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50 St Catherine’s Drive – Review (at last!)

Yeah, okay, I know that this has taken way longer than it should have.

The reasons are numerous and, in some cases, personal but they all conspired to me not doing anything on here until now.

As a die-hard Bee Gees fan, I so wanted to love this album when it came out back in September 2014. I wanted it to be a fitting epitaph to a brilliant career of wonderful music and lyrics. But after the first five hearings I still wasn’t feeling too positive about it. This is nothing new with me … if I’m not in a good place mentally it seems to affect how I feel about music, even if it’s made by my favourite bands.

So, taking that into account I left it six months, coming back to it in April of this year and it was like listening to a different album. I can hear you all questioning “So, why didn’t you write this back in April?”. Well, this is where the ‘personal reasons’ comes in … unfortunately my mum died. That obviously pust a large spanner in the works, but now I think I’m finally starting to get things back on track.

In (re)writing this I am editing the original version that would have been posted back in September 2014, if I hadn’t thought better of it!

It’s interesting going back to the original stuff I wrote, that I was actually less than impressed – actually “scathing” is probably a better word! – with the second half of the album, to quote:

Most of the songs are – and I can’t believe I’m going to put this in writing – depressing

Oh, wow … I think this points more to my state-of-mind than what I was listening to!

Reviews I read at the time spoke of the need to stay neutral when reviewing this album, given that it contained many of the last songs that Robin produced. I for one love those classic, plaintive, ‘Robin vibrato’ vocals and was hoping that this album would return to them. Of course, this wasn’t going to happen. The man was older and wiser .. and, in fact, there are some songs that woudn’t actually have suited that type of vocal.

I know that there are ‘superfans’ out there who love every track just ‘because’ it’s Robin Gibb. I can’t do that, though. I have been critical of Bee Gees albums in the past, and it’s mainly due the fact that I felt that they could have done (a lot) better.

However, this world is never going to be perfect and every artist has their ups and downs and it’s a shame that Robin won’t get a chance to show that he can do better.

So, enough banter … let’s get into the songs …

Days Of Wine And Roses

8/10
A nice song. Not your typical album opener, starting off, as it does, with a plaintive piano and a nice Robin vocal. In places I think this has similarities with songs from Sing Slowly Sisters. After a couple of minutes, though, the song builds up into something stronger – more of a ‘power ballad’.

Instant Love

10/10
Great song. One of the few that I liked on the first listen. This is definitely Robin at his best and, in my opinion, the vocals on this track are some of the best I’ve heard from him. Catchy chorus.

Alan Freeman Days

5/10
Not a fan of this song. Of course I know who Alan Freeman was, but quite why this should be a ‘song’ is beyond me. It sounds like something that should be on a tacky tribute album. Best bit on this song is the “my brother Maurice is staying alive” lyric.

Wherever You Go

9/10
Had the demo of this – then called “Wing and A Prayer” – for ages, so I was waiting for this. From the opening bars with lyrics from “Sing Slowly Sisters” it’s a strong song that harkens back to that early 70’s period but sufficiently modernised to be relevant today.

I Am The World

6/10
It’s always interesting when artists re-visit their old songs and try to update them. This song is about as basic as you can get so there wasn’t really anywhere for it go. This new version is pretty much the old one with a few lyric changes and a slightly different melody. It’s a heavier-sounding version, which maybe could have worked with more lyric changes but I guess that would have made it a different song.

Mother Of Love

8/10
Previously released on the “Christmas Carols” album. Emotional lyrics and some vague hints of the Robin vibrato vocal.

For reasons that will be obvious if you’ve been reading this properly, I still can’t listen to this song without turning into a snivelling wreck.

Anniversary

7/10
There aren’t many artists that can make the “slow-temp/up-tempo/slow-tempo/up-tempo” thing work and I’m not sure that this was the right song to try it with. I think it would have worked a lot better as an up-tempo number, because it’s obviously a song of celebration. Generally, though, it’s a nice song.

Sorry

9/10
This one does the “slow-tempo/up-tempo” thing a whole lot better, mainly because the “up-tempo” parts aren’t too heavy.

