Archive for May 20th, 2012
May 20, 2012: We’re deeply saddened to report that Robin Gibb of The Bee Gees passed away this morning in England at 10:47 a.m. (5:47 a.m. ET) at the age of 62. Gibb’s passing comes following a brave battle with cancer, courageously fought in the public eye. Robin Gibb will always be remembered for his great gift of song, with his angelic voice having provided comfort to so many of us in our saddest times and pure joy in our most upbeat moments. Robin, we will miss you.
In honor of this remarkable man, we offer Back Tracks: In Memoriam, originally published on April 27 as Gibb’s health had taken a turn for the better. We hope you cue up “First of May,” “Juliet,” “I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You,” “Stayin’ Alive” or “Too Much Heaven” and enjoy this look back at a man whose humanity was as deep as his love.
A lyric from what we believe to be Robin’s final recording, “Don’t Cry Alone” from this year’s Titanic Requiem, comes to mind as a source of comfort:
“I’ll be there for you forever/Don’t you ever cry/I’ll sweep away your tears and sorrow/And I’ll be with you close tomorrow/I’ll be with you/Don’t cry alone.”
Rest in peace, Robin. Please share your memories of Robin Gibb below.
In the event of something happening to me, there is something I would like you all to see…it’s just a photograph of someone that I knew…
- Barry and Robin Gibb, “New York Mining Disaster 1941”
For many including yours truly, the best news to arrive on Record Store Day this past Saturday, April 21, wasn’t that of a great new vinyl acquisition or found treasure. Rather, it was the news that Robin Gibb, vocalist, songwriter and Bee Gee, had emerged from a coma. Gibb’s distinct voice has featured prominently on the Bee Gees’ most memorable hits, including their first song to be issued in the United States, “New York Mining Disaster 1941.” His soaring vocals could hold their own or add contrast to brother Barry’s falsetto. The road to Gibb’s recovery is still an uphill one, with the courageous artist facing advanced colorectal cancer and remaining in intensive care. But Gibb’s physician, Dr. Andrew Thillainayagam, acknowledged that “it is testament to Robin’s extraordinary courage, iron will and deep reserves of physical strength that he has overcome quite incredible odds to get where he is now.” Music played a central role in Gibb’s recovery, with Barry, wife Dwina, sons Robin-John and Spencer and daughter Melissa all having played music and serenaded Robin at his bedside. Robin-John told the BBC on April 24, “They gave him an under 10% survival chance and he has beaten the odds… he really is something else,” adding that his father is “completely compos mentis [of sound mind] now.”
As we keep Robin Gibb, 62, in our hearts during this difficult time for him and his family, we’re celebrating the rarely-heard music he created as a solo artist between 1970 and 2012, and hoping that there’s much, much more to come from this singular musician.
Robin’s Reign (Polydor, 1970)
Despite the beautiful harmony they created as vocalists and songwriters, The Bee Gees couldn’t shake familial tensions as 1968 turned into 1969. Tension between brothers Barry and Robin grew more intense each day, reaching boiling point when producer Robert Stigwood selected Barry’s “First of May” over Robin’s “Lamplight” as the lead single off the group’s Odessa. On March 19, 1969, Robin Gibb announced that he would turn his attention to solo recordings. He began recording almost immediately, but contractual obligations prevented him from doing much in the ensuing months even as Barry and Robin’s twin brother Maurice soldiered on as a duo with the Cucumber Castle television film and album. As autumn arrived, however, the air was somewhat cleared, and Robin concluded recording the album that became Robin’s Reign by October. (In an ironic twist of fate, Maurice and Barry would declare The Bee Gees disbanded by year’s end. Luckily for us, that turned out to be temporary.)
The first London session for Robin’s Reign yielded “Saved by the Bell,” which would become a No. 2 hit single in the U.K., as well as the album’s “Mother and Jack,” and two unreleased tunes, “Alexandria Good Time” and “Janice.” Kenny Clayton provided orchestral arrangements, and Maurice contributed bass and piano. Recording didn’t resume until September once Robin was extricated from his contract with Stigwood and signed with NEMS’ Vic Lewis. In August he had named in the press eleven song titles for an album intended to be called My Own Work (including “Alexandria Good Time”) but none of them were present on Robin’s Reign. The September and October sessions formed the basis of the eventual album, again employing orchestration (by Clayton and Zack Lawrence) not unlike that of The Bee Gees’ earliest U.K. albums.
The LP was released in February 1970 in the U.K. on Polydor and one month later in the U.S. via Atco. Robin’s Reign sold so poorly that a second solo album already in progress was never issued, and the album has only appeared on CD in an extremely hard-to-find German pressing. There’s much to admire here, though, and it’s long overdue for reissue. In addition to the classic “Saved by the Bell” (which most recalls his work with his brothers), there’s the calypso-flavored “Mother and Jack,” the dark “Most of My Life” and bold “The Worst Girl in This Town.” Other tracks such as the stately ballad “Down Came the Sun,” though not as distinct, offer strong vocals and sweeping arrangements. Robin’s Reign is also thought to be one of the first albums to have employed (primitive) drum machines, which gives its sound a unique character.
Of course, The Bee Gees’ vocal blend is what’s missed most on Robin’s Reign, which beefs up the singer’s powerful tenor with multi-tracked vocals that are no substitute for his brothers’ harmonies. And harmony ultimately won out over dissension. On August 21, 1970, it was announced that the three Brothers Gibb would reunite. How sympathetic were the brothers musically? They reportedly wrote “Lonely Days” and “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” at their very first reunion session.
After the jump, we’ll meet you quite a few years later…1983, in fact! Read the rest of this entry »