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Secret Agent - Robin Gibb (1984)
Audio CD
Track Listing

1. Boys Do Fall In Love
2. In Your Diary
3. Robot
4. Rebecca
5. Secret Agent
6. Livin' In Another World
7. X-Ray Eyes
8. King Of Fools
9. Diamonds

by Nicholas James

Robin's third solo album, the follow-up to the artistically (if not commercially) successful How Old Are You, is a very different beast to its predecessors. Like How Old Are You, the Secret Agent album is heavily electronic, but that is where the similarities really end. This album moves on from How Old Are You's soft sentimentality for up-tempo synthesizer-based dance tracks. Robin's falsetto vocals used in How Old Are You are also replaced with a much deeper, harder, and more varied sound. And the songs move away from extended love stories to tales of spies, androids, Amazonian temples and high technology. This album was genuinely different.

Again the album is a Robin and Maurice project (although on this album older brother Barry co-writes a couple of tracks), and this shows that the brothers have really grasped the sound and style of the period and done something different. Maurice, in particular, clearly had a lot of fun playing with different types of keyboard effects and lifting the songs from the slightly monotonous backing track of the previous album to a series of unique, and at times genuinely fresh (even now!) instrumental breaks. If there is a criticism of this album, it is the incessant attempt to sound high-tech, with barely a single 'real' instrument to be heard anywhere. It does give the album a cold and clinical sound on first listen, but once you 'get into the groove' (to use another 1980's expression!), this becomes less of an issue as it is this sound that takes the album into this new direction which it otherwise would not have achieved. However, a couple of slower tracks might have been a good idea.

And the album almost saw Robin's solo career take off commercially. Whereas How Old Are You spawned a major European hit with 'Juliet', the album didn't make much of an impact in the USA. The first single from Secret Agent - 'Boys Do Fall In Love' - actually cracked the US Top 40, the first time a single from a Robin Gibb solo album had charted on that side of the Atlantic. However, it wasn't to last, as the album failed to set the world alight commercially.

But for those who did search it out, it was well worth a listen. 'Boys Do Fall In Love' was an unbelievably catchy piece of 1980s pop, which really should have made an impact. Previously described as a male answer to Cyndy Lauper's 'Girls Just Want To Have Fun', it appeared in several extended dance versions and is one of Robin and Maurice's best compositions. But there is much else on the album to enjoy: 'In Your Diary', co-written with Barry, is another infectious track with a leaden back beat and genuinely touching lyrics; 'Secret Agent' is a great example of how Maurice Gibb was master of the synthesizer, with lyrics about jet planes, female spies and the CIA (this track even features a fight scene!); and 'Diamonds' takes you out into the Amazon in a song that brings to mind an Indiana Jones movie. 'Rebecca' and 'King Of Fools' are also outstanding tracks with very strong melodies (although, if Robin thought 'Rebecca' was this album's answer to Juliet, he was wrong!).

On repeated listens, here is an album that will grow on you. It is an example of how, yet again, the Gibb brothers were capable of not only moving with the times, but also grabbing something new with both (or in this case four!) hands and doing something really innovative. Buy it!

Why Buy Secret Agent?

For a genuinely good attempt at a 1980s pop album, with a good sense of humour. it is fun.