Sunday, November 20, 2011

"Great but Overlooked Albums" Review Series: " Robin Gibb's 1983 Solo Album: "How Old Are You?"

I originally wrote this review in late 2009. Since the news of Robin Gibb's liver cancer broke out last weekend, I thought it was worth enlightening everyone once more about this not well known yet brilliant solo album he released in early 80s.

Our thoughts are with Robin & his family as he fights his cancer:

Let me start by saying that I belong to the majority of music fans who find solo works by members of most great rock and pop bands generally disappointing. The world of music is littered with critically panned solo albums, mostly as a result of split in bands due to artistic differences, and some released during a break between group albums. The fact that very few of such solo albums have experienced mainstream commercial success is a concrete proof that artistic tension and collective songwriting dynamics of bands usually contribute significantly to the quality of the end product, a major ingredient which is of course missing in solo works.

Of course, like everything else in life, there are some distinct exceptions to this rule. Take Phil Collins and Sting as examples. Both have had major commercial success in their solo careers as well as with the bands which originally made them household names. Nevertheless, in my view, Collins achieved his success with far more inferior songwriting quality than the collective work in Genesis, whilst Sting achieved his success with a change of musical style whilst continuing to write quality music.

There is also another significant sub category. Quality solo albums which achieve very little commercial or critical success due to the artists' over-exposure to fans and media due to their success as a member of a band.

Robin Gibb's 1983 solo album belongs to this rather tragic category, tragic because worldwide fans do not get the chance to listen to the music as a result of it. Whilst the album charted in mainland Europe, and the single Juliet did well in Germany and a few other western European countries at the time, its obscurity in USA resulted it as only being available as an "Import" in America.

The album has plenty of Bee Gees influence and whilst at the time the relationship between the Gibb brothers was rather strained, some of the songwriting and backing vocals are shared. The lyrics are simple but Robin Gibb's voice adds to the beauty of the love songs and the drum machine and sequenced 80s production have stood the test of time.

The stand out song is "another lonely night in New York". It is as good as any pop ballad written in the 80s and in fact Robin Gibb re recorded a more HipHop/R&B sounding version of the song for his 2003 solo album Magnet.

Other standouts are the single "Juliet", "Don't stop the night" and "Danger" even though I actually enjoy listening to this album in its entirety.

If you are a fan of the "Synth Pop Ballads of the 80s" and like Bee Gees, this album would be a great listen as we get to the end of 2009, especially if like many other music fans, you are coming out of your "I hate the 80s synth pop"!

My Score: 5/5 as an 80s Synth Pop Album, 4/5 as an extended Bee Gees solo Album