Round 1 – Group 209
1.) Staying At Tamara’s: George Ezra
2.) Timeless: Bee Gees
3.) Original Gold: The Beach Boys
4.) Essential 70’s Collection: Various
This group is quite the vocal contrast with The Beach Boys and The Bee Gees famously high falsetto vocal harmonies pitted against the sonorous baritone of George Ezra. Infact you could say this group has lots of highs and lows (fnarr).
Not so essential 70’s
Most of the musical lows appear on this 70s compilation ‘Essential 70’s Collection‘ which is eclectic even by my standards but not terrible. The Bottle by Gill Scott-Heron is infuriatingly tedious, Funkadelic, who managed to squeeze two tracks on here, One Nation Under A Groove and (Not Just) Knee Deep provide the funky (yet enjoyable) cheese and here and there are bonafide classics like Carly Simon’s Your So Vain and Desmond Dekker’s You Can Get It If You Really Want It. Gloria Gaynor’s vocals on Never Can Say Goodbye are supreme it must be said but the live version of I Will Survive is hardly definitive. Plainly last in this group.
I Wish They All Could Be California
The Beach Boys, wow these guys love their Surfing amirite? Surfin Safari, Surfer Moon, Surfin’ USA, Catch A Wave and numerous others that mention surfing (it’s not a fad, man). Truth be told there’s some fantastic stuff on Original Gold, Good Vibrations still sounds unique after 50 yrs, California Girls is as infectious as ever, Fun Fun Fun, I Get Around, Barabara Ann, Rock And Roll Music, Tears In The Morning, wowzers! These are all familiar classics for a reason. Those gorgeous harmonies, contagious verses & choruses and beautiful melodies. And slap me if California Dreaming isn’t the most Beach Boys-esque song ever written by someone other than the Beach Boys. The 80’s cover version here is utterly superb too.
Wouldn’t It be Nice If None Of Their Classic Songs Were Missing?
Now, this compilation is mammoth, with 41 tracks on it and this is where is falls short in
this group. The lesser known Beach Boys stuff can be more of an ‘acquired’ taste. Stuff like Cotton Fields, The Little Girl I Once Knew and Add Some Music To Your Day. Some of it bordering on crooner stylee, yet I almost can’t find a bad thing to say about this compilation (I even kinda like Ten Little Indians). However, I said ‘almost’. It’s absolutely criminal that they ommitted ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice‘ so it gets down-marked for that.
You Should Be Dancing
Timeless is the latest in a long line of Bee Gees compilations and features a wonderful collection of songs. The disc runs in reverse chronological order starting with You Win Again which is so good it makes me feel like I’m winning everytime I hear it. After meandering through such luminary classics as More Than A Woman (makes me think of classic 80’s flick Short Circuit for some reason), Tragedy (covered by Steps which *was* a Tragedy), Too Much Heaven (emminently hummable), Night Fever, Stayin’ Alive (“Ah, Ah, Ah, Ah”), How Deep Is Your Love and You Should Be Dancing we
then start to get to the earlier sound of the Bee Gees, some of which sounds like a tribute to Beatles like Lonely Days and especially New York Mining Distaster 1941 which sounds like a faux-Lennon-Scouse accent.
The influences go forwards as well as backwards as you hear the likes of Gary Barlow and James Blunt in some of these songs. I Started A Joke is Blunt all over and sounds as if it could have inspired his first two albums (probably recorded before he was born too). They might be known for the Disco affililiation with 70’s film Saturday Night Fever and while Stayin’ Alive has a ‘dicso’ beats per minute of 104, most of the Bee Gees material is more middle of the road in a classical seventies songwriter vein. If you listen carefully you can hear strings in Stayin’ Alive, not very disco-like right? It’s the little fills throughout every song they produced that helps rise the material above other artists. A little 4 note flourish of funky wunk guitar, some orchestral Strings to colour the mid-to-end-section of a song (like Words) and some inspired Glockenspiel on Massachussetts. Truly a great band.
The dark horse and surpise winner of this group though is Staying At Tamara’s, George Ezra’s second album, reaching number 1 in the UK in March 2018. Ezra is a singer songwriter clearly inspired by folk and blues with a mature vocal delivery and this album is most enjoyable. It has a slow relaxed pace, features strong musicanship and a very nice collection of songs that compliment each other very well. I guess it’s a little different to mainstream pop too but George does what so many talented artists do, he draws on the traditional and puts a contempory spin over it. The echo call and response of Don’t Matter Now with that horn seems old fashioned but is pulled into 2018 by its contempory beat and modern pop verse.
Shotgun and especially Paradise are two very strong pop songs and Saviour featuring First Aid Kit is another highlight but it’s the fact that the album never wavers, there’s some beautiful songs elsewhere like All My Love, Hold My Girl and Only A Human (although points lost for unneccesarry swearing). An all round quality offering which I’m putting top, just ahead of The Bee Gees.