Cherish

10/10
This track wouldn’t be out of place on any Bee Gees album. A catchy little R’n’B track that deserves a wider audience.

Don’t Cry Alone

9/10
Previously released on “Titanic Requiem”. This song showcases just how fantastic Robin’s voice is. We’ll never know why he never used it to its’ full potential, which is frustrating when you hear songs like this.

Avalanche

8/10
Just so you know – this is not the song from Sing Slowly Sisters. This is a new song that just happens to have the same name, which I’m thinking is a copyrighter’s nightmare! This has an up-tempo number with a catchy chorus – although the drum machine could have been turned down a notch!

One Way Love

8/10
A nice up-beat track with some short falsetto vocal passages, which was interesting to hear on a Robin solo track. Another one that, in a better world, could have become a Bee Gees song.

Broken Wings

8/10
The previous release of this was by Robin and Valeriya back in 2008, despite it being the second recording. This (I guess) is the original Robin-only version and it works better – for me it never sounded like a proper ‘duet’-type song. Another little falsetto ‘ripple’ on this. This lost a point because of the ‘scratching’ and other little bits that were obviously included to make it more ‘modern’!

Sanctuary

10/10
Love this song. Great, catchy tune and catchy lyrics to match, all done in a lower vocal range to previous songs. Although the deeper voice makes it difficult to hear some of the lyrics, it’s a nice one to listen to if you’re feeling a little bit down.

Solid

6/10
This is a bit more sedate, although it builds slightly for the chorus. For some reason the music is mixed a lot louder than the vocal on this one, so a lot of the time the voice is lost and you can’t hear the lyrics very easily. This may be why I found myself losing interest in this song.

All We Have Is Now

7/10
Another ‘power ballad’. Again, some vocals get lost in the music – not as much as the previous song because at least you can make out most of the lyrics. Could’ve been a nice song if the mix was different. As it stands it’s not one that I come back to very often.

Sydney (Demo)

9/10
What more fitting ending to Robin’s final album than the demo of his last recording. Reportedly made on an iPad with the Garage Band app, the song has some really beautiful lyrics. It’s sung with real feeling considering it’s a demo and the over-dubbing of vocals creates a nice feeling of harmony – how would we all liked to have heard this with Barry’s vocal added to it?

Final thoughts

“Alan Freeman Days” doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the tracks.

I also think the addition of the other tracks from the album sessions “Don’t Go Now” and “My Personal 9/11” would have been better than adding the previously released “Mother of Love” and “Don’t Cry Alone”, to provide fans with a complete album of new material.

Overall this is a strong album and by no means the “stinker” that I originally thought it was.

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2 comments on “50 St Catherine’s Drive – Review (at last!)

  1. Very sorry to hear about your Mum. I think many of the BIG Bee Gees fans are dealing with that about now … I still have mine for now. Your review was beautiful and because of it I will buy the disc! I got the Robin’s Reign 3 CD pack and to be honest – I could not get through the whole thing. I play Odessa constantly and love the BGs – but I just could stand being bored with that era of Robin’s stuff. I’m seriously disappointed that the beautiful reissues stopped at Odessa. I was really looking forward to the early 70s output! I’ve been playing my vinyl recently!!
    I’m hoping as this year comes to a close you are at peace with the loss of your Mum.
    All be best!
    Peter

    • Many thanks, Peter. I think I’m about as at peace as I will be – it’s true what they say, though, that no matter how long it may be the strangest things bring it all back with a crash!

      You’re not alone in your disappointment with the reissues. Even though I probably luckier than most in that I’ve had a lot of the demos for years (although not all of them!), it was good that they were actually being properly released for everyone to hear.

      I actually loved the 3 CD Collected Works, mainly because it had a few demos that I didn’t have! I’m working on a review of that at the moment. If all goes to plan it should be up sometime over the weekend.

      I also noticed the other day that Barry’s Guilty / Heartbreaker / Eyes That See In The Dark / Eaten Alive demos have been removed from iTunes, so even those are no longer available for fans.

      We do at least have the new Barry album to look forward to.

      Thanks again
      Kev

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