The declamatory opening bars of World hammer home the psychedelia of Horizontal but it’s less quirky than on Bee Gees 1st and decidedly heavier too. The band stray into interesting new territories such as chanson, Really and Sincerely, and blues rock, The Change Is Made.
Some of 1st‘s wayward edges have been ironed out so that Horizontal has a more settled, consolidated feel. The song-writing is solid, sometimes inspired, and they convince across the range. Surprisingly, instead of expanding the soul repertoire of 1st it’s pretty much abandoned here.
The depressed album
Often labelled the Bee Gees’ depressed album, Horizontal has a remarkable coherency.
I find the flow of Side 1 the most satisfying in their back catalogue; as one song fades you can’t wait for the next because you feel a growing confidence in their hands. Really and Sincerely somehow manages to build upon the emotion of And the Sun Will Shine. Between those two highs Lemons Never Forget provides some necessary acidity and channels the Beatles less slavishly than In My Own Time whilst the wistful, subtly playful Birdie takes the emotional impact down a few notches just when needed. Side 1’s spinoff, Barry‘s spotlight centre stage solo With the Sun in My Eyes, envelopes you in love’s warm glow.
Side 2 is the lesser, lumbered as it is with the resolutely mainstream Massachusetts but the final three tracks intrigue, hinting at an alternative more rock oriented Bee Gees, an option which the band would only occasionally take up.
As for the depression, it’s there but Horizontal is by no means a depressing listen. Yes, there is bitterness – The Change Is Made – and queasy otherworldliness – Horizontal – but the eye opening World is breathtaking as well as post-traumatic and the painfully naked Really and Sincerely ultimately cathartic.
Crucially, they show their prettier side without just layering on the strings. Birdie is truly lush thanks to Vince’s warm guitar licks and regret beautifully poised on Day Time Girl, the album’s dark horse and one of their finest ballads. Both have terrific chord modulations and lovely melodies.
Bee Gees 1st is a fresher, more diverting album but Horizontal the more satisfying.
Singles 1967/68 [related to Horizontal]
Barker of the UFO
Sir Geoffrey Saved the World
* Words, a non-album track, was recorded the same day as World (3rd October 1967) and so in that sense can be said to be Horizontal-related
Out of Line*
Ring My Bell*
Mrs Gillespie’s Refridgerator*
Deeply, Deeply Me*
All My Christmases Came at Once*
Thank You for Christmas*
Medley: Silent Night/Hark the Herald Angels Sing*
* released on Horizontal Rhino reissue, 2006