The Bee Gees

The Bee Gees

Their Greatest Hits: The Record

Polydor Ltd.

These days, the Brothers Gibb can rest comfortably in their oversized mansions, taking pride in how far they’ve come and how they got there. In the face of 35 years of ridicule, The Bee Gees have continued to put out songs that have soundtracked the lives of generations, providing couples with melodies to fall and to stay in love with, through dance and through tears. Although hardly an “albums” act, they have nevertheless assembled one of the most impressive back catalogues in the history of music based on the continuous high quality of their single releases. Which is why this album — a two-CD set containing 40 songs — makes the most convincing case possible for a serious reevaluation of The Bee Gees’ position in music.

From the late ’60s and up to the early ’80s, everything included here is absolute gold (with the possible exception of Robin Gibb’s 1970 solo attempt “Saved By the Bell”). How can you possibly go wrong with a collection that includes “New York Mining Disaster,” “To Love Somebody,” “Holiday,” “Massachusetts,” “World,” “Words,” “I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You,” “I Started a Joke” — yes, I’m actually quoting the running order on the album here. These are the first eight songs, and it’s only about to get better. Absolutely unbelievable genius.

Reaching their peak with their drastic reinvention as disco kings in the late ’70s and the magic discovery of Barry Gibb’s falsetto vocals — all well represented here — they didn’t quite manage to keep it up in the following decade. Barry did aim for (and reached) the stars as songwriter and producer for other artists, with Barbra Streisand and Diana Ross being two prime examples. However, not much was heard of The Bee Gees themselves until 1987’s comeback hit single “You Win Again,” which actually stands up surprisingly well today. After this, settling for a more lush, sedate sound, they’ve not been able to reach the exciting pathos and melodrama that defined their earlier efforts, but they still churn out absolutely brilliant choruses as if they don’t know anything else.

It seems a bit awkward, almost, to say too much about this release. After all, it’s “just” pop music, and songs most people are over-familiar with anyway. But saying that is not only beside the point, it’s disrespectful one of the most impressive and immediately accessible legacies in music, one that has shaped the lives of millions and continues to do so through radio, film, and its sheer presence in musical and cultural history. Overwhelming.

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