03 June 2008

Guilty: 25th Anniversary Edition

White Will Be Popular Again, too!
by Kristin Battestella

At the behest of new material, allow me to divulge on the new 25th Anniversary Dual Disc edition of Guilty! Actually I didn't have the original on CD, so getting digital quality plus bonus content was well a plus and a bonus! The new interview between Barry and Babs was nice. A classy sit down with the stars talking about working together then and now and the craft of music in general.

For a complete review of the track listing, please refer to our original review of Guilty Here.

I had seen snippets of the live Barry and Barbra Guilty show, but here it is presented in its entirety. Barbra still seems a bit over the top with her shaking and shimmying, but the dialogue back and forth is a treat.

I didn't even know a live duet of What Kind of Fool existed, but the set is shown in its entirety. Barry and Barbra joke that this is the first time they have performed live before an audience, and the lack of rehearsals shows slightly. A few spots they are a bit off, but hey it still sounds dang good! I've had this stuck in my head now for a week!

The dual disc format is quite user friendly and the interactive menus leave little to be desired. When you play the song selections different pictures rotate through, and the photo gallery is much of the same from that all white, hugs and cuddles photo shoot with the exception of a few unfamiliar snapshots. The one slightly irksome trend on the disc is that all the menus and the photo gallery play Guilty. I would have liked to hear one of the other classics on the album or a snip of each, but I digress. The digital remastering is indeed superior.

As to the preview of Stranger In A Strange Land, you're just going to have to go to Guilty Pleasures!

ETA: Feel free to visit our ITTIR blog posts of Guilty and Guilty Pleasures.

Guilty Pleasures

Define Guilty Pleasures.
by Kristin Battestella

New Guilty CD, Guilty Pleasures is out, Kristin has pulled off another timely review-people are getting spoiled around here! I mean, even the click open CD case on Pleasures is cool! So its 25 years after Barry and Barbra Streisand’s Grammy winning Guilty, and what do they decide to do? Sequel!

Come Tomorrow is a fresh duet with brother Barry and leads off the 11 track set. According to the liner notes-complete with lyrics!-the lead track and all but the closing covers are credited to combinations of Barry and his two sons Ashley and Stephen. We will have to wait and see how things turn out, but I think Tomorrow would have been a better lead off single than Stranger in A Strange Land. Come Tomorrow is so smooth and jazzy, and everything retro is new and hip again. Barry’s Sinatra stylings show through the mood and melodies. His voice seems a little out of practice at first, but Barry’s ad-libs strengthen the ending. The chorus and the long awaited delivery of the title by Barbra are worth the wait. Not quite on the scale of Guilty, but a formidable opener.

I don’t know if its been this way for the rest of the world but Stranger In A Strange Land has been everywhere for me. The single’s video was available on the internet, and behind the scenes interviews and clues were on the 25th Anniversary re-issue of Guilty (we’ve commented here .) There was also a promo single CD with just the song available at Borders for 49 cents! (I of course got it for 33 cents with my employee discount!) But to the music! The hint of a war protest is evident, but Barbra’s delivery and Barry, Ashley, and Stephen’s lyrics keep things a toe before outright political statements. The video, available also on the dual disc, smartly focuses on back-in-black Babs; the montages of soldiers and homecoming footage is placed in the background. I’ve never liked my politics in my music, but the gang here pulls it off well. The tight rhymes, internal rhythms, and Barbra’s lingering notes keep the focus on the music.

Hideaway and It’s Up To You are penned by Barry and Ashley, as is Night Of My Life. Hideaway has a little bit of a Latino mambo feel in the beginning. Even when the lyrics turn more serious and Barbra belts it, it still sounds a little mariachi. The saxophone interlude is a nice treat. Hideaway doesn’t try too hard and sounds like a classic of old. I am curious if these old school nods are Barry’s contributions to the songs or if his boys really know their music? Both I think. Barbra’s “A little Rio de Janeiro” vocal rocks.

