Greatest: Special Edition
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Reviewed by Will Harris
Late last year, however, it looked like the surviving Gibbs – Barry and Robin – had embarked on a quest to right some historical wrongs, offering expanded reissues of their first three albums and showing the world that their discography was a rich musical tapestry that extended well beyond the dance floor. Unfortunately, instead of continuing the reissues in a chronological manner by offering up the currently-out-of-print Odessa, Rhino and Reprise have opted to skip ahead and get a special edition version of the Bee Gees’ Greatest into stores in time for the holidays.
If you’ve got a Bee Gees best-of in your collection, then from a statistical standpoint, there are pretty good odds that it’s 1979’s Greatest. It’s about as close to a definitive summary of the group’s disco-era material as you’re likely to find, including all the classics you’ve come to know and love from the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack: “Stayin’ Alive,” “How Deep Is Your Love,” “Night Fever,” “More Than A Woman,” “Jive Talkin’,” and “You Should Be Dancing.” It also features the trio’s own version of “If I Can’t Have You,” a song they wrote but which was a bigger hit for Yvonne Elliman, and a version of brother Andy’s “(Our Love) Don’t Throw It All Away,” along with a few of the group’s key tracks from immediately before and after their “Saturday Night Fever” success, including “Love So Right,” “Too Much Heaven,” “Tragedy,” and “Love You Inside Out.”
As to what makes this special edition so special, Rhino has added a few bonus tracks to each of the two discs. On Disc 1, we’re treated to the original 12” mix of “Stayin’ Alive,” but longtime fans will probably get more enjoyment out of hearing the previously-unreleased “Warm Ride,” a song the band had originally written for Rare Earth. We have no idea why Rare Earth would’ve taken a pass on the track, since it’s cut from precisely the same musical mold as the other Gibb compositions that scaled the upper reaches of the charts in the late ‘70s, so we have to figure that they’re still kicking themselves about their decision. Disc 2, meanwhile, offers up several new remixes of classic Bee Gees tracks, including Jason Bentley and Philip Steir taking on “You Should Be Dancing” and the Supreme Beings of Leisure tackling “How Deep Is Your Love.” It’s always possible that one or more of these remixes will stand the test of time beyond the expiration date of their initial novelty value (it must be said that the Teddybears remix of “Stayin’ Alive” is downright pumping), but we’re betting that, in 30 years’ time, it’s still gonna be the original versions that are scoring the most spins.
Longtime Bee Gees fans will probably grimace at the mere thought of the new remixes, but they’ll probably still consider re-purchasing Greatest for the combination of re-mastered sound and that previously-unreleased track. (In the interest of full disclosure, however, we should mention that “Warm Ride” can be purchased independently via iTunes.) If you don’t have anything by the group, though…well, it’s hard to come right out and offer the old chestnut of a rave that “if you must own one album by the band, let this be the one,” since there are other Bee Gees best-of sets which cover their career more comprehensively and still contain most of the big disco hits, such as Their Greatest Hits: The Record. Greatest is, however, an indispensable examination of the band’s most successful era, and if that’s your exclusive interest, then it’s the only way to go.