Here we are with the “Odessa” demos. I got a bit inspired listening to the songs that I got it all done today. As promised, it’s a bumper one, so hold onto your hats … coffee ready? Sandwich/bun ready? Deep breath … and away we go …
Odessa – demo of the title track. It begins with a longer spoken intro by Barry “February 13th 1866 the dead ship Onstrauss was lost at sea and was wiped off the British royal register of ships. There were no survivors”. I can’t quite make out the name of the ship, but reading Joe Brennan’s entry for these songs he identifies the name, so I’ve included it here. He states Feb 14th as the date but it sounds more like 13th to me. In the finished version the date has changed to 14th February 1899 and the ship is named Veronica. The track sounds like It’s an almost complete versions being given the final touches before recording the actual song with orchestra. The lyrics are almost identical, although the “ba-ba black sheep” line is missing! The musical arrangement is more basic but all the elements are there.
You’ll Never See My Face Again – This is marked on the Studio Albums CD as being an “alternate” mix. However, it sounds to me like it’s more of a straight demo. The musical arrangement is basic but you can hear the elements from the final track are all there. There are no lyric changes and it is sung almost the same as the finished track (including the backing vocals). If, by alternate, they meant “basic” – well, it’s a demo. What did they expect?!!
Black Diamond – This is a true demo. There is a simple piano accompaniment throughout the track, with a drum track joining in on the first chorus. The beginning is similar but there are some vastly different lyrics in the verses. I like these kinds of early demo, because it helps you imagine them working on the track to get it to what became the final track.
Marley Purt Drive – One my favourites from this album. This demo, again, is entitled “alternate mix” on the CD. It begins with a false start, followed by a ‘one’ count (twice!), but then goes into an almost identical musical intro. So, again, the mix is not “really” different. Lyrics are the same, which would suggest that this is an almost complete track (the really early demos either have completely different lyrics or ‘humming’ to fill the song to give an idea what it will sound like).
Lamplight – Two versions of this track, a demo and an alternative mix. The demo has a similar flow to the final version, with an acoustic backing track. There’s no french at the start, it starts straight in at the first verse. The lyrics are slightly different in places but basically the same. The “alternate” mix sounds more like the final working before going on to record the final track. It has the french bit at the start and the choruses are a lot more filled out vocally.
Barbara Came To Stay – This is, in fact, an initial demo for “Edison”. The basic musical and vocal arrangements on this demo are similar to the final version. This is a perfect example of what I was saying above. It gives an interesting insight into how the Bee Gees write. Singing the partial lyrics that they’ve come up with whilst replacing others with an ad-lib such as humming or “da-da” where they want lyrics. These ad-libs will flow around the music in the way they want to words to flow so that they can find the words to fit the flow. Interesting.
Edison – Billed as alternate, but as we now know this isn’t really the case. Instead it is a more polished demo of the Edison we know. The fuller sound with backing vocal and the hypnotic drone of the electronic keyboard are all there. The lyrics are now all in place and are the same as the final song.
Melody Fair – Another one with a demo and alternate mix. The demo has a different feel will an acoustic guitar and drum backing track. It’s more up-beat, although the lyrics are almost the same. This feels like what I would consider an “alternate mix”. And interesting different lyric on the demo is “She shouldn’t cry, she should smile all day. Just like a merry-go-round”, which is a rather nice sentiment. The alternate mix (and I’ll give them this one!), has a different, fuller and more polished backing track. The vocal is almost the same as that on the final version, however the drum track on this version is too over-powering and was rightfully removed from the final recording.
Suddenly – another alternate mix that isn’t really! There are additional sounds on here that don’t belong. That’s where the differences finish, though. Some subtle lyrical differences in the first verse, but it’s basically the final song.
Whisper Whisper – This is actually listed as being “part 2 (alternate)”, which is a bit contradictory to say the least. Is it part 2 or an alternate? It has the feeling more of a reprise rather than a part 2, especially since it is only just over a minute. This song basically consists of the final part of the song where it speeds up. Maybe they had a different ending planned?
Sound of Love – I really fail to see how this is an alternate mix!!! It’s musical arrangement is the same as the final track. There are, however, alternate lyrics but this doesn’t make it alternate “mix”. Because of the similarity between this and the finished song it’s difficult to just class this as a demo. It’s the same song with different lyrics – a different beast entirely.
Give Your Best – Starts off with a vocal intro and count-in. The basic musical arrangement, but is missing the “It’s a square dance…” intro, instead leaping straight into the first verse. There are some lyrical differences but it’s basically the final version.
Seven Seas Symphony – It’s hard to review this track. The demo sounds like a different piece of music entirely when it first starts, but then changes tack to sound ‘similar’. Mainly done in piano, but without the flourish of the orchestral parts.
With All Nations (International Anthem) – an alternate version with vocal. This is a poor quality recording of the demo. The vocal is distorted so the lyrics are incomprehensible. It is a much shorter version and sounds like an attempt to put some stirring words at the final crescendo of the piece. Maybe it would have worked with a professional choir but with just the three of them it was probably just as well they left it off the final version!
I Laugh In Your Face – A straight demo of the final recording. It’s so similar that it gives me nothing of interest to mention here.
Never Say Never Again – Another demo with some weird affects that only serve to hurt your ears and drown out the vocal in places!! The basic premise of the song is here, though. One that maybe should qualify as being a genuine alternate mix. The vocal sounds the same as the final song with no lyric changes.
First of May – Again a demo and an alternate mix are provided. The demo provided on the CD starts off with a shouted intro “Take 2”. It’s a basic demo done with a piano backing track. It is shorter with some lyrical differences. As with other tracks here the “alternate” mix is really just a later demo that has progressed the song almost to completion.
Nobody’s Someone – And finally we come to the unreleased demos from this period. This track was actually released in 1997 by Andrew Sandoval on his “Million Dollar Movie” EP. The Bee Gees version here sounds like an almost finished recording, as though it was “almost” released but didn’t quite make the cut. The backing track is fairly accomplished and the vocal is complete, as opposed to the more ‘basic’ feel of an early demo. They obviously liked the track enough to take it to this level.
Pity – unreleased until “Studio Albums”. Another fairly standard Bee Gees track that could so easily have made it onto an album or B-side somewhere along the line. This one wasn’t taken quite as far as the previous song. It is a jaunty number, which doesn’t really fit in with the title, and the catchy tune could’ve made this a firm fan favourite sing-a-long at concerts
Let Your Heart Out – unreleased until “Studio Albums”. This is an early working of a song that obviously they couldn’t work out or gave up on. The end of the track descends into chaos and we hear Robin declaring “this is ridiculous!” just before it cuts. The vocal work on this sounds very sketchy and the harmonies aren’t as close as they normally are. Towards the end Barry cuts in an does a lead vocal and you can hear Robin say “eh?” – he obviously wasn’t expecting it! From that point on it falls apart leading up to the “ridiculous” comment.
As always, more info can be found on Joe Brennan’s site.
I’m not sure when Part 4 will be coming or what it will consist of. I’d like it to continue in chronological order but it could well start to out of order. We will see. In the meantime I will keep updating with other things – doing all the same thing gets a bit monotonous so I’ll try to think up another avenue to explore.