Thursday, July 14, 2011

Bee Gees - Cucumber Castle

The making of the Bee Gee’s Odessa was a tumultuous one for the Brothers Gibb. Working on vague sketches of a nautical concept album, the band eventually lost direction-or interest-in the theme itself, and found themselves navigating a strange sea of artistic freedom.

The journey helped them create some of their most exciting music to date as they tiptoed outside of the pop song structure. But it also created some tension within the family unit.

The stress of creating Odessa got to be so much that Robin felt slighted when he noticed that his roles as both a performer and arranger was diminished. After its release, he left his two other brothers in an attempt to become the focal point. The resulting album, Robin’s Reign, was neither the artistic or commercial success as he intended and the break nearly caused his two other brothers to consider solo efforts as well.

Ironically, it was his twin, Maurice, that convinced his older brother Barry to consider a project that manager Robert Stigwood tossed around as a last ditched effort to cast the now-duo Bee Gees in a multi-media special that called for a new album and a television special called Cucumber Castle.

If the idea of the Bee Gees as a duo sounds disheartening, then the project title should do the trick. And if you take a glance at the cover art, Barry and Maurice dressed in medieval garb looking out in the distance with some glazed look on their face that screams “What the fuck are we doing here?” you can only assume that the music spawned from this project would be quite dreadful.

Amazingly though, the Brothers Gibb manage to overcome adversity to the point where their musical chops are so professionally honed that Cucumber Castle the record not only shines as a forgotten gem in their catalog, it could easily rank in the top five releases of their impressive output.

Right out of the gate with the opener “If I Only Had My Mind On Something Else,” you can hear Barry and Maurice picking up right where they left off with Odessa. And while the attempt at conceptual continuity is gone, they continue down a path of lush orchestration and expansive arrangements, willing themselves to push forward in grandiose fashion, like the inner turmoil and drama never happened.

They weave in and out of genres with such confidence that it’s hard to believe their biggest success was at least a half-decade away. The reality was that they were already a decade into the business, but for the rest of us still catching up with the Bee Gees, Cucumber Castle demonstrates no patience for the naive.

Unfortunately, it doesn't look like the same could be said for its visual companion.

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