This album shows the Bee Gees can still innovate
L.A. Scene | Indian Trail, NC USA | 05/17/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"When making a list of the Top 10 Greatest Pop Artists of the 20th Century, it would be hard to not include The Bee Gees in that Top 10. While the Bee Gees started out as a popular band in the late 1960s, their most successful period was between 1975 and 1979. It was during this period that the Bee Gees rode the way of the phenomenon known simply as "Disco". This period would culminate with the enormous success they had with their contributions to the monster soundtrack for "Saturday Night Fever". Things began to change in the 1980s. As the Disco era began to wind down, the Bee Gees machine suddenly lost some gas. Their 1981 album "Living Eyes" was a commercial disappointment. The songs they contributed to the soundtrack for "Staying Alive", the sequel to "Saturday Night Fever" did as poorly as the movie did commercially. The early 1980s would see the Bee Gees begin to reinvent themselves as songwriters - writing for such artists as Dionne Warwick, Diana Ross, and Barbra Streisand. By the time 1987 rolled around, it was 6 years since The Bee Gees had released a studio album. The result would be the album "E.S.P". While this album did very well in Europe, this album would prove to be another commercial disaster for the Brothers Gibb in the U.S.. However, I think this album gets a bum rap in the United States - this album reinvents the Bee Gees sound and shows The Bee Gees are very much the innovators they were back in the 1970s.
With the Disco era long behind them, The Bee Gees would return to the music scene in 1987 as "adult contemporary artists". It is the adult contemporary sound that really defines "E.S.P.". There are a number of factors why this album failed in the United States. The first reason is that the Disco backlash still was going on. For all practical purposes, Disco morphed into what became 80s Dance Music. However, the stars from the days of Disco polyester still were feeling the backlash from being associated with "Disco". Unfortunately, The Bee Gees are lumped into this category - and it is very unfair that this happens. The Bee Gees had long shed their Disco image - especially when they became songwriters. There isn't much on "E.S.P." that resembles Disco, so this is a bum rap.
The second reason with why "E.S.P." failed is because of the state of the music landscape in 1987. In the early 1980s, the pop scene was dominated by the synthesizer-laden "Synth-Pop" sound. The mid 1980s saw the landscape start to change to a more guitar-laden sound. There were different degrees in which the guitar-laden sound began to penetrate the music landscape. At the most basic level, grass-roots artists such as Bruce Springsteen, John Fogerty, and John Cougar Mellencamp were making a big mark. "Arena" Rock bands such as Bon Jovi, Van Halen, Aerosmith, and Boston were also doing well. Unfortunately, the sound of "E.S.P." is a Synth-Pop sound. While I don't feel this should against the album, it probably is a reason why many people steered clear of "E.S.P." in the United States. Combine this with the Disco backlash and you have the reason for why this album didn't sell well.
However, this album still has good music. This is a very well-written album and also shows innovation - and features some well performances. The most well-known song on this album is the song "You Win Again". This is probably the most catchy song on the collection. This song is heavily laden in the Synth-Pop sound - but this is also the reason for why it is so catchy. It is a wonderful mix of percussion and mantra vocals. It also is the song that is closest to the trademark Bee Gees sound from a vocals standpoint. Barry's vocals sound refreshed from the hiatus. Instead of using the Barry Gibb falsetto, Robin Gibb comes along and provides some terrific background vocals. It is worth noting that this song was also re-released on the Bee Gees' follow-up album "One" (an album that was much more commercially successful in the U.S.).
The Bee Gees also prove they can still innovate. Two songs demonstrate their ability to do things "out of the box". The song "This Is Your Life" is a song that looks back at the Bee Gees career with a modern twist - and with a "light hearted spin" to it. The song starts out with a Synth-Pop feel to it. Barry uses a slight falsetto to it - and Robin contributes vocals as well. Toward the middle of the song - things take a turn. You will hear the lyrics use names of past Bee Gees songs in it ( one example is: 'It's a tragedy, just stayin alive"). This provides a terrific way to look back at their career. The best part is how the Bee Gees implement this twist. They implement this folded in with a rap done by Barry Gibb. This adds a terrific twist to the song and makes it very entertaining. The other song that is innovative is "Crazy for Your Love". This sound almost has a Motown/Retro feel to it. Barry's vocals fit beautifully into this - and The Bee Gees pull this off perfectly. Barry will have some terrific trademark falsetto with this song.
The song has a very good title track - "E.S.P.". This song takes a bit to get into, but eventually I came to enjoy it. I'm puzzled why there is a two line a cappella "reprise" of "E.S.P" at the end of the collection. Also worth checking out are the songs "Angela", "Ghost in the House", and "Overnight".
Overall, this might not be the strongest Bee Gees collection, but this isn't one to be ignored. Bee Gees fans are sure to enjoy it and casual fans should also like it as well. I'd recommend checking it out."
The faultiness of this album---I can't find it...
Jeff | USA | 12/23/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Seriously, this is really an unusually underrated Bee Gees album. You should buy this album. It's definitely genuine Bee Gees music. Yes, a few songs, the beginnings, are quite explosive, like hard rock. You have to understand that a few songs that are like that usually change into a different mood. It doesn't sound like pure metal--the album is 65% pop and 35% rock. This Is Your Life may be an exception because of the sameness throughout the song. And that's only one downfall. You don't know what your missing out on with this album.
E.S.P., You Win Again, Live or Die, and Angela are my favorites on this album. E.S.P. reminds of urban 1980s music--mid-fast paced, and a song that exudes anxiousness--like a song similar to something you might hear before a fight like in the movie Bloodsport let's say. You Win Again is a great song--great lyrics--this is the Bee Gees, right in this song--of course, it was a big hit. Live or Die and Angela are tremendous mid-paced ballad songs that's pure pop--very relaxing to listen to. Backtafunk is another great funky type fast paced song. That song reminds me of Stayin' Alive. The rest of the songs are great and they are great to listen to if you like 1980s music--and of course, the Bee Gees wouldn't have made this album if they thought it wouldn't be good to listen to.
Jeff | 05/28/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Had the Bee Gees, the butt of so many disco jokes, released this album under an assumed name, it surely would have been a blockbuster in the U.S., as it was in the U.K. It was the hippest, most up-to-date album they've done since the late seventies. Dancefloor thumpers like "ESP" and "Giving Up the Ghost" could have been huge hits, along with the anthemic rocker "You Win Again" and the sultry ballad "The Longest Night." Though the disc starts off with a blast of falsetto vocals, the Gibbs generally stay an octave or two lower than they did a decade before. If you like good pop/Top 40 music, you'll really like this overlooked gem."