It’s Up To You is the shortest song presented, and although it is a sweet little tune, It is as yet unremarkable for me. The lyrics and rhythm feel more like a poem. They don’t sound like distinctly Gibb lyrics, but Ashley and Stephen’s fresh point of view are a nice 21st Century twist.

The first time I heard Night of My Life I was half way asleep and thought I was dreaming. Barbra Streisand can’t be doing techno! TECHNO! Complete with talk of merry-go-rounds and roller coasters! Barry provides backing vocals on most of the tracks and his falsetto on the chorus really reminded me of the Spirits era. And it sounds good. I think I like it. Can I admit that? At work no one believes me. It’s Techno! Barbra and the two female back-up singers really take the ending. You could play this in a club. Whoa!

Above The Law is the second duet presented and Barbra has a writing credit beside Barry and his boys. Barry’s voice does seem slightly weak compared to Barbra‘s, but whose doesn’t? Law isn’t so much a duet as 60/40. In the video I love the way Baz closes his eyes and gives the sweet lyrics his personal spin. Soul Barry appears briefly, and he sounds good. Law is a bit too similar to both Come Tomorrow and Hideaway. Maybe it’s because I’ve really only heard her sing or seen her sing in movies, but darling Barbra’s pointing and head shaking antics during the videos are not Oscar.

Without Your Love is again credited to just Barry and Ashley and is the second shortest song behind It’s Up To You. About halfway thru Love kicks it up a notch to Barbra’s Broadway sound of old. I can see her singing on the movie set roof tops again, but like It’s Up To You, perhaps an unnecessary track. Is that mean?

All The Children is an intriguing tune. It’s got a great beat, but what point are they trying to make in the lyrics? Kids rock?! Music can end world hunger? I don’t know. Barry’s echoes are great though. The tone is slightly dark, and maybe this song would have been a better lead for Robin or Maurice if it had been a Bee Gees song. This one is growing on me already.

Golden Dawn is the kinky tune. I don’t care what it is about, with a title like that, I say it’s the kinky song. Barbra takes the suave lyrics and makes them rico suave-even though my favorite part is a French line and rhyme! A little too much more of the same Without Your Love styling but isn’t easy listening what Barbra is really like without Gibbness?

Our Love Don’t Throw It All Away is of course the same Bee Gees tune of old penned by Baz with Blue Weaver. I am curious as to how this cover came about but the words are still incredible. As nice as the other tracks are, Our Love still blows everything away. Barry’s echoing and Babs belts almost own this song, and the music is almost exactly the same as it was 28 years ago. I’ll be dang the ending is good. Maybe B and B’s next collaboration could be an entire album of Babs singing Gibb covers. I’d buy it! Our Love is proof of the Brother’s Gibb’s music immortality.

Letting Go is not as familiar to outsiders (those being non-Gibbers) but this is also a cover written in 1986 and found later on Barry’s Hawks album. The slow tune was a standout then, and in the video Barbra says she loved the song enough to do it. That’s a good enough explanation for me. 80) The timing and delivery is excellent. Barbra delivers in the same style as The Love Inside, but instead of the booming production, its her and a piano. Barbra, a piano, and a story song. What else do you need?

This fancy new dual disc format on the flip side of the CD is where all the video treats lie. Of the four videos I think I like Hideaway the best. The interview is more extensive than the preview on the Guilty Anniversary edition, but the conversation is mixed in with the videos. I was expecting something like real music videos with production et all, but they are mostly just band sessions. What no photo gallery?! Barbra wears a different black outfit every segment.

Guilty Pleasures is just that for Barbra Streisand fans and Gibb enthusiasts alike. My only sadness again is that the trio of Barry, Ashley, and Stephen have seemingly replaced the Barry, Robin, and Maurice Brothers Gibb of old. The new boys have great skill, and I’m sure Barry is as proud a papa (and Grandpapa!) as ever. To put it mildly, Guilty Pleasures is ‘decent’. To gloat on Guilty Pleasures is to say it is an ‘incredible collaboration of historical proportions!’ Still, I miss the magic of the ‘triplets’.


