Wonderful country reimagining of some classic songs
Barry Gibb, towards the end of the recent documentary ‘How Can You Mend A Broken Heart’ ponders on how the Bee Gees pursued fame because they were chasing this idea of being remembered but he concluded that they would be remembered as songwriters more than performers in part thanks to the years where they kept their heads down as the disco backlash reverberated around the globe.
And this album, described by Gibb as his country album, is as clear a demonstration of that songwriting prowess as you could wish, featuring as it does classic Bee Gee material with a smattering of less well-known songs and one rescued from an abandoned solo album. The cast is a who’s who of the current Nashville and contemporary country scene along with some old school icons such as Dolly Parton (the BeeGees wrote her hit ‘Islands in the Stream’ for Marvin Gaye initially!) and Olivia Newton John. Of the contemporary artists Jason Isbell, Keith Urban, Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings catch the eye but Alison Krauss and Sheryl Crow are also in the mix amongst others. So we know the songs are great, we know the performers have great pedigrees and then drop in the uber-producer of the moment Dave Cobb this should be very good indeed.
And ….. it is!
These songs occupy a space deep in most consciousnesses and therefore to hear them reimagined is momentarily disconcerting but because of the sympathetic (and in some cases) gently radical reworking we get to stare at the bones and the muscle. The things that move us or make us catch our breath. Highlights are the aforementioned Isbell on the rescued solo track ‘Words of a Fool’, Brandi Carlile on ‘Run To Me’ and ‘Butterfly’ with Gillian Welch and David Rawlings but all demand attention. Every song on the album is a duet with Gibb and they work well; with him even giving his lead vocal on ‘I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You’ to Keith Urban. A clear indicator that Gibb has got his priorities right – artistic choices over ego. He has done his brothers proud with these reimaginings and in doing so has delivered a modern country-soul album that Cobb has produced to sound as modern as those 70s disco gems did then but unlike then they now have room to breathe and their hearts are exposed. Recommended.