No. 28 in Top 50 Bee Gees’ Songs 1966-72
By Barry, Robin & Maurice Gibb
Lead Vocal: Robin
Album: Odessa 1969
“I won’t die, so don’t cry, I’ll be home”
Side One of Odessa explores its central themes across just three tracks totalling 15.16.
The album opener and title track is an extended orchestrated fantasy on heartache and loss which is followed by the brothers’ individual takes on their family and band crisis – firstly Barry’s You’ll Never See My Face Again and then Robin’s Black Diamond. With these two ’solo’ tracks, an esoteric emotional landscape becomes material for foreground examination, sometimes uncomfortably so.
Unsurprisingly, ‘Black Diamond’ is a highly emotional piece, but one with a more attractive palette than the reflective bitterness, if not vindictiveness, of Barry’s stone-like ‘You’ll Never See My Face Again’.
‘Black Diamond’ aches with sorrow and vulnerability but is not overwrought, which, given Robin’s tendency to the melodramatic, it might so easily have been. As elsewhere on Odessa, energetically strummed guitars drive the song forward aided by dynamic bass from Maurice.
It’s a definitively Odessa song with its ‘white mountains which lie by the sea’, extended form (opening and closing sections each heard once only) and a big chorus which it shares with Lamplight and I Laugh In Your Face (not to mention the song’s mysterious treasure-in- waiting). Yet, for all its grandeur, ‘Black Diamond’ is the most heart-wrenchingly personal track on Odessa, made all the more poignant by Robin’s hope that one day the brothers may be back together again.
Bill Shepherd’s arrangement stays away from smothering strings and over-stylisation to allow Robin’s vocals and harmonies to shine.