Odessa the concept that wasn’t.
by Kristin Battestella

I’ve waited far too long in tackling Odessa! A very ambitious review I’m sure. The over the top, red felt and gold impressed 1968 double LP says it all about this album-Barry, Robin, and Maurice’s ambitions, talents, and conflicts all rolled into one. Fans in the know recall that this album is what briefly split the group in the late sixties and early seventies. The concept that was too big for the Brothers Gibb. Dang.

The album is supposed to tell the story of a man shipwrecked, and each song is to represent him telling his tales of life and loves lost. Odessa with it’s parenthesis (City on the Black Sea) opens the concept smoothly. At over seven minutes in length, the title song sets the mood for the wavy waters we are about to traverse. My mom hates this song’s repetitions and ups and downs and seemingly stupid lyrics. It took awhile for it to grow on me, but the twists and turns make sense if the music is to tell the destruction of the HMS Veronica. Robins croaky delivery of the title makes me want to turn blue. Where does he get that much air?

You’ll Never See My Face Again is much shorter than Odessa, and Barry’s delivery is smooth. Already we’re seeing the multiple personality of this album. Odessa is quintessential orchestral pop, and You’ll Never See My Face Again is a touch of sardonic country. Can we boil it down directly to Barry versus Robin? Maybe.

Robin returns for Black Diamond, and he is much more listener friendly this time around. The poetic lyrics make more sense than Odessa, and Diamond is just the right length. The ending turns into a bit of Auld Lang Syne. I’m not sure why the boys chose to do so, but it’s unexpected and well done.

If you want truly sardonic country than Marley Purt Drive is for you. The story in this one has all the honest details, and Barry’s voice fits the ho-hum routine. The kicker at the end is a real topper. You can’t help but sing along and smile during Marley Purt Drive. I must not spoil it! Must not!

At first I thought Edison was kind of stupid and would skip over it. Do I really want to hear an ode to Thomas Edison? No. Even with the content snafu, Edison has its moments in Barry and Robin’s lead. They break up the monotony and keep the bland subject fresh. The placement of Edison might also hurt it. It’s got tough competition before and after.

Melody Fair is incredible. The strings and echoes and story all combine superbly for a tear jerking dang good song. Who is Melody? Is she the lost sailor‘s woman? Or was she a missed chanced never to be realized? It‘s sad either way, and all this is reflected in a different way each turn around. Brilliant. (We’ve also reviewed Melody Fair on Best of Volume 2.)

I actually have several sound bites from Odessa on my computer and Suddenly is one of them. Somewhere here in the middle the concept gets wishy washy and we’re left with a song for each brother. Suddenly is Maurice’s trippy track. Once again he seems short on actual lyrics, but what little is said is brass, if you catch my drift. My mom didn’t mind me singing it in public until I got to the ‘How can you tell humans are real?’ line. Just the noises Mo makes in this one are worth the listen, especially his Oh yeah!

Whisper Whisper starts off slow and quickly picks up into a swinging sixties tune. It reminds me of Hullabaloo, although I don’t know why. My sister caught part of Whisper in my car one day, and said ,”Ew, Kristin. What a horrible song!” Whisper’s orchestral music mixed with British pop is sharp to me. The drums and sound effects are tops. Whisper Whisper also has some raunchy lyrics. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll! I suppose it takes a special ear to enjoy Odessa all together. ;0)

My Mom hates Lamplight. Robin’s creaky voice can take some getting used to, but my mom says its nails on a chalkboard! The story lyrics are great, and the tone perfectly captures those old fashioned thoughts of quills and inkwells. The chorus is strong, and the three part harmony carries to the end. All the Robin songs here seem to carry the shipwreck concept. His woe is me voice is just meant for such melancholy drabble. I’m not so sure Barry is even on this track. The echoes might just be over dubs. The closing echoes might drag on too long as well, but they sound pretty.

