number Ones. If I had to choose only five songs to represent The Brothers Gibb, these might be it. The highlights here come near to perfection. I don’t know much else about Audience, since it was originally a British special around the time of the This Is Where I Came In release.

How Can You Mend A Broken Heart and How Deep is Your Love start the DVD off wonderfully, but I don’t think the tracks are in the order in which they were originally performed. Jive Talkin is only tolerable live, and the boys get the crowd on their feet and clapping at the first strings. Massachusetts and I Started A Joke harken back to the early days and show that The Brothers always had it, and always will. This mini disc is just enough to remind fans of old and make new fans yearn for more.

Despite a few chinks in Number Ones’ listing, the CD makes a great gift for fans old and new. It’s great for the car and affordable enough for Gibbers to give as gifts to Non-Gibbers. You will convert a few! As Barry and Robin tell Maurice on the dedication, Number Ones is a great way to ‘Keep in touch.’

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