A Very Pleasant Return to The Ultimate Bee Gees
By Kristin Battestella
They’re Back! Sort of at least. Now that the surviving Bee Gees Barry and Robin Gibb are returning to performing and appearances, a slew of revisited material has been released in approach of the group’s fifty years together. The 2009 compilation The Ultimate Bee Gees collects 40 of our favorites from The Brothers Gibb, a few surprises, and one very delightful DVD.
Disc One gets the album rolling with all those big and famous and damn fine disco hits likes You Should Be Dancing, Night Fever, Tragedy, and If I Can’t Have You. While it’s stereotypical of the white suits and the illusion that The Bee Gees were merely the be all end all of 1977, I suppose you can’t not have the likes of my dislikes Stayin’ Alive and Jive Talkin’. However, it’s nice to see the less often included songs like Boogie Child, Spirits Having Flown, and Secret Love. There’s definitely plenty to get your groove on with here. The chronology is out of order, but seeing all these classic pop songs together only confirms my Gibb bias. Put this disc on in a club today and everyone will be on the dance floor, no enigmas with stigmas in sight!
Soft and sweet sounds mellow the dance tracks for Disc Two. Again, no particular order seems to be followed, just essential staples like To Love Somebody, Words, Love So Right, and I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You. A few of the older treats like World, First of May, and Words also sound like their original mono releases, too. While this is a set about The Bee Gees themselves, tribute to their songwriting successes for other artists is paid with live renditions of Islands in the Stream, Guilty, and Heartbreaker. Again, it would have been nicer to see something less well known from the Gibb brothers’ vast 1,000 song plus catalogue, but the aim of The Ultimate Bee Gees seems more for the mainstream fan. It’s also unusual that there are no songs here in honor of the late Maurice and little brother Andy, as is Barry and Robin’s usual custom to include regardless of themes, space, or time. Despite the premature loss of Mo, the great music here speaks for itself, which is perhaps the best tribute one can make.
Now then, the meat of The Ultimate Bee Gees set is the special DVD containing 18 Gibb videos, clips, and highlights from Spicks and Specks to Alone and plenty in between. No, not all their music videos have been included, though honestly I don’t know why. However, longtime fans that have been waiting for a video compilation will be pleased with this unique hour-long set. Some of the early videos are very silly and quite poor in quality-like my beloved I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You- and the shows aren’t even in total chronological order. The sound quality varies as well; understandably, there will be visual and audio imperfections in forty-year-old material! I only hope young folks today won’t let the scary sixties patterns and seventies hairstyles interfere with their opinion of the seriously good tunes. Some of the segments are familiar to longtime fans, such as more recent scenes from Still Waters Run Deep or staples like Too Much Heaven. However, others are less well known, like the song Tomorrow, Tomorrow and the videos for Run to Me- a very beautiful set- and Night Fever. Pieces of the music are also live or alternate recordings not often heard as well. It’s also good fun to see these pieces in their entirety, instead of snippets intercut together in previous documentaries as background shots. Although I wish they would have included some of the obscure eighties videos before the uber famous Stayin’ Alive video, but c’est la vie.
The How Can You Mend a Broken Heart video was new to me, though it is a great performance nonetheless, and of course, you can’t go wrong with How Deep is Your Love no matter how many times you hear- or in this case- see it. Though it isn’t really that contemporary anymore, For Whom the Bell Tolls is still a nice, stylized video- except for Robin’s hair, that is! Alone is also not what I was expecting, serving as a highlight montage video instead of the original space agey abstract one. Still Waters Run Deep also seems like a different sound remix as well. Again, this whetting of the Gibb video appetite only brings more to mind. Where is the juicy Bodyguard video? Surely, there were music videos in support of the High Civilization album? While it is a pity that The Ultimate Bee Gees isn’t a complete videography catalogue, there’s still plenty to enjoy here. The kick ass eighties weird of You Win Again’s video never gets old. What subliminal messaging is going on it that one?! I suppose in the end it doesn’t really matter which videos are missing now in this age where one can find anything on youtube. Besides, visually and musically it does seem the best shows were chosen, especially in keeping with the greatest hits style of the set. Though it’s not The Bee Gees’ final video, One is a fine place to conclude the DVD.
The slipcase and fold out design of The Ultimate Bee Gees is eco-friendly and not too cumbersome, although the included booklet is fairly general with only the basics for the layman fan. Fortunately, the DVD offers play all or video selection options with a fun interface. Naturally, the music selection here is not totally definitive or exhaustive- especially compared to the 2010 50th Anniversary Bee Gees Mythology four-disc set. However, this collection makes an excellent gift (that’s how I got mine!) for the longtime Gibbers thanks to the video treats or a great starting place for new fans and young folks in need of some proper music education. Let your hair down tonight and return to The Ultimate Bee Gees.