The Bee Gees had their first record deal with Festival Records, and beginning in 1962, released several singles and an album on that label in Australia before leaving for England and a deal with Polydor Records in the mid-1960s. Spicks & Specks collects several of those early Festival recordings, and makes for some pretty interesting listening. Most of the songs here were written by the then-teenaged Barry Gibb, and they exhibit a strong Beatles influence, with songs like "Exit, Stage Right," "Coalman," "I Want Home," and "How Many Birds" working almost as parodies of "the Fab Four." Except they weren't parodies, and this is the dilemma the Bee Gees have struggled with all through their long career: a tendency to undercut brilliance with blandness, to hamstring innovation with cliché. Robin Gibb's truly odd "I Am the World" from this period is a case in point. Bold and unique, "I Am the World" sinks almost immediately under the weight of its own melodrama, and it borders on pathos. In a lot of ways, it is the precursor to "I Started a Joke," which works from the same overblown corner, although a bit more successfully. But there are solid songs here. The opener, "In the Morning," is a beautiful composition by anyone's standards, while the Eric Burdon parody "Born a Man" is deadly accurate and hilarious, and it even works if you don't get the joke. "Lonely Winter" sounds like it could have been the very first song Neil Young ever wrote, sophomoric lyrics and all. There is a lot to like here, and fans of the Bee Gees should definitely check this disc out. If you like it and want more, the two-disc Brilliant From Birth collects all of their Festival recordings.
AllMusic Review by Steve Leggett