Barry definitely makes his presence known for Sound of Love. The soul ballad is the first of two Baz slow songs presented. The words tug at your heartstrings, and Barry’s voice matches perfectly with the ups and downs in the music. A very under appreciated song.

Currently my computer opens with Give Your Best. The snappy dialogue and banter show the fun side of the boys, although I wonder how forced the track was, considering they hated each other at the time. The ironic lyrics are very sing along, even for those of us who don’t like country. I have no clue how this song would fit in with the lost concept!

The Seven Seas Symphony is an instrumental that captures everything Barry, Robin, and Maurice wanted to say in its 4 minutes of non lyrics. The opening is soft and beautiful. The oooos and aaaahhhhs in the middle help accentuate the up and down composition and that shipwrecked feeling. I am really hung up on the shipwreck! I love playing Odessa’s instrumentals for my classical music friends. They are wowed and ask who it is, and I am more than happy to share this underutilized facet of the Brothers Gibb.

With All Nations (and I can’t forget the parenthesis International Anthem!) continues the more orchestral and less pop begun in the Seven Seas Symphony. Not as ominous, Nations seems happy to start, but its booming ending is a real kicker. The vocals are the same as Symphony, and I’m not sure why these two are listed as separate rather than one big song, since Nations is only 1:42. I often confuse which instrumental is titled what. They all sound like they belong together and in my playlists that is how I play them. The boys could have had a whole ‘nother career composing ballets. Who knew?

I Laugh In Your Face opens with some sort of circus talk. I’m not really sure how this is supposed to tie into the lost concept, but this tune always reminds me of the old fashioned turn of the century circus posters with Death!Defying!Stunts! Another strong chorus with harmony and top notch music. What is the rest of the song talking about? Does it really matter? It’s amazing how I think I can absolutely hate a song, and then the boys bring in one single hook that can make me listen to a whole crappy song. Thankfully, Face isn’t crappy.

Never Say Never Again is a cute song. The rhyme is stretched by the way the boys say again-stretched to rhyme with Spain! The story isn’t really anything new. We’ve heard love lost melodrama before, but the chorus here is so easy and fun to sing. I’ll even let the double negative slide.

And now I come to First of May, the song that broke the Brothers Gibb, albeit briefly. Barry’s second slow tune was chosen as the single over Robin’s Lamplight, and the wounded younger Gibb went solo. I like the opening lines about Christmas trees being tall and kids being small. It reminded me of being a very young child, when the Christmas tree really did seem so huge. Barry’s easy tale is soft and moving, yet has some pretty senseless lyrics. Careful, it can bring a tear to one’s eye. Is First of May better than Lamplight? I’ll leave that one up to you!

The British Opera is the closing instrumental and matches the concept and over the top bravado begun in the opening track. The tune is a tight orchestral opus that ends the album with power and impact. I wish With All Nations would have been the closer with its booming ending, but I digress.

It is debatable whether Odessa failed in its concept or not. Enough of the story was put into place, and just enough lies undone for the listener to fill in the blanks. Odessa is more of a treat for its look into Barry, Robin, and Maurice both working separately and together. Maybe they did try at a linear album and failed, but the talent of The Brothers is obviously not linear. Odessa displays the multifaceted trio perfectly. The red felt may not last as long as the music, but a must have on CD.

Birth To Brilliance

Even The Bee Gees were Kids Once!
by Kristin Battestella

I’ve yet to do a review of the boys Australian compilations, and there’s no time like the present! Birth to Brilliance (as compared to another more extensive compilation Brilliant From Birth) is the first Bee Gees CD I bought. It’s a double CD of 36 songs, so I was surprised to see it priced at $9.99. It was also stamped as an import, and when I got to the register, the foreign tag gave me a discount. I paid $7.00! Granted many songs here aren’t high priced music, but I liked the deal. The order of the tracks is somewhat chronological, spanning from when the boys were 9 and 6 to their teens. Yowzaa!

