Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Bee Gees - Odessa

velvety soft
When Leo picked me up at work this afternoon he said "You might want to go straight home because there's a big box outside the front door." I dropped Leo off at work, zipped home, and grabbed the box. What I found inside the box caused me to pause. Breathe in. Exhale. Enjoy the moment. Where's the camera?

When I first learned that Rhino was planning to follow its flawless Bee Gees Studio Years 6LP box set (2007) with a restoration of the 1969 epic Odessa, I piddled a little. I soon cooled down after seeing the LP's price tag ($40+), but I knew that I would eventually get my hands on a copy.

Last week for my birthday I received $100 from my brother, with the stipulation that I spend it on records. Odessa!, I thought to myself. Since I was post-surgery and couch-ridden, I spent the gift cash at, and Odessa was the first LP in my cart.

The Rhino/Reprise Odessa (2009) may be the best re-issue I have ever seen, heard, or felt. The cover faithfully restores the gold lettering and red velvet flocking of the original pressings (all that's missing is the vintage ATCO logo that graced the bottom front of the '69 issue). The inner gatefold artwork (pictured, right) is also beautifully restored . This is the first reissued album for which I've thought "It feels just like the original!".

Then there's the sound. One thing that I have always loved about the pre-disco Bee-Gees is the orchestration, and Odessa is probably the finest example of the Gibbs' gift for string and horn arrangements. I thought my original copy sounded nice, but within the first 10 seconds of this reissue I knew I was hearing something very special. The sonic detail in the chaotic opening of "Odessa (city on the black sea)" was startling. Instrumental tracks such as "Seven Seas Symphony" and "British Opera" are beauty beyond description.

Albums like Odessa, Sgt.Pepper, Pet Sounds, and (to a lesser extent) Dark Side of the Moon, represent an era when music was not just a disposable medium. It was something you made time for; You went to the store to find it, buy it, examine it, experience it, and eventually this music would become part of the fabric your life.

My first copy of Odessa was on CD in the early 90's. I upgraded to a nice used vinyl copy a few years ago, and now with this new LP I feel like the journey is complete. If you are a fan of this album (and I know there are many), I strongly recommend that you hear the 2009 Rhino LP. Put aside a little money every week, and treat yourself to something special. Then let me know what you think.


ChuckO said...

very nice! wish I liked pre-disco Bee Gees just for this :)

Jeff said...

Chuck - It's always impressed me how the pre-disco BGs sounded like a completely different band. They truly re-invented themselves on the Main Course album (1974?). Mr. Natural, the album just before Main Course used the same producer (Arif Mardin), and it's one of my favorites. It stands alone in some ways, since it's pre disco, but post-psychedelic/Beatlesque Bee Gees. Great Stuff. Let me know if you'd like me to burn some stuff for you!