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How Old Are You - Robin Gibb (1983)
Audio CD
Track Listing

1. Juliet
2. How Old Are You
3. In And Out Of Love
4. Kathy's Gone
5. Don't Stop The Night
6. Another Night In New York
7. Danger
8. He Can't Love You
9. Hearts On Fire
10. I Believe In Miracles

by Nicholas James

How Old Are You is Robin Gibb's second solo album, coming 14 years after his first, 1969's Robin's Reign. This isn't really a Robin Gibb solo album, it is a Bee Gees album without Barry. Although Robin sings lead vocals on all the songs, Maurice Gibb is present on backing vocals. More importantly, Robin and Maurice co-write all the songs, and the album is produced by Maurice and Robin. Oh, yes, and most of the instruments are played by Maurice, too.

So, how would the Bee Gees sound without Barry? If this album is anything to go by, absolutely superb! Let's get the negatives out of the way first. This album is entirely electronic, with endless programmed drum beats and harsh synthesizers. This can get a little wearing after a while, but it is a product of the era and the sound that Maurice and Robin were trying to achieve. And two or three of the songs in the second part of the album, don't work perhaps as well as they should. But that is it, as far as the bad points go. Everything else is good. In fact, it is very good.

Most of the songs are perfectly composed, highly emotional love songs, that just drag you into their tales of heartache. Each song tells a different story, and Robin's vocals are extremely powerful (and very high, which is a new departure for the singer!) It is lacking in that extra vocal variety that Barry Gibb provides, but this is a Robin Gibb album, so you can't really expect to get Barry, too!

The first track, 'Juliet', was a massive European hit and is one of the greatest Gibb-composed songs of all time. Just let it take you into its world and you won't want to leave. You will want to play it again and again. 'How Old Are You' is a daring trip into the world of underage sex, and manages to be a beautiful song as well. If you like big songs with soaring harmonies, you will adore 'In And Out Of Love', which shows that Robin and Maurice were more than capable of continuing this particular Bee Gees tradition. 'Kathy's Gone' is a tear jerker that, from its simple opening bars to its powerful chorus, will have you crying and humming along in equal measure.

'Another Lonely Night In New York' was another single release from the album and a beautifully atmospheric track, perfect for Robin's vocals. Generally, the second half of the album is weaker than the first, though, with the drum beats and tinny synthesizers starting to grate, but 'He Can't Love You' rises above the electronic monotony that surrounds it with a powerful and touching love song.

For an album that is handicapped (in hindsight) by its electronic sound, and which suffers from a few weak tracks, I have still awarded it a clear 5 stars. It has to be listened to in the context of its era. Some have described this album as soppy and overly sentimental, but that is surely to miss the point. This is a genuinely affecting album, through a series of strange and moving stories, strikes a nerve with your own personal experiences. Yes, it is manipulative and calculated, but it is also warm and honest, with song writing of a calibre that is rarely seen these days. It therefore gets its 5 stars for its pure self-confidence, for the quality of the song-writing, and because I just completely adore the record, and have done since the first time I played it all those years ago. I wish that Robin Gibb would get back to what he does best and write another album as good as this, rather than the seemingly endless cover versions and retrospectives that he has been involved in since 2003. Please, Robin.

Why Buy How Old Are You?

Because it is divine. Robin Gibb's best solo album, and one of the most personal, touching albums released. You will need tissues.