Wine and Women allegedly became a modest chart topper in Australia because the boys paid a bunch of female fans to go around and buy up all the records! I think it would have sold quite well without the hype. A surprisingly strong lead off song written by Barry and sung naturally in three part harmony. All the ingredients are here in their simplistic forms-lyrics, harmony, and hooks. Again I stress the need for Maurice even then. He was just coming into his funny heartbreaker style, and he puts the icing on early footage of Wine. Great starter.

The guitar work on I Was A Lover A Leader Of Men is somewhat basic, but there are a few rifts and hooks again that show great things to come. The timing and starts and stops are on form. The variations the boys make infuse Lover with great music, even if the words are a bit kiddie. The ending is a smooth touch.

Prepubescent Robin makes his squeaky presence known on Timber. The harmony sticks with the faster beats and rhythms. Outside of more kid lyrics, this one reminds me of Runaway by Del Shannon. A very young copy of Runaway. Timber’s also too short for anything much to be accomplished, yet the chorus gets stuck in my head.

Claustrophobia is much more mature than Timber. The lyrics and melody are tighter. Where Timber’s hook came from ‘falling for you’, Claustrophobia has a better twist and pun on words.

Could it Be combines the best of Timber and Claustrophobia. Already it seems as if the boys aren’t stalling. They were trying new things then and taking it to the next level. Could it Be is filled with cute noises, clapping, snapping, and a ‘golly gee!’ or two. Kind of silly, but memorable. Good job.

Peace of Mind sounds very Beatle. I like it, all the ingredients are there, but as I’ve said before I don’t like Beatle imitators. Barry says on the This Is Where I Came In Biography that they weren’t getting anywhere playing anybody else songs so they stuck with their own ‘flops’. It’s a good thing they stuck with their own flops!

To Be Or Not To Be is more of the same as Peace of Mind. Even still, it’s similar to a different Beatle style. Be is the first song here that is more piano based. It must be multi-talented Maurice!

I Don’t Think It’s Funny is the first all Robin lead presented. A very sweet and simple albeit juvenile little song. Robin’s squeaky baby voice is not that bad, at least to me. I’ve never like John Denver stylings, but the echoes and harmonies in the chorus are the seeds of production the brothers are now famous for. The rhyme is strong and yet weak at the same time: “I don’t think its funny, honey. My sky is not so sunny...” Oy!

My nieces adore Three Kisses of Love. They heard it and started to sing along, so I showed them the Biography photos of the boys singing, and my nieces’ jaws dropped. For some reason people can’t get over the Elvis-ness of the boys early style! The melody and speed is just right, and the mid-century innocence sets this song off. An early classic that I sing along with, too.

I don’t know what the boys were trying for in The Battle of the Blue And Grey. Country? Barry’s little Civil War story raises a few questions if you think about it long enough, as I’m sure I have. Besides, this is Aussie boys talking about the American Civil War? And if you pay attention you see their on the Confederate side. It’s a nice go. It sounds like they used a real banjo, too.

The Theme from Jamie McPheeters was supposedly a show or hit song or something back in the day. Before my time ;0) The boys tackle it well. You can’t really sing along, except for the boy’s lingering ‘Jaime-o!’, ‘Californ-Ya!’, and ‘Westward, ho!’ Although nobody out there says fortune quite like Barry, Robin, and Maurice.

