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October 27, 2016

Bee Gees – E.S.P. (1987)

by Record Facts

The Bee Gees were a pop music group formed in 1958. Their line-up consisted of brothers Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb. The trio were successful for most of their decades of recording music, but they had two distinct periods of exceptional success; as a popular music act in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and as prominent performers of the disco music era in the late 1970s. The group sang recognisable three-part tight harmonies; Robin’s clear vibrato lead vocals were a hallmark of their earlier hits, while Barry’s R&B falsetto became their signature sound during the late 1970s and 1980s. The Bee Gees wrote all of their own hits, as well as writing and producing several major hits for other artists.

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Artist:  Bee Gees
Title:  E.S.P.
Year:  1987
Format:  LP
Label:  Warner Bros. Records
Catalog#  925541-1

E.S.P. is the Bee Gees‘ seventeenth original album (fifteenth worldwide). Released in 1987, it was the band’s first studio album in six years, and their first release under their new contract with Warner Bros. It marked the first time in twelve years the band had worked with producer Arif Mardin, and was their first album to be recorded digitally. Warner Bros. You can tell they haven’t stopped listening to the radio or keeping up with new releases. Most of the songs sport contemporary, techno-style arrangements that rely heavily on synthesizer and drum machines.

A few songs even recall specific artists and/or their hits. “Backtafunk” is a light, keyboard-centered funk piece along the lines of David Bowie’s “Modern Love”; “The Longest Night” has the supple rhythms and layered harmonies of a Fleetwood Mac ballad, and “Crazy for Your Love” is a rollicking pop piece that suggests Kenny Loggins.

The Bee Gees have long been pop chameleons, soaking up the music around them and creating their own approximations. They borrowed from the Beatles for such early hits as “Lonely Days,” drew on R&B influences for the blue-eyed soul smash “Jive-Talkin’ ” and tapped into the then-burgeoning disco scene for such hits as “You Should Be Dancing.”

Most pop artists draw inspiration from the music that has come before. The Bee Gees just do it more than most. They even borrow from themselves. “Live or Die (Hold Me Like a Child)” features the distinctive three-part harmonies of the trio’s early hits. “Overnight” is a seamless pop/rocker that would have fit snugly into 1979’s “Spirits Having Flown” album.

One of the new songs pays homage to the oldies. The light funk piece “This Is Your Life” has a witty rap that includes titles or musical hooks from more than a dozen of the Bee Gees’ past hits. It’s a clever gimmick, but also a risky one: Recounting the group’s greatest glories ultimately points out the comparative weakness of the new material. The album’s big ballad, “Angela,” is pretty, but thin. It doesn’t hold a candle to the gorgeous “How Deep Is Your Love” and “Too Much Heaven,” which are saluted in the rap. With help from top producer Arif Mardin, the Bee Gees have done a good job of keeping their sound contemporary.

 

Side one
1.  E.S.P. (5:35)
2.  You Win Again (4:01)
3.  Live or Die (Hold Me Like a Child) (4:42)
4.  Giving up the Ghost (4:26)
5.  The Longest Night (5:47)

Side two
1.  This is Your Life (4:53)
2.  Angela (4:56)
3.  Overnight (4:21)
4.  Crazy for Your Love (4:43)
5.  Backtafunk (4:23)
6.  E.S.P.” (Vocal Reprise (0:30)

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