15 July 2008


Hornblower, Nelson, Trafalgar!
by Kristin Battestella

I shall take a break from my holiday record binge so I can bring you this review of Trafalgar! One of the dwindling record-only pieces of my Gibb collection, this 1971 release originally came in gold pressings and ambitious, artful lithograph covers. I have neither, boo.

How Can You Mend A Broken Heart is one of five tracks written by Barry and Robin and is almost without a doubt the best track here. Broken Heart brought the brothers total US Chart success and returned them fully from their nasty split. Instead of butting heads, Robin and Barry put everything into the song, and all became right with the world. (We’ve also reviewed Heart on Best of Volume 2). The record is a bit scratchy here!

Israel and The Greatest Man In The World are both written by Baz, yet they each have a unique feel. I suppose Barry is trying to make some sort of war and peace statement with Israel, but I just like the way the boys sound wailing Israel over and over. Israel’s music is also fairly sweet and soft, a nice juxtaposition to the strong words. Great finish from soul Barry.

Greatest Man In The World is as equally heartfelt as Israel, but wispy Barry takes over for this one. I hate to say it, but we’ve heard songs like this before. Still, Greatest has its moments. It is a very beautiful and sweet song. Barry’s lullaby like tone is tops.

It’s Just The Way is the first Moby track presented. Even though a lot of the work here is still solo and individualized, the songs sound the same, well too similar to say the least. It’s Just The Way has some nice guitar work and a smooth delivery from Maurice. Although different and slightly upbeat, Way continues the melancholy tone of the album. Mo’s gritty yet easy vocal fits perfectly, but I think this song is too short.

And of course we have a Robin outing with Remembering. Of the three Robin lead songs here, Remembering is probably the best. The vocals are tighter, and the chorus flows nicer. Robin’s opening, depressing croaking lyrics would drive my mother crazy! The harmony on the bittersweet chorus makes the song. And while Robin was in this orchestral pop vein, Remembering has a touch of Barry and Maurice’s country vibe.

Barry and Mo team up next for Somebody Stop the Music. The lyrics are a bit garbled and make no sense, but the chorus is strong and even sing-a-long- able. At first Music sounds way too much like a Creedence rip off, but the ad lib at the end is great, and it may very well be the fastest music presented.

I think I prefer Side A, but Trafalgar leads off side two and is the second track written by Maurice. When was the last time that happened? Trafalgar is not about the famous battle but instead Trafalgar Square, a place somewhere in England. I apologize but I haven’t been there. Road Trip! Mo’s heady lyrics are weird, but a nice listen. One part of this song always get stuck in my head, the delivery of the title word by Maurice is tops. Considering My Thing on Cucumber Castle, Lay it On Me from 2 Years On, and You Know It’s For You on To Whom It May Concern, Trafalgar might best showcase Mo’s work of the period.

Don’t Wanna Live Inside Myself is another Barry solo outing that also appeared on Best of Volume 2. It is incredibly beautiful-lovely music and vocals, but I’ll be dang it’s depressing. Barry’s wispy yet gritty delivery and solemn lyrics are excellent, yet not meant for the sing along. Well, you can sing along, if you like ’walking through a graveyard where darkness is my friend’. The best tear jerker on an album of tear jerkers.

Robin answers Barry with the ballads When Do I and Dearest. Both written by the competitors themselves, these songs are too similar to be back to back and neither can be fully appreciated. When Do I opens with more creaky Robin, and actually, the chorus repeats and sounds like a broken record. (No pun intended, and knock on wood!) Too much of the same weeny whiny lyrics overtake the smooth music underneath.

Dearest’s lyrics are also less that spectacular. I don’t know if these would have been better as one song or not. The brothers wrote a lot of material before, during, and after the split. Not all of it bad, just too much of the same. Robin’s delivery is exactly the same as When Do I. I know he could change it if he wants to. Robin has a few nice belts, and Barry’s chorus is soft perfection, but it sounds like another lullaby.

Distant drums start Lion In Winter off coolly. The music here is arranged perfectly, but Barry and Robin’s weak lyrics are about James Brown? Huh? The chorus isn’t much beside the title lyric, but finally Robin has broken out of this depressing stretch. Yes, scratchy and husky reverbs! We don’t get nearly enough soul Robin, ever. But I shouldn’t complain, we got two Maurice tracks.

Walking Back to Waterloo is the only song credited to all three boys and closes the album in an ominous opus. Waterloo has a solid chorus and an easy to sing along beat, but at first thought, I can’t recall anything else about it! More cooky lyrics, but a unique tongue twister chorus. It sounds like a march or chant, but my Dad heard it and said “Boy, that record’s warped!” Waterloo also has the most complex music here, with an Odessa feel, but a simple fade out ends the song poorly. I want more ominous and opus!

On a side note, Country Woman and On Time were odd singles and B sides from the Trafalgar releases. Both written and led by Maurice, Woman and Time have a country road house style to them. Country Woman has an upbeat and lively feel, even if Mo is talking about those same old woman troubles.

On Time showcases some Gibb brashness. It’s a simple diddy with Mo and a guitar, yet its raunch is refreshing. Their feel may not have fit the epic try of the album, but Maurice’s singles are at least equal to if not better in quality than some of what’s on the set. Even though there is a huge amount of known and unknown Maurice material from this era, the only time you can guarantee hearing him is on his leads. Boo.

Despite all the booms and music that come and go on Trafalgar, taking it all in one shebang can put even the most die hard fan to sleep. Small does are preferred in order to appreciate each song. Too many of the same ballads isn’t such a bad thing when you are in a rut and need an album to cry to, but Trafalgar is best served is small portions-unless you have a lot of Kleenex.

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