I love Turn Around Look At Me. I loved The Letterman version before I knew who The Bee Gees were, but when I got this CD, I didn’t connect the title. Robin’s shrill tones send the chorus up, but the harmony is so beautiful. With such great lyrics I doubt anybody could go wrong. Everyday I Had To Cry is another cover the boys do almost identical to the original. Barry’s young soul voice fits the tune perfectly. I’m not sure if it’s Robin or Maurice doing the echoes, but it is good. The covers here no doubt prove these youngings had talent. 80)

How Love was True is another Barry original. The lyrics are getting better, and the harmonies are tight as always. Baz is trying at a story song I think, but they all talk about love. I guess that’s normal for a 15 year old boy. Robin’s voice is also strengthening into his early vibrato sound

You Won’t See Me is naturally a cover of the Beatles tune that, naturally, Barry, Robin, and Maurice master. When I first got this album, I’d play this song back to back with the real version. My dad couldn’t tell the difference! Robin expertly takes on the group he would end up hanging out with someday. Bravo!

The cover of Lonely Winter ends the first disc and is led by none other than darling Moby. His accent is very strong but does not impede his delivery. The lower and melancholy song fits Maurice. It’s very strange to think that his voice is actually very near the same as it was for This Is Where I Came In, 35 years later!

On its own disc one is intriguing for the Gibber fan, but it has little else of worth for audiophiles not in the know. Except for the covers, 11 tracks are credited to Barry alone. Although his writing was developing expertly, the emergence of Robin and Maurice on disc two has its advantages. I have to admit I think I prefer the second disc. This disc has better original material and helps bridge the gap between the toothy kids here and the men we love today.

Number two begins with In the Morning of My Life, and it has several incredible hooks. Morning sounds just like a kid’s playing and imagination song, but the whole verse of flying to the moon is so masterfully rhymed and crafted. Barry’s whispy delivery sinks into your brain. There is a slower version later on Best Of Volume 2 but my best bet is on the live version from One Night Only. You would think after so many years Barry, Robin, and Maurice would sing Morning differently, but they sang it exactly the same. The three of them and a microphone, as they must have done here. Proof that good music is timeless.

Like Nobody Else is the first song on the set credited to all three brothers. All their voices are prevalent also, and already the semi-dual leads of Barry and Robin are developing. Again with the Beatle-ness!

Even then it seems Maurice got stuck with only one song per album. All By Myself is credited to him alone. Maybe that is where the tongue and cheek tone of the song comes from. Where Barry and Robin have experimented with their lead styles, once again Mo sounds almost exactly the same. The song doesn’t have anything much special to it, but Maurice’s heady personality seems to fill the song. One could argue then that this is the best written song here, since Maurice put so much of himself into it. Teehe.

Storm is so darling in its melancholy mood. Even this early Robin was brooding about something. His lead is a bit uneven, ranging from his lower husky voice to his overpowering bellows in the chorus. Even so, this is still a very well put together song with horns and perfectly timed notes. It seems the boys were learning their strengths and being to show them off or take them over the top, as it should be.

I simply adore Butterfly. Most of these songs were written by the boys for other Australian artists. I find it tough to believe some of these tunes were merely demos when I hear Butterfly. The production is complete, and there is not a thing wrong with Barry’s lead. I have no clue truly what the story in the lyrics is about, but the imagery is so explicit you can’t help but think about this song long after you’ve heard it.

At first listen I could swear Terrible Way to Treat Your Baby was a Maurice lead, but it is actually a full throttle puberty Robin. The instruments are perfect for the chorus, even though it sounds like spoons and those ribbed wood sticks they used to hand out in music class when I was a kid. The quick beats and music juxtapose expertly with Robin’s somber delivery.

Exit Stage Right is more of the same British Invasion sound, which wouldn’t really bother me, except the song is apparently about stage fright. Okay.

However, If ever there was a song to call Beatle-esque Coalman would have to be it. It even begins with talking that sounds just like Ringo, plus a false start. Sure Barry, Robin, and Maurice were young songwriters at the time, so I don’t really blame them, but you can almost swap out the lyrics to Nowhere Man. Do you know what the sad thing is? The harmony here is impeccable!

