Bee Gees’ 1st, Horizontal, Idea
Although their greatest commercial success would come 10 years later with the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, the Bee Gees’ early efforts remain one of the greatest, if overlooked, chapters in pop history. Finally, the group’s late-’60s catalog has gotten a proper overhaul: Each of their first three records has been remastered and packaged with a separate disc of nonalbum singles,
B-sides, demos, and other rarities, as well as insightful liner notes by music historian Andrew Sandoval. The group’s 1967 effort, Bee Gees’ 1st, offers a breezy, if not fully formed, musical vision that combines churning psych and baroque pop with the brothers’ stirring genetic harmonies. Standout tracks like the haunting elegy “New York Mining Disaster 1941” and the odd, religiously tinted “Every Christian Lion Hearted Man Will Show You” found the band blazing a unique stylistic trail among its peers. Released later that year, the follow-up Horizontal was a more confident affair, notably producing the global hit “Massachusetts,” while the same sessions also spawned the single-only smash “Words” (included among the bonus material here). By the time of 1968’s Idea, the band was beginning to suffer from internal strife that would cause Robin to split temporarily with his brothers the following year. But the conflicts did not affect the album, which is packed with memorable gems, including perhaps their finest works of the era in “I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You” and “I Started a Joke.” Collected together and put into proper historical context, these lavish double-discs offer a treat for diehards and an eye-opening experience for the uninitiated. — Bob Bozorgmehr
Stop the Clocks
Even as recently as last year, Oasis leader Noel Gallagher was suggesting that the day the band released a best-of compilation would be the day they called it quits. You’ll have to chalk that up to Gallagher’s typical Mancunian bluster, as Stop the Clocks — Oasis’s new 18-track retrospective — certainly doesn’t feel like career capitulation. If Gallagher and company are giving up anything with this set, it’s the notion that the bulk of their LPs — aside from their first two career-defining efforts, Definitely Maybe and (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? — are actually worth owning. Clocks saves you the trouble and shelf space, cherry-picking the best tunes (“Go Let It Out,” “Songbird”) off clunker LPs like Standing on the Shoulders of Giants and Heathen Chemistry and featuring standouts from 2005’s relative return to form Don’t Believe the Truth (“Lyla,” “The Importance of Being Idle”). In addition to those tracks, we get the expected hits: still-piquant pop anthems like “Wonderwall” and “Champagne Supernova” as well as a handful of rarities, including a series of remarkably stellar B-sides like “Acquiesce” and “The Masterplan.” Hard-core fans might quibble over certain exclusions from the track list, but for most, this nearly note-perfect double-disc set will satisfy all their Oasis needs. — B.B.
When the Killers burst forth from Las Vegas in 2004 with their megaselling debut album, Hot Fuss, their tales of longing and disillusionment (and a dead girlfriend) were highly apropos for a quartet hailing from a gambler’s paradise ripe with desperate dreams, quickie marriages, and showbiz glitz. Musically, though, the group sounded more like heirs to Duran Duran’s New Romantic throne. That combination spills over into Sam’s Town, but the band expands their sound in a darker and more dramatic way, with gritty guitars edging out Hot Fuss’s analog synths. The augmented sound lends Sam’s Town a slightly edgier rock feel while keeping the band’s penchant for pop catchiness. Opening with the rambunctious multitempo title track, the group crosses a wide musical landscape. Lead single “When You Were Young” and “Bling (Confessions of a King)” both channel U2’s larger-than-life sound with a new-wave twist. The fuzzed-out “For Reasons Unknown” has the odd distinction of sounding a bit like Robert Smith fronting a Flock of Seagulls; the rowdy “This River Is Wild” siphons ’80s-era Bruce Springsteen. And if there were any doubts that this band is really from Vegas, “Bones” delivers a hip, horn-fueled chorus worthy of Tom Jones. Front man Brandon Flowers has unnecessarily overhyped Sam’s Town as one of the best albums of the last 20 years, and the CD’s ambitious scope may leave some people’s heads spinning. But the Killers still manage to make heartache, disappointment, and emotional turmoil empowering. — Bryan Reesman