03 June 2008

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.

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