Most Robin Gibb obits/tributes start with the Bee Gees’ soundtrack for Saturday Night Fever, and, yeah, it’s an important cultural touchstone, but if Gibb—who died Sunday May 20 at age 62—deserves canonization, it’s for his contributions to Bee Gees’ 1st. Recorded in 1967, it was the Australian group’s third album (that’s how they did it Down Under), and it stands as one of the greatest rock LPs from that hot, hot year—right behind Love’s Forever Changes, 13th Floor Elevators’ Easter Everywhere, Pink Floyd's Piper at the Gates of Dawn, and Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Axis: Bold as Love.
1st is a sublime psychedelic-pop opus, dominated by Robin and brother Barry’s composing and singing skills. It’s one of those rare records that’s excellent from front to back in which you have a different favorite tune every time you listen to it. The album’s topped by the baroquely bizarre hit “Every Christian Lion Hearted Man Will Show You,” a regal, glorious tune punctuated by monks chanting in Latin and eerie, swirling Mellotron fugues. Other chart-scrapers included "Holiday," “New York Mining Disaster 1941” and “To Love Somebody,” the latter of which is a devastating, string-laden soul ballad that's been covered by hundreds, including Otis Redding, Nina Simone, and Leonard Cohen. “I Can’t See Nobody” is just as good as “To Love Somebody,” if not as popular.
Elsewhere, “In My Own Time,” which the Three O’Clock faithfully executed on their Sixteen Tambourines LP, is a rousing garage-psych nugget. “Craise Finton Kirk Royal Academy of Arts” and “Close Another Door” hark back, respectively, to the Kinks and Beatles’ more innocent pop times. “Cucumber Castle” is a subtly orchestral ballad of melancholy beauty. The trippy twosome of “Red Chair, Fade Away” and “I Close My Eyes” contain some of the most endearing melodies ever conceived.
Loads of baby boomers and Jann Wenner’s minions may violently disagree, but 1st is a more consistently enjoyable listening experience than Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band; for one thing, there's nothing as excruciating as "When I'm Sixty-Four" or "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!" on 1st. It behooves you to get the double-disc expanded CD reissue with stereo and mono mixes and a bonus disc of previously unreleased tracks. (I assume you already have the vinyl, playa.)