I Am the World is the lone song here written by just Robin. His voice finally seems decided upon, and yes I do believe even then he could pick what voice he wanted to use. The lyrics are melancholy and beautiful yet at the same time ballsy and powerful. You cannot escape the power of Robin! He is the sky! The sea! Anything you want him to be! I find it tough to believe he felt unpopular as a teen. 80)

I swear Cherry Red is about somebody losing his virginity. The lyrics are just too obviously young love for it to be anything else! It is a beautiful little tune, particularly the harmony (big surprise) and the dual repetitions in the interlude. Even if their subject matter was weak, by this time Barry, Robin, and Maurice had learned how to craft a full fledged song. The lyrics, music, verses travel to a point and take you there for the experience. And I still say this song is about sex.

I Want Home has some stupid lyrics but the chorus is pure foot tapping. The beats and lyrics are on time. The screams are cool, too. Different is good, especially here. All these songs are short, as most were back in 1966. I wish the good parts here went on longer than they do.

Ah, Monday’s Rain. Robin and Barry smoothly take this one up a notch. For me Rain is the direct precursor to To Love Somebody. The guitar break is sweet, and breathy Barry is finally introduced to the world. Even the lyrics are quirky but fitting. One might wonder why Barry and Robin alternate the lead, but who cares? It sounds good. Hehe, this is the original “Is it a Barry or Robin song?”. I actually have another version of this one on a different compilation CD. The lead vocal is different. I swear it’s Maurice! Even with the mystery lead, this one is a keeper. Again we are coming closer to the time when the boys developed good songs that simply can’t be done wrong.

Barry’s voice is in full swing for How Many Birds. Even though this and others here are very similar and generic, Barry’s voice is strong enough on Birds. So strong you know these kids couldn’t possible be contained as stock songwriters for other artists.

Second Hand People slows things down again. Barry and Robin sing a somber story that hits the nail on the head, even though I don’t know what ’treacle’ is. Second Hand People should have been longer. The story was just getting good. The sad lyrics depress you, yet you want to hear more. Smarts!

Born A Man echoes How Many Birds in its strong tones. The lyrics are very brawny, and the ad-libs at the end are over the top. They almost go on too long, but right when everything’s about to crescendo, it stops. Whew.

Spicks and Specks fittingly closes this set. The boys were already on their way to bigger and better things when this one was released and became Number One in Australia. The lyrics seemingly sum up The Brothers Gibb’s Australian life and set the scene for act two. What are they saying exactly anyway? And the music? It’s two notes! Gold with two notes! Ingenious, people!

There are many compilations from all over the world of the boy’s early career. Most contain similar track lists with a few exceptions and gems. Birth to Brilliance is one of a handful, near complete collections that give a picture of Barry, Robin, and Maurice’s development as singers, songwriters, and musicians. The other collections are Brilliant from Birth; The Rare, Precious, and Beautiful Trilogy; and Inception Nostalgia ;0) No Bee Gees fan’s collection is complete with out some of this history.

Sharpe's Eagle

Sharpe’s Eagle A Fine Book and Film Adaptation

By Kristin Battestella

I previously skipped over Sharpe’s Eagle-the second in the BBC’s television adaptations from the novels by Bernard Cornwell- because I was reading the book. The first Sharpe novel by Cornwell, Eagle is a fine historical work. Surprisingly, the TV adaptation does the written word justice.

When we first meet Richard Sharpe in the Eagle novel, he’s a lieutenant raised from the ranks after rescuing Wellington years before in India. Sharpe is a scarred and rough soldier, originally a member of the 95th Rifles. After being left behind by his regiment during battle, Sharpe and his remaining handful of crack shot riflemen move to the South Essex battalion. Sergeant Harper is as close to his superior officer as one in the ranks can be, but Sharpe has his eyes on a captaincy won on the battlefield-a promotion that cannot be taken from him. He can’t afford to buy a commission like the spoiled gentlemen do. New colonel Sir Henry Simmerson doesn’t make things easy for Sharpe-nor does young and greedy Lieutenant Christian Gibbons. The slick nephew of Simmerson contests Sharpe on and off the battlefield. Both men are vying for the affections of abandoned but high class and expensive Portuguese lady Josefina. Sharpe slowly realizes that the only way to gain respect, wealth, fame, and promotion is to capture an imperial eagle.

