by Nicholas James
After the excellent
To Whom It
May Concern, the Bee Gees produced
an album that walked straight into their
critics' hands. At this time in their
career, the brothers were often castigated
for an over-reliance on ballads and for
being stuck in a musical rut going nowhere.
These criticisms had been levelled at them
since they reformed after their 1969-70
split. But, for the most part, the
criticisms were unfounded. During this
period, the Gibbs had produced some great
music, on some dense and complex albums. It
is true that their music lacked that spark
of originality that marked the band out from
their peers in the 1960s, but that was
easily compensated by the quality of their
Unfortunately, on this album, the brothers
are treading water. The album is short (only
8 tracks, compared to the more standard 12
or 13 songs). The songs are often
non-descript and the production is crisp and
clear, but thin. The album is, in fact,
almost middle-of-the-road in style, and that
is quite a criticism for a group that only
four years earlier were at the forefront of
prog rock innovation.
OK, so 'Saw A New Morning' is a lively
opener, and Barry's 'I Don't Wanna Be The
One' is a beautiful ballad. But that is
almost as far as it goes. 'South Dakota
Morning' is a shallow country number,
'Living In Chicago' is a rambling,
pretentious song, saved only by Robin's
vocals and 'While I Play' is a dirge,
ill-conceived and poorly executed.
The album is lifted briefly by 'My Life Has
Been A Song', a pleasant double-hander
between Barry and Robin, and also 'Come Home
Johnnie Bridie', which harks back to the
classic 'Marley Purt Drive'. But even these
tracks are shadows of the group's former
achievements and are unlikely to have won
them new fans. 'Method To My Madness' ends
the album on flimsy, inconsequential note.
Oh, yes. And there is no 'token' Maurice
track! Big mistake.
It is clear that, at this period in the
group's history, the Bee Gees were going
nowhere. Still immensely talented singers,
song writers and musicians - that comes
through loud and clear - but lacking the
vision and self-confidence they once had.
The fact that record sales had also slumped
at this period (this album did not produce a
hit single in the UK or US - their first
album to completely fail in this way), and
the album itself barely charted.
Worse was to come. Their next album, 'A Kick
In The Head Is Worth Eight In the Pants' was
turned down by their record label and never
released. The Bee Gees were in crisis.
Something had to change, and change it did,
but not before the record company attempted
to wring the last few sales from the group
with another Best Of album...
Why Buy Life In A Tin Can?
To complete your collection. Otherwise, buy
It May Concern instead.