90 years of pop and rock: Bee Gees, Status Quo

By Tom Von Malder | Nov 29, 2009
Photo by: Reprise Records The cover of the new Bee Gees compilation, which celebrates their Golden Anniversary in the business.

Owls Head —

The Ultimate Bee Gees (Reprise, 2 CDs + DVD). This excellent compilation marks the 50th anniversary of the Brothers Gibb, Barry, Robin and the late Maurice Gibb. The trio, born in England but raised In Australia, has been inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame, won both the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000 and the Legend Award in 2003 from the Recording Academy, seven Grammy Awards; a BMI Icon Award and a Lifetime Achievement Award at the q997 BRIT Awards.

The hit that launched the Bee Gees all over the world was “New York Mining Disaster 1941.” It was evident from the start that their three voices weaved magic together, but their songwriting will have an even longer impact. The two CDs collect 40 songs, including four live performances. Just to name a few, and I dare you not to sing along as you read the titles, there are “You Should Be Dancing,” “Stayin’ Alive,” “Jive Talkin’,” “Night Fever,” “More Than a Woman,” “How Deep Is Your Love,” “To Love Somebody,” “Words,” “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart,” “Too Much Heaven,” “Lonely Days,” “Run To Me,” “Massachusetts” and “I’ve Gotta Get a Message To You.” Every song in the collection was written by the brothers, with more than 30 credited to all three working together.

The limited edition of the collection adds a DVD with 18 rare videos. There are TV performances of “Massachusetts,” “How Can You Men a Broken Heart,” “I’ve Gotta Get a Message To You” and even “Spicks & Specks” from a 1966Bandtsand Australian show. Promotional clips -- what we have come to know as music videos since the heyday of MTV -- make up most of the rest. Generally, the music is far superior to the videos, most of which show little imagination and have the unfortunate side issue of forcing one’s attention on the brothers’ hairstyles during the years. The best are for “Too Much Heaven” and “Alone,” with the latter featuring scenes from throughout their career (at least up to 1977, when it was made).

Scheduled in March is “Mythology,” a four-disc set curated and produced by Barry and Robin Gibb. Each disc will spotlight a different Gibb brother, including one dedicated to the late Andy Gibb, the younger brother who was not part of the group, but who had his own successful singing career. Grade: music A+

Status Quo: Pictures Live at Montreux (Eagle Vision, standard DVD or Blu-ray, 243 min.). The concert was filmed in July at the Montreux Jazz Festival, as Status Quo celebrates its 40 years in the business, a career launched by their hugely successful fourth recording, “Pictures of Matchstick Men.” The group has had 18 UK Top 20 hits through the years. Their latest studio album, “In Search of the Fourth Chord,” was released in mid-September (and reviewed here) and this DVD came out Oct. 27. The Blu-ray version, which is the one reviewed, is due Jan. 19.

The longstanding band members include guitarists/vocalists Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt, who both play Telecasters, keyboardist/guitarist/vocalist Andrew Brown, bassist/vocalist John “Rhino” Edwards and drummer/percussionist Matthew Letley. The 100-minute concert begins with the throbbing rocker “Caroline,” another of the band’s early hits. A fine cover of “The Wanderer” follows, starting what is a terrific show. There is the heavy rocker “Don’t Drive My Car,” the progressive rock-tinged boogie of “Mean Girl/Softer Ride,” the dynamite rocker “Beginning of the End,” a medley that begins with “What You’re Proposing” and ends with “Big Fat Mama” and some searing guitar playing, and a combination of their “flower power” anthems “Pictures of Matchstick Men/Ice in the Sun.” Carrying on, there is more churning boogie in “Creepin’ Up,” which also features harmonica, a slower section with the bluesy In My Chair” and the quiet “Living on an Island,” and the mid-tempo “In the Army Now,” which has good bounce and the crowd singing along, before the drum solo comes in.

The Blu-ray disc also holds and excellent career retrospective, “Pictures: The Story of 40 Years of Hits,” featuring new interviews with the band, vintage photos and some live footage as they review their career in chronological order (although recent live bits are interspersed). Rossi says that once he heard the Everly Brothers, he knew what he wanted to do with his life. The disc also comes with a 16-page booklet, full of photos and a fine essay on the band by Mick Wall. Grade: A+

Billy Idol” In Super Overdrive Live (Eagle Vision Blu-ray or standard DVD,70 min.). This was taped in July in Chicago’s sweaty Congress Theater for the Soundstage TV show. The exciting news is it marked a reunion with guitarist/foil Steve Stevens from the glory days. Idol looks fit (and is shirtless on a couple of songs) and does a good vocal job, although some songs sound more subdued than the recorded versions. Most notably, “Dancing With Myself” misses the strong backing vocals. That song hails from his days with Generation X, as does “Ready Steady Go.”

More than half of the 12 songs were big hits and, while it always is good to hear “White Wedding” and “Rebel Yell,” the standout here is “Flesh For Fantasy,” which starts with Idol doing a mini-strip with his jacket and then miming pulling himself on a rope to the front of the stage as the band plays the introduction. (The band also includes drummer Brian Tichy, bassist Stephen McGrath and keyboardist Derek Sherinian.) Another highlight is Stevens’ solo acoustic guitar start for “Eyes Without a Face. Grade: B+

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