Written in 1981, Cornwell might have a tough time publishing Eagle today. Although there’s currently 21 Sharpe books-the most recent Sharpe’s Fury was publishing in 2006-British born Cornwell’s writing style is distinctly European here. (Later Sharpe novels are more American in feel and have become influenced by the television series.) Cornwell’s British-ness doesn’t detract from the story; the historical accuracy, the richly detailed locales, characters, or Napoleonic vibes. In fact, that British-ness adds to Eagle’s charm. Some Americans, however, may have a slow start adjusting to the English wording and punctuation. Fortunately, once you’re into the book, these quips disappear. The battle action comes off the page, revenge, even romance. Unlike his hesitant Napoleonic compatriot Horatio Hornblower, Sharpe knows what he wants and usually gets it. Whether it’s a little lovin’ or the fine line between murder and killing on the battlefield, the reader is routing for Sharpe.

Director Tom Clegg’s 1994 adaptation of Eagle takes all the good from the novel and places it onscreen. Script writer Eoghan Harris sometimes gives us line for line dialogue from the book. Harris knows the written Sharpe to the T, and it shows onscreen. The attention to detail and the pull of material from the Sharpe canon keep Eagle authentic to the books and the history.

Sean Bean plays the titular Sharpe to perfection. Even though the reader reads time and again of the dark haired and scarred Sharpe, the blonde Bean carries all Sharpe’s rough edges along with his intelligence and veiled sensitivity. Daragh O’Malley is likewise ideally cast as Patrick Harper. His scale and wit bring the Irishman to life. In a book and film with so many characters-officers and soldiers coming and going with each storyline-the entire cast of Sharpe’s Eagle looks and feels the part. Some folks just don’t look like they belong in a period piece, but everyone here is either Napoleonic gritty or perfectly Jane Austen. Assumpta Serena is beautiful yet strong as guerilla leader Teresa Moreno, and new Bond Daniel Craig is a young and delightfully ruthless addition-even if his Lietuenant Berry has swapped vile places with Lieutenant Gibbons onscreen.

But of course, movies have to change up a few things. Written years later as a prequel, Sharpe’s Rifles introduces the Sharpe characters to each other, naturally making a good fit as the first film adaptation. Much as I like the Teresa Moreno character, her premature introduction in Rifles and her odd place in the Eagle film diminishes the onscreen relationship of Sharpe and Josefina LaCosta (Katia Callabero). It’s also a bit confusing later on in the Sharpe’s Enemy film when Elizabeth Hurley plays Lady Farthingale-one of the aliases used by Josefina in the novels. More riflemen are also given names and personality in the television series. Only elder statesman rifleman Hagman appears in the early novels. Later novels, of course, incorporate the onscreen Chosen Men.

The film adaptation of Sharpe’s Eagle brings the book’s essence to life. Every time I watch, I think to myself, ‘this is a damn good show.’ Sharpe’s Eagle is neither a perfect book nor a perfect film. Both are, however, as near to perfection as is perhaps possible. Fine storytelling, characters, love triangles, action, history. If you’re a fan of all things Napoleonic or even if you just like English period pieces, Sharpe’s Eagle is not to be missed in either medium. Look for the DVD in several available Sharpe collections. The novel may be elusive in big box bookstores, but it is definitely worth the used store hunts or online purchase. Do, however, be prepared to read the other twenty books- Eagle is that addictive. Just look at all the Sharpe reviews I’ve done!