Bee Gees

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The Bee Gees, the veteran Australian brothers led by songwriter Barry Gibb, who had been stars of the Sixties (A Message To You, 1968), converted to keyboards-oriented funk music with Jive Talking (1975) and You Should Be Dancing (1976), and then scored the soundtrack for John Badham's Saturday Night Fever (1977), that, thanks to Staying Alive and Night Fever, launched a world-wide fad for disco-music.
(Clicka qua per la versione Italiana)

The three Gibb brothers (Barry, Robin and Maurice) began singing in Manchester before the days of Merseybeat, in the style of white vocal groups. In 1962 they got a gig on Australian television, and it was there they scored their first hits. They didn't return to their homeland until 1967 - beat music having died out by then - with a more sophisticated and orchestral style. The progression that led them to their mature sound was very rapid: they made a name for themselves with the novelty Spicks And Specks (1967), elaborated their arrangements on the "Beatlesque" imitation New York Mining Disaster 1941 (1967), incorporated a string section on the stirring Massachusetts (1967), and implemented a full orchestra for the poignant soul of A Message To You (1968). The ballads To Love Somebody (1968), I Started A Joke (1968), Lonely Days (1970), and their first US number one How Can You Mend A Broken Heart (1971), marked a change of course toward sentimental vignettes that drove away their youthful audience.

As far as albums go, Sing and Play 14 Barry Gibb Songs (1965) introduced them as original purveyors of pop music in the age of Merseybeat. Turn Around Look At Us (1967) marked the end of their Australian experience with assorted old material. The lush orchestration of First (1967), which was actually their third album, aped Beach Boys and Merseybeat (To Love Somebody) but also offered some genuine eccentricity (New York Mining Disaster 1941, Every Christian Lion Hearted Man Will Show You). That style was abandoned for a slimmer sound influenced by folk-rock on Horizontal (1968), that contained the hit Massachusetts (1967). Idea (1968) found a sentimental balance between the two and yielded A Message To You and I Started A Joke. The orchestration was further refined on Odessa (1969), notably the seven-minute rhapsody Odessa, with Black Diamond, Melody Fair and Lamplight showcasing their discreet melodic hooks.

(Translated from my old Italian text by Nicholas Green)

The Bee Gees reinvented themselves in 1975, thanks to Arif Mardin (a seasoned jazz and soul producer), skillfully blending the art of falsetto with funky rhythms and thus completing their shift from white to black vocal harmony. This partnership produced Jive Talking (1975), improvised in the studio with new accompanists (Alan Kendall on guitar, Dennis Byron on drums, and Blue Weaver on keyboards); Nights On Broadway (1975), the first single on which Barry Gibb switched over to falsetto; You Should Be Dancing (1976); and Love So Right (1976). In 1977 they wrote the soundtrack to the film Saturday Night Fever, which launched the disco-music phenomenon worldwide, and their archetypal hits Staying Alive, How Deep Is Your Love (1978), Night Fever (1978), Too Much Heaven (1978), Grease (sung by Frankie Valli, but composed by Barry Gibb), and Tragedy (1979). All of these are marked by painstaking production, oceans of strings, banally ethereal vocals, and - of course - the "thump-thump" of disco.

Andy Gibb also had a successful solo career built on the same foundation (I Just Want To Be Your Everything, 1977, Shadow Dancing, 1978). Once the glories of disco ended, however, so did their second wind.

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