Second Disc HQ always buzzes when new catalog acquisitions are announced, and last week had us feeling like bees…Bee Gees, that is!
Last Tuesday, it was announced that distribution of the legendary Australian trio’s discography (including 22 studio albums, the bestselling Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, compilations and unreleased material) would transition from longtime home Rhino to Capitol/Universal Music Enterprises.
Barry Gibb, along with his late brothers Robin and Maurice, guided the group from psych-pop outfit in the late ’60s and early ’70s to disco juggernauts and songwriter/producers extraordinaire–some 220 million records sold in all. But this is hardly the start of Bee Gees catalog activity over the last quarter century or so. Join us for a brief trip down memory lane of Gibb-oriented reissues!
Tales From The Brothers Gibb (Polydor, 1990)
A gorgeous relic of the original CD box set boom (produced by box set guru Bill Levenson), Tales covered more than two decades of Bee Gees material, focusing largely on single sides from 1967 to 1989 as originally released on Polydor, RSO and Warner Bros. Records, offering bits of solo material from Robin and Barry, some first-time stereo mixes by Bill Inglot on some of the early, pre-disco material, and a few unreleased treasures from the band’s then-current tenure on Warners (a demo of the title track to 1987’s E.S.P. and live tracks from a 1989 concert).
Their Greatest Hits: The Record (Polydor/UTV, 2001)
A double-disc career-spanning collection (which goes right up to that year’s This is Where I Came In, the last Bee Gees studio album) that makes itself essential by illustrating some of the Gibbs’ works as songwriters/producers, with new or unreleased versions of hits for Samantha Sang (“Emotion”), Dionne Warwick (“Heartbreaker”), Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton (“Islands in the Stream”) and Celine Dion (a demo of her “Immortality”). Track down the Target-exclusive edition for five bonus live cuts.
The Studio Albums 1967-1968 (Reprise, 2006)
While previous Bee Gees comps were comprehensive, fans had long clamored for the trio’s early, psychedelic-inspired recordings (released on Polydor around the world and ATCO in the U.S.) to get the attention it deserved. That finally happened with The Studio Albums 1967-1968, which presented expanded editions of the band’s first three international albums (Bee Gees’ 1st (1967), Horizontal (1968) and Idea (1968)). Each album was presented in both mono and stereo, with bonus discs for each album. This is the ideal place to catch early hits like “To Love Somebody,” “Massachusetts,” “Words,” “I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You” and “I Started a Joke,” the group’s first Australian No. 1 hit.
Bee Gees Greatest (Reprise, 2007)
While there were far more comprehensive Bee Gees comps during the Rhino era (2009’s double disc Ultimate Bee Gees is the likely go-to), this original 1979 compilation does a thorough job covering the group’s hits-packed disco period on RSO between 1975 and 1978. And Reprise’s remaster bridges a gap for fans old and new, offering two vault tracks (Saturday Night Fever outtake “Warm Ride” and an original 12″ mix of “Stayin’ Alive”) and a host of decent modern remixes of Fever-era material.
Mythology (Reprise, 2010)
Mythology stands apart from other Bee Gees comps by being something of a family affair. The 4CD set features three discs of handpicked favorites of each of the brothers (Barry and Robin selected theirs, while Maurice’s disc–which featured two unreleased outtakes and the CD debut of single “Hold Her in Your Hand”–was curated by his widow, Yvonne). And as an added treat, Mythology becomes the first collection to include material from Andy Gibb, the youngest of the brothers and a star in his own right with hits like “I Just Want to Be Your Everything” and “Shadow Dancing.” Andy’s daughter Peta curated his disc, which featured the debut release of his final recorded song, “Arrow Through the Heart.”
The Festival Albums Collection 1965-67 (Festival/Warner Music Australia, 2013)
For those wishing to go back further than Bee Gees’ 1st, try The Festival Albums Collection, which, for the first time on CD, gathered the scattershot collections of the group’s earliest official material: The Bee Gees Sing and Play 14 Barry Gibb Songs (1965), Spicks and Specks (1966, featuring the Australian Top 5 title track) and 1967’s non-LP singles collection Turn Around, Look At Us.
The Warner Bros. Years 1987-1991 (Warner Bros./Rhino, 2014)
While the Bee Gees (most notably Barry) struck gold in the ’80s as producers and songwriters, they’d done so at the cost of their own hitmaking streak. As The Warner Bros. Years shows, that would change after the end of a six-year gap between albums and a new record deal. 1987’s E.S.P. featured the U.K. chart-topper “You Win Again,” while 1989’s One gave the group their last U.S. Top 10 hit with the peppy title track. (The group’s last Warner album, 1991’s High Civilization, included a U.K. Top 5, “Secret Love.”) Remastered versions of all three albums populate this box (which feature bonus B-sides and remixes for E.S.P. and One), as well as the 2CD debut of 1989’s One for All concert, released in part on Tales From The Brothers Gibb.
While Barry’s production techniques often stood out after the Bee Gees became proven hitmakers, Robin’s melancholy voice and baroque pop compositional gifts were a secret weapon of the group, particularly during their earlier years. Robin released a solo album, Robin’s Reign, in 1970, while the group were apart. That LP forms the backbone of the lovingly-assembled Saved by the Bell (named for the album’s hit single); producer Andrew Sandoval collected the stereo album, select mono mixes, outtakes, demos, BBC recordings and, for the first time, the previously unreleased material for Robin’s planned second album, Sing Slowly Sisters. As Joe can tell you, it’s a must for Bee Gee devotees!
1974-1979 (Rhino, 2015)
The most recent catalog offering from the Bee Gees collects the meatiest parts of the trio’s RSO tenure, remastering Mr. Natural (1974), Main Course (1975), Children of the World (1976) and Spirits Having Flown (1979) and including a bonus disc, The Miami Years, which featured the four original songs from Saturday Night Fever (“Stayin’ Alive,” “How Deep is Your Love,” “Night Fever,” “More Than a Woman”) plus other B-sides and relevant tunes (“Warm Ride,” “(Our Love) Don’t Throw It All Away,” “If I Can’t Have You”). An accompanying Record Store Day 12″ single featured additional disco mixes from the time period which were, perplexingly, left off The Miami Years.
What sort of releases would you like to see come from this new Bee Gees/Capitol/UMe partnership? A Kick in the Head is Worth Eight in the Pants? Physical releases of Barry’s demos for other artists? A super deluxe Saturday Night Fever? Vinyl reissues? Tell us your ideas in the comments!