Reprise restores the Bee Gees’ pop masterpiece ‘Odessa’

The Bee Gees in 1969, the year that the double-album Odessa was released. Photo: Atco/Rhino.

The Bee Gees in 1969, the year that the double-album Odessa was released. Photo: Atco/Rhino.
Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb achieved a breathtaking creative peak early in the Bee Gees legendary career with Odessa, the group’s fourth album. And now, that landmark album is back in all of its glory, thanks to a restoration effort from Reprise.

Originally released in February 1969, the reissue marks the 40th anniversary of the double album, which offered lavish production and spectacular packaging that equaled the collection’s boundless creativity.

The three-disc deluxe edition, which releases Jan. 13, 2009, features the original stereo album; the original mono mix album, which is available in the U.S. for the first time; and a third disc that contains 20 unreleased demos, alternate takes, a 30-second spot promoting the album and two songs that were excluded from the original album — “Pity” and “Nobody’s Someone” — but reveal the album’s creative process.

Odessa: Deluxe Edition is available at all retail outlets, including www.rhino.com, for
suggested list prices of $39.98 (CD) and $10.99 (digital). The CD version reproduces the original packaging, which featured a red-flocked cover.

The seeds of Odessa were planted in New York City in August 1968. Given a week of studio time amidst a brief but chaotic American tour, the band produced nearly a full album of new songs at the legendary Atlantic Recording Studios. Encouraged by their manager/mentor Robert Stigwood to pursue a more expansive work, further sessions in London resulted in the band’s only double studio album.

The 17-song collection features a rich mix of styles that range from acoustic-based tracks such as “Marley Purt Drive” to Bill Shepherd’s majestic orchestral arrangements on “First Of May.” Among the album’s other standout tracks are: “Black Diamond,” “Melody Fair,” and “Odessa (City On The Black Sea),” which is built around the interplay between Maurice’s flamenco guitar and cello from Paul Buckmaster (who went on to find fame as Elton John’s arranger).

The unissued tracks present two versions of several songs, including a demo for “Melody Fair” with a completely different arrangement, as well an alternate take recorded a few days later that reveals some of Maurice’s great Mellotron work obscured by strings in the final mix.

Perhaps the most revealing is the demo for “Odessa (City On The Sea).” During the album’s sessions, the brothers experimented lyrically with elements of the song’s mythology: changing the year from 1866 to 1899; and the name and nationality of the vessel from the Dutch ship Onstrauss to the British ship Veronica. Originally picked as the first single, it was dropped in favor of “First Of May.”

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