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Now Voyager (1984)
Audio CD
Track Listing

1. I Am Your Driver
2. Fine Line
3. Face to Face
4. Shatterproof
5. Shine, Shine
6. Lesson in Love
7. "One Night (For Lovers)"
8. "Stay Alone"
9. "Temptation"
10. "She Says"
11. "The Hunter"

by Nicholas James

Barry Gibb's first solo album was a major project. The album was loaded full of experimental tracks, and most tracks were also recorded as pop videos, which formed part of the accompanying Now Voyager film (now available on DVD).

This album experiments with a whole series of different musical influences, including rap, calypso, disco, rock and pop, although few of the tracks were commercially accessible pop songs. In this album, Barry purposefully eschewed the inclusive and distinctive style of the Bee Gees, or even his productions for other artists. The result? The album was reasonably well-received critically, many reviewers citing this as exactly the sort of album that one of the world's most influential and creative songwriters should come up with, but it was a commercial disaster. But despite its inaccessibility and unexpected commercial failure, this album has a great deal to commend it. And, despite the slightly dated sound of one or two of the songs, it has actually aged well, and is always interesting.

The best track by a square mile is the lead-off single, 'Shine Shine'. This is just an incredible piece of music, mixing a powerful pop melody, enigmatic and moving lyrics with a driving calypso beat. From start to finish, this song is nothing short of uplifting, and the trumpet-led instrumental break in each chorus will have you dancing in your front room (or the train, if you are listening on your phone). Breathtaking.

Other memorable moments include the hi-tech and highly sexually suggestive 'I Am Your Driver', ostensibly about a commercial interplanetary airline ("You can rearrange your bags in the aisle", says Barry!), the danceable 'Fine Line' (yes, Barry Gibb raps on this one) and the powerful synth-rock of 'The Hunter'.

Barry also manages to include a few pleasant ballads, although with the exception of 'Face to Face' (a classic Bee Gees-style duet with Olivia Newton-John), these tracks all veer into new musical directions. 'She Says' is an infectious piece of pure 1980s pop with a killer verse; 'Stay Alone' is a simple, gentle and slightly odd piano ballad; and 'One Night (For Lovers)' brings to mind palm trees, white sand and lovers walking hand-in-hand along a Caribbean shoreline.

At times the album becomes far too intense and it is difficult to know exactly where Barry Gibb was going (the thumping sing-along 'Shatterproof'; the tale of sexual experimentation 'Lesson In Love' and the Michael Jackson influenced 'Temptation' being perfect examples - these are difficult songs to love).

Special mention must be made of the album's fantastic cover photograph, taken in the listed Victoria Baths, a much-loved swimming pool in Barry's former home town of Manchester, England. This iconic swimming pool features heavily in the accompanying DVD, which goes some way to explaining how all the songs fit together (the DVD is also beautifully filmed and, despite some slightly dodgy acting from Barry, really adds to the whole Now Voyager experience).

In hindsight, Barry should perhaps have relaxed a bit more and made this something less than the deadly serious and intense album it turned out to be. His next album, which never got a full release (although partly found its way into the Hawks movie soundtrack), would have probably moved further into this territory. But, criticisms aside, this project is something of a musical landmark that defined this period in Barry's song writing career, and it provided us some excellent tracks to boot. For that, it deserves every one of the four stars I award it.

Why Buy Now Voyager?

For the incredible 'Shine Shine' and to hear one of the world's greatest and most creative musical forces on an intense and experimental journey.