The Bee Gees’ red velvet masterpeace (sic) brims with drama and melodrama.
Side 1 forms the core of a concept album of sorts, far-reaching yet highly personal, albeit in the brothers’ characteristically oblique fashion.
Then side 2 takes us on a wholly unexpected diversion – five songs in styles vastly different from what has gone before and from each other kicking off with the languid Marley Purt Drive (a competent but unimaginative Band tribute/rip-off) and wrapped up by the startling Whisper, Whisper – teetering melody, stoner vocal, slyly knowing late 60s in-referencing.
On sides 3 and 4, Seven Seas Symphony, With All Nations and finale The British Opera attempt, like some remonstrative baton-tapping conductor, to restore some semblance of over-arching order. We’ve probably forgotten whatever concept there was by then anyway and perhaps that’s the point – the lushness, the grandiosity, the sheer sumptuous magnificence and the emotions conveyed – are the concept.
At times, Odessa barely feels like a rock album at all, not even a rock opera album. The title track is almost devoid of conventional pop/rock elements and the theatrical Lamplight luxuriates in conservatism.
One thing hugely in the album’s favour is that, although epic and magisterial, only rarely is Odessa pompous (the choral/instrumental tracks and then knowingly so) and never is it dull. The whole edifice hangs together with a certain strange splendour.
Far from fading with passing years, time has actually lent that red velvet a lustre in the eyes of fans and critics it never acquired at the time. Only now can Odessa’s unique delights take their place alongside the great albums of a great year in rock.
Singles 1969 [related to Odessa]
Sun In My Morning
* released on Odessa Rhino reissue, 2009
-> Two Years On