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Their impact on the American charts in this period was somewhat patchy, but most of these reached the UK top ten, while Massachusetts and I've gotta get a message to you both topped the British charts. To love somebody was a huge UK hit for Nina Simone. On this collection, my favorite is First of May but Massachusetts, Words and World are not far behind. The songs cover a variety of themes - reflective songs, sad songs and even death songs. If you are looking for bright, cheerful music, you won't find a lot here.
Death songs were common in the sixties – remember Leader of the pack (Shangri-Las), Terry (Twinkle) and Tell Laura I love her, just to name a few – so the Bee Gees were just carrying on the tradition by recording the two that appear on this album. I've gotta get a message to you is about a man facing execution, trying to pass a final message to somebody. New York mining disaster 1941 is actually about a disaster elsewhere in the world, but changed to obscure its identity – I believe it may really be about a coal tip that caused a landslide on to a school in Aberfan in 1966. The actual lyrics only refer to a man searching for his wife after the landslide, so the song could be applicable to any landslide disaster, anywhere in the world. If it was about Aberfan, I can understand why the Bee Gees didn't want to put it in the song title when they were still looking for their first UK hit and Aberfan was still topical.Read more ›
No wonder these compositions have been covered so often, by artists as diverse as Rita Coolidge (Words) and Janis Joplin (To Love Somebody). This elegant style of pop music couldn't be more different from the band's later (though equally appealing) dance excursions. My favorites include the yearning Gotta Get A Message To You, the poetic Words, the somber First Of May, the atmospheric Massachusetts, and the aching To Love Somebody.
The Bee Gees' vocal dexterity and magical songs stand out as the centerpiece of their successful career over more than four decades. For the complete picture, get Best Of Volume 2 as well. It's not as consistently strong as this one but offers many gems from around the same period. This album is an amazing listening experience and proof of just how good pop music used to be in those golden times.