Bee Gees

Merchants of Dream

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This extraordinary double-disc bootleg, issued in the wake of the death of Maurice Gibb (who is memorialized in the interior), assembles various unissued live and studio artifacts from the Bee Gees' late-'60s psychedelic period. Disc one is an excellent account of several familiar early tracks, such as the demo "Mrs. Gillespie's Refrigerator" and the three alternate mixes of "Turn of the Century," plus a brace of 1967 vintage BBC tracks (which ought to be licensed and released legitimately). That material pales next to the second disc, which opens with a dozen songs recorded at a concert by the five-man Bee Gees lineup (with Vince Melouney and Colin Petersen on lead guitar and drums, respectively) in Berne, Switzerland, in 1968, accompanied by a small orchestra; what amazes this reviewer is that the group, even in those days, didn't limit themselves to playing the hits -- such as "Holiday," "Words," or "New York Mining Disaster 1941" -- they perform "Gilbert Green" and "In My Own Time," "Turn of the Century," and even "Morning of My Life." The sound on the concert material is as good as any professional recording of the era, and it's surprising that neither the group nor Polygram Records ever tried to retrieve the tapes and issue the show legitimately -- this show contains one of the earliest (if not the very first) live performance of "To Love Somebody," and almost goes over the top in a dazzlingly soulful performance; Melouney invades Jimi Hendrix (and Cream) territory very successfully on "In My Own Time," which slides into a jam that includes "Strange Brew"; and with Colin Petersen pounding away on the drums, they do the swingest, most rockin' version of "Massachusetts" that one has ever heard. Those live tracks are rounded out by more vintage BBC material and the instrumental mix-down of "Jumbo." It's the live 1968 tracks that make this set an essential acquisition for any of the group's fans, and doubly so for anyone who enjoys their psychedelic pop legacy. The sound is excellent throughout, with an occasional tendency toward tinniness that is easily compensated, and the music is as important as anything in Polygram's official Bee Gees library.