Greatest

The Bee Gees

Warner, 2007

http://beegees.com

REVIEW BY: Michael Ehret

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/17/2007

It’s easy to forget how good something was after 30-plus years have gone by.

Even though they are still making fine music, or were until brother Maurice Gibb’s unfortunate death in 2003, the Bee Gees' output has certainly slowed since their heyday. But the music in those five years, represented by 1975’s Main Course through 1979’s Spirits Having Flown, is still sparkling pop magic.

Of course, those years also included the trio’s watershed Saturday Night Fever soundtrack from 1977. But though those songs solidified their place in pop music heaven (or hell, I suppose), in hindsight they were not the group’s strongest songs from the era.

Instead, it is the songs from the two albums that preceded SNF that have best stood the test of time. Pop classics like “Nights on Broadway,” “Jive Talkin’” and even the oddly named “Fanny (Be Tender With My Love)” from Main Course, and “You Should Be Dancing,” “Love So Right,” “Love Me” and the marginally less successful, “You Stepped Into My Life,” from Children of the World (1976), far outshine the SNF songs as well as those from the brothers’ last big album, Spirits Having Flownmy_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 .

In the context of this reissued Bee Gees Greatest Hits double-disc set, originally released in 1979, “Stayin’ Alive,” “Night Fever,” “How Deep Is Your Love” and “More Than A Woman” retain all their raw, emotional power yet come off as follow-ups to the earlier hits, rather than the sonic juggernauts they were then.

Is it because the SNF songs are overexposed and the others aren’t? Hard to say. Every song on here, of course, is well-crafted pop. This is the Bee Gees, after all. Even the songs from Spirits, with the exception of “Love You Inside Out,” have a solid weight to them. “Tragedy” and “Too Much Heaven” have both endured fairly well.

But Bee Gees fans, even casual ones, have all of these songs. So why release them again? Well, other than revitalizing the sound (earlier discs sounded muddied compared to these tracks), there are seven bonus tracks -- five updated remixes, one B-side from the era and an extended 12-inch version of “Stayin’ Alive.”

The B-side “Warm Ride” is nice to have as a relic but certainly not revelatory. And is seven minutes of “Stayin’ Alive” really any better than the two-minute-shorter version we’re used to? (Answer: No, it's just longer).

It’s the five remixes that will make or break this collection. And they mostly acquit themselves well. The Jason Bentley/Philip Steir remix of “You Should Be Dancing” scores the most points by smartly updating the original mix, rather than tearing it down and completely recasting it.

Also of interest is the Count Da Money remix of “If I Can’t Have You,” which, oddly, was written by the Brothers Gibb but made into a hit by Yvonne Elliman, and the Supreme Beings of Leisure Remix of “How Deep Is Your Love.” I can take or leave the Future Funk Squad Remix of “Night Fever.”

The only track that doesn’t work for me is the Teddybears Remix of “Stayin’ Alive.” Other than the vocal tracks, there’s not much here to even evoke the original. For me, a successful remix updates the track, adding a new sheen. It doesn’t completely deconstruct the song for no apparent reason.

Oh, and if you’re wondering, yes, the reissue retains those glorious hazy photos of Barry, Robin and Maurice and their blow-dried-near-to-death lion’s manes of hair – on their heads and on their chests.

By the way, the Bee Gees recorded nine more albums in the years between 1979 and 2003 – and, of course, they have an entire catalog of hits previous to 1975. This collection represents the smallest, though most successful, part of their career. The rest is equally worth exploring.

Rating: A-

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© 2007 Michael Ehret and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Warner, and is used for informational purposes only.