Thursday, February 2, 2017

*Various Artists-Bee Gees Tribute Album: Gotta Get A Message To You (1998)


Last night, it had a treat for the "American Idol" fans; 24 hours later, I'm back with a treat for fans of the legendary disco group, THE BEE GEES! Among the long-standing requests on the music wishlist I've just fulfilled is this special thirteen-track compilation highlighting the greatest hits of Robin Gibb and company. Commemorating the joint charitable efforts in a massive campaign called " Live Challenge '99 ", this tribute album features a star-studded cast of music artists giving performances in primarily the dance/pop spirit, with a bit of alternative rock thrown in for added diversity. In fact, my review of this album can be grouped into three categories: my favorite BEE GEES covers by my favorite pop artists, unfamiliar BEE GEES hits covered by artist who I did have some familiarity with, and unfamiliar artists covering very familiar BEE GEES hits. Category #1 consists of three of my all-time favorite Euro-house dance covers, beginning with 911's "More Than A Woman". Just as I was thrilled that Fantasia's "Chain Of Fools"was the first track on that "Greatest Soul Covers" compilation I featured last night, I was equally thrilled that one of my favorite boyband covers made the #1 slot here. I know it well from 911's third album, "There It Is", where they also did a fun dance remake of the SHALAMAR classic from which the album's title got its name. Then there's STEPS' fun remake of "Tragedy", plus ex-ETERNAL Louise's "If I Can't Have You" which, as I recall, used to take me a while to get used to with her delicate and smooth toned-down vocals leading the way against the dance beat. And I kinda had to get used to it all over again, though the memorable chords and that unforgettably catchy chorus marked by the ' if I can't have you, I don't want nobody baby ' are always a pleasure ]=, no matter what. In Category #2, we frst have trance diva Ultra Naté giving a lush, warming and soulful rendition of "How Deep Is Your Love?" with a contemporary upbeat dance kick that's light enough so that the same lush, soulful feeling from THE BEE GEES original is recaptured. BOYZONE's "Words" is a beauty that I've heard this one many times. Featured on their "A Different Beat" album, this very respectable cover highlights the boys' marvelous harmony in the part of that chorus that goes 'words are only I have, to take your heart away'. Robbie Williams, of TAKE THAT boyband fame, put together quite an exotic collaboration with the ambient/electronic group THE ORB on "I Started A Joke". I'm so used to hearing a fluid r&b cover of this classic that their collectively dark, alternative/experimental approach was honestly a shock to my system! Yet the mix of the chilled, low-key reggae rhythm against the haunting and trippy words of the title are somehow really cool on the ears. I then remembered that Robbie had indeed ventured more into alternative rock and away from mainstream pop following his first departure from TAKE THAT back in the mid-90's. Category #3, perhaps, consists of the most eclectic array of tributes of the bunch. Had never heard a single song by the girl group CLEOPATRA until tonight, but I found myself being instantly charmed by their collectively sweet voices in delivering this album's carrier title track Though very little about this song rung a bell, I did, somehow, find their delivery of 'hold on, hold on' to be somewhat familiar. And just as BOYZONE's harmony is sublime in their cover of "Words". I adored the CLEOPATRA girls' harmony all throughout their own tribute just the same! They got me curious about checking out their two full studio albums..... Meanwhile, I was ready to jam before playing this Adam Garcia remake of "Night Fever", knowing that the original was a full-on disco-groovy sensation and that a modernized version of it would surely be done in a Eurodisco style. It doesn't disappoint, while it took a minute for Adam's distinctively stage/theater-sounding vocals to click with me, it's pure dance bliss nonetheless. Especially loved it when the pitch is taken up during the closeout movements. A quick check of his discography led me to see Adam released "Night Fever" as a single, so I am already seriously looking into claiming exactly that—if not for extended versions, then for the sake of completeness. Had almost forgotten what "Massachusetts" was all about until I heard the graceful flow of the music and the first few words of the opening verse uttered by the lead singer of this band called SPACE. And then I just recalled the song's whole mellow flow and its charming, bittersweet story. I'd seen the name MONACO on many occasions, but never got around to checking them out. Upon realizing they were heavily influenced by the NEW ORDER sound of the 80's, I was prepared for the very industrial synthesized arrangement chosen for their remake of "You Should Be Dancing". A kinda dark, sinister-sounding version of the disco-groovy original, what with the spoken, rough vocals of the guy and the cacophony of noises accompanying the electronic rhythm. Would definitely put this one into the alternative category, right along with the Robbie Williams collaboration with THE ORB. Absolutely no knowledge of this Dana International before, but I really liked her tender vocals accompanying the slow groove in presenting "Woman In Love". Something that surely could've made it onto the "Greatest Soul Covers" compilation I featured last night: the joint effort of Spikey T and Gwen Dickey performing "Guilty". Gwen's voice is so exotic and alluring, and when coupled with Spikey T's, the song really comes alive, blossoming with the gripping deliveries of 'our love will climb any mountain, our love is one in a million' in the chorus. Yet the tribute that touched me the most is the LIGHTNING SEEDS' acoustic guitar interpretation of a personal favorite of mine: "To Love Somebody". I've heard mid-tempo pop versions of it—including those by the short-lived boyband AVENUE and HI-NRG icon Jimmy Somerville—but this toned-down, softer approach is especially an almost eerie, haunting sort of way. Completion of this adventure isn't 100% complete, however, until the photos and statements by each artist, including THE BEE GEES themselves, is seen and read; thanks to yours truly, all of that and more is included with every one of the thirteen tracks for your viewing pleasure:

1. 911 - More Than A Woman
2. Ultra Naté - How Deep Is Your Love?
3. Steps - Tragedy
4. Boyzone - Words '98
5. Cleopatra - Gotta Get A Message To You
6. Adam Garcia - Night Fever
7. Space - Massachusetts
8. Louise - If I Can't Have You
9. Robbie Williams & The Orb - I Started A Joke
10. Monaco - You Should Be Dancing
11. Dana International - Woman In Love
12. Spikey T & Gwen Dickey - Guilty
13. Lightning Seeds - To Love Somebody

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