Robin Gibb

Robin's Reign

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Although not many people remember it today, there was a moment when the Bee Gees' lineup literally exploded into pieces -- in the wake of the 1969 double-LP Odessa, the sibling music trio split, first into two parts, with Barry Gibb and Maurice Gibb initially retaining the Bee Gees name, and later into three parts, as even they stopped working together. You can judge the depth of the antipathy felt between Robin Gibb and his brothers from the lyrics in "Most of My Life," the last song on the album at hand, which are steeped in bitterness. Ironically, amid a ton of solo activity by all three brothers that resulted from these breakups, Robin's Reign by Robin Gibb was the only full-length solo effort by any of them to see the light of day commercially, and it contained a number two U.K. hit in "Saved By the Bell." What is here is almost as much a "lost" Bee Gees creation as the two-man lineup's Cucumber Castle album, notwithstanding Barry Gibb's protestations at the time that the songs weren't up to a standard that would have allowed him to sing on them -- the main problem is the "almost." Cucumber Castle was strong enough as a body of music that it only needed the addition of Robin Gibb's voice to have qualified as a classic '60s Bee Gees effort, and even as it stands there's enough good music on it to justify its presence in the catalog. Much of Robin's Reign, however, needed just a little bit more work on the composition side -- perhaps the input of another of the Gibb siblings -- to reach that same standard. On the first side, "August October" and "Gone Gone Gone" could have passed muster on any of the group's late-'60s albums, and "The Worst Girl in This Town" on a sonic level is as great an achievement as a Bee Gees cut in everything but name (complete with Maurice Gibb's presence -- he's also elsewhere on the album, as is drummer Colin Petersen). But too many of the songs (and "Down Came the Sun" is a perfect example), although very pretty, don't quite go anywhere -- they lack a second idea, or a middle eight, or something, to take them to the ending without being predictable. The record also ended up being a bit disjointed and confusing, as Robin Gibb and his manager announced it with several songs that never made it onto the record, while others that weren't announced were present. Among the most unusual of the latter was "Mother and Jack," a calypso-flavored piece that was sort of Robin Gibb's answer to the two-man Bee Gees' "I.O.I.O.," and ended up on the B-side of "Saved By the Bell." The presence of two different conductors and arrangers, Zack Lawrence and Kenny Clayton (along with Gibb's arrangement of one song), didn't help unify the result. And for the record, Lawrence came closest to emulating the most densely produced Bee Gees sound. "Mother and Jack" offered possibilities for a new, leaner, different sound, but as it was, the album couldn't get far enough away from the Bee Gees' own roots to count as more than a footnote -- albeit an often beautiful and reasonably entertaining one -- to their history. He would do better, and generate more lasting music, with his subsequent solo albums in the decades to come.

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