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DVL Album of the Month for March: The Bee Gees

KEF R Series

 

This is a monthly series of album reviews I will be doing for DVL Audio here in Canada. I’ll be heading out to a local record store in Vancouver, digging through the bins, and coming up with an intriguing LP to discuss here on Part-Time Audiophile. I’ll never go out with something in mind beforehand, and there is no criteria for whether it’s a new album, an old album, an out-of-print LP, electronic, classical, jazz, punk – whatever – it just has to sound good to me.

I’ll come up with as much of the backstory as I can research, and include a small audio sample for listening. I hope you enjoy reading the reviews as much as I enjoy doing them.

–Rafe Arnott

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The 1971 ballad-heavy, emotion stirring Trafalgar.

The Bee Gees are one of those true enigmas of the recording industry in my mind. Their career has spanned decades, and they have touched heavily on several musical genres in that time – rock, pop, R&B, soul, and folk not to mention their enormous impact on dance music after the release of the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, which won a combined five Grammys in 1978, and 1979, plus a 2004 Grammy Hall of Fame award. They’ve recorded through a lot of personal strife, huge popularity, and even breaking up for a period, yet they always managed to come back together, to create new music, to reinvent themselves, and to churn out massive, international-hit LPs in quick succession.

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Tubed amplification via Audio Note UK: 18-watt Soro Phono SE Signature.

The trio is made up of the brothers Gibb, notably Barry, Robin, and Maurice. Younger brother Andy also had an extremely successful solo career in the ’70s with a string of Top 10 hits in the United States before succumbing to depression, drugs, and dying just after his 30th birthday. The group got it’s start in 1957 when the brothers started to harmonize together. The story goes that the boys were en route to perform a lip-sync to a 78 at a local cinema in Chortlon-cum-Hardy when the shellac they were running with fell, and was smashed. Forced to improvise, and sing live, the crowd went wild for their act, and the rest is… well, history.

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The DVL Album of the Month is proudly brought to you by DVL Audio.

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The Pure Fidelity Eclipse turntable.

I grew up listening to the Bee Gees, so when I saw the German-pressed, Deutsche Grammophon/Polydor album cover while perusing the stacks recently after raiding the CD bins at a local record store, I couldn’t help but remember being fascinated by the LP art: a painting depicting the naval battle by the British against the combined fleets of the French, and Spaniards at Trafalgar in 1805. I was obsessed with naval history as a child, and read everything I could find about sea battles through the centuries, so I was naturally drawn to it when I saw it. But it was after my father played it for me, and I heard the haunting vocal harmonies of the brothers laid over Maurice’s organ, and mellotron noodling that I was truly hooked.

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The new PS Audio P20 handling the heavy lifting of clean power requirements.

The album looked pristine for its age, and a quick check at the shop for pops, and ticks revealed a dead-silent pressing. Getting it home, I ran it through the record cleaning machine, and dropped a Benz Micro Wood SL into the lead-in groove. The room filled with the familiar swelling vocals of the Gibbs, the deep decay of piano notes, full-bodied rhythm guitar strums, and Bill Shepherd’s orchestral arrangement. Trafalgar hit record store shelves in the fall of 1971, and was the ninth LP released by the group, who by then had already had several huge successes internationally. The album peaked at No. 34 in the United States, but the single “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart?” hit No. 1 in the US, and hearing it pour forth from my loudspeakers I couldn’t help but be spellbound by the emotional artistry of the songwriting, and the vocal, and instrumental composition.

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Far-reaching sonic landscapes writ large by the brothers Gibb.

This is a sweeping sonic landscape of an LP, with the Gibbs covering a huge amount of territory in their choices of instrumentation, pacing, and topics, from the politically-charged, and cryptic ballad “Israel,” the lament of “It’s Just the Way” to the jangly, shanty-esque “Somebody Stop the Music.” Beautifully produced, and impeccably recorded, cut after cut snares you in with a weighty, poignant, and oftentimes affecting melancholy as the brothers offer forth parables like “I went walkin’ through a grave-yard/Where the darkness is my friend/I heard all about the beginning/I want to see just where it ends…” from the track “I Don’t Want To Live Inside Myself.”

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Audio Note AN-E/Spe HE loudspeakers.

Getting up only once to flip the album, close to an hour went by as I travelled through time, a tapestry of love, spirituality, loss, heartache, and yearning alternately lifting me up, and crashing me down. This is an album for reflection, and real, personal listening as the sum of its parts tells a story that is worth hearing on your own terms, in your own home, in the context of your own system. Highly recommended.

Associated equipment for listening session:

About Rafe Arnott (392 Articles)
Editor of InnerFidelity and AudioStream

3 Comments on DVL Album of the Month for March: The Bee Gees

  1. Karen Kmiecik // April 7, 2018 at 4:11 AM //

    I have been a fan all my life and I live near Barry only thirty miles from Miami and met Maurice at Jimmies diner and he was so unaffected and such a wonderful down to earth guy. I am now 75 and would love to meet Barry one of the these days. I got married to “How Deep is Your Love” They will always be in my heart. Thank you Sir Barry and your wonderful brother’s for such beautiful music.

  2. Melissa Poskey // April 7, 2018 at 12:58 AM //

    Musically, the Bee Gees were nothing short of genius! I’ve listened to them for decades and their sound is still as exciting as it was when I first started listening and buying their albums.
    No doubt, Maurice and Robin would be excited and happy at Barry being knighted, and them as well had they still been with us. They’ve indeed “fooled them” for many years.

  3. Lyle Stafford // April 6, 2018 at 6:53 PM //

    Sweet

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