Review By Alan W. Elam
worthwhile artifact in the aforementioned Venerable Musical Canon of the Brothers Gibb,
Spirits Having Flown. The Brothers' follow-up to the soundtrack of Saturday Night Fever
did more than enough to pacify the skeptics who looked on as the SNF phenomena Mushroomed
to unfathomable heights and Dimensions throughout 1978, Transcending the Brothers' role of
Mere superstars to that of Icons, a household word, as much a common commodity as
government cheese, and would earn them the soon-to-be-unfavorable tag as the Kings of
Disco, due to the Cultural Explosion that erupted as a result of the success of both film
There can be no doubt of the Pressure felt by the Brothers either equal or better the
success of the SNF soundtrack, and one can only guess at the tension they were feeling in
March of 1978, as they entered Miami's Criteria Studios to begin work on Spirits, even as
the SNF soundtrack only began to graze the surface of the unprecedented sales mark it
would reach before half the year was out.
It should also be noted that they had not actually finished and released a true full
length since 1976's Children Of the World. Contrary to Popular Misconception the SNF
soundtrack was purely and entirely a Bee Gees album, they had, in fact contributed only 5
new songs to the sprawling double album set; only 4 out of those 5 being actual renditions
by the brothers themselves, with the previously released "Jive Talkin'" and
"You Should Be Dancing" added as well. The rest of the Album was padded out with
David Shire's Incidental music from the film score and Various Disco and R&B hits from
the last year or 2 up to that point, also included in the film.
At this point, they had also become involved in UNICEF's "Gift of Song"
campaign, joining the likes of ABBA and a whole cast of other big name artists who each
contributed a song for inclusion on a charity compilation album, proceeds of which would
go directly to UNICEF. Their contribution was "Too Much Heaven",
a dreamy-eyed Ballad in the R&B-influenced style that the brothers had since made
their forte... Released also as a single months before the album was even ready for
mixing, the song Garnered the brothers their 4th number one of 1978.
On the downside, Spirits was also crafted as the brothers were still smarting from the
potentially devastating embarrassment of the Sgt. Pepper film, perhaps one of the most
monumental disasters in all of cinema history, and a fitting flop at that, which almost
ended the careers of they and everyone else involved in the film. Moving right along, the
brothers are joined on spirits by their usual crack backing band of Alan Kendall on
Guitar, Blue Weaver on Keyboards, and Dennis Bryon on Drums, as well as the Bonneroo Horn
section, as well as ever-reliable co-producer Albhy Galuten and engineer Karl Richardson.
Among the more noteworthy differences distinguishing Sprits from their previous
outings, was the fact that Barry sang lead on all but one of the album's 10 tracks. It was
at the mutual urging of Robin and Maurice that Barry be moved more to the forefront on
this album, and with no small amount of reluctance from Barry himself. Also, for the first
time in their recording career, Maurice Gibb does not play bass on a Bee Gees album,
instead relegating bass duties to Local Miami studio hotshot Harold Cowart, so that he
could fully concentrate his energies on Arranging and producing. Despite these potential
misgivings, the results do not disappoint, and in fact rank solidly along any other album
in their catalogue.
Accordingly, the album gets off to a fitting start with "Tragedy",
an uptempo number which sets the tone for the rest of the album and was the first single
from the album itself. Following that is the aforementioned "Too Much Heaven",
already a number one before the album's release and included by popular demand. "Love
you Inside out", another number one single from the LP, only intensifies the
heat, as Barry pleads undying love to his deceptive woman. Ahh....what could be more
apropos than a ballad to come next. The brothers deliver with "Reaching Out"
and, to close the first side, the lilting acoustic title cut, which bridges the band's
musical past with its present, indeed if not its future, and is one of only 2 cuts on the
album where Barry gives his trademark falsetto a rest on the verses.
Side 2 picks up steam again with the Smoldering R&B rouser "Search,
Find", followed by the woeful Ballad "Stop..Think Again".
It is only on the next track "Living Together" that Robin
actually takes a lead, this one a near successful stab at aping brother Barry's famous
falsetto. "I'm satisfied", the next track, sees the brothers
further refining the style which spawned a million imitators, but which they were still
setting new standards and keeping head and shoulders above the rest of their
contemporaries. Above all else, the production had gotten even tighter and more refined,
finding the brothers not only at their creative and commercial peak for this period, but
also their band in absolute top form. Guest appearances from the Chicago Horn section and
Jazz flautist Herbie Mann only heightened the vibe.
The album was released early in the spring of 1979, and immediately soared to number
one, selling 11 million copies and spawning two more no.1 singles. The brothers undertook
what was up to then their most successful and ambitious tour in support of the album,
giving a veritable middle finger to the critics who saw fit to write them off in light of
the Sgt. Pepper Fiasco. Sadly, it also represented something of a last hurrah for the
brothers for what would be many years. Just as the summer of 1979 was nearing its end, the
underground anti-disco movement which had been brewing for sometime finally found its way
to the mainstream consciousness. Records by the Bee Gees and other disco artists were
regularly being destroyed at Anti-Disco rallies-most notably the rally held at Chicago's
Comiskey Park that August, where disco records were imploded and bulldozed, intimated by
fast-growing chants of "DISCO SUCKS!!!" Adding insult to injury was that top-40
radio followed suit by promoting Bee gee-free weekends and, eventually pulling disco from
their format altogether. It should come as no surprise, then, that as the appointed
"Disco Kings", the Brothers took the biggest hit of all from this particular
backlash. It would be more than a decade before their career fully recovered. Alan W.Elam