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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Bee Gees: Still Waters


1) Alone; 2) I Surrender; 3) I Could Not Love You More; 4) Still Waters Run Deep; 5) My Lover's Prayer; 6) With My Eyes Closed; 7) Irresistible Force; 8) Closer Than Close; 9) I Will; 10) Obsessions; 11) Miracles Happen; 12) Smoke And Mirrors.

I know it is hard to believe after the previous four reviews, but yes indeed, there is one very good song on Still Waters, very much in the style of Living Eyes and, appropriately, the best thing the Bee Gees have ever done since that album — the lead single ʽAloneʼ. It's been a long, long time since they last tried that simple, open, catchy type of folk-pop with a steady beat and an intelli­gently constructed and resolved vocal melody, but here it is, and even Barry's choice of the fal­setto as chief weapon for that particular session feels appropriate. The slick production is not slick enough to smoothe out the hooks (although, perhaps, the overall effect would have been even better without the synthesizers weaving their way inside the acoustic guitar pattern), and there are even some bagpipes hanging in there, fairly refreshing for the period.

The fact that ʽAloneʼ opens the album on such a positive note raises false hopes — are the Bee Gees finally getting back to their roots? Alas, they are not. The evil curse of the malevolent R&B spirit still hangs over the Gibbs' aging skulls, as it already becomes evident on the second track (ʽI Surrenderʼ — you do indeed), and remains so until the final minute. From here on, generic dance grooves and echoey adult contemporary ballads take over and run in such smooth, slick, sappy streams that an inattentive listen might easily make one confuse the Bee Gees with the Backstreet Boys, especially considering that, unlike their rather shabby external appearance, the voices have been preserved marvelously.

One other song that is often singled out as a highlight is ʽIrresistible Forceʼ, which does indeed manage to escape the dance beat curse and is realized instead as a straightahead dark-tinged pop-rocker, say, not unlike something by Duran Duran in their classic era. With Pino Palladino on bass, Carlos Alomar on lead guitar, Steve Jordan on drums, and a desperately soulful Robin lead vocal, you'd think they simply couldn't miss, but I still find the song terribly boring, with no in­di­vidual hook and no true creativity in the arrangement. At the very least, I see no sense in the Bee Gees doing that kind of material — 1980's college rock had already explored this «rock'n'roll rhythms with a dark personal vibe» theme so well that ʽIrresistible Forceʼ has nothing new to say, except that it says it with Robin's voice, and I am not sure that makes a positive difference.

Other than that, the only «positive» change is that there are no open embarrassments on Still Waters: be it the schlocky ballads or the nicely combed dance grooves, the Bee Gees generally act their age and cultivate images of suave, trivially elegant old gentlemen rather than steamy sexy lovers that live to move it. Unfortunately, this «graceful acceptance» of old age has not resulted in any epiphanies or career-rerouting decisions — only in sinking into further blandness, which could not be overcome even by the accidental success of ʽAloneʼ. The song is inspiring; the album is anything but — the usual thumbs down, please.

Check "Still Waters" (CD) on Amazon
Check "Still Waters" (MP3) on Amazon


  1. You probably meant 'Alone', not 'Alive', in that penultimate sentence. Interesting lapsus ;-)

  2. I feel like Alone is the type of song you should resist enjoying until you are middle age.

  3. Knowing nothing about Bee Gees, but a single track from bootleg Rock'n'roll compilation CD ("To Be Or Not To Be"), I bought "Still Waters" on cassette tape. It was probably the worst disappointment I have ever felt about a band.

  4. Someone should have pulled the plug on these guys after the 1960s.

  5. George, I'm putting this here because there's no place for general comments: have you considered reviewing The Brian Jonestown Massacre? They get a lot of critical love (see the Allmusic site), but little popular attention. I'd love to hear what you think of them.

    1. Add to the neverending wishlist of long time readers of George's reviews (BJM are on my list - along with Bonzo Dog Doodah Band, Adem, Bread, Bob Dylan, Blur etc etc etc).

      Personally I'm really looking forward to his take on Bjork's descent from impishly creative loon to inhabitant of burnt-out bonkersville.

      He'll get there in time - I doubt pressuring him will have any influence whatsoever.

    2. Yes, Nancy, they are on the list. It will take some time still to get around to them. (So far, most of the exposure has been through the opening theme to Boardwalk Empire).

    3. George only a few years ago rewrote many of his Dylan reviews, it seems like a waste of time to have him repeat the effort yet again. (from my perspective at least :)

    4. Thanks for your reply, George -- I'm happy to know you'll get to BJM (and others!) over time.

  6. Trudging up Björk and Blurp would also be a waste of time here, considering that George endured those acts just a few years back on the old site.

  7. Speaking of letter 'B', may we see someday some reviews of Brian Setzer's work? Sure, he's not classic rock, but the man is responsible for two of the best things (for me) to come out of 80's and 90's: rockabilly revival, and swing revival.