Trafalgar looks to new horizons with an uncertainty which sums up the band’s situation at the time.
Despite huge singles success with Lonely Days and How Can You Mend a Broken Heart, the Bee Gees’ chart entries increasingly feel like isolated milestones measured further apart. But here they turn the tenuousness of their position to their advantage.
Trafalgar is simply the Bee Gees’ best early 70s album, one which needs to be heard from the first to last groove and preferably in one sitting. Allegedly it was to have been a twenty-track opus, thus overtaking Odessa, but even in two-sided format, Trafalgar’s monumentality is an altogether more measured affair and as a twelve track album of forty-seven minutes, it doesn’t feel at all foreshortened.
At last the Bee Gees have come up with a vision for the new decade and the songs to match it. Those who only know the Bee Gees for their ‘disco’ hits are often stunned at hearing relatively unknown tracks like Trafalgar and Walking Back to Waterloo. Trafalgar is underplayed and touching whilst Walking Back to Waterloo marks a breadth, maturity and sheer emotionality which is perhaps unrivalled in the brothers’ back catalogue.
Elsewhere, the extended songs which were tiresome on 2 Years On come alive, especially Don’t Want to Live Inside Myself where Barry really expands his vocals. They almost savage Lion in Winter whilst When Do I sounds like a strange vocal exercise.
Sensuousness, alienation, frustration, a search for the heroic and the occasional influence of The Beatles (still) are felt in Trafalgar. Maurice’s deep bass and chordal piano sound great and Bill Shepherd’s dignified arrangements provide orchestral weight.
It’s a different landscape – moody, expansive, atmospheric – and it works.
Singles 1971/72 [related to Trafalgar]
How Can You Mend a Broken Heart
Don’t Wanna Live Inside Myself
Walking Back to Waterloo
Other artists 1971