Spirits Having Flown (1979)

  • Barry Kim's Review
This is my second favorite album by the Bee Gees. This album just has the feeling of 1979....the era of dancing, its just a really powerful magnegtic album.
Ten trax, wonderfully strong lyrics and melodies. That just seem to flow from one to another.'Tragedy', 'Love you inside out', 'Search, find', 'Living together', and 'I'm satisfied'...is my favorite trax from this album. Not surprisingly it did very well in the charts....one of the best albums written by the Brothers Gibb.
  • Review By Alan W. Elam

    Yet another 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 and album.

    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

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