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Still Waters (1997)
Audio CD
Track Listing

1. Alone
2. I Surrender
3. I Could Not Love You More
4. Still Waters Run Deep
5. My Lover's Prayer
6. With My Eyes Closed
7. Irresistible Force
8. Closer Than Close
9. I Will
10. Obsessions
11. Miracles Happen
12. Smoke and Mirrors

by Nicholas James

The gap between this album and the previous album, the glorious Size Isn't Everything, was four years, the biggest gap between albums since that difficult time when fans waited four years for ESP. This time, though, there was a good reason. The inspired idea for this album would be that the Bee Gees would not produce it themselves; instead, they would allow a number of top contemporary producers to take on one or more tracks and - so the theory goes - this would give the album a new, fresh sound. This would mean recording in different locations all over the world, fitting into various peoples' diaries. A logistical nightmare, but well worth it if the resulting album pushed the group into new territories.

A number of producers worked on this album: Russ Titelman (Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, George Harrison), David Foster (Celine Dion, Barbra Streisand, Natalie Cole), Hugh Padgham (Phil Collins, Sting, Clannad), Raphael Saadiq (TLC, Snoop Dogg, Whitney Houston) and the Bee Gees old mate from the 1970s and 1980s, Arif Mardin. Oh, yes, and the Bee Gees co-produced a number of the tracks and produced 'Closer Than Close' in its entirety. But instead of delivering a diverse mix of sounds and approaches, all the producers seemed to compete to be the same. This resulted in the blandest album the Bee Gees have released since the early 1970s.

It isn't clear why this was the case. Perhaps the producers they approached were a little too much part of the establishment, working for well-known, 'safe' artists. Perhaps the Bee Gees themselves interfered (this is unlikely, as they are not credited as co-producers on many of the songs). Or perhaps all the producers just had the same inspiration when working with the Bee Gees, to mix a slick, contemporary sound with touches of their 1970s vocals. (Another reason could have been - perish the thought - that the Bee Gees simply did not supply songs that were up to their usual standard.)

That isn't to say that this album is a failure. far from it. The anthemic first single, 'Alone', became yet another UK Top 5 hit, and this time managed to succeed all around the world. It seems that, in terms of chart success, the Bee Gees couldn't put a foot wrong. (I heard it once said that, in 1997, the Bee Gees could have released a single of them snoring in their sleep and it would have been a smash hit, such was their popularity!)

'I Will', produced by Arif Mardin, is one of the most touching ballads they have recorded in recent years, probably bettering any of the ballads on the generally superior Size Isn't Everything album. Even 'Miracles Happen', the first song the Bee Gees have produce with a genuine Christmas sound, is a top class slice of Bee Gees.

However, the remainder of the album suffers from an overuse of Barry's breathy vocal style, an under use of Robin's full vocal range (in many songs, demoting him to merely supplying the vocals for the bridge from inside what sounds like a fish-tank) and a lack of experimentation in the range of instruments used. For example, 'I Surrender' has the basics of a strong thumping dance track, but it goes nowhere. 'My Lover's Prayer' has all the hallmarks of a classic Bee Gees love song, even down to the falsetto harmony chorus, but again it stalls shortly after leaving the starting blocks. Even Maurice's 'token' track - which can usually be relied upon to enliven a dull album - fails to ignite the album, although it features some extremely suggestive lyrics. As 'Smoke and Mirrors' (which features a nifty Status Quo impersonation) fades, the listener is left a little short-changed by the experience.

This album lacks all of the variety, depth and warmth of the excellent Size Isn't Everything. In fact, the bonus 'B-sides' included on the CD singles ('Rings Around The Moon', Love Never Dies') are far superior to most of the tracks on this album.

Love it hate it, though, there is no doubting that the album was a hit, this time on both sides of the Atlantic, entering at Number 2 in the official UK album charts. But there would be a long wait to see if they could bounce back artistically with their next project...

Why Buy Still Waters?

For 'Alone', 'I Will' and 'Miracles Happen'.