A friend who knows of my Gibb proclivities (whilst not sharing them himself) kindly drew my attention to Saved by the Bell: the Collected Works of Robin Gibb: 1969-70 [Rhino, 2015] Due for release on 1st June, this 63 track, 3-CD set marks the highly sought after compiling of Robin’s prolific turn of the decade solo material. It will be more than welcomed by fans myself included.
To the public, Robin’s time apart from brothers Barry and Maurice produced a successful single – Saved by the Bell (UK No 2) – and the solo album Robin’s Reign. But this was only the tip of the iceberg. For twelve months or more, songs poured out of Robin, some of them esoteric and experimental and often rising to new heights of sometimes uncomfortable emotional intensity. This was Robin’s most creative period. It is also his most mysterious.
Warped with time
Despite their circulation amongst fans and the publicity around a Radio 4 Lost Albums thread back in 2007, intrigue has long surrounded the so called Sing Slowly Sisters sessions. Scratchy sound quality and a ‘warped with time’ sensibility have only added to their sense of mystery, sounding, as they do, like emanations from a long lost age which, in a sense, they are. To what extent they have been cleaned up for this release – and to what extent cleaning up is even possible given the condition of the originals (are master tapes available?) remains to be heard. The Sing Slowly Sisters sessions comprise Disc 2.
Disc 3 collects an eclectic variety of unissued material – demos, versions in Italian, interviews. Several songs known to me from this period do not appear – I’ll Herd My Sheep, The Man Most Likely to Be, I Was Your Used to Be, The Complete and Utter History, Seven Birds are Singing, Sing a Song of Sisters, and Beat the Drum. I am sure there are more that could be added to this list.
As well as Robin’s Reign in full, Disc 1 includes the revelatory full ‘twelve minutes plus’ version of Farmer Ferdinand Hudson – Hudson Fallen Wind – together with mono versions of Robin’s six single A and B-sides from 1969/70. I’m intrigued by the final track, an alternative take in stereo of my Robin’s Reign favourite, Lord Bless All (hint – soon to feature in my Top 50) whilst the title of Disc 3’s final track, Ghost of Christmas Past, suggests it shares something of the same mood.
Presumably the uninspiring cover art is meant to give the impression of a bootleg collection, as it’s difficult to see why else it would have been chosen. I won’t be judging this collection by its cover, but even so…
It perhaps comes as little surprise that Andrew Sandoval – the brains behind the excellent Rhino reissues of the brothers’ 60s albums – is responsible for this project whilst the ever reliable Bob Stanley provides the sleeve notes. So (cover aside), we can be sure we are in doubly capable hands.
This is a Rhino release which is surprising given the label abandoned its excellent re-issues of the Bee Gees’ early albums.
I understand that Robin refused release of the Sing Slowly Sisters sessions in his lifetime. So I can only assume that this release has made possible by his death. It’s a fine legacy.
By the way, eager as I am to sit down with this collection, I shan’t be changing selections for my Top 50 in the light of its contents otherwise we shall never reach Number One!